Home Radio Segments Real Estate Round-up How To Tell If Your Summer Vacation Rental Is A Scam

How To Tell If Your Summer Vacation Rental Is A Scam

Terry Story, Summer Vacation Rental Scam

With Terry Story, a 30-year veteran with Keller Williams located in Boca Raton, FL

During this week’s Real Estate Roundup, Terry and Steve discussed how the summer is a key time for scammers to target and rip off people looking to go on vacation. There are key numbers and statements to look out for to avoid this trap. They also discussed contingency purchases and how to stage your home to make it appealing to buyers.

Scam Alert

In the summertime, many people are looking to rent a vacation home with the best deal possible. Because of this, scams are everywhere. When looking at vacation homes on the internet, pay attention to the quality of the photos provided AND the price. Beautiful rentals with ridiculously deep discounts should throw up warning flags, especially if you’re looking through sites like Craigslist.

The best way to avoid getting scammed is to research any property through multiple sites and find similar listings to see what the ballpark rental prices in the area are. If a Craigslist ad is offering a $300/week rental on a home that’s similar to others which are going for $1,000 to $3,000 a week, it’s a pretty safe bet that the Craigslist ad is a scam. Always look for contact information, speak to someone about the rental and try to view it and make sure it’s legit before signing anything or handing over any money.

Contingency Purchases

When you sell your home, someone will be out there who wants to buy it, someone who likely owns a home themselves. That person must sell their home in order to purchase yours. Naturally, they may want to structure a purchase deal based on the contingency of first selling their current property.

These deals are common and there typically isn’t anything unusual about them. But before you accept such a deal, it’s smart to make sure that the buyer’s current home is all squared away to be sold. It should already have been inspected, appraised, and any necessary remodels or updates should be underway.


Staging is an important factor for making sure that a home sells, whether it’s a contingency sale or not. For a lot of people, staging seems overwhelming. But there are some simple things to consider that fall into this category that don’t require an incredible amount of creativity or cost. Staging is just basically trying to present your home in the most attractive way.

Making sure that colors within the home are fairly neutral keeps everything looking fresh and clean. Be sure that drapes match, light bulbs are installed, and windows are open to allow sunlight in.

Keeping clutter at a minimum is another good tip for staging. Decorative accents are nice, but the goal is to help the buyer envision their own things in the home. Also, keep in mind that decluttering doesn’t mean just shoving things in closets. Buyers will typically look everywhere, so make sure that extraneous clutter is completely off the property.

It’s not simply the inside of the home that matters. Make sure that the driveway is clear of debris, sidewalks are neat, and dead plants and flowers have been removed. Planting something new is an option but isn’t mandatory as long as the cleared space looks neat.

If you’d like to learn more about buying or selling a home, or real estate in general, visit Keller Williams!

Disclosure: The opinions expressed are those of the interviewee and not necessarily United Capital.  Interviewee is not a representative of United Capital. Investing involves risk and investors should carefully consider their own investment objectives and never rely on any single chart, graph or marketing piece to make decisions.  Content provided is intended for informational purposes only, is not a recommendation to buy or sell any securities, and should not be considered tax, legal, investment advice. Please contact your tax, legal, financial professional with questions about your specific needs and circumstances.  The information contained herein was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, however their accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. All data are driven from publicly available information and has not been independently verified by United Capital.

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Steve Pomeranz: It’s time for a Real Estate Roundup. This is the time every single week we get together with noted real estate agent Terry Story. Terry is a 30-year veteran with Keller Williams located in Boca Raton. Welcome back to the show, Terry,

Terry Story: Thanks for having me, Steve.

Steve Pomeranz: Summertime is upon us.

Terry Story: Summertime.

Steve Pomeranz: And rental scams are rife.

Terry Story: Yes, they are. So, listen, folks, here’s the deal. When you’re scouring through the Internet, looking for a vacation home for a week, what have you, especially Craigslist, when everything’s going for like $2,000 a week and it’s $300 a week, red lights, sirens, everything needs to be going off.

