While offering apartments online has made the process of renting an apartment easier and more enjoyable, it has also opened the door to new scams. To ensure you have a good and safe experience when you rent an apartment online, there are several things you can pay attention to while looking for an apartment.
In this article, we’ll highlight 10 things you should avoid when searching the Internet for accommodation. We’ll also give you tips on how to find safe agencies and apartments, so you can have an enjoyable experience renting an apartment online!
1. Not knowing who you are dealing with when renting an apartment
When you want to rent an apartment online, there are four main actors in the apartment rental sector that you can come across. Always make sure you know exactly who you are dealing with, as different actors in the business offer different services and guaranties. The following are the four main actors in the apartment rental sector:
- Dealing directly with owners
Although this may seem like a very personal way to rent an apartment, always keep in mind that when dealing directly with owners, some of them won’t provide you with a contract.
Besides, it is usually harder to know if you can trust an owner who’s listing an apartment online, because there is no official 3rd party or a trustworthy company involved.
- Online marketplaces
Online marketplaces offer an online platform where owners can list their properties. Again, there are no set guarantees here, as these marketplaces don’t check an apartment before they advertise it online. Owners themselves put pictures of the apartments online, so you cannot be sure they genuinely reflect the apartment you want to rent, nor its actual condition.
While most of the owners post photos that could reflect the condition of the apartments beware of scammers who sometimes post completely fake apartments or old pictures that won’t reflect the actual condition of the apartments that are for rent. This is why it is important to remain vigilant while browsing these websites: while they host online content, they cannot be held responsible in case something goes wrong.
- Travel agencies
Travel agencies often offer a certain level of security, such as a refund or insurance. However, travel agencies still don’t visit the apartments themselves, so they don’t know the products they’re selling personally. However, some travel agencies work with reputable real estate agencies like New York Habitat.
- Real Estate brokers
Real estate brokers are professionals and would have a good command of the market.
New York Habitat, as a licensed real estate broker, works together with property owners, to ensure that clients are protected from the get-go. Part and parcel of New York Habitat’s service is the performance of due diligence in order to gather sufficient information regarding the property rental before listing it online and offering it to clients.
Specifically, New York Habitat seeks to ensure that the property rental has the corresponding and appropriate paperwork that allows the property owner to legally rent out the apartment.
In New York, before an apartment is posted online, New York Habitat also visits the property, takes several photographs of the premises, takes note of the amenities available at the rental and sketches a rough floor plan of the apartment in order to provide clients with the most accurate perspective of the property rental.
In order to point out the good apples from the bad ones, the reputation of a real estate company is a very good thing to look at, as well as making sure that they meet the requirements cited in the next points of this article.
2. Believing in offers that seem too good to be true
Our second tip ties in with a very old saying: if you think something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. When searching for great deals on apartments online, always use your common sense. If you see an advertisement offering a 2-bedroom Midtown Manhattan apartment for just $500 per month, you can be pretty sure it is some kind of scam.
One way to avoid falling for such a scam is to do some research on the average price of apartments at locations you’re looking at. For example, if you’re looking for an apartment in New York City, you’ll quickly find that apartments in Manhattan will cost more money than apartments in Queens. By googling an area or neighborhood before looking for apartments in that location, you’re already one step ahead of scammers. You can also have a look at some reputable real estate websites such as New York Habitat in order to have a better idea of the prices of the market.
For more tips on how to avoid apartment rental scams, check out How To Spot an Apartment Rental Scam.
3. Sending money via unsecured means of payment or not recognizing phishing scams
When you want to pay for your apartment, whether it is for a deposit of the rent itself, be careful not to use services of payment that have no traceability. By making wire transfers to a bank account or using credit cards you are sure the payment can be tracked. You can also use trusted PayPal accounts or pay directly through a website that displays secure payment methods.
Furthermore, when dealing with account numbers and banking information, always beware of phishing. Phishing is a popular method among scammers to extract money from you, by trying to acquire personal information such as user names, bank account numbers and credit card details through online communication. Scammers use all kinds of methods such as phony websites, untrustworthy emails and more to convince you of their authority. A way to guard yourself against phishing is to be very careful when giving out personal information online.
4. Not asking for additional details, pictures, videos, floor plans and information about a rental you are interested in
If you found an apartment online that you like, but don’t have a chance to visit it in person, try to acquire as much information about it as you can. Legitimate real estate companies have access to a variety of information about an apartment they’re listing for rent.
It is important to be certain that the property owner can legally rent out the apartment. New York Habitat attains this goal by requiring administrative paperwork from the property owner which varies depending on whether the property rental is a condominium or a coop. Further, in New York, New York Habitat then schedules a visit to the property rental in order to be able to see the apartment in person, take note of the amenities being offered, sketch a rough layout of the premises and identify points of interest in the area of the premises, among other things. Our real estate agents have a keen eye for such visits and are trained in determining potential trouble spots, if any. The information obtained is then collated in our office and a file is created for the property owner and property rental incorporating all the data gathered.
