Using direct mail to generate consistent motivated seller leads

It’s no secret to those of us who have been in the Real Estate Investing game for any length of time, that the market has changed a lot over the past 12-18 months. One of the biggest changes has been the increased challenge for Real Estate Investors to find quality investment grade inventory to flip! Back a few years ago deal were plentiful since there were tons of REO’s (Bank Foreclosures) on the RMLS to bid on,  HUD  homes (FHA Foreclosures) that you could simply place bids online for, and lastly foreclosure auctions that were bursting at the seams with screaming deals that could be had for $1 over the opening bid amount…….but that is not the case anymore! Foreclosure inventory has started to dry up, and those foreclosure that even resemble a possible deal are being chased down by just about every investor in your respective market and the prices are being bid up to ridiculous amounts. So what does this mean to Real Estate Investors who want to continue to have great success in 2014 and beyond…..? Well the answer is learning how to generate your own flip inventory, and there are a number of different ways that you can do that. In my opinion however, there is one strategy that is far superior to the rest both in terms of costs and results…….and that strategy is Direct Mail!
You see, direct mail is a strategy that works in every market if done properly. So I believe this is the most important marketing strategy that real estate investors should not only learn about, but also be putting to work in their business.

So without any further introduction lets jump into today’s blog post: Using direct mail to generate consistent motivated seller leads for your real estate investing business!

Direct Mail vs. Other Methods

A few years back I was buying most of the houses that my company flipped through the local foreclosure auctions — relationships that I had made with REO listing agents in my area, and other fixer type listings off the MLS. During the time period of 2008 to around 2011, these strategies were producing plenty of discounted houses for my company to buy and flip. But I knew that those days would be numbered as the economy started to improve, and foreclosure inventory began to work its way through the system and eventually to dry up.

Fast forward to today and buying deals at the local foreclosure auctions are few and far between due to all of the increased competition on any given day, not to mention the fact that there are a much smaller number of houses that are actually being auctioned off. Then on the MLS finding an REO deal (or any deal for that matter) has become quite a challenge in most markets (mainly because the MLS is where just about every investor looks for a deal these days).

Now don’t get me wrong, there are still deals that can be bought using both of these strategies. But I can guarantee you will likely have to pay significantly more for a deal bought at auction or off the MLS, than a deal bought by using direct mail (and, yes, I know not all deals are the same, but I am trying to make a point about how you can generally get a larger discount on properties purchased through direct mail).

Archery competition

Which competitor can hit the bull’s eye?

You see the biggest difference between buying houses through the conventional methods like the MLS & auctions vs. dealing directly with home sellers via direct mail is competition! When a deal is listed on the MLS every investor in town will likely be submitting an offer, and when a low opening bid is posted at the foreclosure auction, you can bet every investor down there will be bidding on that house!

But if you find a deal using direct mail, its extremely unlikely that many (and most of the time any) other investors know about it yet! You see direct mail allows you to find these “Golden Deals” before any of your competition even knows they exist!

But there is also a downfall to direct mail, and that is that it can be a much more challenging strategy for many investors to use. And because of that there is a rather small percentage of investors who use it to generate deals, and an even smaller percentage of investors who are actually good at it!

So in this article I am going to try and continue convincing you not only why you should be using direct mail in your business to generate big profit deals (with little to no competition), but also how to use it properly so that you get the results you hope for!

The Four Parts of Direct Mail

There are four major parts to using direct mail successfully, and those four parts all need to work together in order for direct mail to be a reliable and profitable lead source for your business.

  1. Who you are mailing (your list of homeowners)
  2. What you are mailing (the marketing piece you are sending)
  3. Your salesmanship, which in my opinion is the “X Factor” that causes some people to be successful and most others to fail.
  4. Consistency, which is the one which proves the most challenging for investors.

Now let’s take a closer look at each of these four parts, so that you can better understand how to use them properly when sending out direct mail.

The List

This is the beginning of every direct mail campaign, and without a good list of potential sellers you have nothing.

