Response Rates for Direct Mail at Different Times of Year

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Do you track the response you get from your direct mail campaigns each time you send one out? I hope that everyone said yes, because you should be. Tracking your response from each mailing is the only way you can figure out if it’s working like it should. It’s imperative that we spend those precious marketing dollars wisely in our business.

The two main groups of people I mail to regularly are probates and absentee owners.  I have never sent a direct mail campaign out to probates in the month of December for obvious reasons. Previous mailings have also taught me that absentee owners are less likely to respond to your mailing the closer it gets to the holidays. A lot of these folks don’t want to fool with selling a house even if they NEED to sell it.  It has been my policy not to mail to absentee owners past the first week of December, and not to mail probates at all in December for as long as I have been in this business.

What about January?


I have always resumed my mailings for probates at the very end of January, typically around the last week of the month. The last thing someone wants to get in the mail at the first of January is a reminder that their loved one wasn’t here to share in the joy and celebration of the holidays.  So like previous years, I held my big mailing until last week. One half went out the last week in January, and the other half will go out this week.  I have already gotten a couple of calls that look promising.

Absentee Owners

Absentee owner mailings were always started up again around the middle of January. Until last year this schedule always seemed to work for me.  What I noticed both last year and this year in January was that I got a terrible response rate from that mailing. I would even go so far as to say it was a dismal failure, not to mention a waste of money. I got very few calls on a pretty big mailing.

I am really at a loss to explain this. When it happened last year, truthfully I thought it was a fluke. Now that I had the same experience last month, I’m not really sure what the answer is. Is it that folks just aren’t ready to deal with those “extra, unwanted” houses at that particular time of the year? Or is there another reason? I really don’t know.

If anyone has had a similar experience I would love to hear about it.

About Author

Sharon Vornholt

Sharon has been investing in real estate since 1998. She owned and operated a successful home inspection company for 17 years. In January of 2008 she took the leap of closing her business to become a full time real estate investor.


  1. Jeff Brown

    Hey Sharon — Been direct mailing since Reagan’s second term, and the timing thing has bugged me too. There seems to be no rhyme or reason sometimes. My last mailing would have to improve to merely be categorized as a dismal failure. 🙂 But we think we now know why. What’s really galling is when a letter produces like Babe freakin’ Ruth, then generates nothing but deafening silence the next time out. Ggrrrrr

  2. What type of response rate have you received from your recent mailings? I sent out 2200 absentee owner postcards this month and got 2 calls. I have 1 appointment this weekend that I think has about a 5% chance of being a deal.

    • Erik –

      I normally get about a 4-6% response rate. Only send out the number of pieces that you can afford to send out EVERY month. Your response goes up with each mailing. If you cannot afford to send out 2200 each month, break that up into two groups and send them out every other month. That would be better than not sending out anything for a long period of time.

      I mail every month. Another thing would be to narrow down your list. I take out bad areas/zip codes and also houses that are too expensive to wholesale or rehab. You want to be sending to those folks that have bread and butter to median or average priced properties. I also want them to have at least 40-50% equity in the house. That is my model because I am a wholesaler. Someone that flips lease options might not need that much equity. It is better to mail to a smaller list every month, than to mail to a big list sporadically. I hope that helps. Your response will definitely go up with subsequent mailings.

      I did a post on Bigger Pockets a while back on direct mail that had those exact response rates in it.

      • Sharon,
        I have had good luck off and on with direct mailing myself. I agree with the fact that you need to dedicate a certain dollar amount and consistently mail with that amount each month. But even with this I am not doing the amount of business I would like to do. So what I was wondering is do you expand and ramp up your mailing, or do you peruse additional avenues for bringing in leads/deals? I know this may beg a larger subject such as “An overview of marketing”, but wanted to know what your thoughts are.

        • Shay – I did see better results with more direct mail pieces sent. How many are you sending and at what frequency?

          I do think you have to have more than one strategy for best results, and I am going to be doing some other articles on marketing strategies. One in particular I am doing now as kind of an “experiment”. I’m going to write about that one in this week’s article. Look for it on Monday.

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