Friday, December 9, 2011

Renting a House? Look before you leap!

The real estate rental market in the US today is growing.  This is fueled by a number of factors. People are finding that mortgages are harder to secure, they may have damaged credit due to loss of job or foreclosure and some experience a lack of confidence in the real estate market producing a fear of purchasing as prices remain unstable.

At the same time, there are thousands of "new" landlords out there.  Maybe they're underwater with their mortgage and have been unable to sell.  They needed to relocate, so their only option might be to rent the property hoping for some cash flow and an eventual increase in market prices.  Maybe they're already in foreclosure and just want to skim a few dollars from the property before the bank takes possession.  It's sad to think that there are people who would resort to deceit like this, but it happens.

The scenario:

You've found your perfect rental home!  You've got a new job in a  new city and this house is just perfect.  Each child has a bedroom and there's a fence for the dog.  The rent is reasonable given market conditions and it's available now!  The landlord has a one page lease which requires little of you and is very reasonable with the deposits.  Finally!  Something is going right!

Time to sign!  Or is it?

How can you check the property status?  How can you check to see who actually owns the home?  If you found this property visiting a site like Craigslist, how do you know if the property is truly for rent or if it's part of some scam? 

There are do-it-yourself methods for obtaining public information.  It is possible, in many cases, to view the tax report online.  Just determine the county in which the property is located and do your searching on the website.  Some charge a fee, some do not.  At the very least, you can determine to whom the tax bills are being sent in order to verify that the person you are dealing with is the actual owner of the property.

You can make a trip to the county recorder and inquire about the property yourself.  You can ask to see verification of the true owner.  You can see what type of financing is in place. You can ask if the property is in foreclosure. 

If possible, drive by the property.  Is there a sign?  Is it a "For Sale" sign?  Perhaps you could even ask a neighbor or two. 

One option: You can save a lot of time with (deleted this link).  What?

Recently, when reading an article published by the National Association of Realtors, I came across a website that claims to check foreclosure and ownership records for would-be-renters.  The company offers a free report telling you whether or not the property you are looking at is in foreclosure. (They also offer upgrades for a price). Standard Delivery time is 24 hours for the free report. I tried it and it's relatively easy.

I had written and was ready to publish this article as soon as I received this free report.  Results showed up in my inbox in only a couple of hours!  Perfect!  The property address was identified with the statement "Good News!"  The property was clean.  But, here's the rub.  I used an address for a property that is, for an absolute fact, in foreclosure. 

Well then!  The purpose of this article was to remind people that due diligence is a necessary part of looking for rental property today.  The goal hasn't changed, but instead of providing a link to a company that might be able to help keep you out of trouble, I'll just add "companies that claim to keep you out of trouble" to the warning.   Do your research. Look before you leap! 

Responsible Referrals connects customers with great real estate agents throughout the country.   Responsible Referrals donates 50% of the income generated to nonprofits serving homeless youth and families. There is no cost to the customer and there is no cost to the nonprofit. Call us for more information!



  1. Good info! That is so crazy that you checked out, and got an "all clear" on a property already in foreclosure.

  2. I know! Just can't make blind recommendations - ever! May your day be filled with hugs!