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Friday, November 26, 2010

Warnings for home renters

By Laura Sullivan
Virtual Properties Realty

The rental market is growing as the economy changes. More people are renting because it is the best choice in these uncertain times. Some are downsizing, some are unable to get a loan, some are saving for a down payment or paying off other debts before they get a mortgage. Whatever the reasons, more and more families are considering renting a better option.

And there are a lot of nice homes for rent now. Many homeowners are looking to renting instead of trying to sell. Despite the good odds out there, renters and landlords alike still have their work cut out for them.

If you are renting, here is my advice:

1. Use a realtor you know and trust – someone who has your best interests in mind.

2. Make sure the homes you are looking at is listed through a reputable, credible company. Websites that offer free classifieds are great but there are numerous scammers that use these free listing sites too. A common scam is someone advertises a home for rent that is not theirs. The scammer asks for an application fee and deposit to be made directly to them. All seems well until moving day when renters show up with all their belongings to a locked house and sometimes 20 other families who fell for the same scam.

3. Before you put in an application, have a credit check run and pay the fee for a home make sure you ask if there is anyone else that has already done so. Renting is first come first serve and homes will be kept on an “active” listing status if there is no lease in place. Why pay a fee and have a hit on your credit if you aren’t first in line to get the home anyway?

4. ALL monies should be paid to directly to landlord (if not listed by a real estate brokerage), the listing brokerage or property management company depending on the written agreement already in place. Never ever pay money directly to an individual unless you know for sure that they are who they claim to be. Tax records are available for everyone to see and they show the true owner of the home. Sadly there are agents out there that will ask an unknowing potential renter to pay the money directly to them. This is against the Georgia license law that all licensed real estate agents must follow. If you are asked to do this, then report it to the Real Estate Commission.

5. When it’s time to sign the lease I prefer to use the Georgia Association of Realtors (GAR) lease agreement. It was written by a knowledgeable and honest team of real estate lawyers so that all parties involved are equally protected. If this is not an option because a management company uses their own forms then please make sure you protect yourself. Beware of vague language that skims over what is considered damage or normal wear and tear, watch out for ridiculous charges and fees, make sure you are protected if circumstances force you to break your lease. I always add special stipulations at the end of lease agreements that are not GAR forms to better protect my clients. Make sure your agent does
the same for you!

6. Before move in date make sure you have a move in inspection. Make notes, take pictures and document the state of the home so that when you move out you are not blamed for damage caused prior to your occupancy.

If you are a landlord, here is my advice:

1. Use a realtor or property management company that will look out for your best interests. Doing this your own is a lot of work, so if you are not up for the task then use someone that is licensed and professional to represent you. Ask the agents you interview whether they just list the rentals or if they do property management. And get EVERYTHING in writing!

2. When your home is on the market, strangers will be coming through it. Protect your valuables and your prescription drugs too (seriously). If your home is vacant the take some precautions like leaving a radio on and some lights (setting up a timer is even better). Leave the home staged if possible to make the home seem occupied. Also be sure to periodically check on your home (or have the agent do this) to make sure nothing is missing or broken and that the doors are locked. Never ever leave the dead bolt
unlocked – it is unbelievably easy to open a door if its only has the doorknob lock in use.

3. When a potential renter shows interest in the home insist upon a credit check, background check and references. Make no concessions to people who offer more money upfront in exchange for no background/credit check. Usually this is a sign that they are up to no good.

Renting, buying and selling is already stressful enough. Don’t make it worse by becoming a victim to scams or by signing documentation and not being fully aware of the policies outlined within it. Ask questions, do your research and protect yourself!

For more information on home buying, selling, or renting, contact Laura Sullivan of Virtual Properties Realty at or call her at 404-932-1219.

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