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By Christine C Noel
DENVER - The real estate market in Denver is booming: Great for sellers, tough for buyers and ripe for con-artists.
Realtors and Property Management groups in Denver say the housing market is hotter than it's been since the early '90s, and whether you're looking to buy or rent, properties are getting snatched up quickly, often times within 24-48 hours after going on the market.
With that type of demand, Realtor Mike Schoen says scammers are taking full advantage of the sense of urgency felt by buyers and renters worried that they will miss out on the home of their dreams if they don't jump fast - or pay up fast - before doing their homework.
Schoen says there are a few steps you can take to avoid becoming a victim.
First, research the market value. "Find out what the going rate is for houses in different areas of the city," said Schoen. "This is especially important for those moving from out of state."
He says the price of a home or monthly lease in Cherry Creek will be different than one in Capitol Hill, Stapleton, etc.
Next, if you see a posting on a real estate website like Trulia, Zillow, or Craigslist, make sure the price and listing is consistent on all three sites.
These sites are linked by Postlets, which is a third-party host that syncs them together. If a home on one site is listed at a significantly lower price than the other two, Schoen says that is an automatic red flag.
"If you're looking at an ad in Cherry Creek for instance, and it says the rent is $3,500 a month for the property, and then all of a sudden you see the same ad on a different site for $1,500 a month, you really need to put two and two together. It's a scam."
A few other major red flags to look out for: The contact listed on the ad posting only corresponds through text or email. If the contact says they are out of town, or out of the country doing missionary work and cannot show the property in person. If, once you inquire about a property, they send an email asking a series of personal questions, including a request for a photo of yourself—and a large deposit up front.
Schoen says the best thing prospective renters and buyers can do is simply be a smart consumer. "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is," Schoen said.
If you come across what appears to be a fraudulent ad, you can contact the site it is posted on. It usually take Trulia, Craigslist and Zillow a few days to take down or correct.
My name is RaNae Urso and I specialize in residential sales and buyer representation in the Denver Metro area. I have been in the real estate business over 14 years of my 30 years in Colorado. I enjo....
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