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How To Improve Your Real Estate Direct Mail Marketing Campaign

Written by JD Esajian

How do real estate investors target and capture motivated seller leads?

One of the most underrated marketing practices in real estate investing is utilizing a real estate direct mail campaign. This simple yet effective marketing method continues to be one of the most powerful and proven marketing tools in the real estate investment industry, as it enables investors to not only generate motivated seller leads but convert them into new customers. If for nothing else, this approach to lead generation will cultivate a newfound interest in your business, helping to launch the starting stages of a steady pipeline of motivated sellers in real estate.

For investors looking to build the perfect direct mail campaign, the following provides an in-depth look into direct mail marketing, how it works, and the benefits associated with generating motivated seller leads:

Why Use Direct Mail Marketing?

The best real estate marketers utilize direct mail campaigns to find new leads and effectively grow their businesses. A real estate direct mail marketing campaign will allow you to:

  1. Form Direct Connections: Mail allows you to get in contact with motivated sellers directly, cutting out the need for a middleman. This can make your campaign more personable and help you build a connection with potential sellers.

  2. Distribute A Tangible Resource: Sending a letter in the mail may seem old-fashioned, but the gesture can go a long way. By sending a letter with your contact information, sellers may be more likely to remember you and reach out.

  3. Automate Your Campaigns: There are several platforms online that can help you automate your follow-up letters and track results from each campaign. Research different platforms or consider working with a virtual assistant to better manage the workload.

  4. Achieve Local Results: Direct mail helps you get in touch with people from inside your local market. This can help you secure deals in your area and build up a positive reputation as an investor, thus leading to more clients over time.

  5. Take Advantage Of Seasonality: The real estate market follows seasonal trends, and your direct mail campaign should too. Typically summer is an excellent time to reach interested sellers. Use this information to your advantage and plan campaigns out ahead of time.

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direct mail marketing real estate investors

4 Motivated Seller Leads To Target

The first step as an investors is to identify and appeal to motivated sellers. To do so, a direct mail campaign should be considered. Simply put, a direct mail campaign is a marketing effort that employs promotionally printed pieces of mail, including postcards, newsletters, sales letters, and other marketing material, to target a particular audience. The key to a direct mail campaign is having the right mailing list, as nearly 40 percent of your success hinges on whom you target. To close deals fast, investors should focus their efforts on four types of motivated sellers in real estate: homeowners with delinquent taxes, those going through a personal crisis or need to relocate, and out-of-state landlords. The following highlights several types of targeted lists to choose from:

  1. Expired Listings

  2. Pre-Foreclosure Property Owners

  3. Out-Of-State Landlords

  4. Probates & Inherited Properties

1. Expired Listings

One of the best ways to find motivated seller leads in real estate is through expired listings. This typically occurs when a listed property fails to sell, and the listing agreement between a seller and agent officially ends, producing a highly advantageous situation for investors. At the very least, expired listings represent motivated sellers who not only want to sell their home and can’t, but homeowners skeptical of real estate agents.

To locate a current list of expired listings, investors will need to gain access to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), which may require an agent’s assistance. When targeting motivated seller leads via expired listings, investors should be selective of the properties they wish to take action on. By doing so, real estate investors will cultivate a list of quality properties with the ability to sell fast.

2. Pre-Foreclosure Property Owners

Another motivated seller for investors to target is pre-foreclosure property owners. Generally speaking, these homeowners are between 30 to 90 days late on their mortgage payments and on the cusp of going into foreclosure. As an investor, you want to reach these people before that occurs. Once a property goes into foreclosure, it becomes much more difficult to close a deal.

To target these types of motivated seller leads, investors need to contact title companies in their area and receive a pre-foreclosure list. However, the one drawback is that pre-foreclosure lists are often out-of-date, requiring investors to do their due diligence to ensure their mailing list is current.

“The key is to make sure you are getting the list as close to the date of the lis pendens or notice of default filing,” says Than Merrill. “So always check the date of the filing against the date you actually receive it.”

3. Out-Of-State Landlords

While your journey to real estate gold has just begun, many veteran landlords are burned out and ready to get out. In most cases, these are out-of-state landlords with less of an emotional attachment to their property due to a combination of factors such as distance or hardship. Whatever the reason may be, these motivated sellers represent a great opportunity to find a great deal. There are several places to gain access to out-of-state landlord lists, but investors should begin their search by contacting their local tax assessor’s website or office.

