So I created a handful of spreadsheets on the different housing options available to help facilitate my move this past weekend. This included identifying the price, utilities included, washer/dryer options, parking, square footage, website, listed fees, number of bedrooms, they type of home, and notes on the properties.

Unfortunately I needed to make a new copy of the spreadsheet which I called, Housing Frauds Removed. Several of the places sounded too good to be true, a 1600 square foot home would be hard pressed to have a sauna, pool, hot tub, and be only $700 a month. There were several listings that seemed to be accurate based on comparables, of non fraud listings, which also turned out to be nonexistent. While writing this I also was wondering if comparables is a real world. It’s definition on investopedia is: “A valuation technique in which a recently sold asset is used to determine the value of a similar asset.” This fits with what I expect it to mean, so I will continue to use it.

These frauds usually followed the following formula. They would have a listing, typically on Trulia, which included pictures, a description of the property, and some ameneties selected. You would contact said listing for more information or to setup a time to view the property. You would get a response. Here is a sample response we received:

Thanks for your email, I personally own the house, we want our property to be well taken good care, and there are some Precaution in which i do give out to tenant willing to rent my house which brings about safety of a home, so please don’t be offended. But if you are still capable of renting my house the precaution goes this way..
A little about myself; I currently got a permanent Job in San Antonio TX (Bio-medical Engineers) I was working as a Medical Doctor here in the state but i finally lost my Job on the month of Jan 18th 2013 due to the accident I had during the envy snow, the accident which almost destroyed most part of my body especially my legs, but I thank God today that I am still alive and i can at least walk again…but I can’t talk very well cos the shock are still in my body according to my Doctor, the best way i can communicate is through writing but I believe with God all things are possible, I have the faith in him that I will be healed perfectly it is just a matter of time. I relocated to San Antonio TX  due to my work and am so glad about it..
I want you to understand that I spent a lot on my property that you have requested to rent, so I will solicit for your absolute maintenance of this house and would want you to treat it as your own because cleanliness they say is next to Godliness. It is not all about the money to be paid on rent or spent; it is all about a good maintenance culture which I want you to adopt on the property. I want you to keep it tidy all the time so that I would be full of smiles whenever I come and above all, a good, strong and tight relationship between us when I come for a check up. Please one more thing, I wouldn’t like to have any benefit of trust in you because I want to stand in your words that the property would be well taken care of all the time.I believe you have see how lovely it is if from only the pictures you saw in my posting compare to the 100% comfort to be derived from it as you are an occupant.
We will be away for a while that is why we made up our mind to put up our house for rent to whom ever that will take good care of it. Please i want you to note that i spent a lot on my property that i want to give to you for rent,so i will solicit for your absolute maintenance of this house and want you to treat it as your own. Utilities include Water,Trash,Sewer,Gas and Electricity etc.. and all utilities are included for six (6) months of move in. The money is not the main problem but i want you to keep it tidy all the time so that i will be glad to see it neat when i come for a check up. I also want you to let me have trust in you as I always stand on my word. The Bedroom house is equipped with everything you can need for your stay: fully equipped kitchen, Refrigerator, Microwave, Gas Range,Dishwasher,Garbage Disposal,Hood Over Range,Granite Counter,Available,washing machine….. Bedrooms, bath.. And large living room with appliances including in-suite washer and dryer,electric heating,Wall Furnaces.
Address:  11900 NE 18th St,Vancouver, WA                              
Pets are Welcome!!!
Rent: $ 800
Security Deposit: $1,000
Number Of Bedrooms:       2
Number Of Bathrooms:      2
Name (First name/ Middle name/Surname ) : __________?
Phone numbers (home,cell and office line ) # :__________?
E-mail :__________?
Best time to call :__________?
Marital Status:__________?
How many proposed occupants :__________?
List all in addition to yourself including approx age :__________?
Present Address :__________?
City/State :__________?
Will you have pets :__________?
Please describe Breed, size :__________?
Personality of pet :__________?
Preferred move in date :__________?
Intended length of lease:__________?
Do you agree to pay the payment before you move in:__________?
Earliest possible date of deposit payment:__________?
Length of previous tenancy :__________?
Present occupation :__________?
Are you a section 8 applicant
Do you work late night :__________?
Do you smoke :__________?
Do you drink :__________?
Send your picture or family picture __________?
Please feel free to ask any questions you do not understand and i will be looking forward to receive your email as soon as possible. As i am not around to show the inside, you can go check out the house and the neighborhood from the outside and get back to me if you really like it for more information. Please respond ASAP.
I hope to read from you with more information.Thanks for the time and energy writing me, My regards to your family.
Best Regards.
Mr Wale Brown .
(530) 362-8781

