W ith around 22,000 CU students searching for rental properties in and around Boulder, the competition for housing is fierce.

Local experts recommend beginning your search for the perfect place at the end of January and signing a lease by early March.

But on your search for a new property, keep in mind that things aren't always as they seem.

Here are a few warning signs that will help you spot a sketchy deal -- and grab your cash and run the other way.

Mystery units

When you view a unit, make sure you're viewing the actual unit you'd be living in.

Don't let them show you a model or the rental across the hall that has the same layout.

If you're serious about a space, ask the landlord to show you the unit you'll be renting.


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The rental may have stains, smells, leaks or cracks that the spotless model unit doesn't. See the space with your own eyes before signing a lease.

Pressure to pre-lease

Don't let the landlord pressure you into signing a lease too early.

Make sure you're comfortable with all aspects of the property before putting pen to paper. Check out the neighborhood, parking situation and utility costs first.

Don't rush into it. Some spots will drop their rent a little in the summer if they still have vacancies. So being patient could pay off, literally.

Remember, you're locked in for a year, so don't let a landlord talk you into anything you're not comfortable with.

Drafty windows

It's just a little draft right? Wrong.

Look for energy inefficiencies in the rental before you sign a lease. They could cost you.

A little weather stripping is an easy, inexpensive fix, but beware those drafty windows. They can bump up your utility bills and raise your monthly costs.

Try negotiating energy upgrades into your lease agreement, but make sure you get them in writing.

Angry tenants

Talk to tenants who can tell you the truth about the property and the landlord.

Don't just trust everything the landlord tells you. They want you to sign a lease and pay them money. But tenants don't have anything to loose by telling you what's really up.

Ask about maintenance, noise, neighbors and any other concerns that you might have. You might be surprised what info they'll give up to make sure you don't make the same mistakes they do.

Perfect pricing

If it seems like it's too good to be true, it probably is.

Good deals do exist, but be skeptical of rental rates that seem much lower than the competition.

Ask about additional monthly costs like maintenance fees, paying for parking or charges for using amenities.

Call the Boulder Area Rental Housing Association at 303-494-9048 to make sure the property is licensed for renting.

If you still can't find the catch, have the attorney at Off-Campus Housing and Neighborhood Relations take a look at the lease for anything fishy...and do it before you're locked into the lease.