Mailbox real estate offers flatter to deceive

Think twice before responding to a mailbox offer for your home. 

If you’ve ever received one of these unsolicited bids, which often come in the form of handwritten notes decorated with dollar signs, you should comfort yourself in the knowledge that you live in an area that’s in high demand. 

But what you shouldn’t do is take the offer seriously, unless you’re prepared to do some due diligence. 

In many of these cases, the aim of the mailbox proposition is to take advantage of an unsuspecting property owner by prompting them to accept a lowball offer for their home.

A couple of years back, the Manitoba Securities Commission cautioned homeowners in that province to watch out for mailbox offers, explaining that they were often delivered on behalf of house flippers seeking to sell the property on for more money. This can even be done before the original sale goes through when flippers assign their contracts to new buyers for thousands of dollars extra. 

According to a CTV News report on the MSC warning, the letter-writers seemed to target property owners with financial troubles and used aggressive tactics to pressure them into quick sales.  

I’ve also heard of prospective buyers suggesting they’ll sweeten the deal by keeping real estate agents out of it or promising to cover legal bills. Despite appearances, these inducements are generally offered for the purchaser’s own benefit, in the hope that you’ll go through with an unfavourable sale.   

Private purchasers typically step up their efforts in a hot real estate market – a description that currently applies to virtually all of the Greater Toronto Area, and even further beyond – which may explain why I’ve seen an uptick in recent reports of mailbox offers.

Whether or not you’ve received an unsolicited bid, deciding to sell your home is a big decision, and not one to be taken lightly. Once you’re sure it’s what you want, do your research on the local market to get a sense of a fair price and get an experienced real estate lawyer in your corner who can perform an in-depth review of all the documents involved. 

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