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Tips for Marketing to Motivated Sellers

by Sharon Vornholt on January 7, 2014 · 18 comments

Marketing to Motivated Sellers

I have considered myself to be a pretty good marketer for 20+ years. I can actually remember the time when all marketing was done face to face, by using direct mail or with ads in places like TV, radio, and newspaper (before the internet).That was the way marketing was done. It was all about repetition and building relationships through the principle of “know, like and trust”.

Where marketing is concerned today, some things haven’t changed all that much. The person that has managed to establish that “know, like, and trust relationship” with motivated sellers will be the one to nail down the property just about every time.

There will always be those sellers motivated solely by money. Those folks will pick the newbie with the higher offer over the investor that they know has the experience to help them. Money is their only concern.

Many times those will be the deals that never close because the newbie investor simply made an offer that was too high. Let’s face it; when you are new, it usually shows by your lack of confidence, nervousness or maybe your inability to look the seller in the eyes and make that really uncomfortable low offer. But there are always motivated sellers that will overlook those things and sign on the dotted line just because of the higher offer.

Working with distressed sellers is a “one and done” process in most cases. There won’t be any repeat business. You may occasionally run across a seller that has multiple properties they want to sell at the same time, but most of my business with motivated sellers of distressed properties involves just one house.

What Happens When that Deal Tanks?

When that inexperienced investor finds that they can’t find a wholesale buyer or possibly even a lender that will work with them because they have offered too much for the house, they will have no choice but to back out of the deal unless they can get the seller to come down on the price. This is your time to step in.

If you did a good job with the seller in the “know, like and trust” department this is the time you will get a call from that seller. In most cases they will ask you to match the other guy’s price. And, this is always the time when you explain to them that this isn’t possible and give them the reasons. If you have built their trust, they will most likely accept your offer at this point. But if they still aren’t able to come to your terms, be sure to leave the door open for them to call you again. Wish them well and let them know you would like to be their plan B if plan A doesn’t work out.

The Differences in Marketing to Distressed Sellers VS Other Sellers

Different types of marketing strategies and tactics work better for various types of sellers. If you are a real estate agent for instance, you should have some type of marketing to solidify that “know, like and trust” status in your market. Most sellers just don’t wake up and decide to sell today. This is a decision that is made over time (in most cases), so it makes sense for Realtors to have ongoing marketing campaigns geared toward the general public to become well known in their market.

The majority of Realtors I know use a mix of different things like print ads, TV ads on the real estate cable channel, billboards or bench advertising and websites and blogs. They depend heavily on repeat business, so they want to build a nurturing relationship with folks.

Blogs are especially good for real estate agents. With a blog you can build a list of potential future clients, you can keep in touch with by sending them tips and timely articles, and it’s a great way keep your name on the top of their mind. The best part of all is that it’s FREE.

I have even seen bandit type signs on street corners with the agent’s name, company and “house for sale” printed on the sign. I’m sure Realtors don’t think of these like traditional bandit signs, but that is what they are none the less.

Many of these same strategies will work when trying to find distressed sellers, but there are some big differences.

What Works and What Doesn’t Work for Finding Distressed Sellers?

My best strategy for finding motivated sellers of distressed property has always been direct mail sent to very well defined niches. When your postcard or letter hits their mailbox on the day “their pain” has finally gotten to be too much, you will always get the call; your “we buy houses cash” offer always gets their attention. They key point here is to have a good, well defined list. You can have a great marketing piece but if you have a bad list, and you will get terrible results every time.

Not many real estate investors use billboards and benches because of the cost (and folks don’t like looking at them). I almost never see newspaper and TV ads anymore. Every now and then I will see a “we buy houses” ad in the classified section of the newspaper.

Websites can be good if they are optimized and are keyword rich so they can be found easily. I just bought a new domain today; ( You will notice that it is a keyword rich domain.

However, someone that needs to sell a house fast because they are in a distressed situation will never head over to the web and start reading blogs. That just isn’t going to happen.

There is one thing I recommend, and that is to have a blog component on your company website. Having a blog component will allow you to post articles of interest to a seller from time to time. You can also post tips for selling a property fast. In the process this will set you up to be viewed as a credible business person and a source of information. Folks in these types of situations are looking for answers. They want to know what their options are. Offering a resource to them like a free report on “How to Sell Your House Fast” might actually help them to choose you. After reading about everything they need to do to get the house ready to sell to a retail buyer, your free report just might help them decide that they have neither the time nor the money to take on fixing up this distressed property.

One Final Tip

Once you have made it to the closing table, be sure take this one last step.

Send the seller a thank you note with your business card in it. Let them know you enjoyed working with them, and you are always looking for referrals. Ask them to hang onto your business card so they can pass it along if you could be of service to someone they know.

“Take a little extra time to be memorable”.

Photo Credit: iammikeb

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Justin January 7, 2014 at 12:43 pm

“If you did a good job with the seller in the “know, like and trust” department this is the time you will get a call from that seller. In most cases they will ask you to match the other guy’s price. And, this is always the time when you explain to them that this isn’t possible and give them the reasons. If you have built their trust, they will most likely accept your offer at this point. But if they still aren’t able to come to your terms, be sure to leave the door open for them to call you again. Wish them well and let them know you would like to be their plan B if plan A doesn’t work out.”
Pure Gold Sharon!


