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States and cities across the United States are grappling with a home turnaround niche known as wholesaling driven by a flood of largely unlicensed middlemen lured in by YouTube tutorials and a scorching market.

With quick cash, wholesalers can help struggling homeowners sell quickly, but have been accused of tough tactics and misinformation. Unlike repair investors, who take title to houses, renovate them, and put them back on the market, wholesalers typically negotiate with homeowners just to put the houses under contract and sell those contracts to pinball machines.

“I don’t buy houses. I’m fixing the problems, ”said Scott Sekulow, who leads a congregation of Messianic Jews in the Atlanta area and calls himself the creepy rabbi. He said clients come to him when they are going through a divorce, can’t afford massive home repairs, or have other issues. Sekulow said he could get them money while beautifying a neighborhood.

Hedge funds pay big for contracts, he told a conference of future tycoons: “When you can get in with them, they pay stupid money.”

While the practice is legal when transparent, advocates for the poor say aggressive wholesalers trick sellers with lowball offers. Illinois, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas and the city of Philadelphia have recently proposed or passed regulations after complaints. The latter city acted in the fall after neighborhoods were overrun with “We buy houses” signs and reports that picky wholesalers would not leave homes without a signed contract.

“In my neighborhood of West Philly, I probably get three postcards a month from one of these guys,” said Michael Froehlich, lawyer for community legal services in Philadelphia. “If you can get leads, you can trick someone into signing a contract for much less than fair market value, and you can make $ 30,000, $ 40,000, $ 50,000 on a house. “

Wholesalers, typically entry-level investors who find off-market housing through cold calls or across neighborhoods, have been favored by the low interest rates of the pandemic era and the tight supply of homes that created a record price appreciation.

The United States had only a 2.4-month inventory of unsold homes in April, near an all-time low. The prices make a lot of it unprofitable for investors, causing some wholesalers to scour popular and poor neighborhoods to scare off transactions. The cost of collecting contracts is often 10 or 15% of the sale price and can generate the wholesaler a salary of $ 15,000 in a matter of weeks, although the costs of internet advertising and customer lists weigh on these gross earnings. .

On a recent Monday night in Roswell, Georgia, about 50 wholesalers, pinball machines and investment novices descended on a DoubleTree hotel for an Atlanta Real Estate Investors Alliance meeting. Sekulow, whose brother Jay was one of Donald Trump’s impeachment advocates, was one of the panelists.

A second, Mike Cherwenka, calls himself the “Wholesale Godfather” and shares on his website the testimony of having played on a male journal dance team. He left life after kissing Jesus and starting a career in real estate.

“Money is king, and when you can just offer people money and close in a week, you get leverage, don’t you? Cherwenka said, still a muscular figure in a purple sports coat. “People wake up and listen when you make an offer and have proof of funds there. “

As the discussion revolved around the benefits of having a spouse involved in her real estate business, Cherwenka’s wife Tolla used a game show to show the couple’s book, “The Art of Becoming a Multi-Millionaire Real Estate Investor.” .

“If you want one, it’s $ 20,” he says. “Hold one up there, babycakes.” “

Wholesale has been around for years, but hit the radar of property data provider PropStream most significantly four years ago, said Rob Zahr, general manager of parent company EquiMine in Orange County, in California. The PropStream database can help find homes that are abandoned, threatened with foreclosure, or loaded with privileges.

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