One of the most pressing matters when relocating is finding a nice flat as a „base camp“ for starting your adventure. Unfortunately, organising to rent a place from afar is inconvenient and every area on the planet has its own specific searching platforms. And even the well known website are often misused by scammers.
As an example, one GLOBALS recently contacted what she thought to be a potential seller through a well-established German real-estate online platform. The answer came from Spain, supposedly by a handicapped woman who said she had employed an international real estate agency to handle the sale of her Berlin apartment. In a second mail, she gave a brief of the “viewing process” which included a deposit of about 3000€ prior to even seeing the apartment. “She” also sent scans of “her” National Identity card to “raise trust”. Our friend became, of course, very suspicious. An Internet search for the agency led her to a website which initially looked very professional, but further research revealed that it was a very new site with hardly any traffic and unknown reputation. She therefore wrote back that she would not pay any money before seeing the apartment and never got an answer. She later found the same apartment for rent, offered by an actually respectable agency, which told her that this apartment had never been offered for sale, so the scammers had merely copied the pictures and description.
If you don’t know regional customs around letting and selling apartments, you are obviously more prone to scams. Universally speaking, if any of the following applies, you should be alarmed:
- The “owner” tells you they’re outside the country and can’t show you the apartment
- “Application fees” for credit check
- Any fees to be paid prior to meeting or signing a contract
- The “owner” asks you to transfer money to an “agent” or “friend” on their behalf (e.g. they’ll give you one month for free if you pay an outstanding debt for them, purportedly to save international transfer fees)
This list is not exhaustive; there are probably far more elaborate scams out there. When unsure whether an agency is trustworthy, alexa.com and scamadviser.com are very useful for doing a quick background check on their websites. If you detect a scam, make sure to report them, e.g. to the real estate platform where you found them.
This is a prime example of the hassles expats face and that G1OBALS.org seeks to assist with. You can be absolutely 100% sure that you’re dealing with serious real estate agents and that you’re getting fair deals if you rely on one of GLOBALS’ trusted housing solutioners.
Source as well as own experience