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You’ve seen the TV ads and the mailings: Companies that promise to buy your home directly, in any condition, quickly and painlessly.

Is it too good to be true? Are there times when it might be worthwhile?

The Sun Gazette asked a number of top real-estate professionals in the area, and received a variety of views. We also asked if an alternative would be to sell a home “as-is.”

Here are their replies:

Casey Margenau, Casey Margenau Fine Homes & Estates: “It is always an option, depending on a personal situation and if they want the money now. But the seller will get at least 10 to 12 percent lower value for their home. So if the seller needs money and is OK with that, it’s something you might do. In this market, though, you can almost always get more money by not selling that way.”

Jack Shafran, Yeonas and Shafran Real Estate: “Yes, it’s beneficial for some sellers to take a quick contract with terms and conditions that meet their needs. Sometimes sellers have specific needs, like if they have to get out of the area quickly. So they might have less expenses and less aggravation of being on the market for a long period of time. It can work if everything in the contract works out for the seller.”

Dee Murphy, Long & Foster: “That is a very effective sales strategy for anyone looking to lose money on the sale of their property. The seller will net 40 cents on the dollar at a maximum. If something seems too good to be true, it usually is.”

Craig Burns, Keller Williams: Not being a fan of surprises or pushing someone into making quick decisions causes me to say it is rarely a good idea. The decisions on selling a home are one of the largest and most thoughtful a person can make. An offer like this could cause a person to be faced with homelessness if they don’t have another place already secured. They also could accept a quick offer and lose thousands of dollars. Wholesale buyers are looking to make a quick turnaround with a quick profit. Marketing one’s home ‘as-is’ is acceptable as long as full disclosure is given on any known material defect. “

Carol Temple, Coldwell Banker: “I was a total skeptic until the day I realized I had a listing that required a great deal of repair prior to going on the market.  The seller did not have the resources or the willingness to tackle what was needed, and the seller made it clear that a quick sale was wanted. I contacted someone out of state who had been sending me bait on this selling/buying model. The owner said, ‘OK with me’.  End result was that the seller was happy with the outcome and I was totally impressed with the buyer.”

Casey Samson, Samson Properties: “Buyers who offer ‘cash in 7 days’ bring liquidity to the market and pay wholesale prices to desperate sellers. The best way to get fair retail value for your property is to expose it to as many people as possible and give them time to bid. Seventy precent of our homes sell in less than 10 days, and most sell with bidding that can reward sellers with a 3- to 7-percent premium for their property.”  

Laurie Mensing, Long & Foster: “Read the fine print. When something appears to be too good true to be true, watch out.”

Bill Groom, Buchanan & Groom: “That’s easy. Usually not unless the homeowner is in a real bind to get cash quickly. They undervalue the price of your home so they can flip it and make some quick profit.”

Eli Tucker, Eli Residential Group: “If speed of sale is the top priority and/or the home requires repairs somebody doesn’t have money for in order to bring it up to a livable standard, an offer like this can be a great option. However, I think it’s still important for that owner to talk to at least a couple of real estate agents about what an on-market sale might return – price and time – and weigh that against the quick sale option. Especially in markets like ours that are plagued by low inventory, you’d be surprised what the market will pay for homes in disrepair.”

Dean Yeonas, Yeonas and Shafran Real Estate: “Those scenarios work for folks that need money immediately for emergency purposes or personal issues. Typically, they will be under-market[-price] sales, but hold value for the seller that may need a quick sale for whatever their particular reasons. Those sales ... do not reflect the state of the market, only the sellers’ need for quick cash.”

Deborah McGuire, Keller Williams: “The companies that buy homes ‘as-is’ usually offer 10 to 20 percent below market to allow room for improvements and resale at the improved value. For some sellers who have been in their homes 30 years and have lots of equity but have not done improvements over the years, it could make sense. They can cash out in 30 days and be on their way without the hassle of managing all of the renovations needed. However, sometimes just carpet and paint and inexpensive lighting updates make a big difference in market value, and it would be worth the investment and can be accomplished in a few weeks.”

Craig Mastrangelo, Re/Max Allegiance: “There are a myriad of reasons a homeowner would accept such an offer. An elderly homeowner with specific physical (and/or mental) needs may decide it is easier to sell quickly without having to do any work at all to prepare their home for sale. A child who lives out of state or out of the country, may decide it is better, for their family situation, to just sell quickly, as they have no emotional attachment to the property and maybe don’t have a gaggle of siblings fighting for top dollar.”

Betsy Twigg, McEnearney Associates: “The only way I see a benefit is if the seller doesn’t care about more money or they don’t need money. People don’t understand. In Arlington, the value of a single-family home is the biggest thing. So they could sell to a builder for more money. It always pays to put a home on the market to see if you can get more money than from a wholesaler. If a seller is trying to get a condo or townhome off their hands, then maybe it makes sense to sell that way.”

