Real Estate Investing Basics

How and When to Follow Up with Distressed Sellers

Expertise: Real Estate Investing Basics, Personal Development, Flipping Houses, Real Estate Marketing, Real Estate News & Commentary, Business Management
60 Articles Written

Persistence, persistence, persistence. I tell myself and others that this is largely the key to success, in real estate and other worthy endeavors. So why do I let the human side of me creep in to hinder my follow up?

“What if they don’t like me because I keep calling them?”
“What if they’ve already found a solution?”
“They haven’t called/emailed me back ever, they’ve probably moved on”
“I’m pretty busy this week, I can follow up with them next week”

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And so it goes, delay after delay until the lead dissolves into the ether of Where Leads Go to Die.

Since this point is so critical, especially when dealing with distressed sellers, I wanted to confront the fears and justifications that decay your very pipeline.

1) How Much is Enough?

I told one of my marketing assistants once “unless they explicitly tell you to put you on the Do Not Call List, we’ll keep in touch with them!” I do not hound people, but I love to remind them I’m still around.

With that, a question I'm often proposed with is, how many times should I try to reach someone if they're facing foreclosure? The long of the short of it is, their mood changes, so, follow up often during the pre-foreclosure process. Feelings of guilt, denial, anger, resentment, and hostility can often bubble up when owners feel threatened by the fact their home is being taken.

I try to make it a habit to follow up with them 3-7 times until I confirm the house has been sold, one way or another.

2) How to Follow Up?

I posted a blog awhile back about what to ask when you’re speaking with distressed sellers. Part of it was, gathering as much contact information as possible. Phones may be disconnected, emails may bounce, and addresses may change, so gather as many ways to communicate with them as you can.

If they’re not committed to the deal yet, you can also send friendly follow up emails, add them to your newsletter list, door knock them again, or mail them testimonials and a friendly follow up letter.

Ask them how they prefer to communicate. Remember, not much about this process is about you, it’s about them. You’re important to them only because you can solve their problem, so like any good service provider, deliver the goods to them how they prefer. When you do follow up with them, it’s on an invitation basis, so they’re more likely to be receptive.


“Hi John, this is Tracy. We spoke last week about your property on Main street and I had said I would touch base with you this week by phone. I wanted to keep to my promise and see where you are at with making a decision? What questions can I answer to be of help?”

The most important thing to realize is, they are most likely getting inundated with mailers, phone calls, and door knockers just like you. Why the heck would they choose you?

Take a moment and ask yourself, and give yourself an honest answer. (Go ahead, I’ll wait!) Even if you possess a pitch-perfect presentation, winning copy, and brand awareness, if you’re only “touching” your leads once, your success rate plummets, my friend. Often times the magic ingredient, truly, is follow up.

3) Who Else can I Help?

If you’re giving up when a seller tells you they’ve sold their house to someone else, you’re skipping an opportunity. Although it may feel disappointing to know you didn’t seal the deal, I always like to add…

“Well I appreciate you taking the time to speak with me John. I wish all sellers were responsive like you! By the way, although I couldn’t help you with this house, do you know of anyone else that could use my assistance? Please keep my information and think of me as a resource if you know anyone else facing foreclosure. I’ll be around!”

(Feeling daring? Ask them what made them decide to choose Company X over you! Customer feedback can help you improve, so thank them for their honesty and consider the feedback they’ve provided.)

And, continue to follow up with them. Even if it’s just a monthly newsletter, yearly postcard, whatever, the point is to stay in touch. You don’t have to have deep pockets to send an email, postcard, or phone call a few times a year, so the cost issue can be greatly reduced.


People will get perturbed at you in some instances, but that can’t be avoided. They’re often times resentful of their lenders/situation, and tired of being hounded by people wanting to “steal” their home.

But, in my experience 98% of the time people are still courteous. If they already found a solution, you can still follow up with them just to stay top of mind. If they’ve never gotten back in touch with you, just send them a follow up once a year if you know the property is sold. I’ve had people call me a year later after I’ve sent a mailer, on another home they owned. And if you’re too busy to follow up with them, make a priority in your schedule to cultivate these leads. Even if it’s just 30 minutes, cram as much as you can into that time, but by all means, keep up the follow up!

