We've covered previously how you and your real estate agent can use creative techniques to find and buy an unlisted property. These strategies include calling and sending letters to home owners in your preferred locations. Done in the right way, both methods work extremely well. Both afford you the opportunity to find the right property, negotiate with the owner, and close on your new home without any competition from other buyers. In this market of low inventory and high demand, both strategies give you a big advantage over the competition. Not only that, buying an unlisted home is a bit of an adventure and can be a lot of fun.
A good old-fashioned postcard offers another creative avenue for finding and buying an unlisted property. A strategically crafted post card is the preferred technique if your target market includes several neighborhoods over a fairly large geographic area. Below we offer some tips for an effective postcard, along with examples from a successful campaign we ran this summer. Note: for client privacy reasons, we've omitted personal information from the postcard examples.
Tips for Using a Postcard to Find and Buy a Home
The tips below offer step-by-step instructions to help you and your buyer agent implement an effective Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) postcard campaign. Every Door Direct Mail offers an affordable and very effective way to reach your target audience in your target location. Rather than use a list of addresses, EDDM uses postal carrier routes to define a target market. Once you've identified the carrier routes for your campaign, the USPS will deliver your post card to every household located within your chosen routes. At just over 18 cents per post card, the postage fee is very reasonable.
Step 1: Define Your Geographic Market
First, define your geographic market based on your home buying goals and the USPS carrier routes in your city. The US Postal Service provides a map which you can use to identify your routes and calculate your postage. The screenshot below shows how I've used the map to identify a route within my target 53705 zip code. In this example, the postage is $71.55 for delivery to 391 addresses within the carrier route highlighted in purple. Use this map to select all of the carrier routes to be included in your campaign.
Step 2: Create Your Postcard Message
Here are 3 tips for an effective postcard message. The example below incorporates all of these tips.
- Keep your message short and sweet and explain clearly why you're sending out your postcard.
- Create your message as if you are writing a short letter, from you the buyer. This adds to the authenticity of your message and increases response rate. Your message should not be one from your realtor saying, "I have a buyer for your home". This reduces authenticity and decreases response rate.
- Give the recipients of your postcard an easy way to contact both you and your real estate agent. Some people will prefer to contact you. Others will prefer to contact your agent. To avoid the potential for unwanted spam, we recommend you create an email address which you will use for your postcard campaign only.
Step 3: Design and Deliver Your Postcards
Contact PC Reprographics out of Scottsdale, Arizona. PC Reprographics is a full service design and print shop. It also doubles as a US Post Office. They will design your postcard for you, print the number of copies you need, and then arrange to have your post cards mailed to all of the households within your selected carrier routes. Their design services are excellent, and their costs are very competitive. They will create an over-sized, high-quality post card that will generate results. Our real estate team has used their services many times, and we cannot recommend them highly enough. Below is one example of their fine work.
Step 4: Track and Respond to all Postcard Responses
You'll start receiving responses as soon as your post cards are delivered. Some home owners will contact you. Others will contact your realtor. Your realtor can create a simple Google spreadsheet which you can use to jointly manage all inquiries. This process requires you and your agent to have a great working relationship. In essence, you need to work together as a team. Here's an example of a simple tracking spreadsheet.
Step 5: View Properties and Write your Offer
Many of the responses you'll receive will be from home owners who have been thinking of selling but have not gotten around to putting their selling plan in place. Other responses will be from home owners whose properties are just about to hit the market. With either party, you and your agent will have the first opportunity to see and make an offer on the home.
There's a good chance that the seller of your future home has not entered into a listing contract with a real estate brokerage. In this case the seller will likely decide to either hire an attorney or represent himself. Either way, your buyer agent can prepare a market analysis and review it with the seller to keep the seller's expectation about market value in check.
At the same time your buyer agent can discuss the benefits of this "quiet sale" with the seller:
- The seller benefits by not paying a listing side commission and by not going through the extensive process of getting his home ready for sale.
- The buyer benefits by having the first opportunity to buy the home that's the best fit for her needs.
- The agent benefits because the post card campaign doubles as marketing and demonstrates the agent's commitment to customer service.
By setting a tone of "win/win/win" for all parties, your agent lays the groundwork for a successful negotiation that helps you accomplish all of your goals.
One More Tip for Finding and Buying an Unlisted Home
Use the same message you create for your postcard and post it to the social media websites for your targeted neighborhoods. For example, many local associations use either Facebook or Nextdoor as a way to share information throughout the neighborhood. If you have a friend who lives in one of your preferred subdivisions, she can post your message for you in order to get the word out about your home buying goals. Patience and persistence win out in a challenging sellers' market. Cast a wide net, and you'll come out on top!
Dan Miller, REALTOR
Mad City Dream Homes & RE/MAX Preferred