Interestingly enough I called the number listed and it is a Google voice number. The email response you get is usually quite lengthy and is something along the lines of “We moved. You pay us, we’ll mail you the keys.”

After discovering this we moved back towards looking at apartment complexes rather than houses and duplexes. The apartment complexes seemed to at least exist, though the listings were often very inaccurate. We narrowed down the list of all complexes in the Vancouver area to the 48 we were interested in. We called each of them the next morning. The first eight I called didn’t answer the phone. Several of the ones that answered wouldn’t give you the price of the apartment. They would give you a range, but some of the ranges were huge ($980-$1500 for example). They just wanted you to come in. Even some of the ones we went into were coy about providing the price. It started being easier to scratch them off the list by providing a verdict, “If you aren’t going to give me a price I’m not going to come see it. I have plenty to look at, so I will happily take an uncooperative option off my list.”

After calling all 48 we had a list narrowed down to eight potentials. This was due to availability, price, and answering the phone. You would think that after the spreadsheets, call screening, area checking, crime map scrutiny, and general research, we would at last have eight possible options. This wasn’t the case with all of them.

Turns out the people on the phone can be misleading as well. One of the ones we went to see which was “available” on a certain date already had a wait list. We could join the wait list by paying the application fee and when it opened up, if the people in front of us canceled, we would have a chance.

There were also a couple of places that couldn’t actually show you the apartment, but they would show you a virtual tour of the apartment. Why couldn’t I just look at the tour at my home? What a waste of time.

The worst offender though was ironically the first apartment we looked at. After calling all 48 and narrowing our choices down to eight, we arrived at the first pick (based off proximity to where we were staying). We were immediately turned off by it being one of the virtual tours. It doesn’t really do much for figuring out the layout and seeing the apartment when we go to the place only to look at it on her computer with a 17 inch monitor and windows xp. It really doesn’t add to the experience when she attacks you verbally. It wasn’t profane, but it sure was bitchy.

We asked the seemingly innocuous question, “Can we look at the apartment?” Which was met by the response. “We only have a virtual tour. I heard her tell you we have a virtual tour,” with a really nasal, aggressive tone.  Our next question of “What’s the parking situation?” was apparently also an inappropriate question. She wanted to know “why, how many cars do you have?” in a suspicious tone. We told her the kitchen was too small and left. Actually everything viewed from the 17 inch video tour looked too small. It would have to be at least three times bigger.

There is such a golden opportunity here for making a great experience. These places just need to follow a few simple guidelines.

1. Provide accurate information.

Ideally I want to know everything I need to know from your website. I want to see if there are any available, see the information about the complex, and I want a price for the particular apartment that is open. I don’t want a range, I want a price. If it’s a range I want the bottom of the range for price and the top of the range for quality. Provide a straight forward price.


2. Show the apartment

If you have an apartment available then show it. If you can’t show it, then provide the virtual tour online. Don’t make me come in for it. I have a bigger monitor than you do.


3. Don’t be bitchy.

I’m coming in with the intent of paying you money in exchange for a residence. If I ask you a question I don’t expect to be cross examined, I would expect an answer.