Real estate

Funny Business: Listing scams and malapropisms

Berkeleyside contributing writer Kim Weisberg is looking for a new home to rent. Today, in the third part of an occasional column in which she reveals the dark underbelly of house hunting in our city, she dwells on the unreadability of  apartment listings and other misleading information.

When involved in an intense apartment hunt, you will undoubtedly come across some odd listings from time to time.  Aside from the misspellings and poor grammar (I’m a snob, I know), there are some words and phrases that are just downright silly.

Here are some of my favorite laugh-out-loud snippets, because it’s Thursday and who doesn’t enjoy a giggle?

  • “This apartment features original crayon moldings.” I keep picturing something like this.
  • “An old crawl foot tub. This just sounds creepy to me.  Will the tub creep around the apartment?
  • “This is a quite neighborhood.” Did you mean that it is a quiet neighborhood? …or maybe it really is quite a neighborhood!
  • Laundry mat is nearby.”  Ok, I know there is only a slight difference between ‘laundromat’ and ‘laundry mat’, but I’m pretty sure the latter does not exist.

I have also seen such things as “living room” being listed as an apartment amenity.  If the fact that it has a living room is some sort of bonus feature, I am pretty skeptical about the rest of the apartment.  And when you say “U WiLl B SorRy iF u MisS ouT On thIZ One!” I just want to run away.

On to some more serious business: scams.   I’ve found scams in all shapes and sizes, but the most frequent one I have come across lately is the fake-out.  In the fake-out, the scammer copies a photo and description from a real estate website and pretends to be offering it up at an extremely low rental price (for example: a 3b/2b single-family home in North Berkeley for $875 a month).  In this case, the old saying “too good to be true” is spot-on.  An easy way to verify that you are indeed looking at a scam: do a Google search for the address (it will probably be listed).  If the search results produce real estate (for sale) listings, it’s a scam.

If you decide to email an inquiry about the apartment, you will likely receive a hilariously unreal email in return, explaining how the landlord lives in another country and will send you the keys once you agree to rent it (without ever seeing the inside).  This happened to me twice, and I’ve posted the emails for public enjoyment here and here.  The most probably explanation for this “fake-out” scenario is that the scammers are trying to gather your personal information.  My boyfriend and I came to the conclusion that they were collecting information for fake IDs (they asked for photos), as they never asked for a credit card number.  It’s the new version of the “I am a rich prince in a foreign land and I need to transfer a million of your dollars into my account” scam.

Do your part and notify the real estate agency responsible for the property – they will appreciate it (even if they have filters set up to find these things, it’s possible that they’ll miss one).  You can also flag the post as a scam on Craigslist, if that’s where you found it.

My favorite apartment-hunting site, Padmapper, has a great blog post up as well about things to watch out for on Craigslist.  Though some of it is specific to New York, most of it can be applied to any search, anywhere.

Good luck out there – stay safe and sane!

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  • http://berkeleyhomes.com/blog Ira Serkes

    That’s a superb idea to google the property address to see if it’s on the market. Some scammers even include photos from the MLS site. The “application” they ask you to fill out almost always includes information which is inappropriate to ask.

    We set up google alerts for every listing we have … and even our name – it’s a great idea to monitor what’s online.

    If your address is 701 Buena Vista Way, Berkeley CA 94708 [not a real address], set up several google alerts – the one in quotes will search for the expression within the quotes.

    701 Buena
    “701 Buena”
    701 Berkeley

    Google alerts for Serkes periodically turns up a musical group from Turkey, and even someone who consorts with known Republicans.

    Who knew.

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