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Uneasy about VRBO rental
Old 01-13-2015, 10:25 AM   #1
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Uneasy about VRBO rental

I'm just about to make a deposit on a VRBO rental my wife found.

The owner lives in South America and owns a condo in Florida that we plan to rent for February.

I have some nagging doubts as to whether it is a sham, though nothing points to it.

We have communicated with the owner via email (and once by phone) numerous times over the past week. The condo association has a website and the telephone number works (voicemail only, have yet to actually talk to someone). The owner gave me the cellphone number of the person currently renting the property and I called it, left a voicemail and he called me back promptly.

The owner is not set up to take a credit card for our deposit and wanted a bank transfer. I asked if he could do Paypal and he can.

What do you think? Is there any other diligence that I should do?

I can pay the deposit via PayPal and charge it to my credit card, but may incur some foreign transaction fees, but if putting it on my credit card offers me any additional protection if it is a sham I would gladly pay the additional fees.

Am I overthinking this? We haven't ever done anything like this before.
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Old 01-13-2015, 10:31 AM   #2
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A cell phone call with a number the possible owner provided isn't too solid as a way to verify anything. I'm assuming you left your number with the condo association but haven't heard back yet. That would be the best way to verify who the owner is and that it is a rental.

VRBO has an insurance option for many rentals. Have you checked this? It's definitely more than most foreign transaction fees.

I don't think you are overthinking this.
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Old 01-13-2015, 10:32 AM   #3
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I have no idea if this rental is a good deal or a scam. But, I do know that renting out property one does not own is a scam and has blossomed using online services.

The advantage of places like Airbnb is that payment to the property owner is not made until the renter has been there 24 hours and not complained. I guess that is not being offered to you. Right?

Personally, you seem like a guy who knows his stuff. So I suggest you trust your instincts.

Beware these vacation rental scams | www.clarkhoward.com

How To Avoid The Internet's Hottest Scam: Fake Vacation Rentals - Forbes
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Old 01-13-2015, 10:38 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pb4uski View Post
I'm just about to make a deposit on a VRBO rental my wife found.

The owner lives in South America and owns a condo in Florida that we plan to rent for February.

I have some nagging doubts as to whether it is a sham, though nothing points to it.

We have communicated with the owner via email (and once by phone) numerous times over the past week. The condo association has a website and the telephone number works (voicemail only, have yet to actually talk to someone). The owner gave me the cellphone number of the person currently renting the property and I called it, left a voicemail and he called me back promptly.

The owner is not set up to take a credit card for our deposit and wanted a bank transfer. I asked if he could do Paypal and he can.

What do you think? Is there any other diligence that I should do?

I can pay the deposit via PayPal and charge it to my credit card, but may incur some foreign transaction fees, but if putting it on my credit card offers me any additional protection if it is a sham I would gladly pay the additional fees.

Am I overthinking this? We haven't ever done anything like this before.
I think it is 3 months u are protected with your credit card, I would check with ur card and see what they say.

My credit card offers trip insurance do you have that on your card? If so
I would call the credit card company and find out if they pay if this is indeed
fraud.

did you google his email address? his phone number?

I personally never rent unless there are a lot of reviews and only once rented
past the Credit Card protection date. The person lived in the area, had a number of great reviews and was actually a former newscaster and current
actor so I felt ok.

If I had any doubts I would look for another condo in Fl.

hope this helps
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Uneasy about VRBO rental
Old 01-13-2015, 10:38 AM   #5
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Uneasy about VRBO rental

Go to the county property assessor's web site and look up the property to see if the owner information matches up with what you have.


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Old 01-13-2015, 10:42 AM   #6
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I would look for reviews of this rental. A lot of times you'll see reviews of VRBO rentals on the VRBO website - but also check trip advisor, etc.

I've used VRBO, flipkey, homeaway, and various owner-specific websites. Often a vacation rental owner will list on multiple sites... The one time I got very nervous was a rental in Marsala, Italy. It was a new rental (a guest house that the owner decided to rent out). But it was the best fit and I decided to go for it... Turned out to be great and I was sure to leave a review on trip advisor and on the vacation rental agency he used.
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Old 01-13-2015, 10:52 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dash man View Post
Go to the county property assessor's web site and look up the property to see if the owner information matches up with what you have.