Steve Pomeranz: It’s funny you should say that. So every year my family gets together and we rent a vacation home for one week. And generally, the costs—these are like huge, we’re a big family and all that—so let’s say 800 a night or something like that, okay?

Terry Story: Right.

Steve Pomeranz: So it adds up to what? Anyway, we’re just thinking about going to Asheville. So we’re looking and we’re looking online and we see one that’s half-price and everybody’s like, “Let’s take that because the pictures are gorgeous,” and a couple of us are going, “Wait a minute, why is this unit half price?”

Terry Story: Right.

Steve Pomeranz: And I think that’s what you’re talking about.

Terry Story: Exactly, so you really have to question it. I can’t really tell you how you go about determining if it’s real or not. But I can tell you it’s certainly a red flag and there’s countless stories of people being scammed.

Steve Pomeranz: Well, here’s the saddest story that is mentioned in this material that we’re looking at, but you know, it happens. So a person secures a rental agreement, actually travels from afar.

Terry Story: Right.

Steve Pomeranz: I mean, we’re traveling from all over the country to get to this place in North Carolina. There was one story, a guy came from Panama and he shows up and the rental agreement’s no good because he got it through Craigslist.

Terry Story: Right.

Steve Pomeranz: And it was just a basic scam. So the money that he sent is gone. He’s traveled all this way. He’s got no place to stay. I was actually-

Terry Story: And he’s got the kids in the car

Steve Pomeranz: He’s got the kids in the carl

Terry Story: Grandma …

Steve Pomeranz: Exactly.

Terry Story: The Griswolds arriving, vacation land. Sorry folks, park’s closed. Same idea, yeah.

Steve Pomeranz: That was actually pretty good. Yeah, so it’s really a tragedy.

Terry Story: It is.

Steve Pomeranz: You know. And so you really need to think twice. It’s the too good to be true axiom. Okay.

Terry Story: So think twice.

Steve Pomeranz: Very important. All right. We were speaking off air and you were mentioning that a number of your sales now have been based on the contingency the person’s other house or primary home selling-

Terry Story: Correct.

Steve Pomeranz: Contingency purchases. Tell us about that.

Terry Story: Yeah, so here’s the deal. So when you’re selling your home, somebody’s going to want to purchase it and there’s a good probability that they are coming from a home as well. So. they have to sell their home in order to purchase your home. So it’s a domino effect, right?

So, we do these deals all the time. There’s nothing unusual about it. But when you accept these deals, you really want to make sure that that first domino is moved down the line somewhat, whereby you know they’ve done their inspections, their appraisal has been done.

You want to make sure that that’s a real solid first deal because if that falls apart, then the second deal falls apart. And then you, as the seller, are moving. So where are you going? You’re going to create another domino. So, I’ve done four-way dominoes. They’re very tricky. Recently, I’ve had a little bit of a run of dominoes falling apart.

Steve Pomeranz: Yeah, but the only alternative is to sell your home, live somewhere temporarily.

Terry Story: Right.

Steve Pomeranz: Right? And then be looking for another home and that sounds good on paper, but it’s a lot harder to do, a lot messier than you think about.

Terry Story: And you can only dig so deep. In this one particular case, it fell apart because the domino, it was contingent on the sale of her house. We even called the lender, their buyer looked great-

Steve Pomeranz: Yes.

Terry Story: No issues whatsoever. The mortgage person wasn’t quite truthful. The truth of the matter was that person had a house to sell and the only way that they could buy the house was to have a co-signer. Well, conveniently the co-signer decided they weren’t going to be a co-signer.

The truth of the matter is, she got nervous because her house hadn’t sold, so she didn’t want to take the risk.

Steve Pomeranz: Got it.

Terry Story: We weren’t told the truth and it dominoed all the way down.

Steve Pomeranz: Yeah, and it’s hard to kind of figure those things out.

Terry Story: That hasn’t happened in years –

Steve Pomeranz: Digging that deep

Terry Story: Years and years. Yes.

Steve Pomeranz: Okay. So I remember, and we’ve mentioned this on the air a long time ago, that once when I sold a home, we were having trouble selling it, so a friend of ours came over and we planted literally two palm trees in the back with a little bit of a ground cover.

