Published on Sunday, May 13, 2018 by Land Century
Just about anything you can imagine can be bought and sold on eBay and Craigslist, from old toasters to vintage record collections, and yes, even property. While these sites have come a long way over the years and buyer protection measures are in place in some cases, it’s still important to be on the lookout for scams – they’re out there. And if you’re buying property, which requires a significant investment, you need to be even more diligent.
Use these tips to minimize your risk of being scammed when buying property on eBay and Craigslist.
Meet the Seller in Person
Whether it’s a real estate agent or individual, the person selling the property should be willing to meet you in person. If they aren’t willing to do this, think twice about proceeding any further. Before you even consider buying a piece of property, you need to make sure that you are actually dealing with a legitimate representative of the property. Seller and landlord impersonation is more common than you may realize. Even savvy buyers have found themselves being conned by con artists pretending to the landlord or owner of a property.
If the person says they work for a real estate company, call the company to verify the information. You can also use Google to your advantage by searching the person’s name who is selling the property.
Avoid Sellers Who Ask for Money Early On
If a seller is asking for money early on, you may want to think twice about buying the property. Never give anyone your hard-earned money without first verifying that he or she is the legitimate owner of the property. You need to see the property first-hand, and you need to have a real estate attorney look over the attendant paperwork first.
The same can be said for sellers who ask you to wire them money. It’s not uncommon for scammers to ask potential buyers to wire them money before they’ve even seen the property. Many of these con artists are simply trying to unload properties – possibly even fake properties – that they have absolutely no claim to.
The moral of the story: always verify that the seller is the legitimate owner of the property, or a legitimate representative (i.e. a real estate agent). This is one of the best ways to avoid getting scammed when buying property through an online auction or classified ads site.
See the Property in Person
Whether you’re searching for property through Craigslist or a well-known online property portal, it’s always important to see the property in person before you hand over any of your hard-earned money. Seeing the property first-hand is important for two reasons: one, it helps you determine whether there are any issues with the property that weren’t discussed in the property description, and two, you can verify that the property you will be buying is the same one you saw online.
In some cases, scammers will list a piece of property online, and when potential buyers call to inquire, they’re told the property is no longer available – but another one is. The available property will either be more expensive, or in much worse condition than the one listed online. It may not even be in the same neighborhood or city as the one you inquired about.
If It Seems Too Good to Be True, It Probably Is
Rarely in life do we find a true “steal” – especially in real estate. If someone is selling five acres of land for $2,500 in one of the most desirable areas in town, something isn’t right.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Do your research. Check the property, and verify the seller. Find out how much other properties are selling for in the area, so you can gauge whether the selling price is realistic. If it’s not, something is either terribly wrong with the property, or someone is trying to pull a fast one on buyers.
How Property Scams Work
Recently, I read a story about a man who found a scam artist trying rent his property online through Craigslist. The man, whose rental property typically rents for $2,800, was dumbfounded when he received calls from potential renters inquiring about the property. The scammer, as it turns out, was trying to rent out the property for $1,000. And he even shared a bogus – but rather convincing – story that he landed a promotion and wanted to rent the property at a lower price as a way to “pay it forward.”
Unfortunately, this scenario is all too common on Craigslist and eBay. Scammers gather listings from legitimate online real estate sites, and then repost them as their own. When an interested buyer contacts them, they request a down payment or a deposit to hold the property until the buyer can view it in person. And the scammer will continue running this same scheme until he’s collected a myriad of deposits, and disappears overnight.
It’s easy to fall prey to these scams, especially if you’re truly interested in the property or this is your first time buying property. It may seem sensible to put down a deposit to hold the property. After all, you don’t want someone else to come along and snatch it up before you do. But it’s important not to give into emotion, and take your time when buying property – especially online.
Before you even consider buying property:
- Always ask agents or owners for identification.
- Never give into pressure to sign anything.
- Trust your gut, and verify information.
- Use the Internet to confirm information about properties you’re considering as well as the seller.
While it’s perfectly possible to safely purchase property on eBay or Craigslist – people do it every day – it’s often best to work with a professional to ensure that you’re buying a legitimate property.
There are some great deals on eBay and Craigslist, so if you do decide to go this route, be cautious, do your homework and never rush into the process. Always trust your gut, and if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.