City Hall

Investors Won't Leave Dallas Homeowners Alone

Homeowners aren't selling, but investors keep calling. Dallas activist Tabitha Wheeler said City Council should pass legislation to limit how often investors can reach out to homeowners with offers.
Homeowners aren't selling, but investors keep calling. Dallas activist Tabitha Wheeler said City Council should pass legislation to limit how often investors can reach out to homeowners with offers. Jim Schutze
Residents in South Dallas and other neighborhoods are getting repeated inquiries from investors looking to buy their properties. They come by call, text, email and letters. Sometimes, homeowners will get notes posted on their doors with an offer for their property.

“We get calls all day every day,” Tabitha Wheeler, a Dallas activist, said. Some people call, act mild-mannered and make conversation, but it always ends the same: with a low ball offer for their home. “Depending on the day of the week and how I feel, I’m cursing [at them],” she said.

She’s tried telling them to stop, but they keep coming.

For Wheeler, it’s more or less just become an annoyance. What she’s worried about is people getting taken advantage of. She says she’s had to educate some of the older residents in South Dallas about how much their property is actually worth.

“I can’t tell you how many people they've underpriced, and if somebody needs the money, they start thinking about selling their house for $50,000 when they’re building houses in South Dallas right now for $200,000 [or more],” Wheeler said.

“It’s like we’re under siege.” – homeowner Edward Sebesta

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If a homeowner is overwhelmed with needed renovations to their property, they might think a buyout is a way to go. But Wheeler said the buyouts are often too low for the sellers to start anew, potentially leaving them with no place to move.

The typical home in South Dallas is valued at about $155,069, according to Zillow. These values have increased by 6.4% over the past year and are predicted to rise another 6.8% in the next year.

South Dallas isn't the only neighborhood being inundated with solicitations. Edward Sebesta, a resident in Oak Lawn, said he’s lived in the area since the late ’80s. He said he couldn’t afford his house if he were to buy it today, as property values have skyrocketed. Houses that used to go for $60,000 to $70,000 are now going for close to $350,000, Sebesta said.

He used to only get one or two of these inquiries about buying his home each week. He said his house seemed to be of particular interest because it’s one of the largest on the block. Now, he said, “It’s like we’re under siege.”

On one occasion, someone left a note and phone number in his mailbox claiming that one of his trees fell into a yard across the creek behind his house. It turned out to be a ploy just to get him to call so the person on the other end could strike up a conversation about buying his house.

Council members say there’s not a lot the city can do about legitimate offers from investors to buy people’s homes, regardless of how frequent they are. Council member Adam Medrano said he often tells people to just ignore the offers if they’re not interested in selling.

Residents in gentrifying neighborhoods of Atlanta have reported similar experiences, according to NPR affiliate WABE.

An investigation conducted by WABE and the publication APM Reports found that a quarter of properties sold by the residents went for less than half the estimated fair market value. The investigation prompted legislation in Atlanta sponsored by all but one council member that made what they termed “commercial harassment” a city-level offense.

The legislation passed in early November and states that if homeowners turn down investors’ initial offers, they have six months before they can reach out again with another offer. Wheeler said she would like to see similar legislation passed in Dallas. 
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Jacob Vaughn, a former Brookhaven College journalism student, has written for the Observer since 2018, first as clubs editor. More recently, he's been in the news section as a staff writer covering City Hall, the Dallas Police Department and whatever else editors throw his way.
Contact: Jacob Vaughn