4. Probates And Inherited Properties

Another lucrative opportunity to obtain motivated seller leads is through probates and inherited properties. This legal process consists of transferring the legal title of a deceased person’s property to the intended heirs — and more often than not, it’s followed by the sale of the property.

Investors can access probate records by visiting their local probate court office, commonly referred to in some states as the circuit court, surrogate’s court, or the orphans’ court. It’s important to note that an estate is generally probated in the county where the deceased person lived at the time of their death. Although this approach may seem more time-consuming than others, these types of motivated sellers can lead to not only great deals but less competition.

“There are very few areas where this list can be bought from a list broker. This means you will have very little competition when you market to a probate list,” says Merrill.

Finding the right audience to target is the first step in real estate lead generation, as well as commencing your direct mail campaign. The next step is to begin crafting it.

Direct Mail For Real Estate Investors: What To Consider

The secret ingredient to finding and capturing motivated seller leads in real estate, as well as brand awareness, is consistency. Because there are many ways to market in real estate investing, investors need to research and decide on an approach and commit to it. Too many times, real estate investors start hot with all the enthusiasm in the world until they hit a few snags and eventually call it quits. Remember to plan your work and work your real estate direct mail marketing plan. Although it won’t come easy, it will ultimately pay off in the long term.

When crafting the perfect direct mail campaign, there are four elements every investor needs to consider:

  • Budget: How much are you willing to spend?

  • Marketing: Who is your ideal customer, and how will you go about marketing to them?

  • Testing: How are you monitoring and refining your approach?

  • Tracking Results: What systems do you have in place to track and measure your direct mail responses?

These four elements will not only dictate how you go about building your direct mail campaign but greatly influence the responses you receive. The next step in developing a direct mail campaign is to determine the type of material you’ll use, as well as the type of message, and the following types of direct mail have proven to appeal to motivated sellers:

Top 9 Tips For Sending Real Estate Direct Mail

The good news about real estate direct mail is that it is not considered a heavily competitive marketplace. The bad news is that a large portion of recipients will end up throwing real estate direct mail away before even reading it. A glaring fact about direct mail is that the recipient will automatically assume you are trying to profit from them. In this case, real estate direct mail marketing has to get your point across clearly and concisely. In turn, you will have a higher chance of the recipient reading and even responding to your offer. The main goal of real estate direct mail marketing is to target the right recipients at the right time with the perfect message. Here are 9 useful tips to give you the highest chances of achieving this:

  1. Target The Perfect Audience: If you do not find the perfect audience for your message, consequently, no one will listen. Take a moment and decide just who your target audience is. Are you reaching out to prospective buyers or sellers? Are you targeting high-income or low-income housing? And finally, is your main goal to receive leads, or are you simply trying to build awareness for your services?Once you have all this information, you will be able to target your perfect audience. Remember that every audience has its own problems they are trying to solve, and the best way to get a response is to let them know outright that you are the one who can solve it.

  2. Perfect Timing: Try to get the most information about real estate seasonal trends. Success in direct mail is tied to the predictable trends of real estate. Typically, November through the middle of February are the slowest months for real estate direct mail marketing. A huge uptick tends to happen between March and June. Understanding when recipients will most likely need your services is crucial in determining when to start your real estate direct mail marketing campaign.

  3. Determining Frequency: One of the hardest things to determine in a real estate direct mail campaign is the frequency of sending. You must find the perfect balance to avoid the recipients being overwhelmed, but you also do not want to send mail so infrequently that you miss an opportunity. A good rule of thumb is to send direct mail once a month. You can then continue by experimenting with different frequencies depending on your desired target and trends. For example, higher frequencies can be sent during the busiest months, while lower frequencies can be spread throughout the holiday season.

  4. Hooking Your Audience: Remember you have to get your message across quickly and clearly. The ultimate goal of designing your direct mail is to catch the attention of your audience. Remember to tailor your message to your specific target, as a message too broad or vague usually ends up in the trash at first glance. For example, open with bold text declaring what exactly is you are offering. Use phrases such as “We Buy Houses” or “Sell Your Property With Maximum Exposure!” Make sure you present your message in an easy-to-read font, with eye-catching pictures and your full contact information.

  5. Perfect Formatting: Remember not crowd your direct mail message with too much information. Think of it like a postcard – aesthetically pleasing and easy to read. Only include what services you offer, who you are, how to contact you easily, and a concise call-to-action if possible. Present your phone number, website, and email address; then, your direct mail message will be complete.

