Last Updated on October 9, 2021 by Dave Farquhar
Another day, another unsolicited offer to buy property. Maybe it’s a postcard in the mail. Sometimes it’s a letter. Or an unsolicited phone call or text. Why are they bothering you, and what can you do about it?
It’s a little bit easier to block the phone calls than to stop the junk mail. But until the real estate market cools down, investors will keep calling you if you match the profile of someone they think might be willing to sell. There’s very little you can do about the junk mail except recycle it. You’ll learn to recognize its hallmarks pretty quickly so you don’t have to waste time opening it.
Why send an unsolicited offer to buy property?
The motivation behind an unsolicited offer to buy property is always to get property cheap. A few years ago, cheap property was plentiful, so you didn’t see very many unsolicited offers, at least not on houses that someone’s clearly living in and keeping up. I’d get offers on a dilapidated property while I was fixing it up, but that’s fairly normal.
These buyers aren’t looking to make a purchase through a realtor like most people. They’re fishing for a desperate situation. And I guess they find one often enough to keep doing it, because I’ve been getting postcards from the same person for a couple of years. He wouldn’t still be doing it if he wasn’t making money. At least I assume he wouldn’t.
I find it insulting that these guys think my house is distressed property, but there isn’t much I can do about that. Well, I once saw a house where the owner spray painted “NOT FOR SALE” on his garage door, but that’s a bit extreme.
COVID-19 definitely seems to have had an effect on unsolicited property offers. Initially it seemed to slow them down, at least in some areas. But within a few months, the combination of low interest rates and the possibility of people having financial hardship accelerated it. That combined with the perception that you can’t sell a house through a realtor during COVID-19 means the cheap deal seekers are pushing hard.
Did someone drive past my house? Is this guy stalking me?
The postcard may include a photograph of your house. The photograph is always from Google Street View or another similar source. They pulled your house up in Google Street View to make sure the house fit the profile of what they’re looking for, and they included it on the postcard. I guess someone at some real estate seminar they paid too much money to attend said that sends the signal that you’re really interested. Or something.
How did they find me?
My wife flat out asked one of these people that question. They said they check public records. Now, I’ve gotten calls from these people at phone numbers that aren’t a matter of public record, so some of them are doing some fairly serious digging. Obviously, someone sold their information on me, and someone else cross-referenced it, thus associating the phone number with the property.
One thing you can do to make it harder is to clean up your Linkedin privacy settings and delete information like your phone number from it. This has the side effect of cutting down on Linkedin spam too.
But it’s not just you or me. They’re scouring the area, contacting hundreds of people. I don’t think it’s a great business model (I’m a landlord myself), but they get enough yes answers they keep doing it.
Are these unsolicited offers to buy property a scam?
Unsolicited offers to buy property usually aren’t a scam. These people have money and they really do want to buy a property. They don’t care if it ends up being yours, or one of the 999 other people they contacted this month. If you were looking to sell your house, they’d make you an offer, and if you accepted, they’d actually get you money.
But they probably aren’t your best option. You and I both know about these people called realtors, who make a career out of selling houses. These investors are looking for someone who can’t sell the house the normal way. They’re the same types of people who hang signs offering to buy property for cash.
If your house doesn’t have major problems, you can wait longer than 7-10 days to get your money, and you actually are interested in selling, you’re better off working with a realtor. You’ll pay a commission, sure, but the realtor will help you get more for your house, so you’ll get more money in your pocket in the end. Unless your house needs several major repairs and you absolutely can’t afford to make them up front, it’s worth paying the commission.
I’m serious. I want these letters to stop.
There’s a trick that landlords use. You can register an LLC, then put your house in the LLC’s name. It’s probably more trouble than it’s worth after the fact. But when a house is in the name of a company that’s literally the same name as the house’s address, investors tend to stay away. It’s an indicator that one of their competitors already owns that property.
