How to Successfully Market to Homes in Pre-Foreclosure

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Sign Of The Times - Foreclosure
Image by respres via Flickr

Article Updated 5/9/09; The piece was initially written in March, 2006.

In this post we share some ideas about finding and contacting owners of homes in pre-foreclosure. As the housing market remains shaky, there are countless opportunities for investors to find great deals. Targeting pre-foreclosures is just one strategy you should have in your arsenal; remember to focus on expanding your investor toolkit.

The Three Marketing Options for Pre-Foreclosures

  1. Door Knocking – This method is terribly time consuming and represents the option that will have the lowest likelyhood of ending in a deal. On the plus side, getting out and door knocking will help you to identify the characteristics of abandoned houses.
  2. Prospecting with phone calls
    You’re going to spend a lot of time calling people who’se numbers are no longer working . . . in fact, Jim claims that this method yields only about a 30% response as far as listed numbers go. The ones you do talk with usually aren’t happy to be on the phone with you, and more likely than not, will end up cursing you out. Fun!
  3. Sending Mailings
    BY FAR, the best way to market to foreclosures is by doing mailings! The idea is not to focus on those owners who are still living in their home, but those who no longer live there. The ones that respond are just icing on the cake.

A Focused Approach to Using Pre-Foreclosure Mailings

The idea is to have the post office tell YOU where the ABANDONED houses are, for just .44 cents!!!

Abandoned owners have no emotional ties left and once you find them, nearly 100% of the time they will sell for payoff. Here is a list of steps you must take to be effective in your snail-mail marketing:

  1. Use plain white legal size envelopes. – Bright colors piss owners off as they think that you are bringing attention to them.
  2. Use a regular 1st class stamp – A metered stamp looks impersonal, so stick to a physical stamp.
  3. HAND WRITE the name & address and don’t list “or current resident” – In fact, have a female do that part. According to Jim, women get a 50% better return rate than men in his market. Supposedly the hand writing is less intimidating.
  4. The return address must be a home street address and NOT a PO Box or work address – In addition, do not put your name on it. If they see a name and they don’t know you… it gives them a reason to not open it.
  5. Use a stamp that says, “RETURN SERVICE REQUESTED” – This is an extremely important step. Even though it is a 1st class letter, the post office is slow to return letters without it. Supposedly, 15% of all the foreclosed houses are abandoned. In fact, 30% of the time the post office will return the letter with the owner’s forwarding address printed on the envelope!

Following these steps should get you between a 2% and 8% return call rate on top of 10-15% returned letters to follow up on. Just make sure the letter you write is good.

About Author

Joshua Dorkin

Joshua Dorkin is a serial entrepreneur, investor, podcaster, publisher, educator, and co-author of How to Invest in Real Estate. He started BiggerPockets to help democratize the real estate investing landscape for himself and others, aiming to make it accessible for everyone, regardless of income or education. Today, BiggerPockets is the premier real estate investing website online with over one million members and reaching over 70 million people with the message of financial freedom through real estate investing. Joshua, along with his wife and three daughters, make their home in Denver, Colorado, and spend any time they can traveling, exploring, and adventuring. Read more about Joshua’s story in 5280 and


  1. Dang! That’s an impressive site. Now my site pales in comparison to BiggerPockets & CornerOffice.

    I’d be interested in doing some brainstorming with both owners as well as prohabber to see what we can come up with.

  2. Raymond Min on

    Anyone have any preforeclosure letters that I can use for mailing? Something that doesn’t sound like a vulture is trying to steal their house away from them?

  3. Raymond Min on

    Another question is, I have run into vacant property but I have no idea how to call them to find out about their property. Based on the address, I can get the owner’s names but cannot get their phone numbers or way of contacting them. Any advice?

  4. What state are you in?
    Tracking down homeowners that have walked away is actually pretty easy. is among my favorite web sites for searching for owners. *click on the link in the public links page on my website and you get 100 bonus searches when you sign up.
    It is important to know what states are covered on publicdata.
    Do what the US Marshalls do when searching for escaped convicts….. they don’t look for them! They look for everyone else that knows them.

  5. How difficult is it to convince someone to contract for you to simply take over their mortgage payments (when they are in pre-foreclosure)? There are scam artists seeking “service fees” to give you listings under this premise.

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