Steve Wydler, Wydler Brothers of Compass: “Rarely is that the right option. These services are trying to get homes at significantly below market in exchange for the promise of a quick close. While real estate is an inherently illiquid market, we happen to live in one of the most liquid real estate markets in the country. Even if there is an urgency, a seller should explore other options before giving away a significant portion of their potential value.”

John Mentis, Long & Foster: “These companies generally pitch that they are saving the homeowner time and frustration. What the homeowner may not be considering is that these companies often pay less than what the open market might give. These companies are in the business of either flipping the homes themselves or selling them to investors/flippers. In both cases, getting houses as cheaply as possible is key so that the final seller has the chance to make as much profit as possible. “

Rob Ferguson, Re/Max Allegiance: “Sellers definitely do that, but they are leaving money on the table, maybe $20,000 to $30,000 or more. People need to understand that even with a fixer-upper, it will get more money if sold on the broader market.”

Mark Middendorf, Long & Foster: “Nothing is free. Unless the seller is desperate for money, there is no reason to close and get the cash in seven days. You are leaving a lot of money on the table if you do, because they aren’t giving you close to the market value. People sell “as-is” all the time, and they still get more money by putting the home on the market.”

Karen Briscoe, Huckaby, Briscoe, Conroy Realty Group, Keller Williams: “You cheat yourself in a robust market like here. In a down market, sellers can get out faster. For a seller who is not savvy or represented, they might think they will save money if they sell direct.”

John Joy, Joy Custom Design Build: “It’s a good idea to consider using companies like this for rundown properties or inherited properties if you live far away. That said, at a minimum, I would still recommend taking the time to call one Realtor and one builder to get their perspective before pulling the trigger. There is a greater chance you are leaving money on the table versus getting more than it’s worth.”

Lauren Kivlighan, Northern Virginia Real Estate: “Builders are knocking on doors offering to buy homes ‘as-is.’ This can be appealing to out-of-town families whose loved ones have passed, and are stuck with a home they are not interested in keeping or financially capable of maintaining. But in many circumstances it helps to keep an experienced real estate professional involved. There were two separate properties where both families had been in the homes for more than 45 years. Builders offered $650,000 apiece for both for as-is condition. I represented each seller and was able to sell each for $840,000.”

Dawn Wilson, TTR Sotheby’s International: “Most good Realtors can get sellers significantly more money for their home than when a homeowner gets an unsolicited offer from someone who comes by and offers cash. In some cases, a homeowner or an executor of an estate may not be interested or able to put some money into the home in order to obtain the most money possible on the sale of the home. He or she may be interested in a no-hassle sale where someone comes along and buys it ‘as-is.’“

Mike Highman, Acquest Realty: “It really depends on the property owner’s situation: financial, family discord or whatever. A property owner must be in a deep dire situation to accept such an option. Obviously the buyer will be investor-based looking for the greatest return on their purchase, which means the lowest possible offer to the property owner. Along with that the buyer that offers such options does not need to be a licensed broker/Realtor, which means no one is looking out for the seller. ‘Buyer beware ‘becomes ‘seller beware.’”

Barbara Lewis, Washington Fine Properties: “If a seller is in financial distress, has a dated home and/or has a lot of equity, they may want to consider selling to one of these companies. These sellers should realize that they could be giving up at least 10 percent of their equity. These companies generally detail the cost of the repairs, carrying costs, selling costs and then deduct approximately 10 percent from the value of the home for their fee. These sellers may be better off decluttering and applying a coat of paint. This alone would enhance a home’s value.”

Marybeth Fraser, Keller Williams: “Their strategy is to negotiate the lowest possible price for your house for their business model to work. These companies buy below market value to either flip the house or sell it at a retail price without making any changes. In essence, they are taking your profit. Promote the house to a broad market of domestic and international buyers. Working with a full-service Realtor, you will be the recipient of your well-deserved profit, rather than the company who offers to purchase your house ‘as-is’ or in seven days.”

Joan Stansfield, Keller Williams: “If a seller wants to sell fast and hassle-free and they don’t care about money or getting top dollar, sure. However, most of my clients want top dollar for their homes, and to ensure that, updates may be necessary, along with staging and great photography and of course mass-marketing to ensure you get top dollar.”

Terry Belt and Tom Hanton, The Belt Team, Keller Williams: “The seller, in these circumstances, should know that they are not being represented. The purchaser is trying to get the best terms that are in the purchaser’s best interests. Working with an agent can net the seller the same or similar amount compared to a direct-buyer offer. Plus, working with an agent will come with additional sale, relocation, moving, legal, and other resources that  would otherwise not have been available when accepting a direct buyer offer. If you want to sell your home fast and easy, you don’t have to give it a away. It can be managed very professionally and painlessly.”

Gloria Adams, TTR Sotheby’s International: “Receiving a call such as this is very enticing and I would encourage recipients to be very careful, get references of caller’s sales/people/phone numbers, to check the work done. My recommendation is not to be too hasty, and verify everything in writing.”

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