I could do it. I actually have LLCs I could use to do it. But it’s not worth the trouble or expense. There will be some expense, and if I ever need to use the equity in the house for something, it’ll complicate that. I never plan on using the equity in my house for anything, but having been in a medical emergency during the past year, I’m glad I didn’t have that complication in the way. Life happens.
And the letters will probably stop, or at least slow considerably, once the real estate market cools down. The reason they’re bugging me instead of asking the neighbor down the street whose house really is for sale is the price. They want a discount, and my neighbor wants fair market value.
What’s their motivation
Understanding the business model helps explain why you get these calls. They’re looking to buy a house at a steep discount, make any necessary repairs, update the kitchen and bathrooms, install hardwood floors or refinish whatever hardwood floors are there, knock down a couple of walls to make the shared living area open concept (it’s an HGTV thing), slap a couple coats of neutral paint on the walls they don’t knock down, and flip the house for $50,000-$100,000 more than they have in it.
They need to find 2-3 people who say yes to make a nice living doing this. And if they time it right, they won’t have to pay regular income tax on all of it, they may be able to make it a capital gain. Capital gains get a lower rate. They may even outsource all the work to offshore “virtual assistants” and maintain a regular day job. That’s why so many of these calls come from people who sound like English isn’t their first language.
If your house profiles as something they can run through that formula, you’re going to get these calls. At least until the real estate market cools down a bit.
What can I do about unsolicited calls to buy my house?
Letters are one thing. Phone calls are another. The best thing to do is not pick up on those calls, but sometimes that’s unavoidable. Sometimes I get phone calls from strange numbers as part of my day job, so sometimes I do pick up on them.
Since I’m both a homeowner and I moonlight as a landlord, I get quite a few of these calls. I get calls both about the house I live in and the properties we rent out. Regardless, they’re just hoping to find someone with some property they want out from under, so they call me. Sometimes I get calls about property I don’t even own, which is kind of hilarious. If you’re looking for the owner of a condo in Florida and happen to be reading this, that’s a different guy.
Some of these people are pretty incessant. I’ve had some call me a day or two after I talked to them and said no. I’ve also noticed many of them start out with, “I know this is out of the blue, but I’m looking to buy your property at…”
Actually no, it’s not out of the blue, the last call like that I got was someone else reading from the same stupid script…
Keep in mind the person calling you may not be the person with the money. They may be getting $10 an hour to make these calls. What I do is tell them I don’t own whatever property they’re asking about, I get calls about it all the time, and ask for them to remove my profile from their database. And since I actually do get a fair number of calls about places I don’t own and have no connection to, I’m not necessarily lying. It sends the message that they’re wasting their time calling you. And it does so without being abusive.
Blocking unsolicited calls to buy property on a cell phone
The apps I use to block robocalls won’t do much to stop these guys, because they aren’t calling in a high enough volume to get on most of the robocaller lists. So I pull up the call in my call history and select the block caller option. Unfortunately on some phones this sends them to voicemail, instead of rejecting the call. So you may still have to deal with the message. But that’s better than getting interrupted.
Text messages can be a little different. More on those in a second.
Blocking unsolicited calls to buy property on a landline
On my home phone, I can use my V5000 Call Blocker to block them. All I have to do is pull the number up on the V5000’s caller ID list, then push the big red Block Caller button. The V5000+ is great, because when a number on its block list calls, it picks up the phone right on the first ring and hangs up. I usually don’t even hear the phone ring.
The V5000 costs $55, so it’s not cheap, but it can block a lot of other undesirable calls too. I bought mine a few weeks before the 2018 election and it was worth every penny to me just from cutting down on the barrage of political calls.
If your landline has call block service, you can use that, but if you have to pay for the service, the device is cheaper in the long run. I don’t have to pay extra for call block, but my block list is limited. Buying the device made more sense for me, because it blocks tons of other undesirable calls as well, like health insurance spam and computer scams.
But I do get a lot more unsolicited calls on my cell phone than my landline, even though it’s usually my landline that’s the matter of public record. I think these people want to catch me at work, and they’re more likely to do that by calling my cell phone.
