If you have been considering the idea of leasing an apartment online but are a little nervous about being scammed, this blog post is for you. With more than 5.2 million U.S renters losing money due to rental scams, making sure you don’t fall in the same boat is essential.
In this article, we’ll provide the steps to take when looking online for apartments and how to avoid apartment scams. Whether you’re looking in your hometown or out of state, there are ways to find safe housing that will keep your information private from start to finish!
12 steps to lease an apartment online
With these tips and tricks, not only can you help protect yourself from fraudsters, but also save money on rent by finding a great deal before everyone else does!
1. Get your finances in order
This may seem like a no-brainer, but all landlords want to know you can genuinely afford the apartment you’re leasing. If you don’t have your finances in order or enough money saved up, you’re not going to get very far in the world of apartment leasing. Thankfully, when you’re a RoarMoney member, you’re able to track your spending by category easily. This not only helps you to save more money but helps with income proof as well.
2. Use a reliable housing search service
Depending on where you are in the world, countless housing search services are available to help you locate apartments. However, it’s important that you make sure the site you use is one that’s been reputable for a while. For example, craigslist apartment scams are quite common, so it’s best to stay away from similar websites.
3. Find a realtor
If you’re going to lease an apartment online, don’t be afraid of contacting a realtor. These agents work for the landlords and help by scheduling viewings, taking applications, and even handling all of the paperwork associated with leasing agreements. The cost of the realtor is paid by the homeowner and ensures that you’re only looking at legitimate rentals. In addition, realtors often post their rentals online on their property management or personal website, making it easy to browse current availability.
4. Don’t base your decision on pictures
Although leasing an apartment from pictures alone may seem like a great idea, especially if you’re not able to get to the physical location in person, this can be a big mistake. Scam listers can post fake or old pictures online that don’t accurately describe the property. The best way to go about leasing an apartment is by seeing it in person first. This will help you spot any red flags or other issues that may arise.
5. See the apartment in person before signing a lease
While signing an apartment lease online may seem simple and easy, it can also be risky if you haven’t seen the place first. If you can’t see the apartment in person, ask a friend or family member to view it for you. If you don’t have family in the area, consider paying a local to look for you, take accurate pictures, or facetime you the apartment.
6. Screen your prospective landlord
When signing apartment lease online, try always to screen your prospective landlord. You’ll want to make sure that you’re comfortable dealing with this person for the following year. Make sure to get their name and number before leaving the apartment and look them up on social media, Google, and public records. Ask them as many questions as needed until you feel comfortable renting the apartment.
7. Verify property management credentials
Before signing any documents or paying a deposit, ensure that you verify that the property management company has the proper credentials. If they don’t have any credentials to show or produce documentation that looks altered or fake, it’s time to move on to the next apartment.
8. Be on the lookout for fake apartment previews
If you choose not to work with a realtor or a property management company, it’s essential to make sure that the apartment you’re looking at is real! You’ll want to check out your prospective apartments on different platforms, ensuring that the name, number, and apartment information are consistent. If you notice any differences or addresses aren’t matching up, it might be a scam apartment.
9. Get everything in writing
It’s essential that you’re not paying a deposit without having everything in writing when signing an apartment lease online. Having a phone call, e-mail agreement, or text message does not count as a legal lease agreement. Get everything in writing, and if something doesn’t seem right on the lease, don’t sign it. If your prospective landlord doesn’t provide this for you, it might be time to move on and choose another apartment with better upgrades.
10. Don’t send cash
Avoid leasing an apartment online by sending cash. Never wire money for an application fee or deposit because it could be a scam. No legitimate landlord or property management company will require cash. Instead, choose a money order, cashier’s check, or bank check to pay your deposit.
11. Don’t sign the lease until you read it!
Before leasing an apartment, it’s important not to sign the lease agreement until you have read all the paperwork first. This way, you’ll be able to spot any errors or signs of a scam.
12. Beware of security deposit scams
Another scam you might encounter while leasing an apartment is a security deposit scam. This is when a scam artist tries to get you to pay a move-in fee or security deposit without seeing the apartment. However, they’ll keep the money without renting a unit to you. Avoid sending over money before viewing the apartment in person.
Find approval for virtual leasing apartments today
While lease an apartment online may seem like a quick and easy process, it can actually be risky. So, before leasing an apartment online, make sure you follow the tips above to ensure that you avoid apartment scams.
If you want to score the apartment of your dreams, you’re going to need to have the proper credit. Sign up for MoneyLion’s Credit Builder loan to get a better chance at apartment rental approval today.
Can I rent an apartment with bad credit?
Yes, you can rent an apartment with bad credit or no rental history. However, your rate might be higher than those with better credit. If you need a better credit score, sign up for MoneyLion’s Credit Builder Loan today!
How to sign a lease apartment online?
Signing a leasing agreement online means that you’ll sign all documentation through the realtor or property management company without seeing the apartment first.
What are leasing agreements?
A leasing agreement is an official document outlining all of the terms agreed upon by both parties, the landlord and tenant. This way, there’s no confusion on what each party needs to do throughout their leasing period.
Can I rent an apartment virtually?
Yes, virtual leasing apartments are becoming more popular every day. However, leasing an apartment virtually isn’t quite the same as renting an apartment in person.