  6. Informational Backside: According to USPS, the average time someone spends reading mail is about half an hour. Once your message is clear to your recipient, a good strategy is to create an information backside that will intrigue them. This can be an event list of the city’s happenings in the coming months, more information on the real estate market, or perhaps other services you can provide. This may help your direct mail be taken more seriously as you come across as someone who can provide them with a wealth of information.

  7. Present An Honest Message: A common mistake made in a real estate direct mail campaign is a dishonest message. Promises you can’t keep included in your message can only hurt your reputation and business in the long run. Be honest with your services and the state of the market. Try to avoid hooks like “Your House Will Be The Talk Of The Town!” or “Urgent Message: You Must Sell Now!” These qualify as dishonest as their house will not be the thing on everyone’s minds, and selling your services is not an urgent matter. While these types of messages can catch the attention of your target, they will quickly realize that your dishonesty is only a marketing ploy and dispose of your mail.

  8. Remain Consistent: Marketing anything requires you to be consistent. The time it takes to see an advertisement then pull the trigger on a purchase can be between weeks to even months. In the case of real estate, this is all too true. Remain consistent with your marketing efforts. Determine perfect timing for your market and stick to it. Ultimately, your goal is to always be in your target audience’s mind, so they know who to contact when they do need to solve a problem.

  9. Follow Up: Finally, once you do get contacted, remember to follow up quickly. Nothing is worse than needing someone, and they are not there to help you until weeks on end. A good first impression is to be prompt when a customer first presents their need for you. In turn, you will be realized as someone they will be able to trust. If you take too long, your customers will most likely lose interest and find another person to work with.

real estate direct mail marketing

Real Estate Direct Mail Examples

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular direct mail campaign strategies helping today’s investors:

  • Short Letters: As the name would describe, short letters are used primarily to stimulate interest in potential sellers. These concise letters, generally comprised of no more than a paragraph, are straightforward and to the point to get the seller to call. When first starting out, short letters are a quick way to get your real estate investment business off the ground.

  • Long Letters: This approach is used to not only notify sellers of your pending interest but spell out the many benefits of working with you can provide. For investors, the goal is to inform motivated sellers and enlighten them of how you may be of service to them.

  • Yellow Letters: Unlike the above mentioned, a yellow letter is essentially a handwritten note on yellow lined paper. These real estate yellow letters are very effective because it gives sellers the impression you took the time to sit down and personally write the homeowner.

  • Postcards: Along with being much cheaper, postcards are ideal for targeting motivated sellers in real estate because getting them to read your message is much easier. Rather than forcing them to decide whether to open or not, a postcard spells it out immediately. When using postcards, investors should consider adding a personalized aspect, such as hand-writing your message or using eye-catching stamps.

Yellow Letters Vs. Postcards

Both yellow letters and postcards have their place, but each one is unique in its delivery. Which one will work best for you will depend on what you are looking to get out of your campaign? To help make your decision a little easier, here’s a breakdown of each and what they bring to the table:

Pros & Cons Of Postcards

As perhaps the simplest direct mail piece of them all, postcards represent a great entry point for real estate investors to test the marketing waters. If for nothing else, they offer the least amount of work upfront, as they don’t require envelopes; a small difference, but an advantage, nonetheless. Perhaps even more importantly, postcards do not require the recipient to open an envelope before they can read your message. That means there is a better chance the reader gets your message, which is all you can ask for as a real estate investor.

To break it down, here’s a brief list of pros and cons one can expect from implementing a postcard direct mail campaign:

  • Easy to mass produce

  • Less expensive than other options

  • No need to open

  • Message is viewable immediately

  • Typically a lower response rate

If you are, in fact, considering going the postcard route, there are a few things you need to take into consideration. For starters, you will want to personalize each postcard. That doesn’t mean handwriting the entire message, but it does mean at least handwriting the recipients name and address. In doing so, you may decrease the likelihood of the recipient from ignoring your postcard altogether. You’d be surprised at how far a personal touch can take your message. In fact, people are more likely to be interested in what you have to say if you spend the time to write your message, as opposed to having a printer do all the work.

Outside of the writing itself, I would suggest investing in some unique stamps — anything to garner attention for your piece. At the very least, the addition of a unique stamp will generate some curiosity from the prospect. Remember, the longer they look at your postcard, the better chances your message will have to reach them.

