100 Inquiries on a House

Aerial view of suburban homes.

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Small-town homeowners say they’re fielding a growing number of inquiries about selling their homes, even though they aren’t for sale. Real estate speculators are approaching them asking if they’d be willing to sell.

Chuck Vukotich told The Wall Street Journal that multiple times a week, he receives queries about his small yellow-brick home in a working-class neighborhood in Penn Hills, Pa., 15 miles from downtown Pittsburgh. His home isn’t for sale and he doesn’t intend to sell. But he estimates he has received more than 100 inquiries on his home, mostly through mailbox fliers that offer all-cash deals and quick closings.

"I don't mind somebody trying to make a buck, but it's kind of a pain in the butt," he told The Wall Street Journal.

Small-town homeowners thought such aggressiveness for listings was reserved for the larger cities. But they’re seeing their home prices bid up in the likes of big cities. The median sales price in Penn Hills, Pa., for example, is up by 19% in April compared to a year earlier.

Real estate investors are reportedly on the hunt in small towns for properties amid short supply and high buyer demand. They’re looking for inexpensive houses that they could possibly flip or rent out, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Nick Schindehette told the Journal that he mails out between 5,000 and 20,000 pink note cards a month to homeowners in 20 ZIP codes. His cards usually read, “Could we possibly discuss making you a cash offer? Either way, please let me know.”

He says a successful response rate for his note cards would be 1%. Most homeowners who accept his offer need to sell their homes quickly. He has done about 50 real estate transactions in areas he targets, which he considers “C+ neighborhoods” where homes are cheaper but could still be leased quickly.

Some investors are being accused of getting homeowners to accept lowball offers for their unlisted homes. Vukotich says he hasn’t entertained any of the offers. His neighbors say they’ve been offered about $50,000 for their homes. An investor model suggests a fixed-up house in his area might go between $115,000 and $120,000.