The Craigslist Deal That's Too Good to Be True

Rent to own ads are not all they are cracked up to be

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
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    Be careful of the rent to own ads on Craigslist.

    The latest round of "too good to be true" offers are making their round on Craigslist in the form of rent to own ads.

    The postings offer the homes far below market rate and claim you can "take over the mortgage."

    Recently a one bedroom condo in Saratoga was posted on Craigslist for just $350 a month. The advertisement said the home was in foreclosure and a tenant could become the owner by taking over the monthly mortgage.

    When the 800 number was called for more information, a message from realtypartner.com said, "Hi this is Realty Partner. Please hold while I transfer you to a representative."
       
    When the representative was asked about ad and why it didn't list an address he said it would be on the site and all users needed to do was sign up for $1.95 for a three day trial. After that, it would cost $39.99 a month to access the listings.

    "If you look at the price and it's in an area where you're like 'wow omg that's a smoking deal,' It's not real," said realtor Leslie Lang.

    Lang called the listing a classic bait and switch tactic: advertise a home for way below market and get people to call and sign up for something else.

    Lang said once you call the 800 number, the companies can access your information.

    "If it doesn't have a local number, you should be aware," she said. "An 800 number, they will capture your name and address and you actually get on a list they can mail to you and contact you later. That's part of an 800 number they capture all your info."

    Aside from no local number or address on the ad, other red flags to watch out for include photos or wording that looks like it's been cut and pasted from legitimate ads.

    "It's very easy because you just have to right click and copy the photo and bring it over to your fake ad," Lang said.

    Pete Herschelman is in the market to buy a home. He uses Craiglist and says he can always spot ads that don't add up by looking for "unrealistic terms, unrealistic pricing stuff that doesn't fit the market."

    Rip Off Report, a website where consumers can post warnings, has three reports about Realty Partner. People say they were never able to find the rental information they were promised and they ended up getting charged a monthly fee even after canceling.

    Lang says ads that promise to let you take over a mortgage, or claim there's no credit requirements, are often just a way to lure you to a site for paid service and renters are especially vulnerable in this economy.

    "They've lost their homes they're looking to rent and they get sucked into these bait and switch scams," she said adding that she advises renters and buyers to beware of any ads offering "rent to own" options, unless you can check out the properties with a professional.