Credit: Jeff Haynes / Signal Cleveland

If you own a house and a smartphone, you’ve probably received texts from people expressing interest in buying your home. A lot of texts. And you’ve probably wondered who keeps sending them.

“I wouldn’t call them professionals,” says Akil Hameed, president of the Akron Cleveland Association of REALTORS. ”They are wholesalers that are trying to navigate their way into a deal and get the property at a lower price than the market value.”

In exchange for offering as much as 30% below market, wholesale buyers offer quick settlements and cash payments. They then sell the homes at a profit, often to out-of-state investors who rent them out. 

Wholesale buying and selling is not illegal in Ohio, but the many critics of the practice often call it “predatory investing.” Investors bought about a quarter of all the single-family homes sold in the United States, and 21% in Ohio, in 2021, according to a Pew Trust analysis of housing data. In Ohio, that represented a 47% increase in investor purchases in just one year. That leaves blocks of homes with owners living hundreds and maybe thousands of miles away.

Credit: Jeff Haynes /Signal Cleveland

Absentee landlords are notorious for letting properties fall into disrepair, according to the Cleveland City Planning Commission. Cleveland’s Department of Community Development vowed to address predatory investing in a 2022-23 action plan presented to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

Hakeem advises homeowners to be wary of strangers cold-calling (or cold-texting) with offers.

“We warn our clients to be very cautious of those types of interactions,” he says. “Make sure you’re asking if they’re licensed. And if they are licensed, what company they’re with. But it’s preferable to hire a Realtor because we operate within rules and regulations, our code of ethics.”

Realtors also can sell houses quickly when that’s what the seller needs, he adds, and at market rates.

But what about the endless texts?

If you’re not already on it, add your number to the National Do Not Call Registry (you can report unwanted calls and texts there too). Federal law allows anyone to sue over unwanted calls or texts (with some exceptions), and DoNotPay, the “world’s first robot lawyer,” is working on a bot that can generate “one-click lawsuits” against phone spammers.

Or you can just mess with them. That won’t make them stop, but it’s a way of returning the favor of wasting your time. If you do this, please share your responses with Signal Cleveland by emailing them to frank@signalcleveland.org

Frank Lewis, Director of the Editors’ Bureau

Director of the Editors’ Bureau (he/him)
Frank is an award-winning reporter and former editor at alternative newsweeklies in Cleveland and Philadelphia. He has worked with writers of all experience levels on beat reporting, features, investigative projects and books.