Pros & Cons Of Yellow Letters

Yellow letters are crafted with the idea of being as non-confrontational as possible, as if they were coming from a friend or family member. It’s worth noting, however, that the handwritten nature of yellow letters are their most promising feature. Due, in large part, to the time it takes to write a letter, recipients are much more likely to appreciate the time and effort that went into your campaign; it has a way of making distressed homeowners feel like people instead of a number. More specifically, yellow letters tend to suggest more empathy, and, as a result, have become synonymous with a higher response rate.

Just for clarification, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of a yellow letter real estate direct mail campaign:

  • Non-confrontational

  • Great response rate

  • Difficult to mass produce

  • They have to be opened

  • Take longer to do than postcards

Is Real Estate Direct Mail Marketing Better Than Email?

Think back to sifting through your own email on a daily basis. When you came across a piece of email marketing did you even open it? If you opened it, how much did you read? Perhaps most importantly, with either real estate direct mail marketing or email marketing, did your reading turn into sales? As someone whose viability depends largely on business created through one of these channels, you need to figure out which one will give you the best results.

Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of each.

real estate investor direct mail marketing

Real Estate Direct Mail Marketing Pros

  • Higher response rate: A recent study published by the Harvard Business Review found that direct mail marketing has a higher response rate. All things considered, the whole reason you are marketing in the first place is to turn that marketing into sales, profits and business.

  • Guaranteed visual: Emails can get lost or deleted before they’re ever opened. With direct mail, people touch their mail and feel it in their hands. There is a tactile connection between your message and the intended receiver. They are also more likely to glance over your entire message, even if its next destination is the trash.

  • Taking you from paper to digital: With the advent of QR codes, potential clients can now easily pull out their smart phone, snap the code, and instantly be connected to your website or other marketing materials. From there, the client can just as easily shoot off an email, call you on the phone or research respective listings.

Cons Of Real Estate Direct Mail Marketing

  • Expense: Direct mail is expensive. According to that same study published in the Harvard Business Review, direct marketing can be 100 times more expensive than email marketing. Many small-business owners can find themselves stuffing thousands of envelopes, slapping on thousands of stamps, and paying for all of those envelopes and stamps. There is also the cost of design and printing to consider.

  • Data: How do you know if your postcard is the reason why some of your leads called in? It’s hard to track down if a specific direct mail campaign is driving business, which postcard is most effective or what action is being taken based on your direct mail. You might not even be sure whether your response rate is from a billboard, radio or newspaper ad.

Pros Of Real Estate Email Marketing

  • ROI: For a penny on each marketing dollar, you can send an email. And once you have your email crafted, there is no additional cost to sending that email to more current clients and potential clients. While the response rate might not be quite as high, emails definitely give you more bang for your buck.

  • Data: Do you want to know if your email made it to the recipient? Do you want to know if the email was opened, how much time was spent reading the email or what links were clicked? With an email, all this data and a lot of other crucial information can be yours for the analysis. You’ll know if your clients are reading the email and if they are reading; you’ll know if they are doing anything about what they digested. This can give you insights into what is working in your pitch and what pieces need to be tweaked.

  • The need for speed: Sometimes the speed of implementation is crucial to a specific marketing campaign. Maybe you can’t wait the weeks or months it will take to design, craft and mail your direct marketing. You may need a response quickly, or you might need to beat your competition to the punch. With email, you can quickly craft your message and have it arrive in your prospect’s email box that day.

Real Estate Email Marketing Cons

  • Nobody likes spam: If you thought junk mail was annoying, junk email takes irritation to a whole new level. Everyone is tired of getting ugly, poorly written or predatory emails. Not only are they annoying to sift through, but they can be emotionally off-putting or even offensive to have to read. We’ve all become a little burned-out and smothered from the sheer volume of these poorly executed emails. As a result, we’re masters of quickly deleting and scanning through emails without digesting most of what we see.

  • We like it personal: Emails can feel bland, rote and impersonal. Whereas real estate direct mail marketing can be more visually appealing and give a sense that you took more time to connect with your client. You cared enough to take the time to stuff that envelope, lick a stamp and send it right to their door.


Real estate direct mail can offer you several new leads that will effectively grow your business. Your success rate using a real estate direct mail campaign will depend on a combination of your mailing list, your approach, and your message. A compelling message to generate motivated seller leads should be captivating, as well as empathetic. Done right, the combination will unleash a flood of motivated seller leads in your direction.

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