Sharon Vornholt January 7, 2014 at 2:38 pm

Thanks Justin.

I have found that using that strategy to tell folks up-front that’s it’s OK to call you if things don’t work out, actually works great. They don’t have to be embarrassed to call you when their “plan A” bombed. Always leave the door open.



Michael Sadler January 7, 2014 at 1:44 pm

Great tips on how to build a relationship Sharon.

I think it’s important to take steps to be memorable and trusted.


Brian Gibbons January 7, 2014 at 1:53 pm

Sharon, you are one of the finest REIs on Bigger Pockets.

See Sharon’s blog –

I always jump on your posts.

REI is a people business, like selling insurance. You need to know the people, like them, earn their trust.

Speed Of Trust by Stephen Covey’s son is awesome.

Happy New Year!


Sharon Vornholt January 8, 2014 at 11:06 am

Brian –

That is so nice for you to say that, and thanks for the shout out for my blog. I am always looking for good books, and I haven’t read that particular one so I will definitely check it out. Thanks for the recommendation.

You won’t get very far if you don’t get good at the know, like and trust part of this business.



Brian Gibbons January 8, 2014 at 11:35 am

You are welcome.

As one REI Coach to another, I offer you this…

Amazing resources to help you motivate coaching students or to keep you inspired.


Martin Cortez January 7, 2014 at 2:19 pm

Postcards do work extremely well, and I have had success mailing to owners of houses who have been cited by my city’s Code Compliance department. I was able to obtain an Excel file simply by calling and asking for a list.

These owners usually have houses that are vacant, vandalized or in some state of serious disrepair and therefore may be more motivated to sell. A memorable postcard should do the trick in getting these owners to call you.


Sharon Vornholt January 7, 2014 at 2:39 pm

Michael –

When you take the time to make a good and memorable first impression whether it is on the phone or in person, it sets you apart from most of your competition. It’s such a small thing that pays back such big rewards and yet most folks don’t do it.



Sharon Vornholt January 7, 2014 at 2:41 pm

Martin –

I have great luck with postcards. I haven’t worked that particular list, but I think I might just give it a try. Thanks for the suggestion.



Martin Cortez January 8, 2014 at 11:47 am

No problem. Here are some postcards that may fit into the “memorable” category:


Gary Parker January 9, 2014 at 1:34 am

I guessed Sharon wrote this article even before i got to the URL she purchased. I really like reading your stuff. So much so I can tell when you are the author. Oh and I like the new picture :) I hope you write more in the future about your web site That is one area I am not doing that well in. Thanks again Sharon !


Sharon Vornholt January 9, 2014 at 6:52 am

Gary –

There are just so many pieces to a business, and real estate is no different. Buying the URL is the easy part; getting traffic to it is another story. I will keep you updated.

If anyone wants to contribute the ideas that have worked best for them I would love to hear them. I do have someone that posts on Craig’s List for me, but truthfully that hasn’t really worked that great. Thanks for reading Gary.



Dev Horn January 9, 2014 at 10:56 am

Love this article! You GET marketing, Sharon. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experiences.


Sharon Vornholt January 9, 2014 at 2:34 pm

Hey Dev –

I’m not sure why I can’t tag you.

I have spent a lot of years marketing. There are a couple of things I know for sure; you never know it all, and you’d better be ready to change your marketing when the market changes. I know you have a lot of experience so this won’t be news to you. Thanks for reading.



Rachel January 9, 2014 at 9:22 pm

Great topic Sharon!

I definitely hear you — marketing can be a very daunting task for many beginners. It can seem confusing and frustrating navigating through unchartered waters. I am constantly bewildered at how some folks try to emulate the systems of others when it completely boils down to the individual and personality. It seems that personal development is underrated and overlooked in our arena yet is the most valuable piece to the puzzle — knowing oneself.

What may work for one person may not work for someone else and vice versa. We have a mutual blogger friend who prefers to work with institutions (i.e. banks) rather than individual sellers due to the nature of their personality — banks are much more bottom line and less emotional than the average seller. On the other hand, folks like me and you have had more success with the latter. I guess it’s like the saying goes, “Different strokes for different folks.”

I enjoyed the write-up. Happy New Year! :)


Sharon Vornholt January 10, 2014 at 8:32 am

Happy New Year Rachel-

I think you and I like working with people one on one. Being able to do this is a critical skill that you need to succeed in this business. And like you, I think it is often overlooked or just not viewed as being important. There is just no getting around the fact that at the end of the day this is a people business. We are in the business of solving other people’s problems.

Systems are great, but it all boils down to being able to relationship with folks early on in the conversation. That takes time and practice for some folks when this doesn’t come naturally, but I believe it is something anyone can learn.

Have a great weekend.


Michael January 13, 2014 at 7:04 pm

Good advice Sharon. Bill does a great job in this department & it so true that we get more deals because he builds trust with them and helps in many ways most don’t even think about. What can we do to help you? not what they can do to help us make money.


Sharon Vornholt January 13, 2014 at 8:24 pm

Absolutely Mike. Bill really knows his stuff. We are accountability partners and we just happen to be in the same mastermind group.



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