We’ve addressed the push backs, and provided the how to. No more excuses readers, your assignment is to stretch your outreach a little more! It’s not just about your immediate leads, it’s about your persistence, their recognition of your presence, and thus elevating your sphere for future referrals.

How often and how do you follow up with your leads? What’s held you back from following up more?
Photo: Piotr Paw?owski

    Glenn Schworm
    Replied over 7 years ago
    Good info Tracy, far to many people plant the seeds, then don’t stick around to water them into a flower!
    Tracy Royce
    Replied over 7 years ago
    Thanks Glenn, I certainly agree. We get so busy and think we can let go of this critical task.
    Lee Keadle
    Replied over 7 years ago
    Since home values have been steadily coming up in the past year, now is a great time to keep in touch with owners who were previously underwater (or treading water, which is what I like to call a break-even situation) with their mortgages. I think owners really appreciate an email or phone call every 6 months or so updating them on prices within their neighborhood. It seems like there’s been nothing but bad news to tell them over the past couple of years. But now, we can share how values are climbing. A lot of people who couldn’t sell a year ago now can – or they’re on their way to being able to sell and move up, etc. in the next year or so.
    Jeff Brown
    Replied over 7 years ago
    Hey Lee — My son just listed a local home that fits what you just illustrated. They’ll now be able to sell with either very slight money out of pocket, or even some net proceeds.
    Tracy Royce
    Replied over 7 years ago
    That’s a great idea Lee, and I’m sure separates you from the other practitioners. Good advise!
    Brandon Foken
    Replied over 7 years ago
    Very timely article, Tracy, as I was just debating last night whether or not I should bug a person who called me a few weeks ago about an inherited house. We met and couldn’t come to an agreement, but I do know she is in the process of being evicted. Thanks for the motivation to give her a call and see where she is living nowadays.
    Tracy Royce
    Replied over 7 years ago
    You’re not bugging her, you’re providing a solution! What I find helps me get over some of the “fear of follow up” is presenting it in such a way that it just seems like we’re just checking in on them. Just seems to soften the tone and soften the blow of rejection if they found another solution 😉
    Melodee Lucido
    Replied over 7 years ago
    Tracy, SUPER important article about a critical part of our biz. In spite of my resistance when I’ve made calls to follow up, at least a couple people will say, “I’m glad you called. I’ve been meaning to [call you back; answer your email ]. We humans are so funny. Some processes inside us don’t get past junior high level insecurities lol! I don’t get why we worry about them being annoyed with us or telling us to go away . . it’s not like they’re going to take a contract out on us or be there at Christmas dinner : / Good to know we’re all human—-even we, who are called inhuman scavengers benefiting off others hardships. I love this article Tracy. I feel less alone in my daily endeavors now realizing that many other of my peers are experiencing similar emotions. My jr high mentality??? “I’m the ONLY one that feels (Or is experiencing) this.” Thanks for helping me to laugh at myself and push forward to give excellent service to those that need it. K, I gotta go make those follow up calls I was procrastinating on : >
    Tracy Royce
    Replied over 7 years ago
    Great feedback Melodee, and thanks for sharing! Like I mentioned in another comment, even re-phrasing the follow up has helped me be able to get over my fears. After all, they’re humans too and we just need to embrace the thought that we’re here to help.
    Brian Park
    Replied over 7 years ago
    I was an investor first and then became a broker too. My new agents used to ask what do I need to do to be successful and I would tell them prospect and followup, if your not going to do both of these you might as well send your license back to the state and save a lot of time and money. Those that did the prospecting but not the followup lasted longer but were holding on by their fingertips. Without adding the followup they couldn’t go to the next level and were often forced to go back to jobs they hated.
    Tracy Royce
    Replied over 7 years ago
    Good to have your insight from an agency perspective, Brian. Just goes to show it’s obviously not an investor business tool, it’s a necessary tool in any business. But your story illustrates the facts that persistence pays, and to follow the basics.