Phony or For Real?


A reader sends the letter above from 13th and Kennedy St, NW. His house is not for sale. Think it’s a genuine query from a couple wishing to move to DC or more of those standard “we’ll buy your house” letters?

50 Comment

  • Dan is a realtor, that says it all. A developer is trolling for a house.

  • That type of thing happens for sure – my aunt had someone knock on their door and offer to buy their house for cash, it wasn’t on the market. The people just loved it. They sold. This was in CT many years ago, but it’s not unheard of to get an unsolicited offer from people who just find your home their dream. However, this particular letter doesn’t read genuine to me for a variety of reasons (doesn’t specifically mention anything about the homeowner’s house, switches between tenses, just a hunch I guess). It’s not targeted to the specific home (or doesn’t seem to be) and seems more like a clever, trying-to-be-innocent marketing ploy for “Dan” the realtor to get some business.
    I would just ignore it.

    • I agree. Over the seven years I’ve owned my house, I’ve gotten 10-15 unsolicited letters. Most are more clearly developers, but some are trying to seem like something else. Printed to look like hand righting on yellow lined paper, etc. I thought one of the early ones might be believable (actually handwritten from a realtor who said he had a client who really wanted to live on the block). Maybe that one was genuine, but all the others have made me jaded.

  • Chances are it’s phony. A “We buy any house” company is behind the letter, but they use a buyer that poses as a low-income stooge. If you want to sell, the rule has always been “Buy low and sell high” your role is not to be charitable, it’s to make a profit. If you want to give a discount, know who you are giving it to 100% so that they’ll deserve the benefit. I had my realtor call a few of these letter writers back when I listed my house last year (I had about 10 letters from the past year) and none returned the calls.

  • Strange. My guess is this is a new tactic adopted by area realtors/flippers. A lot already go door to door so this wouldn’t surprise me. Going door to door seems fine to me if they pay a fair price, and while this seems a little disingenuous I’m not too put off by it.
    On the other hand… that 535 number seems high for most of the houses at 13th and Kennedy. I’d expect a flipper would need a price of closer to 400 to make any sort of profit in that neighborhood. Maybe it’s a high price to reel them in and them talk them down?

  • We got one that included a photo of the guy with his dog. That was a cute touch.

  • Real. I have almost this exact same letter drafted in my head. I’m trying to work up the guts to actually send it to homeowners in our neighborhood.

  • It could be more legit than the “We’ll buy your house.” The price is much higher than the ones I’ve received, which were mainly around $300K. Our house in Petworth is valued at above $600K.
    We had a Make Me Move price on zillow at our old house and we had realtors and actual couples contact us, so it could be either.

    Regardless, if you don’t want to sell, then it doesn’t matter if it’s real or not. If you would consider selling, it may be worth investigating.

    • You can also Google the phone numbers and see where it leads.

    • justinbc

      Yeah I ever since I put a Make Me Move price up for our house we get constant realtor inquiries.

    • PDleftMtP

      There are agents who do this in a tight market (we had someone who tried it for us in Forest Hills). We had a couple of neighborhoods we were interested in, there was nothing on the market, and they tried a bulk mailing to see if anyone was interested in selling – it didn’t go anywhere, but I think this is in the real estate agent playbook. I think Webster is right – the real question is whether you think you might want to sell. If so, you might want to look into it (and compare the price to recent sales, and think about whether you want to list the place or instead try to avoid a commission by not using an agent – you can probably get a lawyer affiliated with a title company to help you with negotiating and documenting the sale, and 6% is a lot of cash).

      Long-winded way of saying that legit people do try this tactic, and if you’re thinking of selling, this is a good price, and you’ve done your homework on what a good price is, you don’t necessarily care whether the buyer wants to move in his toddler twins and adorable Lab or do a gut reno and turn it into condos.

  • WHAT?! This is crazy!!! And they need to move in the next couple of months? It will probably take them longer than that if they only want to go as high as 535k (if this is real).

  • but would anyone actually respond to this?

  • Dan and Diana don’t seem to understand how state abbreviations work.

