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BuyOwner.com / Deceptive sales tactics

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It has been nearly 2 years now, and we are providing this comprehensive account of our experience with BuyOwner (www.buyowner.com) a real estate advertising service for purposes of consumer awareness.

We hope it will save others from our experience.

Summary of Our BuyOwner Experience:
> BuyOwner charged us $2649 on 7/8/2005 for their real-estate advertising service.

> In our opinion, they used extremely aggressive and arguably deceptive sales practices (dramatically overstating the service’s effectiveness)

> The Sales Person carefully avoided any mention of BuyOwner’s infamous “No Refund” policy.

> During the setup of our ad on the BuyOwner website, we began to notice the quality was below our expectation.

> We noticed that the 360 view, still picture quality, factual information, flyer generation amongst other things (read details below) were unsatisfactory.

> We had hundreds of views of our home, but we had 0 visitors to our home and only 1 call.

> During the 3+ weeks we used BuyOwner, we made numerous follow-up calls (logged below) and emails to voice our complaints about quality, but BuyOwner was non-responsive to our requests.

> When it became obvious BuyOwner was not going to respond, we attempted to cancel and negotiate a partial refund.

> BuyOwner quickly canceled our ad, but made no attempt to reimburse us even a portion of our paid monies.

> We were then forced to advertise ourselves (using a custom website, open houses, etc.)

> Within 3 weeks using our own advertising (custom website, custom flyers, custom signage, open houses ~ no Realtor was involved), we had over 40 visitors and 2 offers.

> We sold our home entirely ON OUR OWN, with NO assistance from BuyOwner, even though they kept our money and cancelled our ad.

We believe BuyOwner provided unsatisfactory service (again, see below for many details) not commensurate with what they charge.

We further feel we have had to invest significant money and effort to overcome BuyOwner’s deficiencies. We used the service for less than 3 weeks before initiating our dispute.

During our dispute, we made every reasonable attempt to negotiate a refund that would allow BuyOwner to be reimbursed for “sunken costs” (i.e. photography). Though we genuinely tried to resolve this in an equitable manner, BuyOwner’s Irving, TX office was non-responsive to our complaints (addressing none of them) and to our request for a negotiated settlement.

In numerous discussions, they insisted on retaining the full-payment and have threatened legal action should we proceed with this dispute. The best way I can characterize them is: they behaved like a company who knew they'd done something wrong.

Conclusion: You are better off advertising yourself than using BuyOwner.

Read below for further details.

A detailed list of deficiencies with BuyOwner’s service:

A Note Regarding BuyOwner’s Cancellation Policy

BuyOwner stipulates they have a strict “no refund” policy (please see this document in the included BuyOwner Materials).

In our case:
1. We were NOT made aware of this policy at ANYTIME prior to or during the sale (e.g. their sales person deliberately didn’t mention or point out the fine print).

2. We believe this could be a calculated sales tactic, designed to deliberately beguile and deceive homeowners into accepting and paying (up front) for BuyOwner services without any recourse should they be dissatisfied with said services.
Note: Unlike BuyOwner, most Realtors do not charge for non-performance (e.g. they do not collect their commission or charge for MLS advertising exposure.)

3. The refund policy was similarly unavailable on the BuyOwner website.

4. We only received said “policy” approximately 4 days following the posting date on our credit card when we received the “A Better Way to Sell Your Home” manual.

“Hundreds of Views” but NOT 1 interested buyer?

- Not ONE buyer whom has allegedly viewed home at www.buyowner.com has resulted in a qualified showing.

- ALL 50+ buyers who have physically been shown our home have been the result of word of mouth, realtors, our open houses, and custom marketing we invested in (www.creeksideway.com), custom flyers (due to BuyOwner flyer formatting issue), development of custom front-yard signage.

BuyOwner Flyer Quality

- The BuyOwner flyer (produced from their website) PDF lacks critical information about our property (like square footage) and it is not editable.

- The BuyOwner flyer does not format correctly (for example, we had a sentence running into our pictures). This formatting problem caused the flyer to appear unprofessional to prospective buyers. There is no ability to correct this and we were forced to create our own custom flyer.


