- MoneyBug buys distressed homes as-is and pays cash so sellers can avoid real estate commissions.
- Associates will come to the property for free and submit an offer.
- Real estate agents can represent MoneyBug as a buying client and will earn 6 percent commission from the sale.
Bugs can be found in crevices everywhere. It is in their nature to find a place that is overlooked to hunker down.
MoneyBug, a cash-for-homes business based out of Texas, is hunkered down in the distressed home markets in California, Florida, Texas and Pennsylvania.
MoneyBug was founded eight years ago by Kurt Carlton and was recently named one of the fastest growing middle-market companies in Texas. That growth did not happen quickly — but Carlton is in it for the long haul.
“I want to die owning this company,” Carlton said. “We want to saturate every single market in the country and go to Canada and then go overseas with it.”
Carlton’s original business model revolved around purchasing distressed homes and reselling them to investors, but as technology advanced by way of data and predictive analytics, so did MoneyBug. Carlton enlisted a full tech team to begin finding ways to make the cash sale of the distressed property easier on the seller.
Something must have worked, as the company recently surpassed $1 billion in acquisitions.
How does MoneyBug value a home?
What once required on-site visual inspection for an offer is now fully automated via MoneyBug’s website. Sellers can input the property’s address, then answer questions about the home in order to get a rough estimate price of what MoneyBug will offer.
An acquisitions specialist will visit the site and present an offer within 10 minutes of inspection to the seller. Carlton said the online offers are usually pretty close to the final offer if the seller is honest and knowledgeable.
“We basically take a look at the top of the market in the neighborhood, and then we look at the property and see what the house would need to get to the top of the market, and that’s how we base our offer,” said Joe Huber, an acquisitions associate who has been with MoneyBug for eight years.
The technology Carlton has employed is able to determine a price based on multiple factors: Does the home backup to a major thoroughfare? Is the property under power lines? Are there foundation issues?
“If you have a foundation issue in California, it might not be sellable. If you have a foundation issue in Texas, it just means your house is five years old,” Carlton said.
Because Texas soil expands and contracts so much on a yearly basis, foundational issues are expected. But in California, MoneyBug is more worried about whether the home is sitting on a fault line or if a retaining wall could collapse.
It’s important to note the recent floods in Houston and the surplus of potentially distressed homes that came to market. Huber said there are a number of factors that go into play when valuing homes from these sellers: Will the neighborhood be affected again, or was it a fixable drainage issue?
At the time of the recent floods, MoneyBug was holding 73 properties that were affected.
“It was an issue, and we took a big hit down there,” Carlton said. “A lot of those houses were in a 100-year flood zone, and that was the second time they flooded.” He added that this significantly lowers the value.
The gray area of buying distressed
“We’re a group of investors that buy houses,” Huber said. “If somebody wants an offer for their house, we typically buy distressed houses, and we pay cash for them.”
Early on, Carlton feared being shunned by agents, but admits now that almost 50 percent of leads come from them. In these instances, the agent can represent MoneyBug as the buyer and will earn 6 percent commission from the sale.
MoneyBug almost exclusively transacts distressed homes. This includes houses with flood damage, overall disrepair and homes in need of serious renovations. Huber said that most, if not all homes are then sold to investors and developers.
“We don’t sell to owner/occupants,” he said. “If somebody wanted to move into one, I suppose they could, but that’s not our target market at all.”