The home and vacation rental property industries are fraught with con artists and scammers. One of the most common cases of rental fraud happens when scammers copy photos and descriptions of real properties, post them online and demand an upfront deposit from the victim. After getting the money, the scammers disappear.
Cases like this are constantly making their way into the headlines. For rental property owners, this means that your would-be renters are on high alert. Your customers will be scrutinizing your listings to look for any signs of fraud.
That’s why we wrote this guide: So you can create trustworthy listings that showcase your professionalism and legitimacy. But first, let’s look at how severe the problem of rental fraud is right now.
How Bad Is the Rental Fraud Pandemic?
The Better Business Bureau recently performed an investigation into the current state of rental fraud. Here’s what they found:
“More than 5 million people lost money to rental scams and 43% of online shoppers encountered a bogus listing, according to a recent survey by Apartment List. With fraudulent listings so common, anyone doing an internet search to locate a place to rent faces a high risk of encountering a bogus listing.”
As for how frequently people fall for these scams, another survey revealed that 85% of renters don’t fall for the scams, but those who do lose an average of $400:
“The Apartment List survey of rental scams, conducted by Igor Popov, a Stanford University-trained economist, found that 85% of those encountering bogus listings did not fall for them. Of the 5.2 million people who did lose money, the median loss was $400, and one in three victims lost more than $1,000.”
Scams like this are commonly found on websites like VRBO, Airbnb and HomeAway. They take advantage of the fact that vacation property renters can’t physically inspect the properties before arriving.
How to Ensure Your Listings Look Legitimate and Trustworthy
Only 15% of people fall for rental scams. Therefore, most renters are scrutinizing listings closely for any signs of fraud—and avoiding those that look suspicious. Here are some tips to ensure your listings look as professional and trustworthy as possible, so no one mistakes you for a scammer:
- Watermark your photos: Since scammers like to steal photos from other listings, one way to build trust from your would-be renters is to watermark the photos in your listings. By stamping the name of your listing onto the photos, would-be renters see that your photos match your listing, and this will build trust.
- Write your descriptions clearly without errors: Scammers are sometimes based overseas, and their English language skills and grammar give their listings away as potential scams. Make sure that your descriptions are clear and error-free. If English isn’t your first language, get help from a friend or professional writer to write clean, clear descriptions.
- Provide details with matching photos about the property location: Offer clear details about your property location and surrounding areas. Include a street photo of the front door of the property from the street so that would-be renters can compare it with Google maps images. This will add legitimacy to your listing.
- Keep your communications on the platform: If you’re using a platform to list your property—like Airbnb or HomeAway, make sure that you keep your communications, and especially payments, within the platform. Asking to chat off-platform could raise a red flag for some renters. And suggesting that payments be made off-platform could break your agreement with the platform itself.
PointCentral: Automation Solutions for the Rental and Vacation Property Industries
At PointCentral, we develop advanced smart property management systems for rental and vacation property management companies. Whether you’re a small business with one or two units under management or an enterprise-grade property manager with thousands of rental property complexes, our automation tools will help you remotely control and automate workflows, manage remote access control for your units, control thermostats, monitor HVAC equipment performance issues, and more.
Contact the PointCentral team now to learn more about our smart property automation solutions for the rental industry.