WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (WETM) – Schuyler County Clerk Theresa Philbin and County Attorney Steven Getman are warning property owners to be aware of unsolicited offers to buy land in Schuyler County, often at a deep discount from the actual value.

“Reports have surfaced this month of a company soliciting property owners in the area offering to buy vacant land for cash,” Philbin said.  “The offers include a Purchase and Sale Agreement, asking the owner to sign and send back within a short period of time.  The quick cash offer they make is always below the assessed value, and sometimes by as much as 15 to 25 percent. That could cost you thousands of dollars, depending on the price and your property’s actual value.”

While the offer may be perfectly legal, signing and sending back the agreement, Getman pointed out, would create a binding contract.  That contract, Getman said, may obligate the owners to conditions or expenses they did not understand before signing. 

“For example, the offer may state the buyer will pay all closing costs, but also require the seller to clear up any liens or encumbrances on the property at the seller’s own expense before the sale,” Getman explained.  “That could include mortgages, property taxes, or even electric, water, and sewer bills.  If the sale price does not cover those expenses, the sellers could be left paying out more than they are getting for the property.”

Therefore, property owners should review any documents very carefully and consult an experienced attorney before signing any type of agreement, Getman said.

Philbin and Getman offered several tips to property owners who receive unsolicited offers to buy their land:

  • Never sign anything until you are sure you want to move forward. 
  • Have your own attorney review the document before your sign them. If you do not have an attorney, the New York State Bar Association may be able to refer you to an appropriate attorney via the NYSBA Lawyer Referral and Information Service: https://www.findalawyernys.org.
  • Check out the would-be buyer online. If someone is legitimately interested in buying your home, you should be able to retrieve information about them. Look for any red flags such as bad reviews or lawsuits.
  • Ask for references. If the buyer will not offer any, something is wrong. If their references are sketchy and cannot be verified, you need to rethink doing business with that person. 
  • Find out the fair market value of your home before you agree to a price.
  • Consider bringing in a real estate professional to represent you and give you a fair opinion of your land’s value. If the buyer is legitimate they should be willing to discuss terms with your agent.
  • If selling your property seems like a good idea, do not jump at the first offer made (especially if it represents just a small fraction of the land’s worth).

Finally, if you receive anything in the mail about your property that seems questionable, Philbin and Getman said that you can contact the County Clerk or, in the event of possible criminal activity, local law enforcement.