And we sold our house within like two weeks. So that’s called staging.

Terry Story: That is a form of staging. Absolutely.

Steve Pomeranz: And so if people have stage fright, they’re afraid to stage their homes. So give us some tips on staging.

Terry Story: You know, a lot of staging is very simple. Declutter the closets, make them look more spacious. Depersonalized, take down all your personal photos.

Steve Pomeranz: Give a person a chance to imagine themselves in your, in that house, yeah.

Terry Story: That’s right. Make it attractive when they first walk to the front door, flowers, plants, clean landscape as they approached the front door.

Steve Pomeranz: What about light?

Terry Story: Lighting is very important. You want to avoid that amber light. You want that daylight.

Steve Pomeranz: The daylight.

Terry Story: The daylight-

Steve Pomeranz: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Terry Story: It’s just cleaner-

Steve Pomeranz: It’s at a frequency that looks like the-

Terry Story: Right-

Steve Pomeranz: The Sun.

Terry Story: It’s just cleaner and that’s what the trend is. So you want that kind of lighting.

Steve Pomeranz: You want to make sure the lights work. That they match.

Terry Story: That they match,

Steve Pomeranz: In each room. You think about that, right? You may have a fluorescent in-

Terry Story: That’s right-

Steve Pomeranz: Bulb in one

Terry Story: LED in one

Steve Pomeranz: And another, yeah.

Terry Story: Yeah, I say it all the time. It’s a …

Steve Pomeranz: So you know, after, when you’re living in a place, you don’t really notice these after a while, but so you have to kind of take an objective step back.

Terry Story: Correct.

Steve Pomeranz: Which is one reason a realtor is good for you because they see your … they’ve done enough of these deals that they can see where the weaknesses are right away.

Terry Story: Right, in the eyes of a buyer.

Steve Pomeranz: Yeah. What about furniture?

Terry Story: Furniture’s very important. So, for example, we have this Feng Shui. You don’t want them to walk into the back of a couch. One of my pet peeves is carpeting. Carpeting, when I say carpeting, floor rugs in the living room, it makes the living room look smaller, even in the dining room.

Terry Story: So we all love our floor rugs. But when you go to sell the house, roll them up.

Steve Pomeranz: Roll them up, yep.

Terry Story: Put them in the garage. Get them out of there.

Steve Pomeranz: Okay. So all these things don’t really cost much money.

Terry Story: No.

Steve Pomeranz: I mean, a couple of hundred bucks for new planters and some plants. Hopefully, if you’re bad with plants, hopefully, it won’t be listed for that long, and you’ll be able to keep them alive.

Terry Story: I can tell you that in states like Connecticut, they’re doing heavy-duty staging in order to sell their homes. They’re having to change

Steve Pomeranz: Well, what does that mean?

Terry Story: They’re having to change their countertops.

Steve Pomeranz: Oh, that’s not staging though, I mean, that’s-

Terry Story: Well-

Steve Pomeranz: It’s a form of-

Terry Story: It’s a form of staging, but they’re having to put a lot of money in their homes because the market has softened so much. So the people coming from the northeast coming to our area and they see what we have. We need to step it up a little bit.

Steve Pomeranz: Oh, I got you.

Terry Story: Not to go to that level, but we look really dumpy.

Steve Pomeranz: Are you starting to see more people come down from the North now, I mean-

Terry Story: I am, actually.

Steve Pomeranz: Oh, you are. Okay, because we’ve been waiting for that.

Terry Story: We’ve been, yes.

Steve Pomeranz: We’ve been seeing reports, but you haven’t seen it. Now you’re starting to see it?

Terry Story: Now, it’s also the time of year where-

Steve Pomeranz: Oh, yeah-

Terry Story: People transfer, so-

Steve Pomeranz: Yeah, they’re related. They’re relocating. Good.

My guest, as always is Terry story, a 30-year veteran with Keller Williams located in Boca Raton, Florida, and she can be found at terrystory.com. Thanks, Terry.

Terry Story: Thanks for having me. Steve.