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Unsolicited Offers So Your Apartment Isn't for Sale...So What?

Night falls on the city; just as she’s about to close up shop for the day, a broker receives an email from an unknown sender. The sender is interested in purchasing a specific unit in a specific building - so interested, in fact, that they make an offer for immediate, all-cash purchase right in the email. But the broker’s company database does not have a listing for that unit. Perplexed, she searches listings offered by other companies; nothing. She replies to the sender of the email. Thanks for contacting me, she says, but that unit isn’t currently for sale. With all due respect, she asks, why did you send this offer to me? The sender replies that they saw a listing for the unit as a rental some time ago, with the broker named as the listing agent. “But I’m not interested in renting,” the sender continues. “I want to buy, and that’s the unit I want. I thought you might be able to make it happen.”

This is a slightly simplified version of real events, but it happened - and it’s happening more and more frequently. It’s what’s known as an unsolicited offer.

What is an Unsolicited Offer?

Simply put, “An unsolicited offer is an offer that comes to a broker or an owner directly from an interested buyer for a property that isn’t currently on the market,” says Cynthia Keskinkaya, an associate broker with Douglas Elliman, a real estate brokerage firm in New York City.” She says she’s seeing an increasing number of such offers, and believes they are the result of the current severe shortage of inventory for sale.

Until recently, the unsolicited offer phenomenon was more common outside the city than in it. Suburban homeowners have gotten ‘We-buy-for cash’ letters in the mail for years. A quick look at telephone listings and tax rolls gives investors easy access to names, addresses, and contact information. It’s classic direct-mail marketing, and even with only 1% of direct mail recipients responding, the method can produce opportunities.

The direct-mail approach isn’t as useful in locating co-op or condo owners who might become willing sellers if the price is right. Contacting unit owners in apartment buildings is trickier than single-family homeowners, which is why the aggressive buyer in our story above contacted the broker.

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