The ‘We Buy Ugly Houses’ Company, HomeVestors, Is the Subject of a ProPublica Investigative Report

HomeVestors of America is a franchisor of its “ugly homes” concept and now has over 1,100 franchisees, including here in the Denver area. The chief benefit of being a franchisee is the company’s national advertising which you have surely seen on billboards and in other media.

HomeVestors also trains its franchisees on lead generation, which was the subject of a May 11th article by ProPublica, co-published with the Dallas Morning News and Shelterforce.

To quote from the article, “HomeVestors, the self-proclaimed “largest homebuyer in the United States,” goes to great lengths to distinguish itself from the hedge funds and YouTube gurus that have taken over large swaths of the real estate investment market. The company says it helps homeowners out of jams — ugly houses and ugly situations — improving lives and communities by taking on properties no one else would buy. Part of that mission is a promise not to take advantage of anyone who doesn’t understand the true value of their home, even as franchisees pursue rock-bottom prices.”

Pro-Publica’s investigation, which included “interviews with 48 former franchisees and dozens of homeowners who have sold to its franchises” found that franchise owners “used deception and targeted the elderly, infirm and those so close to poverty that they feared homelessness” if they sold.

One former franchise owner said they were trained to lie.

We in the real estate industry are familiar with various tried-and-true prospects for listing a home, including couples that have recently divorced, or where an elderly husband or wife has just died, but HomeVestors apparently “goes the extra mile” in that regard.

A former employee of an ad agency hired by HomeVestors is cited as saying that the ad agency’s owner bragged about being able to target homeowners who had recently broken a hip, saying that the injury “is effectively a 60-day countdown to death — and, possibly, a deal.”

Click here for the full ProPublica article. And here are some follow-up articles:

HomeVestors Praised ProPublica’s Reporting, Then Tried to “Bury It” The “We Buy Ugly Houses” company held a virtual meeting for its franchises to outline a plan to “minimize visibility” of our investigation.
By Anjeanette Damon, Byard Duncan and Mollie Simon
Help ProPublica Investigate “We Buy Houses” Practices If you’ve had experience with a company or buyer promising fast cash for homes, our reporting team wants to hear about it.
By Byard Duncan, Anjeanette Damon and Sarah Smith