There are a ton of different lists out there that you could potentially mail to, but I would say the one talked about the most, and probably mailed by every new user of direct mail first, is Absentee Owners.

Personally, I hate this list.

Why? Because everybody and their mother that decides they want to get into using direct mail starts by mailing this list. Then when they don’t get a ton of amazing leads from their first mailing they quit. Sound familiar?

Wish list

Some lists just aren’t relevant to finding deals


You see these potential sellers in pretty much any given market get mail all the time from newbie investors that say that want to buy their house, so they are almost immune to this type of marketing. This means your “we buy houses” postcard or letter likely goes straight into the trash or you will get a nasty voice mail telling you not to ever mail them again.

You see, the key to mailing a good lists is to source the ones that not everybody mails to. In addition you want to source a list that gives each name and address a better chance of actually being motivated. Just because someone doesn’t live at an address (Absentee Owner) doesn’t imply that they are at all motivated. That just makes sense, right?

So what lists should you mail to then? Here are a few that I think would give you the highest chance of success:

  • Probate and/or The Inherited Property List
  • Driving For Dollars (custom list created by you….this is the best list you can get)
  • Code Violations List
  • Tax Delinquent List
  • High Equity & Long Term Ownership
  • Home owners over the age of 65 + High Equity (this and #5 can overlap a bit)
  • Entire Farm Area (saturation list)
  • Notice of Default List

These lists are all ones that I have had a lot of success mailing within my own business over the past few years. Just be sure to think outside the box when coming up with lists that you could mail. There are a number of other obscure lists that I mail as well that have been great for generating seller leads.

But remember — if you can think of a reason why someone could be motivated to sell, then try to find a list of people that would be in that same situation (i.e. behind on property taxes, hence the tax delinquent list; Inherited Mom or Dad’s house, hence probate).

Also keep in mind that the harder a list it to generate or find, the better your response rate will likely be. The reason being is that most other investors will not put in the work to get the list. So keep this in mind when you are deciding on which list(s) you are going to mail moving forward.

Your Marketing Piece

Once you have established the list(s) that you are going to start sending Direct Mail to, you then have to determine what kind of marketing piece you are going to be sending to each list. I consider there to be 3 main types of marketing pieces that Real Estate Investors use on a regular basis:

  1. Postcard
  2. Printed letter
  3. Handwritten letter (often referred to as the Yellow Letter)

Generally speaking your response rate will be highest with handwritten letters, then printed letters and lastly postcards.

Now besides picking what your marketing piece will be, the most important part of this whole process is what your marketing piece says, or your “sales copy”.

I have consulted with many Real Estate investors who are having problems getting direct mail to work for them, and one of the main reasons is because their sales copy and packaging sucks! You need to remember that you have peoples attention for just a split second or the mail piece will go into the garbage. Then once they open it you only have their attention for about another 3 – 5 seconds before they are over it.

This is why handwritten “yellow letters” work so well for a lot of investors. The envelope intrigues the person you mailed it to enough for them to open it, and then the sales copy is super simple. For example most handwritten letters state something like:

My name is Joe Smith and I am interested in purchasing your house located at 123 main street. Please call me at (xxx)-xxx-xxxx if you have thoughts about selling.

My suggestion is to utilize these same principles when sending postcards and printed letters as well.

Also remember to make the letter about them as much as possible and not you! Nobody cares that you are the best “house buying company” around. They only care about what is going on with them, so write your sales copy to address their needs and situation.

Benton-Hatch letter (1842)

Handwritten letters pique people’s curiosity

Talking With Sellers — or Salesmanship

Once you have mastered the art of getting your phone to ring on a consistent basis with motivated sellers, now the real work begins. This is the process of sifting through all of the incoming leads to determine which ones are a waste of time, and which ones could potentially be a deal.

On a side note, if you don’t know values in your farm area like the back of your hand, then I suggest you figure them out ASAP! Otherwise you will end up wasting a ton of time on leads that should go straight into the garbage.