Prior to 2020, I probably got more unsolicited offers by phone or mail. That started changing early in 2020. At first there were few good options for dealing with this but that situation is starting to improve.
Some phones allow you to block messages from people who aren’t in you contacts. That will almost assuredly stop these kinds of unsolicited offers from coming in over text. But it’s also a lot of work. If you do that, make sure you go through your texts and make sure everyone you want to receive texts from is in your contacts. There may be more of those than you think. I got texts from my dentist’s office, doctor’s office, and my kids’ schools just this week so those are fresh in my mind, but if I went through a year’s worth of texts, I’d find others. You also have to be religious about maintaining your contact list. Otherwise, you will block texts you want and need to receive. I already have a religion and don’t need another one, so I use a different method.
Recent Android phones have the ability to report spam. Who they report it to depends on your carrier and your phone, but it’s also training your filter. The spam filter helps more than the reporting. In my case it took 2-3 months to train my filter to the point where it helps. The irony that a Google product is helping to improve my privacy isn’t lost on me.
As tempting as it is to respond before blocking with the message “reported and blocked,” I don’t think it helps. Whatever seminar the person behind this attended probably taught them about burner phones. And if you scare the virtual assistant into quitting, the person who hired them will just hire another one.
David Farquhar is a computer security professional, entrepreneur, and author. He started his career as a part-time computer technician in 1994, worked his way up to system administrator by 1997, and has specialized in vulnerability management since 2013. He invests in real estate on the side and his hobbies include O gauge trains, baseball cards, and retro computers and video games. A University of Missouri graduate, he holds CISSP and Security+ certifications. He lives in St. Louis with his family.
19 thoughts on “What to do with an unsolicited offer to buy property”
The problem I have is they’re texting people and leaving my name and address. People I know have forwarded texts they received to me that have my name and street address in it. While the continued solicitation is aggravating, the implications of other people being blindly texted your information are worrisome.
What about offers to buy a house that I don’t own or even rent anymore? How did my sister in another state’s information get to them in affiliation with a house that she never lived in, or rented, or owned? This started AFTER I moved out of the house so I really don’t understand it.
Sometimes they correlate data wrong. Even the banks get it wrong sometimes. The last time I got a loan, the loan officer asked me to explain my connection to a home I never lived in. It was a house a close relative had lived in, but I’d never lived there. I’ve even gotten inquiries about an office building where I worked 20 years ago. So someone out there is selling some pretty low quality data. I have no idea how you’d go about correcting that, but I actually like incorrect data about me existing, as it calls into question the legitimacy of the correct data too.
Find out who provided the data to them and then contact the source. It can take a while to fix, so the faster you do it, the better.
I have people bothering me about an investment propery I sold 2 years ago, so I know how it is.
I also recommend creating a contact in your phone – set it to no ringtone or block, and block txt messages, then add every phone number to that contact.
I send cease and desist letters – via certified mail. It has become harassment – constant phone calls (10+ per day – texts, calls, post cards – from a variety of sources). If my personal letter does not get results – my attorney sends one stating that we will be going after them for harassment and seeking damages. It has become THIS bad!
How’s that working for you? I have told them I would do that too but I still get the texts and calls. Very irritating. The lawyer cost and court cost is what I wonder about. I would never consider doing business with someone that behaves like they have. I have told them like fifty times STOP. and they continue. I don’t know how else to make them stop. The court strategy is all I have left. I have reported the numbers and messages to the FTC many times nothing has worked to stop them.
Good article. Thanks. We live in a “hot market” and own a couple lots. I’m getting phone calls and texts every single day. AT&T once told me you must reply STOP to be unsubscribed from lists and avoid any unauthorized charges, so that’s what I do. But they are still coming every day. I agree with the above, it begins to feel like harassment. I don’t understand a cell phone # being on a national DNC list and this being legal.
