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With the state of the real estate market, phone calls and text messages filled with unsolicited offers are a pressing reality. The question is this – is a text about a cash offer on a house legit, or is it a real estate scam?
The answer isn’t totally straightforward, but what is certain is that homeowners should educate themselves about what to do if they get an unsolicited offer on their house. Knowing what red flags to look for from potential real estate investors will save you time, money, and emotional energy.
It starts with a friendly text message
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“I want to help you sell your house fast.”
“A cash offer on your property could come as soon as tomorrow.”
“Do you want top dollar for your property?”
An unsolicited offer from unknown numbers will almost always have an air of discomfort. Even though phone numbers are often publicly accessible, it can be uncomfortable to know that anyone has your contact information when you didn’t give it to them.
These text messages often come up for people who don’t even have a house for sale.
People are looking for an off market deal to help them secure homes in a tight real estate market.
Who sends unsolicited offers?
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Often, these unexpected home offers are legitimate marketing tactics that are employed by reputable real estate investors.
Investors who are looking for a home to flip, a home to hold as an investment, or a home to rent out, are always trying to find the next good deal. It’s an understandable part of doing business.
These investors are looking for something very specific from the homeowner. They want to offer cash to buy the house, or they want to see if they can buy your house before it’s even listed on the market.
The business of any real estate investor is to make a profit. For the most part, they are doing this in an above-board way that could potentially help some homeowners who are struggling financially. They are still looking for a profit, and real estate investors will always try to get the lowest price possible for a house. However, that’s the nature of business and not inherently predatory.
Cash offers that sound too good to be true
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Though home buying scams and honest investors both use direct contact marketing methods to engage homeowners, there are some offers that are definitely too good to be true.
The tradeoff here is that unsolicited offers are often for less than you would get in the market value for the home. This is because the investor needs to pay less so that they can preserve that profit margin.
Even though a deal that starts out from an unsolicited text about a cash offer on a house can turn out well in the end, it’s always up to the homeowner to make sure that they are getting the best possible deal for the home. It’s important to negotiate before you accept any price on your home.
Why is there a lower price?
When working with a real estate agent, there are lots of closing costs, fees, and commissions to contend with. These not only eat into the profit that a homeowner will make on the sale of a home, but they’ll also slow down the process.
A real estate investor who’s coming with a cash offer will often be willing to forego things that slow things down like a home inspection. This greatly speeds up the process. They’ll also offer cash for your house, which really pulls back the timeline for selling a home.
Elder abuse and exploitation
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The elder population is specifically targeted by fake investors who say that they want to buy houses. This is a real problem because the technological learning curve for older homeowners often means that they don’t know that they’re getting scammed.
Text messages that offer a quick sale on a home can sound like a good deal for a retiree who doesn’t live in their home anymore. Elder property management companies, support personnel, and families might find themselves having to juggle a barrage of direct mail pieces, phone calls, emails, and unsolicited texts offering to pay cash for a house.
This can be disorienting for older Americans, especially with the advent of technology. It’s important that caregivers and advocates thoroughly vet any unso
licited offers for a house before an older homeowner gives up any information, or more importantly any money.
Watch out for “white knight” offers
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Though there are a lot of honest home investors who are just looking for inventory in a tight real estate market, there are also some definitive scams to look out for.
One well-known foreclosure scam is known as the “white knight” scam. In this scenario, the scam artist sends unsolicited offers to a homeowner who is in trouble, asking if they are interested in money to help them catch up. They don’t have to want to sell yet, and the scammer tells them that they can potentially stay in their home.
The prospective buyer then offers not to purchase the home, but instead to give the homeowner a load that will help them catch up on the payments. The homeowner will be able to pay it all back in the future, staying in their home right now.
This is where it turns into dealing with a scam.
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The white knight scammer tells the homeowner to sign over the deed in exchange for the loan, but only temporarily. They promise to sign the house back over to the homeowner once the money is paid back.
Once the homeowner returns with the money, they find that the scammer isn’t willing to sign the house back over, even with payment. The scammer might have even already sold the house to someone else. Another nightmare scenario is that the person tries to evict the person from their own home, or even make them purchase it back at a higher price.
Houses in this situation are stuck in a situation that’s not easy to remedy, and many homeowners are left with a mess for years.
Stopping unsolicited offers
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There’s not a straightforward way to stop house flippers, real estate investors, and scammers from texting a cell phone number. The best course of action is to text each number to stop, then block that number. This will stop that one person, but it won’t stop any others.
The National Association of Realtors and the Better Business Bureau might offer some recourse, but not for shady real estate criminals who don’t care that they’re breaking the law. If a number does continue to send text messages with an unsolicited offer, try reporting the number to the Federal Trade Commission. This is especially important if you suspect that the person on the other end is breaking the law.
There is no way to totally stop these text messages.
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The reality is that most of the laws that govern cold calls and direct mailing lists won’t stop open market solicitations altogether. Laws tend to kick in only when a business deal is significantly far along.
Consumer protections are unfortunately not strong when it comes to calls from scammers who want to buy your house. Calls and text messages about a property that’s off market are just a reality of a real estate market that has low inventory.
Why unsolicited offers over text are so prevalent
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The bottom line is that unsolicited offers have skyrocketed in recent years because they work.
The increase of big data that sells phone numbers to the highest bidder means that there are plentiful places for marketing firms to buy data. This data can drill all the way down to what kind of payment history you have on your mortgage.
As housing inventory has continued to drop in the last couple of years, the real estate market is increasingly tight. Homeowners hold a precious commodity that has real value in the market.
Buyers right now have a tough time finding any kind of piece of property for sale, and companies increasingly have to look for creative ways to engage with potential customers. Unsolicited offers are one way that potential buyers can connect with sellers.
Home offers in text messages
In a seller’s market, people who buy homes are at a major disadvantage. Buyers in such competitive markets are working against other buyers who have cash to buy your house and also who are financed as first time homebuyers through Freddie Mac or a traditional bank. All of those buyers are looking for the same thing – properties that will address their needs.
In such a tight market, you’re going to get offers, even if you don’t want to sell.
The world won’t end if you respond to an unsolicited offer for your home. At the end of the day, you can walk away from any deal that you’re not comfortable with. That being said, if you’re curious and there aren’t any red flags, then there’s no reason not to explore the idea. Even if it comes from an unsolicited text message.