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San Francisco Rental Scams and How to Spot Them

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Apartments in the city by the bay have seen some hefty rent increases in recent months, adding to the probability that your impossibly too-good-to-be-true Craigslist find just might be a scam.


Beware of scams. (Photo by Bruno J. Navarro)

While I’ve previously written about how to spot and avoid apartment rental scams while searching for a place to live in New York, many of the tricks that criminals attempt are the same regardless of which coast you call home.

Two of the most common tip-offs include a ridiculously low price — in a market where the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $3,460 — as well as an overly elaborate story of why they’re not meeting you in person and a desire to deal in cash only.

A friend recently forwarded one in which the supposed owner wrote the following:

Thanks for your interest and inquiries about my house. Yes the house is still available for rent and we are looking for a responsible person/family to occupy and maintain the house now that we are not around. My wife and i just moved to East Africa,(Kenya ) for a program called Health Resources and Services Administration( HRSA), the program is taking place in three major countries in Europe, UK, USA . We will be there for 2 to 3 years or more that is why I have made up my mind to put up my house for rent to whom ever that will take good care of it.

Sometimes the con artist manufactures a story that preys on would-be victims’ compassion, setting up a situation that will require waiting for keys to be shipped that will never arrive.

I’m happy to inform you that the place is still available for rent. I’ve Congenital deafness and I work with a Resource Center on Deafness which provides programs and services to support deaf and hard of hearing students, their parents, and their school districts.. I was presently transferred to Ohio.. I have no choice than to relocate and this is the reason why I want to rent out the units to someone who is going to take care of the place as if they own it. … I want you to make sure the present address is not mistaken because that’s where the keys and documents will be ship to. The contents of the shipment you will be expecting are …


Yeah, right.

Such a scam is common and often involves wiring money via Western Union or MoneyGram, either to a foreign address or within the United States. Scammers promise they will send you the keys, making it sound like they are taking a big risk in trusting that you won’t rip them off.

Scammers are also expanding beyond San Francisco to the Greater Bay Area. The second example above was for a listing in San Carlos.

By the way, even a temporary rental via services such as Airbnb is no sure bet that you won’t get scammed, either. Please use your best judgment and stay away from anything that doesn’t seem legitimate.

I loved living in San Francisco, although I was there when rents were much cheaper, and I would hate for anyone to suffer a financial loss in such a beautiful place.

For more information, read my previous posts on the topic, “How to Avoid Craigslist Apartment Rental Scams” and “How to Spot & Avoid Apartment Scams.”


Written by Bruno

2015.11.18 at 16:06

Brooklyn’s Allure: The Possibility Of $625 Rent In NYC

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NYC Apartment Agent - A View of Manhattan From Brooklyn (Photo by Bruno J. Navarro)

NYC Apartment Agent – A View of Manhattan From Brooklyn   (Photo by Bruno J. Navarro)

NEW YORK — As rents climb in Manhattan to all-time highs and the costs of Brooklyn apartments are also on the rise, one woman manages to keep her payment around $600 per month.

Sophia Cosmadopoulos, an art therapist, was featured in The New York Times for her ability to keep her rent affordable, embarking on an ever-elusive quest throughout the great New York City county of Kings, better known to the world as Brooklyn.

“They’re not glossy, and they’re kind of falling apart,” she told the Times. “But I’ve always valued what I could get out of New York, more than where I lived.”

After recounting a surprise that followed the partial collapse of the bathroom ceiling in her current apartment, Cosmadopoulos took a positive spin on her situation.

“It’s nice to live in an apartment where you have stories,” she said.

A little optimism is a great thing, maybe more so if you’re a New Yorker.


Written by Bruno

2012.05.01 at 16:13

NYC Rent Hits An All-Time High

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Downtown Manhattan. Photo by Bruno J. Navarro

Downtown Manhattan.  (Photo by Bruno J. Navarro)

NEW YORK — It finally happened.

After a recent upward trend over the past several months, the average rent in Manhattan hit a record $3,418 — surpassing the previous high, set in 2007.

Writes The New York Times:

“The last time rents shot up in a similar fashion, they were tied to a strong economy, low unemployment and booming business on Wall Street.

“But this spring, Manhattan rental prices seem to be divorced from the larger economic picture. While the city has added jobs in recent months and growth in businesses like technology has helped make up for losses in the financial sector, much of country is still struggling.”

Brooklyn rents are a similar state, too.

In case you were wondering, that’s about six shares of Apple stock.

It’s no wonder more people who are able to do so are looking to buy.

If you decide to look for a new place to live, take a moment to look over tips for avoiding Craigslist apartment rental scams.

Or use a reputable broker.

Please feel free to share your feedback on how you’re coping with the rental rates in the comments below.

Written by Bruno

2012.04.23 at 02:07

Should I Buy Or Should I Rent?

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Should I Buy Or Should I Rent? Photo by Bruno J. Navarro

Should I Buy Or Should I Rent? (Photo by Bruno J. Navarro)

NEW YORK — The question almost sounds like the title of a Clash song: Should I buy or should I rent?

