About Author

Sharon Vornholt

Sharon has been investing in real estate since 1998. She owned and operated a successful home inspection company for 17 years. In January of 2008 she took the leap of closing her business to become a full time real estate investor.


  1. Branding is so important regardless of the industry you find yourself or those of you with entrepreneurial pursuits. It takes some creative thought to capture “yourself” in a few words but it is worth it in the end.

  2. I agree with these points. Another point is to be aware of trademark law, and copyrights. I am a HomeVestors Franchisee and Development Agent. Unfortunately part of building a brand, is protecting it. This means HomeVestors must pursue any violators we are aware of. At times, I have actually had to have the corporate office send demand letters to friends.

    So, when building your investing brand, my quick advice is do NOT use the word Ugly with regards to houses, or the word HomeVestors.


    uglyhousesinsanfrancisco.com will get you a letter from us.

    i wanted to make this comment to be clear, we (HomeVestors) do not send these letters out of spite or meanness. We send them (the same way you will need to be prepared to) in order to maintain our copyrights and trademarks. The moment you do not, there is case law where you can lose it!

    Good post as always, Sharon.

      • Jason,

        You are more than welcome to look it up, or even try it. I am not a part of the corporate office, but I do report violators to the general council. This is to protect the brand. I recommend you ask you attorney if utilizing the phrase “Ugly House” is a violation of HomeVestors trade marks. If you disagree, please seek council. We have never lost, and have won against several gurus, like Robyn Thompson.



        • Tim from a quick search “we buy ugly houses” is trade marked. Is “ugly houses” itself trademarked?

        • I have been buying ugly houses here in Idaho since 2004. Sometimes I buy nice houses. I have marketing materials that explain all of the different types of houses I will buy from someone that needs to sell their house quickly. I have never heard of home vestors and I don’t care about what words you think only you can use in your marketing. Why in the world would your company trademark a word or phrase that is very commonly used with investors all over the country and then threaten a lawsuit whenever you suspect it is being used. It seems to be a great way to alienate yourself from the rest of the investing community of whatever market you are in. Bigger Pockets forums are a great place to network, share and learn new ideas. Your threats are not welcome and from reading most of the other posts on this thread, neither is your company.

        • Jason, I made no threats. If you disagree, so be it. I agree with you about the uses of BiggerPockets. It was my intent to share my opinion. If you disagree, good luck to you.

    • Tim –

      I agree with the fact that you have to protect your brand, but I really have to disagree with you.

      To say that no one but your company can use the word “ugly” is crazy. That is just a word in the dictionary. All of us buy and market for ugly houses. You can’t trademark a word like ugly and demand that no other business it. Trademarking the name “Homevestors” is something entirely different.

      Thanks for reading.

      • Sharon,

        I do respect your opinion, but the case law on this issue is very clear. Trademark law provides protection for phrases, in connection with a trade/industry. HomeVestors has never lost, and I’d invite any trademark attorney to disagree. I am not here to argue, but I am here to help. I’d recommend you read up on Trademark law prior to advising the readers to violate it.

        The purpose of my post was to simply help investors avoid a headache. HomeVestors does not enjoy the actions, but it is necessary to protect what we have invested in for 17 years.

        If anyone would like a reference to the general Council at HomeVestors, to obtain the paperwork supporting this position, you may contact the legal department at HomeVestors of America, Inc.

        HomeVestors of America, Inc.
        6500 Greenville Avenue #400
        Dallas, TX 75206
        Telephone: 972-761-0046
        Fax: 972-761-9022

        From the corporate webpage:

        “We Buy Ugly Houses and HomeVestors are registered trademarks of our main company HomeVestors of America, Inc. We defend our trademark vigorously. Although some people say imitation is truly the sincerest type of flattery, HomeVestors is not flattered at all when other companies infringe on our trademarks, especially “We Buy Ugly Houses” and “Homevestors.” We make great efforts to protect our HomeVestors® franchise and franchisees by taking fast legal action against individuals and companies using our trademarks who have no business relationship with us that allows them to do so. We enjoy a 100 – 0 record as we have never lost a trademark infringement action.”