New York Habitat then takes on the task of adding a description of the property rental which includes the factual information obtained from the visit. New York Habitat has also gone a step further by making video tours of the property rentals which can be viewed on the apartment’s page or on New York Habitat’s YouTube channel.
In these modern times with digital cameras, internet and smartphones, it really doesn’t make sense if a company or an owner isn’t at least able to provide you with some pictures. Do keep in mind this visibility of apartments only also makes it easier for scammers to steal pictures of apartments and use them for their own purposes. Always make sure all the information you receive about an apartment fits together: pictures, details, reviews and videos.
5. Not checking the background of a real estate agency or an owner
While these logos are usually a good sign of a company’s legitimacy, some scammers now show them on their website while they are actually not accredited by these organizations. In order to check the validity of a company, feel free to contact them by visiting their websites, by sending them an email or by calling these organizations. Most of the time they will be able to tell you what kind of information they have on a specific real estate agency..
Furthermore, you can easily Google a company to acquire background information. There are also numerous websites that rate and review real estate agencies online, such as Yelp, Insider Pages and more.
Have a look at Learn About New York Habitat Through Customer Ratings and Reviews to find what kind of websites you can look at for trusted reviews.
Lastly, the rise of social media has made it even easier for internet users to review companies online. Have a look at a company’s presence and feedback on websites such as Facebook and Twitter to make sure you’re dealing with a real company. If a company is very active on its social media profiles and ensures it replies to inquiries this is another signal the company is legitimate.
6. Not checking the reviews left on an apartment that you are interested in
An up-and-coming feature of real estate websites is that they post reviews for apartments written by people who have actually stayed in these specific apartments, instead of by for example friends or member of the family of the owners.
Another way to distinguish fake reviews from real ones is to see if the owner of a certain apartment has replied to the review. You can see that in the case of this Chelsea apartment, the owner has written a personal reply to every reviewer, which helps to validate the legitimacy of the reviews.
7. If you’re paying in a foreign currency, not double checking with your bank if any extra fees apply
If you’re wiring money over to another country with a different currency, chances are there will be extra fees.
Check with your bank to see which fees apply. Also make sure to discuss this with a real estate company or owner of an apartment before wiring over the money, as you’ll have to decide who will pay the extra fees beforehand: the sender or the receiver. Sometimes it’s even possible to pay in the currency of your home country, which can save you a lot of money. It never hurts to ask if this is possible, be it for the rent or for the security deposit!
8. Not making sure if there are hidden or additional fees when you rent an apartment
Often this differs per apartment, so make sure there’s a clear understanding between the owner or agent and yourself before you rent an apartment.
9. Not getting everything in writing when renting an apartment
Having a lease or a rental agreement is absolutely essential when it comes to your rights, and also it confirms the validity of the company you’re renting from.
If the company is operating on the internet, getting an online contract is also a valid option, as it is just as valid as a paper one! Before you accept the terms and conditions of the contract make sure that you actually agree with them, and do not hesitate to ask questions if you believe something is not clear enough. Also make sure that all the details are accurate and reflect the terms you agree on with the owner or an agency.
It is also important to keep in mind that in most cases the validity of an online contract is subject to the payment through the method you have selected (credit or debit card, PayPal…).
However, please keep in mind that a confirmation email is not a contract. Although many online market places make use of confirmation emails, they do not protect you like a contract will (they actually won’t protect you at all). As a licensed real estate agency, New York Habitat will always make sure that you receive a valid contract when you rent an apartment, whether you are staying for 3 days or for 12 months.
10. Not trusting your instincts when looking at apartments online
As a last point, we would like to again emphasize common sense. If you do not feel comfortable about an apartment or an owner, don’t book the apartment. It’s as simple as that.
Besides, if you are working with a real estate agency of a certain size and that you feel an agent doesn’t provide you with enough information about any of the points we discussed in this article, ask to change the agent you are working with, and don’t finalize the booking before you have all the details you need. Better to be safe than sorry!
We hope this article has been helpful, and if you feel like we missed an important point when it comes to safely renting an apartment online, don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments below!
I am interested to rent an apartment or sharing in NY from 15 of February to the end of April. How can I make reservation ? I do not see how to
Pay or formalize, how is the process?
Thank you for your comment and for choosing New York Habitat. I see that you have already been in touch with one of our agents who started looking for apartments in New York for you and sent you proposals.
Please feel free to contact this agent with any additional information or questions.
Thank you again for your interest in our service.
The New York Habitat Team
Avoid renting your property to anyone without confirming his id.
I constantly spent my half an hour to read this blog’s posts daily along
with a mug of coffee.
It’s actually a cool and helpful piece of information. I’m happy that you shared this helpful information with us.
Please keep us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.
Hi! This is my first visit to your blog!
We are a collection of volunteers and starting a new initiative in a community in the same niche.
Your blog provided us useful information to work on. You have done a marvellous job!
This is a really good tip especially to those new to the blogosphere.
Short but very accurate info… Many thanks for sharing this one.
A must read post!
