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Property Management Blog

How to Spot Real Estate Rental and Investment Scams

System - Wednesday, February 17, 2016

by Jason Van Steenwyk

Real estate is famous for its phenomenal success stories. Unfortunately, real estate is also famous for its long heritage of charlatans, snake oil salesmen, scammers, fraudsters and criminals. Much has been written about the scams that target neophyte property investors and lure them into expensive “mentorship programs,” “No money down!” deals and the like.

This article will outline the scams commonly pulled on landlords and investors and discuss how you can prevent falling for one – and losing thousands of your hard-earned dollars in the process.

Rental Scams

The “Fake Agent” Scam

In this scam, someone rents the property from you and then turns around and pretends to be the landlord himself. He’ll post an ad, show the property to several people, collect first and last months’ rent, deposit fees, credit check and application fees and anything else he can con out of people responding to the ad.

A scammer can pull this this dozens of times on the same unit – and when it’s time for the “renters” to move in, the fake landlord is long gone – leaving you with a line of unhappy people, headaches and potentially legal fees.

The antidote: Consider doing one or more of the following:

  1. Check out your tenants thoroughly. Verify their identities and do a background check. Then do a Google and Craigslist search on your address looking for listings you did not create. Go through listings in your neighborhood that include photos of your property. Tip: Set up a Google Alert with your property address on it. You’ll get an email when Google’s Internet-crawling bots detect any online activity with the text of your address. If you know the renter’s cell phone number, put a Google Alert on that, too.
  2. If you don’t live near your rental properties, hire a property manager to keep an eye on things for you. Benefits like these that property managers provide are worth their fees, and you also gain from their experience and access to background check resources that may not be cost-effective for an individual landlord.
  3. Change the locks after each tenant.
  4. Check references, and then double-check them. Did the tenant give you an employer’s phone number as a reference? Check out the employer and make sure it’s a bona fide business.

Investment Scams

Sure, it helps to have a mentor, and few hugely-successful real estate investors will tell you they haven’t learned things along the way from other people. But how can you tell the real professionals who genuinely enjoy mentoring and teaching from the scammers looking to exploit you to make a quick buck? Here are some common tactics employed by investment scammers that you should be wary of.

Beware of “Systems” or Secrets for Sale

Real estate is a fairly simple industry, so there are few real “systems” that actually work other than having a disciplined process for buying properties at a discount from their intrinsic value so you can profitably rent them or fix and flip them out. There are also very few real estate “secrets” that aren’t now common knowledge in the industry.

Creating a Sense of Scarcity

There’s always time. Don’t fall for the “act now – I only have slots for five team members in your area” ploy. That’s just a ruse to get you to skip your due diligence and sign a check.

Note that when you’re buying a property time is often of the essence. Many times the first to commit with earnest money gets the property and the race is on. However, this is not the case when it comes to investment programs, mentorships and the like.

Selling the Dream Rather Than Sharing Knowledge

Charlatans aren’t about selling knowledge. They may have a bit of it, but they will only share just enough knowledge to entice you to sign up for a more expensive program. Open their books and literature and you’ll find it’s awfully short on content, but awfully long on photos of the author posing in front of mansions, sports cars and jets. He’s selling you the dream, not the actual knowledge that will help you attain the dream.

Real estate has made many people very wealthy – but it has never been a get rich quick scheme. Get too greedy, you’ll leverage too much, and you’ll become bankrupt when the market turns against you.

“No Money Down” Deals

Real “no money down” deals are few and far between in the investment world. Sure, veterans can qualify for a zero down payment mortgage through the VA, but those can’t be used for purely investment properties (with the exception of duplexes, triplexes and quads). You have to commit to living in the property for at least a year, or have your spouse live there if you’re deployed or otherwise away, if you want to use a VA loan. You also normally have to occupy within 60 days of closing.

Don’t have anything to do with a real estate “guru” who suggests you use your VA eligibility for a property you don’t plan to live in, or to help obtain a property for another person. That’s fraud.

Unrealistic Guarantees

Real estate involves risk. If you want risk-free investing, stick to CDs, money markets and fixed annuities. Even treasury bonds, which are backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government, have big price swings and are therefore subject to risk.

