Checking References: The First Step to a Successful Stay By

Checking References: The First Step to a Successful Stay

A unique feature of is the flexibility for members to make housing arrangements outside of the website once they have exchanged messages on our platform and done their due diligence.

Every member must follow the steps to check references prior to finalizing a home rental or exchange, before signing a contract or agreement and/or before sending payment of any sort.

Some of the steps of the reference checking process should include requesting a video of the other member in the home you are considering, scheduling a video meeting as a chemistry check and requesting personal references. These are all key to ensuring the other SabbaticalHomes member is both legitimate and the right fit for you. Verifying identity and checking references goes a long way towards your peace of mind and a smooth stay!

Related: Communication Between Members: Standards & Guidelines

Due Diligence: Resources within SabbaticalHomes

After exchanging messages on SabbaticalHomes, if the dates and arrangements look promising, you will most likely communicate directly with each other outside of the website.

Before sharing a personal email address or phone number, here are some areas on SabbaticalHomes to look at first:

1) A good place to start is by checking out the member’s public profile to get an idea of how long they have been a member of the website, their professional background, academic affiliations, spoken languages and interests. There may be links to their university or LinkedIn account.

2) Check out the member’s Trust Score, which will reflect a member’s level of involvement and commitment within the SabbaticalHomes community. Their Trust Score will be higher dependent on the number of years they have been a member, any reviews or references they have written or received and matches they have announced. You can view a member’s Trust Score on their public profile and listings. Keep in mind that a newer member will naturally have a lower Trust Score but could still be the right fit.

3) Next, read reviews and personal references written by other members who may have had experiences with the person you are thinking about working with. Reviews appear on a member’s public profile and on their listings. References appear only on a member’s public profile.

Due Diligence: Things to Check outside of SabbaticalHomes

Once you have completed steps 1-3 above, if you feel comfortable moving ahead with the other member, you will exchange personal contact information. We recommend taking a few additional steps at this stage:

4) One of the easiest ways to get an idea of a person’s authenticity is to check his or her email. You can do this through a simple internet search. If the email handle (ex. or returns legitimate results, such as an academic institution or established business, this is a good sign that the person is a valid candidate for consideration. Fraudulent emailers often use popular domains such as or, so emails ending with a specific domain name of a university, school, or company are a good sign.

5) Another form of search that you can perform is to type in the person’s full name and see what results appear. If the person you are considering for your exchange or rental is an academic, you can use Google search to find their name on a faculty listing for an institution, anything that the person may have published, or academic groups in which they may belong.

6) Use Google Maps or another mapping application to verify that the home you want to rent actually exists. Scammers often use fake addresses and photos.

7) If you have any gut feeling that the other member (or the home they have posted) may not fit your needs or be legitimate, request that they send you a short video of themselves in the home. It can be helpful to see the layout of the home and to ensure that the person you are messaging with has access to the place.

8) Make some time for a phone or video conversation (Skype, Google Meeting or Zoom can all work well as a chemistry check). Jot down some questions that are important to you and be sure you’re comfortable with the answers you receive.

Due Diligence: Options to Run a Credit Check

9) Credit checks are a more difficult, but helpful, way of getting information on a person’s credit history. To request credit reports within the U.S., visit:, or Note that these services are fee-based, and while individuals can access their own credit report for free periodically, there may be required forms and sufficient identification to be considered a verified third-party requesting a credit report.

Running a credit check for someone outside of the United States can be challenging if the potential tenant is a non-national residing abroad.  When traditional credit reports may not be available or cost-prohibitive, consider alternative reports like rental payment history or utility bill payments.

Some agencies with international reach like Experian appear to offer comprehensive insights into international customers and vendors. This service includes data from 225 countries, dependencies, and territories.  For specific pricing and services related to obtaining a credit report for a foreigner residing abroad, it would be advisable to directly contact these credit bureaus or visit their websites for more detailed information.

  • For example, Experian can run a credit check for an Australian person residing in Australia. The request process is straightforward and can be initiated through Experian’s Australian website. Once the required information is submitted and verified, the credit report is typically processed and delivered within 10 working days.

10) If you are a Visiting Scholar traveling abroad and do not have a credit history in the country you’re traveling to, consider using the financial proofs you submitted for your visa and/or your family’s visa to provide to a potential landlord or host.


As member Morgan O’Hara said:

” It was easy. The description and her application gave us questions. Our Skype conversation gave us answers. Very easy process.”

A Final Step: Checking Personal References

Another very important step is to request personal references from the person you are corresponding with – and expect them to ask for yours in return. References are intended to give a fellow member a glimpse into your character and values and vice versa. This protects both parties and is a step toward establishing trust between the two parties.

Typically, a written reference will be provided.  However, you may request contact information to validate the reference(s).  To make sure that the people writing the letters of reference are legitimate, check their emails and/or phone numbers by searching online as mentioned above.

Please remember: never send any money for deposits until you are completely sure of a person’s identity and authenticity. Learn more here about finding the right payment method once you have finished checking references and created a contract.

Related: Additional Tips in our Frequently Asked Questions


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