Once you are able to figure out which leads are worth pursuing and which are worthless, its time to go to work. Very rarely do we get a seller that just calls us up and tells us they want X for their property, where X is some amount we are happy to pay. It does happen from time to time, but it’s the exception and definitely not the rule. So for the majority of your “good” leads you are going to need to talk with the seller, build rapport, try and justify your price and then negotiate!

This is the part of the process that separates the men from the boys because the honest truth is, most investors absolutely suck at this part of the process! This is why I can tell 10 people exactly how we use direct mail in my own business to generate tons of deals, and then maybe only 1 or 2 of them would have any success using the same system in their business.

You see, this is the part that everyone overlooks, and rarely do people actually take the time to evaluate and work on their salesmanship. This business is about real estate, but it’s also about people, and the better you are with people, the more successful you will be with real estate.

Tucker Merrihew - House Flipping and Direct Mail Marketing

Now, with that said, the key to getting good at this part of the process is just practice! Everyone is going to at least suck a little bit when they first start talking with sellers, but the thing that sets those that become successful apart from the rest, is that they continue to talk with sellers and practice getting better in each interaction that they have.

I can’t tell you how many houses we have bought (and for substantially less money than what our competition offered) just because the seller liked us better and really wanted to do business with us.

In fact just yesterday I talked with a seller on the phone that we are under contract with, and he told me he had an offer for 15K more than what we offered, but he decided to go with us anyways because he really liked us and they way we do business (i.e. conducting ourselves in a professional and likable manner).

You see this part of the process is the X Factor that will ultimately determine if you will be successful dealing directly with home sellers or not. If not then you will probably retreat to buying homes off the MLS and through realtors, but if you do become good at this then you will forever be able to write your own paycheck!


The last thing I am going to talk about and the part that most investor really struggle with is consistency! This means you can’t just do one mailing one time, or two mailings 6 months apart. This means you have to set a consistent mailing schedule to your list(s) and make sure to meet that schedule and continue to send out your mailers.

Most investors will send out one round of mailers, then not get a deal and chalk it up as a waste of money. I’ll be honest — the first big mailer I sent out cost me almost $3,000 and I didn’t get 1 deal! Now, let me tell you, that sucked! But I kept going!

I then changed my list, changed my marketing piece and sent out smaller rounds of mail until I began to get a decent response. Then I began to grow the number of pieces I sent out, the number of lists I was mailing to, and before you know it here we are a few years later and we are sending out thousands and thousands of mail pieces each month.

And the best part? Those mail pieces bring in super profitable deals like clockwork, month in and month out! This is the part in the process where you need to have faith not only in yourself, but also in the fact that this strategy alone has made many many Real Estate investors incredibly rich. So why shouldn’t you be one of them?

Putting Direct Mail to work for you!

Now that we have gone over what I consider to be the four major parts that work together to make you a successful direct mail marketer, now its time for you to start putting direct mail to work in your business!

I’m sure you are probably asking yourself, is managing direct mail campaigns a lot of additional work for your business?

Well the answer is yes it can be, but that is why so few investors actually put in the work needed to master it.

Just remember — if it was easy then it wouldn’t be worth doing. Although it does get much easier the more you do it (and the more you can systematize it), I can say without a doubt that mastering the art of direct mail to buy houses was the one skill that transformed me from being an average investor who hopes too make six figures a year, to one that expects to make well into the seven figures a year.

Now get off our duff and start using direct mail to explode your profits and deal flow in 2014!

Please feel free to leave any comments or questions below, and we will do our best to answer them for you. Also keep an eye out for a future Podcast Episode where we will dive even deeper into this topic in order


Author: Tucker

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  1. Well said Tucker.
    I love direct mail. The key is “little to no competition”!!

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    • Good read Tucker! Always packed full of great information. Love the straight forward, “Real Deal” talk. Keep em coming bro!

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      • Tucker

        Thanks for the compliments!

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  2. Thanks for laying this out and pulling out the critical path items to success. My biggest takeway here is to have faith in the fact that consistency will pay off in the end (with good lists of course). Here’s to an awesome 2014 and thanks for working to help others generate success. What goes around comes around!

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