The illegal “We Buy Houses” signs that are posted across town haven’t just been an irritant for residents and city government officials. They have also become a problem for a nationwide business with the same moniker.
Jeremy Brandt, CEO of Texas-based investing company We Buy Houses, said signs being posted across the nation using the name are not associated with his company. Rather, he said, many individuals behind the signs are purposefully using the brand name to confuse homeowners interested in selling, even resorting to putting the company logo on the signs.
In other cases, the connection is just a coincidence, Brandt said.
“There’s a real concern around the reputation of our brand and our company,” he said. “It’s a significant impact to our business when you have people out there impersonating your company.”
Brandt said the company hears from people every day who are confused and upset, often because they were under the impression they were working with his company.
“Sometimes we can help them out of their predicament, but sometimes it’s too late,” he said.
Brandt said he’s learned that most of the people behind the signs are not actual investors. Instead, he said, they are either running outright scams or are trying to make money despite not having enough capital to actually purchase a house.
“Most of these people aren’t really buying houses,” he said. “They go plaster signs, they get a home seller to commit to selling for a low price. There are usually clauses in the contract that let (the proposed buyer) get out for any reason.”
Once the contract is signed, he said, these buyers will typically shop the house around to real investors, who may pay them several thousand dollars for the contract.
And if for some reason the deal falls through with the investor? The joke’s on the homeowner.
“Many times they can’t find someone who will buy the house for them, so they will then find a way to cancel the contract and the home seller is left high and dry, having wasted weeks or months of time,” he said.
Brandt said this creates a situation where many homeowners may be frustrated and unsure where to turn.
Brandt's company, in contrast, instructs interested sellers to call or fill out a form online with property information. An agent with the company will then get in contact with the prospective seller and arrange to visit the house. If the company wants to buy the house, the agent will make a direct cash offer to the seller, according to the company website, webuyhouses.com.
Along with the confusion the signs bring, Brandt added that the amateurish, ugly signs don’t project a sense of professionalism.
“This situation gives the real estate investing industry a really bad name,” he said.
Brandt said the signs also pose a waste issue: Once they’re put up, they are rarely, if ever, taken down. Some are plastic and thus cannot be easily recycled.
“It contributes to a massive amount to litter,” he said. “These people are ruining the environment in the long run.”
Kevin Barnes, director of Bakersfield’s solid waste division, said signs that simply fall to the ground are usually too large or heavy to be picked up by a street sweeper.
“If they’re not able to be picked up by a street sweeper, we have to rely on volunteer groups and other members of the community to pick them up,” he said.
To help combat the issue, Brandt said his company has created a new public relations campaign to educate people around the country about the unprofessional and illegal signs.
“We’re pretty intent on educating people about them and getting them removed as much as we can,” he said.
The company has also begun to get in contact with code enforcement departments and city managers to assist them in identifying and tracking down those behind the signs.
Brandt said the company would consider working with the City of Bakersfield.
Bakersfield Code Enforcement Supervisor Bill Owens said the department is open to working with the company.
“Any time we can form a partnership like that, it’s a good thing for them, the City of Bakersfield and the residents,” he said.