Q: I recently received a letter from a gentleman wanting to buy my house. First of all, my house is not up for sale. I decided to contact him and he said he and his wife are buying homes and reselling them. He also explained that people are being forced out of neighborhoods like Northern Liberties and Fishtown and moving to the Northeast. Is this a common practice sending letters to homeowners and is he correct?
A: Northern Liberties and Fishtown are both deemed to be up-and-coming neighborhoods, widely considered solid investments in the future of the Philadelphia real estate market. I don’t know why someone would say people are being “forced out” of any these or any other neighborhoods in Philadelphia.
Although this person sounds like he was being up-front by exposing his intentions of buying and reselling, I wouldn’t trust that this person has anyone’s interests in mind but his own. I have gotten a couple letters like this myself from so-called “investors,” and even got hung up on once when I told him I was a real estate agent.
People who send this sort of letter are looking to cash in on the economic hardships of the times and the financial woes of economically distressed homeowners. Most of these letter-writers contact owners who they believe, but don’t know for certain, may be facing foreclosure or other financial stressors.
The general rule for many of these investors is to try and buy homes at least 35 percent less than the market value so they can flip them and make a profit. These investors may not even reveal to you the true market value of your home, but don’t think they haven’t done their homework. They may tell you they are “lending a helping hand” by paying off your mortgage when in reality they are helping themselves to your built-up equity.
My advice for anyone facing a bad financial situation, and looking to get out of their home, is to make sure they are protected legally by seeking the advice of a realtor specializing in short sales and distressed property sales. Not just any agent or investor will do; they need an expert who will actually help them.
Stacey McCarthy is a real estate agent with the McCarthy Group of Keller Williams. Her Real NEastate column appears every Wednesday on NEastPhilly.com. See others here. Read other NEast Philly columns here.