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Was just about to type this - definitely a +1 on this. Although in the case of foreigners, don't be surprised if there might be some sort of legal entity that is listed on the title in lieu of a legitimate foreign owner. So for the "fail proof" way for a condo, the condo association should be able to verify it....but I don't know if the condo association can legally say that (even though the public tax rolls would list the legal owner).

First of all, the condo association has no proof that you are trying to rent from the condo owner, and I don't believe they have any legal obligation to verify ownership of who owns what condo (think of stalkers and other evil doers that might be asking). Also, even more importantly, many condo associations might not look too kindly on people 'renting out' their condos for nightly or very short-term rentals (although in Florida it might be a little different, given the high seasonality of tourists). Many associations strictly prohibit even renting out your condo for long-term rentals, although I don't know that many would strictly prohibit short-term (1 week or less) rentals since VRBO and other websites are a very recent phenomenon and most associations probably haven't officially updated their bylaws to prohibit short-term rentals like that.

So don't be surprised if a condo association fails to respond, or (worse) sends an angry letter to the condo owner saying they aren't allowed to rent nightly to the public. (Imagine if you owned a condo and had 1 or 2 condos that were rented out for nightly use to the public...some might not have any issues, but does reduce security somewhat).
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Old 01-13-2015, 10:57 AM   #8
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I don't think you have done proper due diligence

Quote:
Originally Posted by SJ1_ View Post

did you google his email address? his phone number?

I personally never rent unless there are a lot of reviews and only once rented
past the Credit Card protection date. The person lived in the area, had a number of great reviews and was actually a former newscaster and current
actor so I felt ok.
I don't think of due diligence as taking a certain amount of standard actions and then assuming everything will be okay. I take it as ascertaining that, in this case, the place/deal is legitimate. I frequently google e-mails, phone numbers, and look at reviews. But you always have to be careful of fake reviews.

Someone mentioned looking up the physical property records which I have never done before but is a great idea.

I personally discount phone calls, etc, because what verifiable information does it tell one? But it is a good way to get info on the person, if he/she is too nice, accommodating, etc, then it raises questions in my mind if the person is trying to play a personality type that they aren't.
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Old 01-13-2015, 11:01 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by pb4uski View Post

I have some nagging doubts as to whether it is a sham, though nothing points to it.
Are the doubts because you are careful in general or is there something that tipped you off that this is a scam or something that made you feel amiss? Having no other info other than what you provided, if it's the latter, it would make me lean more toward this being a scam than legitimate.
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Old 01-13-2015, 11:14 AM   #10
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Trust your gut and go somewhere else. Check out this place while you are there--you can always go there another year if it's okay.
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Old 01-13-2015, 11:23 AM   #11
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We rented a listing from VRBO a few months ago and had similar concerns (bank transfer only, fully paid in advance plus a hefty refundable deposit). I saw this VRBO "protecting yourself" link Protecting Yourself when Renting By Owner and followed the advice, asking for local references for service providers and prior renters. They were promptly provided and once we verified them we went ahead.
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Old 01-13-2015, 11:34 AM   #12
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One other item to check: do a search on realtor.com for the property address (or do a google image search on a few of the pictures). If it is a sham, the scammer might have simply pulled a few pictures that are in the real estate sales listing from Realtor.com for the exact same property.

Odds are, if someone did have a home/condo listed for sale, they would tell you that up-front on VRBO.com, since someone who has a place rented for a few days surely would not want another real estate agent simply parading through any time they want to. So if a property is listed (or was recently listed) on realtor.com, it could be a big red flag.

Or - even more obvious - if the images on VRBO.com were from a different address/property listed for sale, it's an obvious red flag (unless the property owner is a real estate mogul and has soooo many properties that they mixed it up the pictures. Unlikely, but a slim chance
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Old 01-13-2015, 11:39 AM   #13
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I also do a google search on the owner, make sure the owners address is valid. The google knows all.
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Old 01-13-2015, 11:48 AM   #14
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I have had nothing but good experiences on VRBO but i always verify the owners identities and their story via google. (E.g., yes he's a dentist in ohio, yes she's a realtor in AZ). And i look for multiple reviews, bonus points if some are less than stellar for reasons i dont care too much about, and i also make sure the listing isnt too new.