My son is getting ready to move into his first apartment and we’ve been helping him with the whole process. I liked that you had mentioned that it can be important to make sure that you get everything in writing to validate you and the company that you’re renting from. Once we start looking around at apartments, we’ll be making sure that he gets a rental agreement signed for his safety to make sure he doesn’t run into any problems.
Wow this was a real lifesaver! There are a lot of things that we need to consider when we are looking up apartment for rents, especially online. Thanks for the tips, these were really helpful.
I agree that upon renting, we should be keen on every detail; ask for pictures, floor plans, and even the rules especially if you do not have time to visit the place. My friend is seeking out for a new apartment but he doesn’t have time for a visit. Thanks for sharing this!
I never considered using a travel agency because of their insurance policies. It would make sense to use them though because operating on your own or through a non-licensed third party can be dangerous. I’ll have to remember your tips in the future if I ever switch apartments.
You’ve got great tips for renting an apartment. I like how you said that we need to look at reviews by people who have actually stayed there. We’re looking for an apartment now, and finding the right place is vital.
We’re so glad this article was useful to you. You can browse apartments by review on our website: https://www.nyhabitat.com/clients-testimonials.html. Good luck with your apartment search! -Stephanie
Thanks Jack, we’re so glad you found this article useful. Operating through a reputable agency always decreases the likelihood of falling victim to a scam. -Stephanie
You’re welcome, Theodore! We’re so glad you found this helpful. -Stephanie
You’re so welcome, Kayla! -Stephanie
Thanks for the feedback, Roger! Best of luck with your son’s apartment search. -Stephanie
My brother will be moving to another city because of his new job, and my mom asked him to rent an apartment. It was explained here that it’s wise to ask for additional details of the apartment, like pictures and floor plan information. Moreover, it’s recommended too to consult professionals when looking for an apartment for rent.
Very true, Vanessa. Asking for extra information and renting through a reputable agency is always advisable. Best of luck to your brother in his apartment search! -Stephanie
My sister needs to move into an apartment next month because of her new work. It was discussed here that she should make sure that everything written in the contract is met. Moreover, it’s advisable to talk to real estate experts when planning to rent an apartment. https://www.myrentie.com/
Yes, that is true. Feel free to pass this information along to your sister!
Maintain the amazing job !! Lovin’ it!
This summer I will be temporarily living in a different city and want to find an apartment for rent to live while working in town. You make good advice for checking reviews and asking for additional pictures before moving into an apartment. I’ll be sure to take your advice, especially for asking for pictures.
Thanks for the tip to look if there are any hidden fees like a cleaning, application, utility, or departure fee when you rent an apartment. My sister is planning to move for a job in the summer so I’m helping her find an apartment she can move into. We’ll have to find a real estate company that can help us look through listings and figure out which apartment is in her range since they can find any hidden fees we won’t know about.
We’re glad we could help, Hazel! If your sister is moving to New York, feel free to get in touch with us– we’d love to help her find an apartment within her price range. https://www.nyhabitat.com/new-york-apartment/request.php
This is some really good information about renting apartments. I liked what you said about reading the contract really well. That does seem like it would help you know exactly want you are getting.
I appreciate what you said about checking with your bank in order to find out if fees apply to rent a foreign apartment. Renting an apartment is a great idea for those seeking to move around a lot.
Thank you for your tip on when renting an apartment online, you should hire a real estate broker. My husband and I just got married and are currently looking for an apartment to move into. I will definitely keep all of your great tips and information in mind when trying to find the perfect apartment.
Thanks for the tip to make sure the real estate agency you are working with is legitimate before you make any deals. I think a lot of people are just eager to rent an apartment and forget to check if it is legitimate. I need to find an apartment for my wife and me to live in so I’ll make sure the real estate agency is real before I go any further.
I like that you said I should not easily believe apartment rental offers that are too good to be true. To avoid this, I should do some research on the average price of apartments at the location I am looking at. I’m helping my mom find her new apartment in the big city, so I’ll take note of these tips of yours. Thanks.
My sister Amy is currently looking for an apartment since she’s thinking of selling her residential house. Well, I also agree with you that she must make sure the seller is reputable before she agrees or sign any contracts. It’s a good thing that you suggested here the importance of containing insurance too.
You made a good point when you shared that it is important to have an agreement signed between you and the landlord which clearly states what you are renting, and for how long. My friend just mentioned the other day that she is thinking of renting a house and live on her own as she wants to learn to be independent. I will suggest to her looking for the right apartment to rent and make sure to have a signed contract with the landlord.
You made a good point that reviews are very important to consider when it comes to hunting for apartments. I’m interested in looking for no fee apartment rentals because I’d like to move somewhere that has more amenities. Lately, I think I’ve been spending too much gas on my car just to get to essential places where I need to be.
My aunt has been thinking about renting an apartment because will be doing a transfer college for a semester because she wants to see a different area. She has been thinking about talking to a professional that will be able to help her find the right apartment that will be within her budget. I liked what you said about how she should understand who she is dealing with because it will allow her to find safe agencies, and apartments.