- The 360 degree photos BuyOwner commissioned were unsatisfactory:

- The BuyOwner photographer seemed in a “big rush” to get in and out. Since photographic representation of a home is a critical aspect of selling the home, we feel this service was unsatisfactory.

- The resulting images were washed out and lacked clarity. We twice attempted twice to reschedule the 360 degree photo shoot to correct these problems. BuyOwner was non-responsive.

- Our images didn’t appear to match the functionality of other BuyOwner listings (e.g. some other BuyOwner.com listings appear to have better quality 360s than ours).

- Six still photographs were taken, but their quality was never confirmed with us prior to posting on our ad. Once posted to our ad, the BuyOwner pictures lacked sufficient detail.

BuyOwner Website

- The BuyOwner.com website has generated only 1 call since July 7th, 2005, (call was on July 10th) or approximately 3 weeks of advertising at the time of this writing.

- The 1 person who called, did call through the 1-800 number, but was not pre-qualified (as promised during the BuyOwner sales pitch)
Ability to access the BuyOwner.com website [as a seller] required 2 calls to customer service (though during the BuyOwner sales pitch we were made to believe we would be contacted immediately following the sale).

- BuyOwner.com “visitor” statistics are misleading and potentially fraudulent:

- BuyOwner does not capture unique hits to your ad. In other words, their statistics record each “view” of your home regardless of if it's the same person viewing the page over and over. This artificially inflates the statistics and deceives the seller.

- BuyOwner’s statistics also include the seller’s viewing of their own page. In our case, this artificially inflated our “view” statistics by at least 20-25% and is likewise deceiving to the seller.

- No other detailed traffic statistics are provided for consumer; therefore it is impossible to discern if these statistics are “inflated” by BuyOwner or even genuine. (This would seem consistent with most BuyOwner complaints: hundreds of views, but no calls).

- There is no method to advertise “open houses” online (as promised during the BuyOwner sales pitch).

- There was inadequate factual information on website regarding our home (e.g. compare the information from BuyOwner to that on MLS).

- There is little to no ability for the customer to modify their listing information (beyond price, email address and some 30 word captions under the pictures).

- BuyOwner.com provides no step-wise process (or even basic information) on how a potential buyer should proceed if they want to make an offer.
Directing open house visitors to BuyOwner has caused confusion because there is *no* information for them on how to make an offer.

- Determining how to educate buyers on the “buying process” is left entirely to the home owner to sort out (though this “buyer education” was part of the sales pitch).

- As a result of BuyOwner’s web deficiencies, we were forced to setup our own website (www.creeksideway.com) to ensure sufficient detail.

Customer Service

- We were never contacted by BuyOwner (unless we called them) after they “closed the sale” (though this was promised during the BuyOwner sales pitch).

- As mentioned above, we ask for and were promised a 2nd [Virtual Tour] photo shoot (to correct the washed out problems in our 1st shoot). This was never performed (as promised by the BuyOwner customer service in Las Colinas, TX).

- The sales price of our home (a critically important part of the sale) was merely a guess on the part of the salesperson, but not [professional] substantiated by facts or comps.

- An MLS report was provided by BuyOwner approximately 4 days later, but by then the sales price had been established and printed & distributed on flyers.

Directional Signage

- The BuyOwner-provided yard signs are small and arguably unprofessional in appearance when compared with the competition (Re/Max, Keller Williams).

- As a result, we are being forced to invest in our own “custom-made” yard signs.
BuyOwner provided no specific “Open House” signs (only directional signs were provided. We were forced to purchase our own.

Contracts / Forms

- The contract forms provided by BuyOwner are commonly available for FREE from the TREC website (e.g. anyone can download them).

- BuyOwner should not represent “reprinting” FREE documents as an asset of their paid-for service.
The provided contract forms are effectively useless, since they are perforated on the edge with binding holes. This forces the customer to download the same forms to print “clean” copies (for faxing, etc.).

- The BuyOwner’s materials provide little or no direction for filling out required forms (as we were expecting based on the sales pitch).
Texas and most Title companies require certain forms to accompany a completed contract.

