BOISE, Idaho — Thom George had been living in his Boise Bench home for over a year when the letters started coming.
At first, licensed real estate agents sent mailers asking if he would like to sell his home. In the past year he has gotten inquiries from real estate investors, phone calls, text messages and even handwritten notes from private individuals searching for homes to buy in the white-hot Boise market.
“The letters are a little weird,” George said. “Some are from legit Realtors saying, ‘I have a client that would love your house, are you interested in selling?’ But I’ve gotten a couple that said, ‘My family and I just moved here and we’re currently living in a motel and saw yours and thought it would be perfect for us.’”
Dozens of Boiseans have taken to social media in recent weeks to share stories of a stream of calls and letters with requests to purchase their homes. As the Treasure Valley’s population has skyrocketed and the number of homes on the market has plummeted, those in the real estate industry are turning to more aggressive tactics to find clients and cash in on the market.
Boise Regional Realtors reported the median home price in Ada County hit a new record high of $363,000 in January, which was 18% higher than the year before. In February, there were 1,039 homes for sale countywide — the lowest number since Intermountain Multiple Listing service started tracking that data in 2004, BRR reports.
Michelle Bailey, president of Boise Regional Realtors, said the practice of real estate agents looking through public records to contact owners about possibly selling has been common for decades. However, the tight market has pushed real estate agents and investors to be more aggressive in their search.
“Before, when the market is pretty balanced, or a buyer’s market, they’re not having to be so proactive with looking under every rock because there’s plenty of business out there,” she said. “As that changes they’re having to get more creative with how they’re finding properties.”
Some homeowners are repeatedly being solicited via text message.
Lindsey Hunt, who lives near Borah High School, said she has blocked the numbers of several people who were calling and texting her cellphone, asking her if she wants to sell.
“It feels like a violation that so many people are contacting me on my cellphone, so that they can make offers on my property,” Hunt said.
Three different homeowners interviewed for this article received text messages in the past week asking if they would like to sell their home. The inquiries came from different numbers in both Pocatello and New Plymouth, but all three numbers numbers led to the voicemail for someone only identifying themselves as Andy looking to purchase homes.
Messages requesting an interview left with four phone numbers soliciting residents to sell via text message were not returned.
Tricia McMasters, co-owner of Idaho Neighborhood Solutions, a real estate investment company, said she sends mailers to homeowners such as George to find clients looking to sell their home quickly instead of going through a real estate agent and listing the home in the traditional way. She said while the vast majority of homeowners would prefer to sell their home with a real estate agent to make the most money possible, there are others in complex situations that her company tries to serve.
“We don’t cold call, but we do send mailers, and the reason we do that is to find people who are interested in selling their house that way — either people who are in a time crunch and it’s a foreclosure situation or they have to move fast, so we alert them to what we do,” McMasters said. “A lot of people don’t realize companies like us exist.”
When asked how real estate agents and investors are gaining access to residents’ cellphone numbers, Boise Regional Realtors spokeswoman Cassie Zimmerman said third-party real estate websites may sell data by visitors to agents. She said numbers are also available to marketers through mobile carriers, credit companies, contests and sweepstakes, calling 800 or 900 numbers or other ways.
Zimmerman encouraged anyone who does not wish to be contacted to register with the National Do Not Call Registry, and said real estate agents who belong to her organization are encouraged not to harass residents.
“We encourage our members to follow all laws around telemarketing and be respectful of homeowners and anybody they reach out to,” she said.
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