        • Tim –

          I can see that you have trademarked “we buy ugly houses”. That does not prevent folks from using the term “ugly houses” in their marketing. That exact phrase isn’t what was trademarked.

          I’m pretty sure people all across America have included a very large number of the words in the English language in their trademarks. So – the rest of us can’t utter those words?

          This post was only for general information on how to branding your company. My final word on this subject is that this is absolutely the wrong place to boast about your company being corporate bullies.


        • Sharon,

          I am sorry you feel me agreeing with you and adding that while building a brand, beware of trademarks makes you think of us as corporate bullies. I am merely trying to help. Just last week, Duncan Wierman advised one of his students to turn over two URL’s with uglyhouse in them.

          Whether you agree with me or not, I don’t think you should call names. i am merely stating documented facts, in an effort to help investors avoid problems. Consider it a speed limit sign. If any of you would like to speed, go ahead. There is nothing stopping you, except the law.

  3. Great article and points Sharon! Definitely have seen the need for branding and making sure the materials are higher quality. There are so many that take the cheap route, and that’s great, but we didn’t want to. We spent the little bit of extra time to create a good logo and have quality printed materials and it has paid off. I’ve had several people tell me the reason they called was because we looked more “serious and professional”. Our materials gave the impression before they even talked to us. While I know some like a more informal approach, we deal primarily with people in preforeclosure who get offers of help all the time. Our goal is for them to believe we will be able to help them in a professional manner.

    • Roy –

      It sounds like you have made great strides in your branding. Congratulations on that. I agree that in most cases people like to do business with folks that appear to be professionals. You don’t have to be a big company to have that appearance either. Just a few tweaks here and there. Thanks.


  4. Sharon – Along with my ventures in real estate, I have spent nearly 25 years in the graphic arts and printing industry, so I enthusiastically agree with you about the importance of a consistent and professional look for all of your marketing materials.

    I think it is especially important for beginning investors to establish themselves with marketing graphics that stand out and promote credibility. Please feel free to take a look at my website (shameless plug), where I have combined real estate investing and graphic design in an attempt to help real estate “newbies”.

  5. There’s lots of food for thought in this post. I’ll definitely be coming back to reference these nuggets. The branding process certainly takes time and effort to refine. My approach has been to commit to it over the long-term, develop a plan of action, and follow through with baby steps daily. Great advice about purchasing your domain name. I’ll have to take action on that.

    Thanks Sharon.

    • Paul –

      Branding is a process and yes it does take time. I would definitely get your domain name ASAP. In come cases you have to add a middle initial, middle name, or change it up in some way.Then I would just start to think about 5 things you can do to improve your brand and work on those. Then pick 5 more. Best of luck.


  6. Hi Sharon,

    what is your point of difference?

    Mine is –

    We solve house problems. If we cant, we know someone who can.

    No Equity?
    Making 2 Payments?
    Ugly House?

    If you dont call us, we cant help.
    I see your tag line, We Buy Houses, We Solve Problems

    Nice point of difference! 🙂

    • Brian –
      It is getting harder and harder to be different. We are all in basically the same business. I don’t have a problem with that where personal branding is concerned, But it is a whole different story for our REI businesses. That is one of my goals this year; to get this nailed down.


  7. Great action steps for building a brand.
    I did put a little more effort into getting a professional logo designed, and then plastered it on everything!
    Have it on nice Polo shirts I’ll where to meetings and appointments, I have pens, notebooks, sticky notes, notepads, mousepads, calculators, address labels, letterhead and even my business checks with it on there.
    People know who I am at the local meetings by picking up on the visual. It also definitely helps reinforce the message.

  8. Sharon,

    Terrific tips! Something else to consider: uniform branding across multiple platforms online, not just with printed materials. It’s so important to convey consistent messages, whether it’s through a blog, videos, even signatures on message boards…

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