What to Include in my Letter to Heirs

8 Replies

Hello BPer's,

After years of research on investment properties, I am looking to finally take the plunge! I have come across a home in my city that has been sitting vacant for some time. I did some research through the city tax assessors office and discovered that the home is that of an elderly man who passed a few years back. The City's records show that the house is owned by his heirs. I did my leg work and established just about all of their addresses. I plan on sending a letter to each family member and I am looking for advice on what should be included in the letter. Do I keep it short and sweet and let them know I am interested in potentially buying the property? Do I throw an offer in there? My only worry is it may give them a bad taste and turn them off enough to not respond. I want to captivate them enough that they will want to respond.

Thanks for your suggestions in advance,

Patrick

My mother recently passed and I can tell you that the many, many letters I received from investors have all been extremely irritating.

But, in your case, as it's been a few years, at least it won't be like the others who wrote letters supposedly of sympathy before she was even cold in her grave, then wanting me to sell her property to them for far less than it's value.

Knowing what these people have dealt with regarding the above and possibly a lengthy probate, etc., should be helpful. I would suggest that you don't do any kind of hard sell tactics. If you wrote to me and said something simple like you would be interested in buying the property and to negotiate a fair price, and just leave it at that signing it "Respectfully Yours," it might not be badly received. Then, maybe wait a month and send another one. Short, respectful, straightforward, honest. Expect them to know what the property is worth and that they are brilliant people capable of negotiating.

I've found it so insulting to be approached in a way by investors treating me like I'm an idiot who can't see through the fact they're trying to get property for far less than it's worth and that I wouldn't know any better.  Treat people like you'd want to be treated if you were in their shoes.  Just let them know that if they want to sell, you're interested and are hoping you all can come to mutually beneficial negotiations.

By now, they may no longer be getting letters from investors, so you may have a shot, if you don't turn them off with annoying sales tactics.  Good luck.  Treat them well and fairly and they may even refer you to their friends.

Thanks Sue for sharing your perspective from the receiving end. It can certainly be a touchy subject for the family and of course they all have to be in agreement on the sale of the home. Short and sweet sounds like the ticket!

You want to keep that letter short and friendly. Since it's been a while, I wouldn't even mention the passing of the original owner. "I'm Patrick, I buy homes for cash in your area. Yours came up on one of our lists and I just wanted to see if you had thought about selling. Here is my cell phone. When you call it, you will get me. I am not a big company here to make lowball offers, I am just a local real estate investor who is interested in paying a fair price for your property."

That's a quick version of what I would send. Fair is important and identifying the fact that you know they got a lot of lowballs is important. But it all goes out the window if you go out and then make a lowball offer.

Originally posted by @Jonathan Greene :

You want to keep that letter short and friendly. Since it's been a while, I wouldn't even mention the passing of the original owner. "I'm Patrick, I buy homes for cash in your area. Yours came up on one of our lists and I just wanted to see if you had thought about selling. Here is my cell phone. When you call it, you will get me. I am not a big company here to make lowball offers, I am just a local real estate investor who is interested in paying a fair price for your property."

That's a quick version of what I would send. Fair is important and identifying the fact that you know they got a lot of lowballs is important. But it all goes out the window if you go out and then make a lowball offer.

 With respect, I disagree that this is a good letter.  Think about it.  If you got this letter, would you feel like this is someone you liked, personally?  I don't think so.  It really smacks of a hard sell.

I suggest you think about what kind of letter you would receive well under the circumstances.

For me, it would be something more like, "I'd really like to buy your property at a fair price.  If you are interested in selling, please give me a call at.....

And then, be sure and put their number into your phone and make note of their email address and address, etc., so if they do call you back, you will know immediately who they are, which property they are calling about and where it's located, etc. You don't want them to call you back and then insult them by not knowing who they are or what property they're calling about, etc.

@Sue K. you are responding as an heir just after a loss and this letter was intended for the situation well after the loss described in the post. I understand what you are saying, but they are not the same time frame. This letter is not at all a hard-sell. When you personalize it and make it known you are local, you de-emphasize the hard-sell. As I said, it was a quick version. If directly after a death, I agree it would be much more personal and almost no-sell, but not in the situation described.

Originally posted by @Jonathan Greene :

@Sue K. you are responding as an heir just after a loss and this letter was intended for the situation well after the loss described in the post. I understand what you are saying, but they are not the same time frame. This letter is not at all a hard-sell. When you personalize it and make it known you are local, you de-emphasize the hard-sell. As I said, it was a quick version. If directly after a death, I agree it would be much more personal and almost no-sell, but not in the situation described.

 If you say so.  One day, you may be the one receiving these letters.  Let's see how you think about it then.  I just got another one today.  Hello shredder.

You can learn from what I'm saying or not.  I can't make you become more successful, if you won't listen.  Your loss.

@Sue K. I've been doing this for 30 years. I also was a practicing attorney for 10 years, a prosecutor and criminal defense attorney who negotiated every day for 10 years. Before that I spent most summers helping my dad with estate law and probate. Most families after a death want some level of straight forward. When someone comes in too soft, with no real action, the families suffer later because it was a soft entry intended to gain trust and then the real hard sell always comes later. I am very sorry for your loss, but you should do the research on who needs training to be successful. I've dealt with many, many probate situations as a realtor and investor. There is no good way to contact an heir after a death. One could argue that sending anything is a hard sell. I wish you the best.

Originally posted by @Jonathan Greene :

@Sue K. I've been doing this for 30 years. I also was a practicing attorney for 10 years, a prosecutor and criminal defense attorney who negotiated every day for 10 years. Before that I spent most summers helping my dad with estate law and probate. Most families after a death want some level of straight forward. When someone comes in too soft, with no real action, the families suffer later because it was a soft entry intended to gain trust and then the real hard sell always comes later. I am very sorry for your loss, but you should do the research on who needs training to be successful. I've dealt with many, many probate situations as a realtor and investor. There is no good way to contact an heir after a death. One could argue that sending anything is a hard sell. I wish you the best.

  I could not disagree with you more.  Your education or experience as a lawyer has zero to do with how to approach someone like me, and in fact, it gets in the way of it.  This is exactly, exactly, exactly what my point was, and you refuse to take it.  If you were to actually see the situation from the heir's point of view, no doubt your success rate would be much higher.  But, I fear that you are so married to your idea of yourself and your method that you won't see a higher success rate because of it.

The entire industry of people who seek to benefit from the loss of others is truly despicable.  It's the rare person who is truly trying to help, who is honorable and respectable and is able to communicate this, while both parties truly profit.  I fear you are not one of these people, who actually are respectable and honorable, with the best of intentions.  It's too bad, because you would probably actually make much more money if you were.