Hot Houston housing market ripe for ... scammers?

Right now, homes that are listed for lease only last a day or two on the market and it's creating the perfect environment for scams
November 18, 2013 8:23:22 PM PST
Houston's hot real estate market is catching the eye of the wrong people. Scammers are on the prowl, looking for those trying to lease a home.

Right now, homes that are listed for lease only last a day or two on the market and that is creating the perfect environment for scammers who are counting on people desperate to find a good home.

Shawn Zbranek was almost fooled.

"There was a great house my wife and I were looking at, and it was I'd say roughly half the price of probably what the comps should be in the area," recent Houston transplant Shawn Zbranek said.

Zbranek says the home he saw for lease online looked good, and based on past attempts to get home in Houston, Zbranek says he knew he needed to act fast.

"Two houses that we thought were great, they were gone on the first day on the market," he said.

When Zbranek researched the third home, he got a surprise.

"Saw the same house on HAR.com and there was a listing agent there. We contacted him, but the price was twice as much he said, 'No actually this house has already been leased,' and he said, 'This is probably a scam,'" Zbranek said.

Houston Realtor Dan Zindler says ads for several homes he has listed for lease have been copied and pasted on various websites by scammers.

"Anybody with an email address can put a listing up there," Zindler said.

Zindler says the scammers typically ask people to send deposits by Western Union on the promise that a key will be sent in return. Zindler says before leasing a home, plug in the address into an Internet search engine to see if there are other listings and that the details like the owner and price are the same.

Zindler says the hot real estate market make Houston an attractive place for scammers.

"A lot of people don't want to wait to verify; they just go, 'Got to get it, got to get it, got to get it,'" Zindler said.

Another potential solution, use a realtor to find a leased home rather than just an Internet search.

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