Avoid anyone selling you a system that includes terms and phrases like these:

  1. “Risk-free”
  2. “Secrets”
  3. “Magic”
  4. “Judgment-proof”
  5. “Bullet-proof”
  6. “Get rich quick” (unless they’re warning you that you won’t)
  7. “Nevada corporations” (unless you’re doing business in Nevada)
  8. “Bearer bonds”
  9. “Advance fees” on mortgage loans

Generally, the old adage holds true: If something is too good to be true, it probably is. Be especially wary of deals that are too far below market price to be realistic, or with those who are too eager to sell at cheap prices. Not that great deals never happen – just be sure about what you’re getting into before you commit money.

December 2015 Turning on Utilities

System - Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Have you ever seen the bumper sticker on many contractor's trucks? Getting welfare should be as difficult as it is to get a building permit!

Well as property mangers know and owners managing their own properties will find out, the twist on that is getting your utilities turned on. More specifically getting your water turned on in a tenant's name. Each city has their own requirements. Most will allow you to go on line and find out what is required.

Now the gathering of paperwork begins. Some require owner deposits as well as tenant deposits, power of attorney, executed by owner authorizing transaction, owners license, etc etc etc. Most require an executed lease. And then there is always some unknown paper, authorization etc etc etc. Hopefully you have brought it with you, this mystery requirement.

I must say however that the staff working at the utilities office are courteous, professional, and willing to help. However don't expect to get this done if you do not have all of the required goods! If you own property in different cities, you will alway's find a slight variation in requirement's.

Have patience, go early and be prepared to spend more time than you originally thought it would take.

Welcome to our new responsive website!

System - Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Welcome to the new The Shapiro Group, Inc. Website! 

Our new website is fully responsive and uses the latest technology, allowing you to have a better browsing experience on any device no matter if it is a desktop, tablet or cellphone!

Why is this a big deal? Well, it allows you to have access to our site anywhere, at any time. Tenants - you will be able to easily find and apply for your next rental home, as well as submit maintenance requests online! For our owners, you will have access to your statements 24/7.

We hope you find the site useful and easy to use!


System - Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Welcome to The Shapiro Group Blog. We will write monthly on topics that are of interest or concern to homeowners who currently own rental properties. This month we are writing about the value of good curb appeal.

Maintaining a positive curb appeal for your rental property is important and need not be very expensive.

Your rental property is an asset and that asset has a value. You should be promoting the value of your property in a positive way. Hopefully your street, subdivision or development promotes good curb appeal. You do not want your rental property to become the black sheep of the neighborhood.

In renting or buying a home to live in, potential renters/buyers often make their decision with an emotional bias. They may start from their budgetary constraints and try to stick to the numbers, but ultimately that gets adjusted up or down based on what value the real estate market holds.

People search on line or contact a realtor and start looking at properties based on their numeric goals. Once the reality of pricing is established, they then move forward to look at properties in their price range. Once out shopping, they want the best looking, updated, clean property for the low end of their set price.

The properties they choose to look at are usually in neighborhoods with well-maintained lawns, along with freshly mulched and trimmed landscaping. If they pull up to a property for rent and they see a lawn with dried grass which is mostly weeds and has no landscaping, they do not even want to go in and view the property.  They cannot look past the curb appeal to mentally see themselves living there, so why should they waste their time by going inside.

Not only is this property an eye sore but it is negatively impacting the values of the rest of the residences in the neighborhood. It may eventually rent… but for less money and probably to a less desirable applicant.

It is often not necessary to spend thousands of dollars to have a property with a good curb appeal. If the above mentioned property had at a minimum a green weed and fed lawn with some inexpensive plants it would not be noticed as a problem.

A few additional inexpensive, yet important items include:  window screens, clean sidewalks/driveway and the wood trim. If a screen has a tear or a rip, either replace the screen or temporarily remove the frame with the screen until it is repaired or replaced. Trim that is showing wood or cracked paint should be fixed.  Pressure cleaning the walkways, and using a new seal coat on the driveway are also inexpensive repairs that help to maintain and increase the value of your property and help to get potential renters inside.

Thanks for taking the time to read our blog. Please feel free to add comments or suggestions about other curb appeal fixes.

We hope you will contact us if you are thinking of hiring a property manager or are interested in renting one of our well managed properties.

4611 S University Drive, Suite 198
Davie, Florida 33328
(954) 434-0175

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