If you receive an unsolicited call report the number and name of the person on 800Notes for others to see. Contact your congressmen to get this predatory behavior stopped. They pray on senior citizens and people who have no mortgage on their home. I have also read reports of these home buying companies resorting to harassing behaviors.
Where is all this money coming from? I as you might suspect have a theory. From rich foreign investors in the Middle East, or . . . etc.
I do have a theory but you probably won’t find it very interesting. I think it’s domestic real estate investors who can’t find property to buy any other way. In 2010 there was too much property available and not enough people to buy it. In 2020, there are too many people wanting to buy and not enough property for sale.
I report it to ReportFraud.ftc.gov or you can call the FTC’s Consumer Response Center at 877-382-4357 I would love to make $ over suing these people under TCPA you can make $500 to $1,500 for each text. I just don’t know how to go about it without an attorney.
I also use the block & report spam on my cellphone but I continue to get texts, just from different numbers.
Good article. First, they call me by a name that isn’t mine and then tell me who they are and the address of the property they are interested in buying. I don’t own property. I respond that I don’t own property nor do they have the right name. Problem is, you have to do this with everyone. I think they have gotten ahold of some faulty data. I don’t even live in the area of the property they wish to buy.
My phone allows me to block messages with a phrase option. That makes it easy. Just a four word phrase that all this messages contain should do the trick without missing messages of importance from those not in my contact list.
I own my home and I am disabled. I am behind on my taxes. Which I am taking care of bc I didn’t know I could get 1200 back on my taxes after I provided info that I payed my taxes. So I have all kinds of fees and been charged interest. But getting money back. Plus my stimulus and help from a friend I will be caught up. But they call my sell phone,text me multiple times as week. This month alone I have recieved 40 postcards. I am tired of the harassment! I don’t use my phone number on anything. Except my medical, pharmacy and friends. I am seriously I’ll. I honestly don’t want or have energy to deal with this! In fact it was 10pm the other night when I recieved a text from the same place I get multiple post cards from. Infact it was 2 messages. It’s 4:30 am here and I am sick from the stress of my illness,helping my Mom care for my Dad and I want to call the number. Makes me want to do what my Grandmother used to do when people called after a certain time a blow a shrill whistle in their ear! I have had enough! Sorry my house doesn’t look as good as it used too. I didn’t plan on getting attached by a patienti and ending up in a wheelchair. Struggling to eat,figuring out how to survive. Then dealing with this crap! Sorry but the more stress the more pain I get. Then I get sicker. They don’t care my house doesn’t look bad. It has siding. I just struggle to keep lawn mowed. I need grass seed,weed killer. Tired of it! As I have gotten sicker my friends (so called have left). I do have friends but we are all older. These companies can do whaever they want and it’s wrong and needs to STOP! BC I know I am not the only one being harassed.
Unfortunately they just keep harassing me. The month of March I have recieved 40 post cards. Lots of repeats. 2 phone calls in the past and 6 text messages. I have been firm but not rude. But I am done playing nice!
I get many of these every day(I just got another one!)…….sometimes I play games with them and text them back…..sometimes they play along(these are the fun ones!)….and most often than not….they just go away….
they “show” their hand when they start asking generic questions….that as an investor…like….how old is the home….what is the condition……why are you selling(I’m not! LOL)……they should already KNOW…..LOL…..clueless!!! When they make an actual offer….like one person offered me $75,000 CASH on a $150,000 property ……I replied….sure…….that would be great…….and then I followed up by stating…..and how long would you like to me hold the note for the difference……there was a long pause…..and then they stated….
“What?!??!”…….I repeated my comment……and the person started laughing…….and then I replied….what is so funny…..did I say something funny……they replied by stating that I was being funny…..and that maybe my property is not the property for them……then I replied…..you’re wrong….this property is PERFECT for you….
so….how long would you like me to hold the note for the difference???? The person hung up…..so I called them back……the call went unanswered……..I do not know about them….but it made MY day!!!
We won’t stop them unless we can do something which actually causes them some pain – we MUST do this, because these calls have grown beyond merely being a nuisance .
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