The results of a new study make it clear. Buying is the better option.

A confluence of factors are the cause, from low mortgage rates to rising rents.

CNN Money writes: “In 98 of the top 100 housing markets, buying a home is more affordable than renting, according to the online real estate company Trulia. Only Honolulu and San Francisco buck the trend.”

Of course, such rankings do little to paint a complete picture.

The article also adds, “Housing markets, even within a single metro area, typically have local submarkets. Take New York City, for example. Renting in Manhattan is more affordable than buying. But in suburban Westchester County just miles to the north, buying is the more affordable option.”

If you decide to rent, there are a few steps you can take to avoid Craigslist apartment scams. Feel free to share any other helpful tips in the comments, too.

As always, if you know someone looking to buy, rent or sell a home in New York, please let me know.


CNN Money: “Home buying much cheaper than renting

How to Avoid Craigslist Apartment Rental Scams

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NYC apartment buildings. Photo by Bruno J. Navarro.

There are a few steps to avoid apartment rental scams.  (Photo by Bruno J. Navarro)

NEW YORK — In the eternal quest to find the best apartment deal in New York, some would-be renters are falling for brazen scams.

Never mind the unscrupulous licensed types who might attempt bait-and-switch tactics to make a quick buck. One increasingly common flim-flam involves con artists posting Craigslist ads for vacant apartments they neither own, nor have the authority to rent.

Real estate professionals “across the region say they’re seeing more people fall for it, partly because the scammers are no longer just luring victims from afar; they’re now setting up appointments with unsuspecting renters and showing them the homes before disappearing with their money,” according to a story.

In a New York Daily News article, one criminal in Queens swindled “a dozen would-be renters by placing a phony ad on Craigslist for an apartment in Sunnyside that didn’t belong to him.”

While I’ve previously shared a few tips on how to spot and avoid apartment scams, which are worth a look, here are a couple more that helpful readers have passed along:

  • Ask for a business card. Any reputable real estate agent will have a real business card. If you have time, check out the website and see if the agent is listed on it, or call the main number. Of course, sometimes it’s possible that we’re out of cards. If that’s the case, you can ask for the next item.
  • Ask to see the agent’s pocket card. By law, every agent in New York is supposed to carry a state-issued ID card while working. It looks much like a driver’s license, and it lists the agent’s name and company. Many doorman buildings require both a business card and a pocket card before an agent is allowed to show an apartment. Not having a card could be a tip-off that something is askew.
  • Meet the agent at his or her office. At least the first time, it might be a good idea to see where an agent works. This works not only to avoid rip-off artists but also to get a sense of the company’s professionalism (and whether you can file a formal complaint if something does go terribly awry).
  • Don’t deal in cash. Without a record of payment or a way to track your hard-earned money once it leaves your hands, it might be difficult to track down a swindler after the fact. Insist on using a credit card or cashier’s check for the deposit and application fee. If the person trying to rent you an apartment balks, take a walk.
  • Use common sense. If an apartment sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Truth is, there are very few four-bedroom apartments under $400 or even 90-square-foot studios for $700 around.

If you have any questions about whether something seems fishy, please ask me or someone knowledgeable. I’m always happy to help. And if you have any suggestions of your own or experiences to share, please feel free to share in the comments below.

Related Stories

Brooklyn Rents Follow Manhattan’s Upward Trend

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Brooklyn rents on the rise. (Photo by Bruno J. Navarro)

Brooklyn rents on the rise.

NEW YORK — Mirroring the trend of rising rents in Manhattan, Brooklyn apartments have also been getting more expensive.

There are two areas in which rents have actually declined, on average: Studio apartments and flats in Cobble Hill.

The Real Deal writes: “The average rent for a Brooklyn studio was $1,686 last month, one-bedrooms’ monthly cost averaged $2,294 and two-bedroom prices settled at $2,950, according to the report. Dumbo remained the priciest neighborhood for all unit sizes, charging price premiums of nearly $1,000 for studios and more than $2,000 above the borough’s average for two-bedrooms. The least expensive neighborhood was Bay Ridge.”

(via Brooklyn Rents | February 2012 | Studio Prices Decline.)

Written by Bruno

2012.03.15 at 16:37

Does Report On Rentals & Sales Suggest a Bubble?

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A view of the Manhattan skyline by Bruno J. Navarro.

A view of the Manhattan skyline.

NEW YORK — A unique trend is emerging in housing prices and rentals, according to a report from Zillow that has not yet been released.

“While it seems that rents are rising at the expense of home values, the opposite is true. A thriving rental market will stimulate home sales, as investors snap up low-priced inventory to convert to rentals. That, in turn, will lower the number of homes on the market, which will eventually help put a floor under the value of all homes,” says Zillow chief economist Stan Humphries.

via New Rent Report Suggests Possible Bubble – CNBC.

Written by Bruno

2012.03.12 at 14:40

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