Lucrative Real Estate Market Leads to Shady Offers

But some seniors and baby boomers are starting to get tired of the random door knocks and cold calls from strangers

In Greater Boston’s red hot real estate market, homeowners are being offered cash on the spot to sell their houses. But some seniors and baby boomers are starting to get tired of the random door knocks and cold calls from strangers.

“It was sort of like vultures coming in,“ said Newton resident Sara Weiss.

She said a real estate broker got a hold of her email address and made an aggressive pitch

They said, “'we have a buyer,'" said Weiss. "One was from London; they were in for three days."

They wanted to see her house, but her house wasn't even for sale.

“It felt a little predatory to me,” she said.

Another Newton resident, David Wenstrom, said he’s always throwing away letters from real estate agents and developers.

“Maybe they are going after the seniors," said Wenstrom, "but I’m just not interested."

Weiss and Wenstrom both believe they’re being targeted because of their age and, also, because they in one of Massachusetts's most popular real estate markets: Newton.

Adam Shamus, a Keller Williams real estate agent, makes most of his money through listing commissions.

"With the amount of real estate that will be turning over within the next decade, I would say there is quite an opportunity," he said.

Shamus is one of many agents now focusing on the elderly. Along with door knocking, he said networking at senior centers is a must.

"I want to build trust within the senior care community," said Shamus.

Senior advocates say being an aggressive agent or developer is perfectly legal, but the line between aggressive and predatory can be hard to distinguish.

At Brookline Senior Center, anyone trying to sell services is banned. Executive Director Ruthan Dobek said opportunists try to get in all the time.

"They see potential dollar signs," said Dobek.

Senior advocate Betsey Crimmins with Greater Boston Legal Services is trying to sound the alarm on financial exploitation and expects senior targeting to continue increasing.

"It’s not Keller Williams I’d be worried about, it’s less reputable people," she said.

According to Crimmins, seniors don’t always report these shady offers because they’re embarrassed or could be struggling with a health condition like dementia.

In the latter case, said Crimmins, "they might not know they’ve been taken advantage of."

For now, Wenstrom refuses to sell.

"The jaws of death will only pry me out of this place," he said.

Weiss is finally putting her house on the market but, after the ordeal with the brokers, her husband Marcus decided to become a real estate agent to list it himself.

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