Saturday, April 9, 2011

Who's Behind the Sign Spam?

Post and photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman, image after the jump from the Total Freedom Realty website.

A while ago, the I.I. and I went around NoMi removing as much sign spam as we could find - 26 signs in all.  Either we missed one by the Holiday gas station, or the spammers don't know when to quit.  Either way, the sign was down after my bike ride today.  But I decided to see what I could find out about who's putting up the spam.

The first step was to Google the phone number, 612-486-6981, which led me to...

...Northern Homebuyers/Total Freedom Realty.  Aside from the sign spam number, they also list 651-455-7355 as a way to contact them.  Their web page doesn't seem to have much to do with actual homebuying, and instead directs people towards their section 8 rentals, renting with option to buy, and contract for deed.  Northern Homebuyers put about as much thought and effort into their web page as they did with their sign spam; at numerous points text says "click here," with no hyperlink to click on.

Calling the number listed gives you an automated recording with various options.  I pressed * to get a phone contact right away. and it went directly to a voicemail for Sharon from Epstein Enterprises and Total Freedom Realty.  At Total Freedom Realty's "our team" site, there is no Sharon.  However, we do have a David Epstein, who may be one of the principals of Epstein Enterprises.


Blatant sign spamming aside, I'm always skeptical of professionals who don't give you their full name on a voicemail.  There's something inherently shady about that.

But the Google search for 612-486-6981still yields some interesting results.  They are listing quite a few properties for rent.  If normal citizens could search the Minneapolis website with the owner name as a search criteria, I could tell readers instantly how many properties this Epstein Enterprises group owns in our city.

A listing on Padmapper gives us the phone number and northernhomebuyers@gmail.com address, but the property at 2905 Bryant Ave N is owned by HBC Enterprises, 33 George St #1, St Paul 55107.  Eric Heard is the contact person.

This Padmapper listing for 2925 Lyndale Ave N does show Epstein Enterprises LLC as the owner, but what's this?!  The same St. Paul address as HBC Enterprises, right down to the suite number!  Very interesting.

This Craigslist posting from David Epstein uses the same northernhomebuyers gmail address as a contact.  The property itself looks pretty nice from the photos, but the connection between Epstein and Northern Homebuyers becomes more solid.

Lest there be any doubt, Epstein uses his name, the northernhomebuyers gmail address, AND 2905 Bryant Ave N on this Craigslist post.

Other links to various rental sites trumpet section 8 availability in conjunction with the phone number, but don't bring up any properties for rent.  Most likely, the places posted have been rented out and the link is no longer valid.  Given the ubiquitous placement of sign spam, these folks have to own more than just a handful of properties in our neighborhoods.  So David Epstein, Northern Homebuyers, Total Freedom Realty, and HBC Enterprises/Epstein Enterprises are officially on the Hawkman radar screen.

5 comments:

  1. OMG! Someone bought a home in a low income neighborhood and wants to rent it to Section 8 recipients! The nerve. And to advertise in that very neighborhood as well. Thanks for staying on top of this.

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  2. Yes, actually, THANKS for staying on top of this. There are Mpls ordinances against the posting of these signs. They are a blight to our neighborhoods. Also staying on top of the organizations that use this illegal method to advertise their properties seems more than reasonable. Don't real estate companies who advertise rentals need to include the brokerage name in all of their signage and ads? Good work!

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  3. OMG! Someone bought a home in an Afton neighborhood and doesn't wants to rent it to Section 8 recipients! The nerve. And doesn't want to advertise in that very neighborhood as well. Thanks for staying on top of this.

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  4. Neighborhoods like Hawthorne do have a concentration of section 8 housing that is above what most other communities have. In and of itself, that might not be an issue except that too often landlords here see section 8 as a way to guarantee income while doing very little in the way of property maintenance, tenant screening, or paying taxes and assessments in a timely fashion.

    The links in the article are all perfectly legitimate ways for Epstein to advertise in this neighborhood. Sign spam is not.

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  5. You know those "make big money" real estate scam seminars and infomercials? I believe that's what's breeding these small dubious outfits, who use sign spam as one of (or possibly the primary) way to advertise their services. I would not call anything they do legitimate. The signs are a common problem in probably every city nationwide. You found one of the perps.

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