- Only one of these forms was provided by BuyOwner:

> Seller’s Disclosure OP-H (provided)
> NOT PROVIDED: Addendum for Property Subject to Mandatory Membership in an Owners' Association 36-3
> NOT PROVIDED: Third Party Financing Condition Addendum 40-1

- We were forced to research and complete each of these our independently.

- There did not appear to be any additional contract support or advice within provided documentation (e.g. how a buyer or seller should fill the contracts out, though this was likewise promised during the BuyOwner sales pitch).

Call History with BuyOwner’s Irving, TX office:

7/5/2005 1:54pm 1:00min From [protected] BuyOwner Office BuyOwner called and left message following our inquiry on their website.
7/5/2005 2:21pm 7:00min To [protected] BuyOwner Office Inquiry for BuyOwner services. Referred us to sales rep Deanna Hall.
7/7/2005 9:52am 1:00min To [protected] Deanna Hall Initial setup for meeting BuyOwner sales representative
7/12/2005 12:37pm 2:00min To [protected] Deanna Hall Left message regarding yard sign sticker and website password.
7/12/2005 1:02pm 2:00min From [protected] Deanna Hall Left message regarding 12:37pm call.
7/12/2005 1:06pm 1:00min To [protected] Deanna Hall Left message regarding dissatisfaction with 360 degree images.
7/13/2005 10:25am 2:00min From [protected] BuyOwner Office Called to discuss Realtor possibly interested in showing the house. Realtor was told by BuyOwner that we may not be interested in working with them. Realtor never returned our message and never showed the home.
7/13/2005 12:21pm 17:00min To [protected] BuyOwner Office Discussed how to access the website (still not provided), dissatisfaction with the 360 images and other [promised] selling information still needed (manual, etc.)
7/13/2005 12:58pm 4:00min From [protected] BuyOwner Office Discussed website access.
7/25/2005 10:04am 7:00min To [protected] BuyOwner Office Spoke with BuyOwner rep (one of the 3, but not Rhonda) regarding our dissatisfaction with the service and possible remedy. Was told that I would have to address this with Rhonda and she would call me back.
7/26/2005 10:13am 1:00min From [protected] BuyOwner Office Incoming call from BuyOwner, but not Rhonda.
7/25/2005 4:00pm 2:00min To [protected] BuyOwner Office Had not heard from Rhonda yet. Left another message regarding my disatisfaction with said service and a request to call me back.
7/26/2005 11:05am 8:00min To [protected] BuyOwner Office Spoke with Rhonda regarding our disbute and possible reimbursement. It was a cordial conversation whereby she informed me any decisions on reimbursement would need to be made "by the president," but certainly the tone of the conversation sounded positive (as if an understanding could be reached).
8/9/2005 11:05am 2:00min To [protected] BuyOwner Office Could not get through to Rhonda. Hung up, tried again below.
8/9/2005 11:07am 8:00min To [protected] BuyOwner Office Spoke with Rhonda regarding reimbursement. BuyOwner's position was decidedly different from our call on 7/26/05. This time, they were inflexible and almost immediately threatened legal action should we not reverse our course of dispute. I informed BuyOwner that if they could 1) address even 1 of our written complaints and 2) produce one compelling piece of evidence that their alleged "services" had been effective, that I would gladly discuss appropriate payment. Rhonda provided no response to my request beyond repeating their "No Refund" policy and reiterating the threat of legal action.


Sort by: UpDate | Rating
A  15th of May, 2007 by 
Agree Disagree +1 Votes
Very unhappy with buyowners promise to sell our house! We maybe had 2 people in 2 years to look at our house.
A  21st of May, 2007 by 
Agree Disagree +1 Votes
I am having the same problem here in Louisville KY... they hound you till you sign up with them but do not tell you about the no refund policy up front or that you are not paying them off, but rather a whole seperate loan 'with the bank'

They even help you fill out the loan paperwork and find the lender but do not give you the 'no refund policy' till after they get you set up with payments. Then they give you the "Sellers Checklist" of what to do if you get an interested buyer and at the very end of that 'checklist' is the info. It's not even in contract form really.

