The tight listing inventory has led to an uptick in phone calls asking homeowners if they’re interested in selling – but occasionally U.S. and state do-not-call laws are ignored. The Fla. Dept. of Agriculture says complaints are up 41% this year, and it wants all violations reported.
ORLANDO, Fla. – Ann Sloan has no intention of selling the Belle Isle home she’s lived in for more than 40 years. “I love it,” the 83-year-old said. She says she fell in love with it the first time she walked through it. But Sloan’s refusal hasn’t stopped her from receiving phone calls once or twice a week asking if she’s ready to part with her house. “I usually cut them off pretty quick,” she said.
A quick cutoff is more polite than Shirley Kay Torres is with texts to buy her house in Union Park. “I just reply with, ‘You’re a scumbag,” she said.
With home prices rocketing upward and housing supply squeezed, many homeowners and others have been inundated with calls, texts, and flyers about buying or selling houses. And Orlando Regional Realtor® Association President Natalie Arrowsmith says people should expect to see more of it.
“We have close to 19,000 Realtors® in the area and only 2,500 homes to sell,” Arrowsmith said. “So Realtors are trying hard to drum up business and get people to sell their homes.”
In the first half of 2021, Florida’s Department of Agriculture, which handles the state’s Do Not Call list, received 365 complaints related to unsolicited real estate communications, a 41% increase over the same time last year, and up 46% from 2019.
Alan Parkinson, bureau chief for mediation and enforcement, says not all unsolicited calls are violations of the Do Not Call list, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be reported.
“I would always be cautious about getting unsolicited communications,” he said. “Always.”
While Parkinson doesn’t know of any specific scams related to real estate advertising, he says there is still value in people making complaints about what they’re receiving. “Every report is unique and we can cross-reference to look for trends,” he said. “Even if that person is not concerned for themselves, we encourage them to report.”
Sloan said some of the calls get personal, asking her age and how long she’s lived in the house. “If they want to buy my house, they don’t need to know that,” she said. “Makes me wonder if they’re planning to rob me or something.”
Parkinson said such questions should be a red flag. “Is there any unique inquiry that isn’t relevant to the nature of the initial communication? All things that seem a little off,” he said.
Another way these calls are often “off” is when they offer to buy a house from someone who isn’t the homeowner. Real estate agent Kimberly Zeidner said that’s usually a result of a buyer with bad information.
“[Real estate agents] use a variety of tools, all of which pull data from the property appraisers,” Zeidner said. But she says the process is reliant upon agents to set their communications to be with homeowners.
Zeidner, who works mostly in the Dr. Phillips area, said she mostly used internet and social media advertising during the pandemic. “We know that during the shutdown, more people were inside and just scrolling,” she said. Zeidner has also used texts, mailers and other internet advertising. And she asks the public try to see advertisements and contacts from the agents’ point of view.
“Without doing these things, we wouldn’t get nearly as much business,” she said. For example, she likes to remind homeowners regularly of how many homes are selling in their area and what people are getting. “If you’re doing it on a regular basis, people are more susceptible to it,” she said.
Parkinson understands this, but still encourages people to make reports so that his department can have a record of business names, phone numbers and other data that can reveal patterns of behavior. “The more information we have, the clearer the picture,” he said.
Consumers who wish to report unsolicited communications or sign up for the Do Not Call registry can visit FloridaConsumerHelp.com or call 1-800-435-7352 for English or 1-800-352-9832 for Spanish.
Also see: What Realtors Need to Know About ‘Do Not Call’ Rules. More information about the U.S. do-not-call list can be found at the Federal Trade Commission’s National Do Not Call Registry website.
© 2021 Orlando Sentinel. Visit orlandosentinel.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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