'People get it in the mail and they think it’s a scam': Flyers advertising cash home sales gaining popularity

More people in Waterloo Region said they're being offered cash for their houses.

Stephanie Detlor was surprised when she found a hand-written letter in her mail box from a stranger asking to buy her home.

“You automatically assume it's kind of a scam," she said. "Who's going to just up and buy your house, the value of what it is, without looking at it, without any renovations?”

Many residents in Kitchener-Waterloo have received hand written letters much like the one Detlor did, offering cash for her as-is home. Lawn signs can also be spotted in select neighbourhoods.

Although Detlor’s first thought was that it might be a scam, Kelly Wagner with Whitecap Properties said it’s likely not. She is a full time investor, who hires contractors to help her flip homes. All home sales are completed privately with the help of lawyers and without realtor fees.

Her customers skip the process of cleaning, renovating, staging or having showings, which can typically take weeks or even months.

According to Wagner, her customers are typically in a hurry.

“A seller who needs to sell the property quickly and can’t wait for a 45 to 60 day close," she said. "For whatever reason, it might be a marriage break down, it might be an estate sale where maybe the family is already financially or emotional taxed.”

Wagner said Whitecap Properties hasn't recently shared flyers in K-W, but added that she does sometimes write hand written letters as well. She said they are all post dated and delivered by Canada Post, just as any other flyer would be.

“People get it in the mail and they think it’s a scam and they think you know, 'who are these thieves buying properties off market?’ But it’s no different than if you're selling your property and you happen to be talking to your neighbour and someone says ‘oh my son is interested in buying a house in your neighbourhood, would you be interested in selling it privately?’ That’s all it is. It’s a private sale.,” Wagner said.

She said hand-written letters can often be a marketing tools, letting a potential seller know  a real person is behind the message.

“Dealing with us is more of a personal experience, it’s less sort of, corporate,” she added. 

Wagner admitted a private sale isn't for everyone and said she always tells potential customers that they can likely make more if they list on MLS, adding that everyone has different reasons and needs.

Kitchener Waterloo Realtors Association President, Colleen Koehler said right now, it’s a sellers market and it’s not surprising that more people want to get in on that.

“I think you're just seeing an uptick in more marketing for this type of program simply because of how incredibly hot the Kitchener- Waterloo market is," she said.

Wagner agreed the pandemic is lighting a fire under the already hot market.

“COVID has impacted a lot peoples jobs so there’s a lot more people looking for alternative income streams," she said. "So you may see more and more of these flyers.”

Detlor wondered why she received the letter, even though she’s not looking to move.

Letters like the one Detlor received are often delivered to entire neighbourhoods because, as Wagner explained, they are looking for specific clients in search of a quick sale. There’s no way of knowing what any particular home owners intentions are, therefore the marketing is typically delivered in masses just as any other flyer would be.

Koehler suggested that anyone who wants to sell their home should so their research.

“Always make sure you get a market evaluation. That’s what we do. We’re happy to come out and do that for you,” she said.

She added that if your final decision is to sell privately, make sure you trust the buyer.

“We take absolutely no issue, as long as there’s full disclosure and transparency and homeowners are able to make informed and really knowledgeable decisions,” Koehler said.