Advice on yellow letters from someone who is now getting them

10 Replies

About 6 months ago my mother in law passed away and we inherited her home outside of Atlanta.  We were lucky enough that her friend around the corner wants to buy the home, so we struck a deal with him and we close in about 2 weeks.  However, in the last 2 months we have received about 7 or 8 yellow letters so I want to share our experience and our reactions to receiving them.  Hopefully it will help some people out.

My wife finds the letters to be upsetting and likens it to buzzards trying to feed off a dead carcass. To be honest, some of the letters are just down right stupid. Like the guy who sent us a yellow letter that just said $BUY$ on it in giant letters written with a Sharpie. That one was not well received and several curse words were spoken before it was torn up and put in the trash. Others have been very generic and say something like, "we want to buy your house at.." followed by the address. The letters have a very scammy/sleazy feel to them and I don't think these investors are taking into account that they are contacting someone who just lost their mother. Had any of these people delivered the letter in person they probably would have been on the receiving end an expletive filled rant and probably a few punches. I'm sure everyone sending the letters have the best intentions and we are the ideal candidates; we inherited a house 1,000 miles away, we don't want it and we can't rent it (it's part of a HOA that caps the units that can be rented). This is the perfect business situation; motivated buyers and VERY motivated sellers. I can't speak for all sellers of inherited homes, but I'm sure we are in the majority of people who are looking at this as an emotional decision, not a business decision. This isn't so much looked at as an asset that needs to be disposed of, but rather one more severed link between her and mom.

We did receive 1 letter that was very honest.  The person explained that they learned we had inherited this property in Atlanta and that it may be difficult to deal with because we live in New York.  When we were ready they would be happy to speak to us about options to sell the property.  It was very specific to our situation, it was very sympathetic and understanding of a delicate situation and, most importantly, it didn't make my wife want to punch the sender in the face.  If we didn't have a buyer, this person may have been called.

The point to take away from this post is not the intention of the letter, but how the letter is received.  I can't speak for everyone, but we, especially my wife, were much more receptive to the yellow letter that was respectful of our situation and much less receptive to the more generic letters.  I'd be willing to bet that the people who are prospecting from probate lists are much more successful when they send specific, targeted letters rather than a letter that says "I want to buy your house".

I have had the very same concern.

I am sorry for your loss and hope the fond memories of your mother replace your sadness very soon.


@Jeff Tracy  Sorry for your loss. Thanks for writing this post and giving a first hand account of how these letters/postcards can be interpreted. If you wouldn't mind posting the letter that you and your wife felt was in good character. I personally go that route as well, white letter, typed and professional looking - curious to see the similarities and differences.

Thanks in advance

@Jeff Tracy  Nice post.

It's interesting how you singled out one letter as being "honest". 

Only time will tell if that is true of the sender should you do business with each other, of course. 

I started mailing letters in 1978, long before many people on BP were actually born. There's nothing like reading the mail pieces that others send to reinforce your confidence that you are competing with idiots whose marketing efforts are lame. Thank you to all those who mail inferior crap as it doesn't take too much to stand out as a superior, well-crafted and sincere mail piece. 

Message to mailers: learn how to do effective direct response marketing. Best way to learn is to start by learn how to sell to people in person and in the phone. Then, the job of studying copywriting becomes easier as you know more about human nature.

Here's an example: know how people read their mail: 

Most people sort their mail over the trash can. That means your mail piece has to survive a half-second decision to keep and maybe open the piece or not. If it makes the first cut, will it get opened and read? If it's crappy as the OP described, it's just trash and will be treated with all the care of toilet paper stuck your shoe. 

Btw, I've been administrator of close to 20 estates and read the mail. Most is crap however some is pretty good, certainly well thought out. But there's not that much of it. And that's good news for people willing to be consistent and persistent working probate lists.

I've gotten yellow letters in the mail too.  I'm not sure what makes me good criteria, because I buy properties then rent them out.  I'm not looking to sell them. But sure enough, after I buy a property, I get a yellow letter.  

I also get yellow letters that make no mention of a property's address.  Just "I want to buy your property!"  I throw them away, but once I should call the person and ask "what property of mine do you want to buy?"  Then they'd say "well how many do you have?" and I'd respond with, "I'm asking about which one you sent the letter about." Then they'd have to come up with the answer.  That is, if they'd even answer the phone.

@Dawn A.  

  yellow letters are just another form of guruism... same thing.. people think they can get rich doing direct mail.. they send them out nothing happens first time through and they quit.  Yellow letter company makes money investor gets nothing.. same with investors that pay thousands for education and quit  its all the same in my mind.

but I do think response rates are market specific like one guy posted that he sent out 600 letters and got 45 responses well he sent them out in the worst market in Memphis and of course those folks that own them are thinking the opposite here is some sucker that wants to buy my crap property.. As opposed to the person sending the yellow letter who wants to buy far under market or hopes to.

I get a full half dozen or more each week and of course I do exactly as @Rick H.  

suggests sort mail over the trash can... or at least my assistant does... She will put them on my desk sometimes just so I get to see a sampling.

@Jeff Tracy  Thank you for sharing this info.  I haven't started my mailing campaign yet (and don't intend to do probates), but hearing peoples reaction to the types of letters they receive will help me craft my mine.

@Dawn A.   you are most likely getting letters from marketers who target absentee owners.  Basically if you own a house, and do not live in it, you made the list.  And if you buy all cash, or have a lot of equity,  you will receive even more letters from those interested in owners with lots of equity.

@Tim Lindstrom  

  we pay cash for all of ours  maybe that's why we get these letters

Originally posted by @Tim Lindstrom:

@Dawn Anastasi  you are most likely getting letters from marketers who target absentee owners.  Basically if you own a house, and do not live in it, you made the list.  And if you buy all cash, or have a lot of equity,  you will receive even more letters from those interested in owners with lots of equity.

 Yes I bought cash AND do not live in the house.

I'm sorry for your lost @Jeff Tracy  .  Thank you for posting this. Definitely opened my eyes to quite a few thing even though I've never done a probate mailing.

Welcome to BP @Jeff Tracy .  And hello and condolences from a neighbor. 

...a second vote for you to post the letter.   We all like to learn about what works, what we are doing wrong - and to get the best idea of your point.

re Rick's comment about "honest"  - Maybe the feeling would be better described as "most heart felt, human"?

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