Our situation is that we decided to keep the house after bouncing back from financial difficulties and now we HAVE to sell the house or we are paying $3,000 for services we'll never use!! I'm contact an attorney and have complained to the BBB.
A  7th of Jul, 2007 by 
Agree Disagree +1 Votes
I have had the same experience. Buyowner is a rip off they need to be shut down. Is it possible to stop them?

I paid over $2300.00 in november 06 and had only 2 calls. they were probably part of the act. It is now july and here i am, an 82 year old disabled lady trying to sell my home and to relocate. Luckily, i came accross your message as i was emailing my complaint to buyowner. Actually, i am glad to know that i am not the only one who feels exactly as you do.

What can be done ?

A  26th of Aug, 2007 by 
Agree Disagree +1 Votes
We have had our property listed with buyowner for 7 months and no calls and no emails. They have done nothing for us as far as getting people to buy our home. We too did not realize the no refund of our money. I will never recommend them to anyone trying to sell their home.

Charlotte and Harold Kirch
A  26th of Sep, 2007 by 
Agree Disagree +1 Votes
I am very grateful for all the negative information on buyowner.com as I was considering using them to sell my home. I must admit I was getting a little skeptical while reading their website and couldn't get any information on the price of their service, length of their service and definitely nothing on refund of dollars spent should one want to cancel the service. From what I read in the complaints it seems very plausible that buyowner.com is padding the customer hits to each website to show some sort of activity. I viewed 21 seperate homes for sale in Arizona and all had more than 800 hits but they were still for sale. It does'nt take a rocket scientist to figure this one out.
D  11th of Oct, 2007 by 
Agree Disagree +1 Votes
I've been reading all of these letters being sent in about how Buy Owner didn't do their part of the bargain and live up to their company's word. After going over all of these different home seller, who are selling their home on their own, I have a comment for you, the sellers. I am an out of town buyer and have used Buy Owner twice, with great success. My complaint is with some of the sellers on the site. I came across many properties that seemed to have fit into criteria I was looking for, but when you went to their personal page they had either provided few pictures or the seller had the home priced so ridiculously high above what was feasibly financed, and a lot of times both problems were present. I am going to be much more interested in hopping onto a plane to fly out of state to tour this property if alot of these sellers had displayed more of the home, especially with the virtual tours they have that make it seem as if you are in the room of the home themselves. I did not like having weed through the outlandish prices and minimal representation of the homes just to before I could find sellers who were serious about selling their homes to deal with to make it worth my time flying in to meet with them to make a deal. I might also add that I made he sellers both come down over $50,000 to consummate the deal. If these sellers complaining on this site want more action, then I would suggest that they show as much of their property as possible and get more realistic on their prices.
A  12th of Dec, 2007 by 
Agree Disagree +1 Votes
I know we have only got one call and our house has been on the market since August. I wish I had of gone with a real estate agent to begin with ;instead of giving Buy owner 6,000 for nothing . The web site is good, but something is wrong. If a agent had had it I think I would og had a offer by now. I am going to use one of their agents to sell our property after the first of the year. I say try to sell your house yourself first; then if you can't get a real estate agent to sell it. Don't pay that kind of money for uncertainty. I feel I was taken advantage of.The consultant made the whole thing sound great. Oh well ! Live and learn.
A  15th of Jan, 2008 by 
Agree Disagree +1 Votes
I noticed buy owner recently changed their website to make it more difficult for the buyers to even sign in to their account. They changed it to separate for areas for the seller and buyer to sign in and at first I couldnt even find out how to get onto buy owner. I finally found a phone number to call for customer service( that was hard to find too )but the person I talked to was so rude I hung up. Yes , I finally found out how as a buyer to sign in but it took a while, and I gave up at first and only came back a few weeks later and if I had not been very interested I wouldnt have bothered .They should not split up the signing in process like that buyers and sellers should continue to sign in the same way. Oh and that guy talking at you when you first come to the site so annoying I just turned him off.

