Have you ever received an unsolicited letter from a person or company interested in buying your house?
At first glance, you may wonder if it’s an opportunity or scam. For those not interested in selling, the next step is simple. You might simply discard the letter.
But what about those who are interested in selling their house?
Here’s how to tell if it’s an opportunity worth pursuing.
Who sends unsolicited letters to buy a house
First, it’s important to find out who sent the letter. Look for the company logo and/or the contact information. Do they mention the company name?
More often than not, unsolicited letters to buy a house will come from two different types of senders:
- Real estate agents: Maybe a real estate agent reaches out because they have a buyer who likes your neighborhood, but there aren’t any properties for sale there currently. They may send a general letter to your neighborhood to see if anyone would consider it. Less commonly, you might receive a handwritten note if a prospective buyer expressed an interest in buying your specific home, even though it’s not listed on the market now.
- Home-buying companies: A home-buying company purchases properties (such as homes, townhouses, condos, apartments, and multi-family units) for cash. If you received a letter from a home-buying company, they may be looking to buy houses in certain geographic locations. It does not necessarily mean they’ve already evaluated your specific property or even that they’re guaranteed to purchase your house. They likely just mailed general interest letters to certain zip codes.
Evaluating the buyer who sent an unsolicited letter
One real estate agent or home-buying company may be reputable, while another is not.
How can you tell the difference?
Take the following steps:
- Read their Google reviews. If someone is running a scam, people will complain about it. Look at a company’s Google rating, but also at the context of their reviews. Are there any concerning themes that come up time and again?
- Visit their Better Business Bureau (BBB) page. On the BBB site, businesses receive a rating from A+ (highest) to F (lowest). That rating is based on a variety of factors, including complaint history, longevity, and transparent business practices. You can also read the complaints yourself to look for any recurring red flags.
- Make sure the company has real, active social media accounts. Check to see the last time they posted and look for any concerning comments from disgruntled former home sellers. Facebook also allows people to leave reviews.
- Visit the website. Do they have a brick-and-mortar address listed? If so, this helps provide reassurance that it’s not a fly-by-night company you won’t be able to find again tomorrow.
If you’re happy with what you see above, then consider calling to learn more.
The way you’re treated on the phone when you call can also be a tell-tale sign of the company’s legitimacy and professionalism — or lack thereof.
What happens when I call the buyer?
No two home buyers or home-buying companies are created equal. Each one has their own process and way of handling things.
At Meridian Trust, we never assume that people want to sell their house. If they receive a letter and call us, we start out by asking the open-ended question, “How can I help you?”
Maybe the caller just wanted to know why they received the letter. (We buy houses in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama and send general interest letters to home owners in certain areas.)
Alternatively, they might be curious as to how much their house would be worth if they did sell it. In that case, we’ll ask a series of questions about the house and use our advanced buying tools to provide a no-obligation estimate.
By asking “how can I help you?,” we let the person on the other end of the call take the reins and decide where they want to go.
“We leave it very open in that way and let them tell us from there,” says George Campbell, Meridian Trust senior director of floor operations and acquisitions.
For those who do opt to call, this handy list of questions can help you assess the company, their process, and whether it’s the right fit for you.
What happens if you’re not interested in selling after you’ve already called?
At Meridian Trust, we thank you for your time and everyone returns back to business as usual.
If the prospective buyer from your unsolicited letter doesn’t respond that way or — worse — pressures or hassles you, it’s definitely a sign you should avoid that company in the future.
Should you sell your house to the buyer who sent the unsolicited letter?
You’ve done your due diligence, received an estimate, and you’re trying to decide what to do next.
There are certain scenarios where it might make sense to list your house on the traditional market and others when it may be preferable to sell to a home-buying company.
Let’s say your house requires significant repairs or remodeling in order for it to sell for a good price on the traditional market — or for it to sell there at all.
You’ve gotten estimates from contractors and done the math. The cost of the repairs is well beyond your budget. Or the cost of the repair is greater than the amount you’d recoup in the home sale for fixing it.
That’s a good example of when selling the house to a home-buying company can be a win-win for you both. Home-buying companies typically purchase properties “as is,” which means you don’t have to make any updates to it just to sell it.
Additionally, if the house has any title issues, code violations, or other problems, it can be difficult to secure a buyer or to close the deal.
Experienced home-buying companies know how to overcome these obstacles and can take the burden off your shoulders. They’ll also usually cover your closing costs.
If your house is relatively new or recently renovated, listing it on the market might be your best option.
Whether or not you decide to sell to the buyer from the unsolicited letter, it’s good to know your options, weigh them carefully, and make the decision that’s best for you and your household.
Note: This guide is for informational purposes only. Meridian Trust does not make any guarantees about the sufficiency of the content in or linked to from this blog post or that it is compliant with current law. The content within this blog post is not a substitute for legal advice or legal services. You should not rely on this information for any purpose without consulting a licensed lawyer in your area.
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