Buyers Who Phish

There is a phenomenon that has been going on for a few years. It’s not new, it’s just become widespread. Perhaps you’ve experienced it. What I’m talking about is the unsolicited offer of interest in purchasing your house. These usually come in the form of letters in the mail, but I have had phone calls and text messages as well. One person included a $1 bill with each letter. I got quite of few of them, saved up the money on a magnet on my refrigerator, and then used it for a nice meal. That one in particular I really liked. I call these phishing buyers because they are phishing for houses that have not yet come onto the traditional real estate market.

I know not everyone gets these sorts of letters, but I also know that quite a few do. I know this because my clients tell me that they have received them and I frequently reach out to the letter writer to find out how serious their interest is. Up until about a month ago I’d never seen how this sort of offer might play out.

This brings me to the reason now is a great time to write about this experience. I have a client who is under water on her house. Job changes have made her life difficult and her house is now in foreclosure. She has been working very, very hard to keep her house, so this has been going on for quite some time. When you have this happen, the mortgage holder will start to put notices on the public record about the proceedings and when these notices come out, it brings out investors. Thus my client has been getting lots and lots of these sorts of letters.

Knowing she would be selling the house, we developed a strategy. She gave me all of the letters, emails, text messages, etc and I reached out to all interested parties. I let them know that yes, the house would be coming onto the market and that I was keeping a list of those who had shown interest. I let them know that I’d inform them when the house came up for sale. So, in a way, these folks had advanced knowledge. But I also wanted to let the true market forces play out to get my client the highest and best price for the house.

What these phishing buyers offer is that they will pay all cash, as is, and close in whatever time frame that works for the home owner. It’s very tempting. It would be rather ideal to be able to sell for cash, as is, and not have to show it to others. But at what price? What is the price of that convenience? Well, I had a chance to find out.

When this house came up for sale the ability to show it was very limited. I will not go into details here, but it made sense to set up 3 open houses over the course of 3 days. This allowed me to have control of the house and to talk to everyone who came through. The house is what is commonly called a “fixer”. It’s in a nice neighborhood. It’s the sort of property that investors are clamoring to find. I knew it would sell quickly. I did my analysis of the price. I looked at what it would be worth fixed up and then subtracted for what I thought it would take to bring it up to at least average condition. Then I found a nearly identical house in the exact same condition, in the neighborhood, on the same size lot. This was gold. This house really set the market value.

Over the course of 3 days we got 6 offers. Two came from the phishing buyers who had expressed interest via letters or other contact after they found it in the public records. 4 came from interested buyers who were working with Realtors. 4 of the offers, including the 2 “phishing” buyers came in between $35,000 to $85,000 below the asking price. 2 offers came in ABOVE the asking price. All 6 offers were all cash, as is, and willing to work with my clients time frame. The buyer in escrow really wants this house, and, in my opinion, is paying fair market value for it. It’s in escrow at more than the asking price.

Ok, every situation is different. I can not promise you that you would experience the same thing. But I do have a very strong conclusion. That is that you should not be tempted by the convenience of unsolicited offers that promise you an all cash deal, as is, unless you are not concerned too much about how much it will sell for. If you want to get more money for the house, I recommend you go after a buyer with those terms who competes for the house in the full market place to get you what the house is really worth.

That’s my 2 cents. Please let me know if you have any questions,