  • Anyone in Bloomingdale getting a ridiculous amount of letters from one Guy Prudhomme? It’s kind of out of control.

    • YES! My husband and I keep getting letters in hand-written envelopes from Guy Prudhomme! (Not exactly a name you forget.) He has sent so many, and each time he seems more alarmed that we haven’t responded.

      • Ha! That makes me feel better. Zillow has our house erroneously listed as in foreclosure, so I thought he was targeting us. But the letters are just INCESSANT. I guess they work, though, because a house on our block sold to him and his “family who love Bloomingale” last month. And yet we’re still getting the letters, hmmm….

  • I live in Brookland and probably get 1-2 letters or notecards a week.

  • I live in the H Street area and I have gotten similar letters. I also had several people knock on my door or approach me as I was entering my home asking if I was interested or if I knew if any of my neighbors were interested in selling. Honestly, I don’t like it and think that is probably the least successful way to find a home but hey…it must work for somebody.

  • This is definitely a real offer. My husband and I have actually considered doing the same thing because of the limited inventory for what we’re looking for in the city.

    • This sort of letter _can_ be a legit communication from people actually seeking a house to live in… but this particular one doesn’t ring true to me, especially given that the guy is supposedly a real estate agent.

  • nightborn

    What sort of realtor would need to do this? $535K budget for a fixer upper is pretty doable without having to resort to sending people letters.

  • I agree with everyone above that this is a realtor’s ploy. Also, I love all the “we buy houses” flyers that the mail carrier dutifully puts in everyone’s mail slot in our apartment building. I bet they get a lot of business from those.

  • I live in Rosedale and have gotten several of these letters. This one seems more hamfisted than most.

  • I’ve heard of people doing this… could be real.

  • This type of thing is real more often than you might think. In laws bought their house in Charlottesville this way and my sil and bil found a house in SS this way. Can’t speak for the veracity of this inquiry but they do happen and they do work.

  • I know people who have done this, and I have received several of these letters. I get at least two letters a week from somebody offering to buy my house. It’s crazy.

  • I live in Mount Vernon Triangle and get letters like this all the time. It makes me feel good about my property value.

  • Fake. The letter is generic and doesn’t explain anything of substance about the couple or why they’re interested in that particular house. Just the bottom line, which is all that flippers really care about.
    We also get posts like this on my neighborhood listserv all of the time.

  • Agree with folks that said these can be legit — we thought about doing it in Brookland if we couldn’t find a house on the market, we would have. But this one is fishy — if it had some language about how badly they wanted a specific neighborhood, I’d be more inclined to think it’s real. But just a letter that says anywhere in DC? That’s funky.

  • Fake or not, my family taught me that offering money for someone’s house when they do not have it listed for sale is the epitome of rudeness and arrogance.

  • If this letter is real, then Dan must disclose he is a realtor…just an FYI. Same goes for when a owner who is also a realtor sells or leases his or her home.

  • We get letters like this a lot, some seem more legitimate than others. We have also gotten the letter with the photo of the guy and his dog. The most recent letter though was to film a movie using our house and we declined to respond. You never know

  • If I won the lottery, there are a couple of houses I would send this kind of a letter to. But would offer to pay 125% of home’s value and all moving expenses or something to sweeten the pot. Wonder what would happen if multiple houses took me up on it. Ahhh, the problems to dream of.

  • Ha Ha! Got the same exact letter (also live in 16th ST Heights).

  • If only Dan would have been smart enough to look just one block over, all his dreams could be realized. At least that what a search on real estate sites showed… half a dozen places a stones throw from here. and one on longfellow for $499. Full of it, just “cold calling” for houses.

  • Complete BS. First of all, no realtor would send that. And note that they refer to themselves in the third person – “Dan is a realtor and attorney, Diana works for the Army.” If you wrote a letter from yourself and your spouse/partner, would you write that way about yourself? So to sum up, it’s shady like you read about.

  • Funny, I got very same letter the other day. (I live a few blocks south on 13th St.)

    Overall, seems like a common flipper / real estate tactic to me. When I rented a LeDroit Park town house last year, the owners got 2-5 similar letters per month. Must work often enough that it’s worth the postage.

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