'We Buy Ugly Houses' Firm Accused of Shady Tactics

ProPublica says the company zeroes in on desperate homeowners, pressures them to sell
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted May 15, 2023 10:30 AM CDT
'We Buy Ugly Houses' Firm Accused of Shady Tactics
Stock photo.   (Getty/hapabapa)

You may have seen the "We Buy Ugly Homes" signs or flyers around, or heard of parent company HomeVestors. The premise behind the business is straightforward: They'll buy the homes of sellers willing to take less than full price in exchange for the convenience of a quick sale. The company handbook stipulates to its nearly 1,150 franchisees that they cannot lie about any aspect of the deal as a means to pressure people to sell. But a ProPublica investigation—based on interviews with nearly 50 former franchise owners and dozens of homeowners, along with training materials, court documents, etc.—asserts that the handbook's noble pledge is routinely ignored. The investigation "found HomeVestors franchisees that used deception and targeted the elderly, infirm, and those so close to poverty that they feared homelessness would be a consequence of selling," per the story.

"You were always lying to them," says Katie Southard, a former franchise owner in North Carolina. "That's what we were trained." The story includes first-person examples of sellers or their families (one involving an 82-year-old woman with dementia) waging legal battles to stop a sale. One court case involves an elderly man who sold his Florida condo on the promise he could continue living there after the sale. "But he spent his final days alive waiting to be evicted when—after the contract was signed—the franchise owner informed him the homeowners association rules didn't allow it," per the story. A HomeVestors spokesperson says the examples in the story represent only a small fraction of the company's transactions (71,400 since 2016) and that the company is taking action in some of the reported cases. (Read the full story.)

Stories to sink your teeth into.
Get our roundup of longform stories every Saturday.
Sign up
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.