If i can't do that, I'd find another listing. There are too many options to take chances.
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Old 01-13-2015, 11:52 AM   #15
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Also, how well did they vet you? I'm often comforted by the steps they take to make sure not just anyone is using their beloved vacation home. The last owner i rented from insisted on sending the contract snail mail, no doubt wanting to make sure i was who i said i was. It gave me a lot of comfort.
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Old 01-13-2015, 11:57 AM   #16
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Are the doubts because you are careful in general or is there something that tipped you off that this is a scam or something that made you feel amiss? Having no other info other than what you provided, if it's the latter, it would make me lean more toward this being a scam than legitimate.
The former, not the latter.

I was able to finally get through to the condo association by phone and they verified that they had an owner with that name but would not verify the unit. They do allow rentals over 29 days and there is a fairly elaborate process with forms we have filled out to be approved to rent (including one form that needs to be notarized), along with a $75 processing fee .... the owner disclosed all this and I verified with the condo association when I talked to them.

I was also able to get on the county real estate tax website and verify that the unit cited in the contract is owned by the name of the person that I have been dealing with and the city where he lives on the tax bill is the same as where he has told us he lives. Good idea BTW.... thanks.

I also googled his name and found he has a Linked in profile and he reviewed a phone on Amazon. I clicked on his name, city/country and picture are in a profile and the picture is different from his Linked In picture but is the same guy.

At this point I am comfortable enough to make the deposit but I'll still call my credit card company first to see what protections they offer and what the fees will be.

And thanks to all who responded.
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Old 01-13-2015, 12:00 PM   #17
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I can not comment on the reliability of this person, but just because they do not take a credit card does not mean anything in particular other than they may not be wanting to share the profits with CC. I have had 3 VRBO experiences with owners who did not take a credit card. One was in St. John and it looked a bit too good to be true. Wrote with a check for half the amount and told him I would give him cash at the Ferry. Was a bit nervous since we were going to be homeless on an island if it wasn't legitimate. Well he was there waiting for me and it was a great experience. He really liked that cash as I'm betting that portion wasn't going to be taxed!


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Old 01-13-2015, 12:05 PM   #18
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The former, not the latter.

I was able to finally get through to the condo association by phone and they verified that they had an owner with that name but would not verify the unit. They do allow rentals over 29 days and there is a fairly elaborate process with forms we have filled out to be approved to rent (including one form that needs to be notarized), along with a $75 processing fee .... the owner disclosed all this and I verified with the condo association when I talked to them.

I was also able to get on the county real estate tax website and verify that the unit cited in the contract is owned by the name of the person that I have been dealing with and the city where he lives on the tax bill is the same as where he has told us he lives. Good idea BTW.... thanks.

I also googled his name and found he has a Linked in profile and he reviewed a phone on Amazon. I clicked on his name, city/country and picture are in a profile and the picture is different from his Linked In picture but is the same guy.

At this point I am comfortable enough to make the deposit but I'll still call my credit card company first to see what protections they offer and what the fees will be.

And thanks to all who responded.

Based on everything you wrote here, i too would proceed. For whatever little comfort that might provide!
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Old 01-13-2015, 12:15 PM   #19
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I had similar misgivings on a VRBO rental in Berlin. Turns out a lot of Germans are cash only folks. The rental went well as have all of my VRBO experiences. Sounds like you have enough confirmation to be OK. I get the impression that VRBO has been pretty successful in routing out fraud.
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Old 01-13-2015, 12:29 PM   #20
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I also just got of the phone with my credit card company. If I pay via PayPal charged to my credit card then I can dispute the charge and am covered by their "frog" protection.

Better yet, they have no foreign transaction fees (where VISA does have a 3% fee).

So I'm proceeding and thinking that between VRBO, PayPal and Discover that if it is a scam that I'll still come out ok.
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