In October, Philly Office Retail posted a series of photos on Facebook working with Jeantel Landscaping, removing “we buy houses,” “free construction estimates,” and other signs they deemed “blight” on Berkley Street.
This led the Germantown Info Hub to think about how predatory home buying manifests in the neighborhood. We spoke with Philly Office Retail President Ken Weinstein about the Facebook post, and he said while they don’t only target “we buy houses” signs, all the signs are “posted illegally” and should be removed. He says they will continue removing these signs monthly.
We posted a question in a Germantown Facebook group asking neighbors how they have seen predatory home buying present in the neighborhood. The two most prevalent answers were the signs and more direct solicitation, so we gathered information to help remind our neighbors of how you can guard against predatory behavior.
We Buy Houses signs
These signs are widespread throughout the entire city of Philadelphia. The easiest way to guard your neighborhood against this blight is to remove them, as suggested by Weinstein, or to call 311 and ask them to remove them.
This is a more aggressive form of predatory homebuying tactics. Real estate professionals and wholesalers make calls, send letters, and even knock on doors to get residents to sell their homes. And more often than not, these properties are sold for less than the house’s current market value.
Solicitation is a direct offer to purchase a home or request that a homeowner list their property for sale.
The best way to combat this as a residential property owner is to add your name to the city’s “Do Not Solicit” list. Adding your name can prevent in-person contact, telephone calls, mailings, and digital and written communication. You can also sign up for this list by calling the hotline at (215) 686-4500.
If solicitation persists, you can also submit a complaint to the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (PCHR). Residents can email forms to firstname.lastname@example.org. Penalties can include a reprimand or even a $2,000 fine. And for repeated violations, the city can take offenders to court and ask the judge for higher penalties.
Are you looking to sell your home? Know your stuff.
Hire a real estate agent or professional to walk you through the home-selling steps responsibly. Again, you have the right to sell your home how you wish and should ask how much commission a realtor will charge. But, if you want the most out of your home, do research, seek an appraisal, and see how much your home is going for on the market.
Germantown United CDC often hosts free workshops on home buying, guarding against predatory selling, and other vital topics. Stay connected with them to learn more about events and opportunities that can enhance your knowledge and protect you. Contact their office at (215) 856-4303 or email@example.com.
Additionally, check out this list from Community Legal Services around homeownership scams. It lists some of the things we mentioned but also how they may be able to assist you if more issues arise.
Germantown Info Hub is one of more than 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on economic mobility. Read more at brokeinphilly.org or follow at @brokeinphilly.