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How to not fall prey to real estate frauds

Risk-free rentals
Last Updated 10 July 2023, 03:26 IST

Currently, there is a huge demand and supply mismatch across most cities and houses are getting rented out much faster. Rents have been going through the roof due to scarcity of houses. Many tenants are closing deals at the video tour stage. While that might be fast, that can be risky as well.

Fraudulent transactions in the real estate sector are a constant and evolving threat, exploiting vulnerabilities to deceive unsuspecting tenants.

Here’s a guidebook of how not to fall for clickbaity options and fraudsters and safeguard your interest as a tenant. These tenets are applicable whether you are searching for a property online, offline or with a broker.

Stay wary of unrealistic deals

There is no shortage of enticing deals in the real estate market. While it may be tempting to pursue a bargain, it is essential to remain vigilant. Take the time to conduct comprehensive research and diligently compare prices. By maintaining a discerning approach, you can navigate the real estate landscape with confidence and evade the deceptive traps set by unscrupulous individuals.

Check the average rental price in the locality and get a sense of what you’re being offered. If a deal looks too good and the person on the other end is pressing hard to close it soon under the pretext that their property is sought after, let it go. Better safe than sorry.

Visit the property in person

While virtual property tours and immersive online listings are a great way to shortlist properties, we recommend an in-person physical inspection of the property before finalising or depositing token money.

By conducting thorough in-person visits, prospective buyers can authenticate the property’s existence and condition, ensuring that their virtual expectations align with the tangible reality. This step will empower tenants to make informed decisions while minimising the risk of falling prey to scams.

You should speak to the neighbours or watchmen/society manager to ensure veracity of all information and that the property and owner is genuine.

Perchance you are moving to a different city and cannot check out the property and meet the owner yourself, get an acquaintance, friend, relative or colleague to do that on your behalf.

Watch out for red flags

If an owner is pressing too hard to make you transfer the token money without physical inspection under the pretext that he has many people chasing his property, exercise double caution and cross check everything twice. Do not let anyone take advantage of your time limitations.

Solidify the lease agreement before transferring funds

Make sure to always have a strong lease agreement in place before exchanging any money. Be vigilant of listings that ask for upfront payments without proper legal documents. Insist on a thorough lease or rental agreement that clearly states the terms and conditions of the transaction. This agreement helps protect both parties involved by clearly defining important details like rent, deposit, and duration before any financial commitments are made.

Do your own diligence with offline mode or brokers

While using offline channels also, one needs to do their own diligence. Do not just rely on the word of the broker. Before transferring any token money to anyone, you need to ensure that the person on the other side is genuine. Also, do not transfer any money to the middleman but give it directly in the owner’s account.

Exercise caution with links and QR codes

Once you seem to be interested in a property, make sure to get the owner details verified. Check everything multiple times and do not rush into closing the transaction. Tech know-how has enabled scammers to evolve their exploitative tactics. Beware of phishing emails or messages that can lure you into clicking suspicious links or accepting QR codes from strangers.

Many a times, fraudsters pose as army personnel stating that they will not be able to meet you or show you the property in person due to the nature of their profession. They might even furnish fake identity proofs such as PAN card. In such cases, do not proceed with the deal or transfer token amount unless you are thoroughly sure of their identity.

These seemingly harmless actions have the potential to expose you to fake websites or malicious software that aim to steal your sensitive information or compromise your devices. To safeguard your digital domain, approach all real estate-related communications with caution. Independently verify the source and legitimacy of any message before engaging further.

Conclusion

Safeguarding against fraud and protecting investments in the real estate industry requires a multifaceted approach. By visiting properties in person, exercising caution with digital communications, solidifying lease agreements, and staying vigilant against unrealistic deals, individuals can fortify their defences and navigate the real estate market with confidence.

(The writer is Co-founder & Chief Business Officer, NoBroker.com)

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(Published 09 July 2023, 22:08 IST)

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