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Avoiding Fraud in the Short-Term Rental Industry: Key Strategies for Protection

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By: Brad Greiner, CEO of Open Air Homes and OpenAiRE Brokerage

Navigating the world of short-term rentals (STRs) can be exciting, but it’s crucial to stay vigilant against fraud. In an industry that’s rapidly evolving, being informed is your best defense. Here are essential tips to protect yourself from common scams in the STR market:

1. Unrealistically Low Prices on Classified Sites:

If you stumble upon an STR listing on platforms like Craigslist with a price that seems too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers often use attractive prices to lure in unsuspecting victims. Verify the legitimacy of the listing by checking if it’s available on reputable sites like Airbnb, Zillow, or Redfin. Remember, just because the photos look real doesn’t mean the deal is!

2. Caution Against Off-Platform Transactions:

Be wary if a host on Airbnb or VRBO suggests taking the transaction off the platform. These platforms offer security and ease in booking, and avoiding them can be a red flag. Hosts eager to bypass these services might not be transparent in other areas. Stick to established platforms or direct bookings with reputable property management companies.

3. Transparency in Pricing

Another common issue is listings without transparent pricing. If a property doesn’t have its rates clearly listed and varies them based on the guest, it’s a sign of potential unethical practices. At Open Air Homes, we stand for transparent and consistent pricing. Rates should fluctuate only based on legitimate variables like pets, additional guests, or special services, not on who is asking.

4. Commission Disclosure

Transparency extends beyond just pricing. It’s legally required, according to the Department of Real Estate (DRE), for real estate agents to disclose any commissions earned on rentals. We believe in upholding this transparency across all parties involved – guests, homeowners, property management companies, and third-party agents. This approach ensures that everyone is treated fairly and knows exactly what they are paying for and receiving.

5. Protecting Yourself

To safeguard yourself, always conduct thorough research and use reputable platforms. Don’t hesitate to ask questions or request more information about the property, the management company, or the agent involved. It’s better to take extra steps for verification than to fall prey to a scam.

6. Trust Your Instincts

Finally, trust your instincts. If something feels off about a listing, a price, or a person you’re communicating with, it’s better to err on the side of caution. 

If something feels off but you are still wanting to move forward and are hoping for the best, ask to see the property and meet the host in person.  Even if you’re not in town, you can catch a fraudster in the act by asking to meet them in person, and when they refuse, you have your answer right there. 

Protect Yourself from Fraud 

As the STR industry continues to grow, being aware and cautious is essential. Remember, it’s not just about finding a great deal but ensuring a safe and pleasant experience. By following these guidelines, you can enjoy your travels and rest easy knowing you’ve taken steps to protect yourself against potential fraud. Whether it’s questioning a too-good-to-be-true price or ensuring transparency in transactions, being an informed guest or host is crucial in the dynamic world of STRs.

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