The real estate market naturally slows down over the christmas period, and my house hunting for the previous few months hadn't been very fruitful, so I decided to do a letter drop in the are we wanted to buy in. Here's what I wrote:
Hi. My name is Marty Andrews. My wife and I moved to the area about 6 months ago to be closer to family, and been looking for a house in xxxxxxxxx to buy for our young family. We are wondering if you might be interested in having a conversation about selling your home. If not, thanks for reading this far, and please disregard this letter.
We’re open to all sorts of options, from major renovations to homes that are ready to move in. We’re ready to make a decision quickly if needed, but we can also be flexible on long settlement periods if you need time to find another place of your own.
I’d be happy to share what I know about recent sales in the area to help figure out a fair price for your home, or to get some independent advice too if you want to. A direct sale could mean hefty savings on commission and advertising for you.
If you think you might be interested, please call me on xxxx xxx xxx, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with as much or as little detail as you like. I’m happy to explore any option further to see if it is right for both of us.
Thanks for your time.
For a cost of about $25, I created about 400 copies of that letter and dropped it in houses in an area I was interested in. I didn't bother with envelopes. The letters were dropped off on January 1st and 2nd. At the time I did it, I hoped I might get about 0.5% as a response rate.
Now, a couple of weeks later, my response rate has been exactly that. I got one phone call and one email. One of those responses was for a house that I was actually interested in, and from a seller who wasn't otherwise exploring selling. That was great, because I got to have a conversation that I would never have had if I had just waited for real estate listings to appear.
As it turned out, the seller was hoping for too high a price, biased by a valuation he had done about 6 months ago (the market has steadily dropped since then). We both walked away totally relaxed and happy though, as our investment in the conversation was virtually nil.
I'll absolutely try this technique again one day if I'm buying again. It's so simple and cheap, and much more comfortable to have a conversation without an agent trying to influence both parties.