It does sound like buyowner uses dirty sales tactics and that is a sign of a disreputable company. They realize that you dont really need them to sell a home on your own and that they charge too much ... All you need to get my attention is to get on realtor.com and post a lot of photos and a lot of details like square footage under air ( not under roof ) size of bedrooms and other rooms, heights of ceilings, if there is an hoa , size of lot etc... that is it . Oh and a reasonable price . And that is all you have to do ... go to a place that offers a flat mls fee to get you on realtor.com.

A  23rd of Jan, 2008 by 
Agree Disagree +1 Votes
They have taken my mothers money and when she ask about why has no one call about her house and complain they must have removed her add off of the internet. I have tryed different way to locate my mother house and it is nowhere to be found. Her house is in Irving so I can put in zip code, price etc with no luck.
We have also notice that their ads on TV is no longer being played.
A  20th of Jun, 2008 by 
Agree Disagree +1 Votes
I totally agree; this BuyOwner doesn’t do any good. No one should fall into the same trap I fell in.

The sales person and I agreed for 2399 and I found out that he had actually written the contract for 2499. I didn’t see this until after 2 weeks. (I know I am the one to be blamed for not reading the contact clearly before signing).

Only one person called after 4 weeks. He said he saw our yard sign by driving by our community. My house is still listed on BuyOwner, since I don’t want to take it. They said I can keep it until it is sold.

Take my word, DON’T use this company. If you are planning to sell on your own, use MSL and simple pay the 2.0 – 2.5% for the buyer’s argent. I am going to list on MSL today. I’ll update again after 4 weeks.
A  15th of Sep, 2008 by 
Agree Disagree +1 Votes
Wish I had read all this before contracting w/Buyowner. Four months and $3000 later - not a single call. We've repeatedly lowered the price. Instead of BuyOwner, it should be BuyerBeware.
A  25th of Jan, 2009 by 
Agree Disagree +1 Votes
I wish I had read this before signing on in July, 2008. They tricked my 90 year old Mother into over $4, 000 telling her it best suited her needs and that her virtual tour would reach internationally and europeans were buying. She had a realtor for a year before that who did nothing either but at least it was MLS and no cost up front. We are so sick of their "thanks buy owner ads", we have to switch channels. It's "no thanks buy owner". She is on a limited income and now needs that money. We have had no calls from customer service, no advice, no help, can't even get the directors name to write a letter. What a scam! We weren't told about the no refund, we were not even told we could print our own flyers and set up our own open house. I just discovered that today. I do all I can to discourage anyone in our neighborhood from using them and wish I could afford a counter commercial saying what a scam it is. You disguntles want to chip in for a coutner commercial with us? Would be worth it!!
A  11th of May, 2009 by 
Agree Disagree +1 Votes
In two years we have had over 2, 000 views with only two calls and noone has come to view our home.With the money we were charged it has been a big rip-off.Still stuck here, should have went with realtor, at least I'm sure we would have had people coming to look at the house.Bob Sartell
A  25th of Aug, 2009 by 
Agree Disagree +1 Votes
Thanks. Best review yet. I don't know what to do now because I'd have two agents I was not satisfied with, but at least now I can stop wondering about Buyowner.com
A  6th of Oct, 2009 by 
Agree Disagree +1 Votes
I"m really surprised that BUYowner is even allowed to exist. I hope that soon someone will do something about this company that is laced with decit. I'm going to contact the local politicians. They should refund the money they charge for so called "services". We have a condo listed for 8 months, and have have received 1 call and two online resposes.. We have a reason to believe that the calls and online inqisitions are made by their employees. Basically it's structured that unless one goes through their actual realestate agents, photgraphers, videographers you pay the same price as you would to a regular agen, or more, and you have to show the property yourself. What a contemtible company.
A  15th of Apr, 2010 by 
Agree Disagree +1 Votes
I went thru Buyowner five years ago, my home is still listed with them . During this period of time I have had one person interested and of coarse they had no money for the down payment. A total rip-off, my contact was for $2, 900.00, I am not as smart as I thought I was to have been taken by this company. SHAME ON THEM AND SHAME ON ME!

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