Renting and leasing homes makes up half the real estate activity in Houston real estate industry right now. That's why it is no surprise that there are people trying to take advantage of those looking for a place to live and if you are not careful it could cost you thousands of dollars.
These days homes for lease or rent in Houston do not stay available for very long.
Queen Guidry with Prime Time Realty said, "The leasing market right now is up 200 percent, meaning it is doing very, very well."
Guidry says with so many new people moving to Houston, homes for lease generally are on the market less than a few weeks. She says with demand high, it's not surprising that con artists are on the prowl.
"There are people out there that are looking to take advantage of the situation," Guidry said.
Here is what is happening -- listings for rental property found on websites like HAR.com are being copied by scammers and then reposted on other sites with the owner contact information altered. When someone responds to the fake ad, they actually get a con artist posing as the homeowner. That fake owner is typically "out of town" but says the home is available if the new renter wires money overseas.
The Houston Association of Realtors (HAR) recently heard from two homeowners who had their property listed in fake ads and another homeowner reported the same thing to the real estate blog Swamplot.com.
Danny Frank, incoming chairman of HAR advised, "If someone's asking you to wire money sight unseen, I would never do that."
Frank says renters usually do not even know they have been victimized until they try to move into a home that was never leased to them in the first place. Frank says renters should be leery of homes listed at a discount and adds that homes listed for lease on HAR.com can only be posted by a realtor.
"A licensed real estate agent would have had to put that in and done their due diligence and have all the paperwork signed and followed all the HAR rules," Frank said.
If you are looking to lease, you can check tax records online at HCAD.org to see who the real owner is and use a real estate agent to handle the details. As a renter, it will not cost you anything extra.