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Unfortunately, there are not many property sellers in a sellers’ market.

This is nice for the sellers but can lead to unreasonable sellers and low inventory.

So, in a sellers’ market, the main challenge for real estate professionals such as realtors, brokers, and agents is to generate seller leads.

And when there is a buyers’ market, the tide turns, and the main challenge is generating buyer leads.

One way to generate seller leads via direct mailing is by sending letters for an expired listing.

This article is a pretty long guide covering many different aspects of writing a letter for an expired listing that can convert.

 

So I discuss…

…what an expired listing letter is
…why listings expire and why it is essential to know this in the first place
…whether there is a best expired listing letter you can find just by searching the Internet
…how you can change the real estate sales copy of an expired listing letter sample for the better
…7 steps to write an expired listing letter from scratch and what new agents need to take into account
…how many letters will you need to send
…how you can make expired listing letters work
…how to write a short expired listing letter
…how new agents should write these letters

Since this is a longer one, you may want to first get a cup of your favorite beverage before you start reading.

 

 

What Is an Expired Listing Letter?

An expired listing letter is usually a real estate mailer that is part of a direct mailing campaign specifically targeting property owners that haven’t sold their home by the end of the period stipulated in a listing contract between a seller and a real estate agent.

The most common length of a property listing contract is 90 days, but this can be even shorter or much longer.

So, after the listing expires, the seller can keep working with the current agent and relist it or change the agent or agency.

Whether the seller stays with the current agency or makes a new listing contract with another agency, a new listing is created on the MLS.

When real estate agents run expired listing letter marketing campaigns, the main goal is to persuade the seller to relist the property with them and no other agents, including their former one.

This goal differs when a real estate investor does a campaign like that.

Instead, it is to convince the seller to make a deal with them.

This deal can be in the context of a creative real estate, wholesaling deal, or otherwise (e.g., rent to own, wholesale deal, owner financing, etc.).

 

Why Do Listings Expire and Why It Is Essential to Know This?

Imagine meeting with a homeowner – the would-be seller – and after having done a home valuation for him and consulted with him about the best price he should offer his home for on the market, he would immediately say, “yes, let’s do this.”

It would be a nice world, wouldn’t it?

But as it is unlikely to come across an all-you-can-drink situation in one of the many international airports (unless you are a guest in one of the VIP lounges), this is not what happens in reality.

Sellers that are unreasonable to work with and overpricing are some of the reasons a property listing can expire, the latter being often the number one reason.

It happens when you, as the realtor, suggest a particular asking price, which is not high enough for the seller (which seems to occur in the current market conditions more often), and to get the listing contract, you agree to offer it at this price.

But there are many other reasons why listings expire, such as:

  • Lost buyers because of the process of getting lender approval
  • Suboptimal promotion and marketing for the property from the former realtor
  • A property that wasn’t kept in great condition by the owner
  • A home that wasn’t depersonalized so buyer prospects could see themselves living in that home

Ignoring the fact that it is often also (partially) the seller’s mistake or wrongdoing, as a consequence, they often use the realtor as the scapegoat and may not have been big fans of realtors in the first place, thinking that all real estate agents are the same anyways.

On top of being stressed about selling their home, they may get discouraged and disappointed after the property listing expires.

Another belief you may have encountered is sellers thinking their home is special, which often ties into them staying firm on their poppy dreams regarding pricing.

In a sense, yes, of course, their home is unique because they have associated memories and feelings.

However, this is more often an obstacle than a help regarding pricing and smooth collaboration between sellers and realtors.

They will also need answers and wonder why their property hasn’t been sold (looking for their fair share of wrongdoing as the last step).

The latter is just normal human behavior and nothing to worry about, and no one likes to admit having made a mistake or two.

Additionally, the seller may have “dangerous” superficial knowledge and understanding of the market.

Still, since it’s “dangerous” half-knowledge, they are likely not educated enough, let alone have enough marketing skills.

On a side note: in today’s information age and the various existing property selling platforms and alternative online brokerage solutions, you will find more sellers than before that have alternatives to the standard real estate agent than a few years ago.

But still, marketing, sales, negotiation skills, and the legal aspects can’t just be learned overnight.

Nevertheless, this often can lead to them thinking of being able to sell their property themselves at a lower price.

Many sellers who experience their home becoming an expired listing still want to sell. So, there is still some form of motivation to sell there (maybe not the desperate one).

Now, why did I tell you all that?

Maybe without you realizing it, we already did the major part of preparing the real estate sales copy for expired listing letters.

How so?

As I already worked out in-depth in my article “Sales Copy for Real Estate – The Ultimate Guide for Better Conversions,“ one of the first steps is to put yourself in the shoes of the target prospects to learn about their needs, wants, desires, problems, pains, and emotions.

 

 

Why Use Copywriting Principles in an Expired Listing Letter?

You will need to be significantly more persuasive and convincing, especially when you target sellers who were “victims” of an expired listing from another agent, than with sellers who haven’t had this disappointing experience.

So, the main goal for the real estate sales copy for such an expired listing letter is to convince the seller prospect that you, among all the other realtors and especially the “bad” one that “messed” it up, are the one that finally gets their property sold.

You basically play the archetypal role of the prince that saves the princess from the terrible dragon in the cave.

Not sure what the dragon in this scenario is, and it might be the placeholder for the “bad realtor of the past” or the “bad market,” but, of course, never the seller’s behavior.

That’s impossible.

So, in addition to the usual “seller pains” to sell a home, such as stress, time constraints, limited planning due to showings, etc., you will need to take these additional “expired listing pains” into account in your real estate sales copy.

We will learn how to do that in one of the following sections.

 

Is There a Best Expired Listing Letter You Can Find Just by Searching?

how to write an expired listing letter

Many real estate professionals are looking for the “best” expired listing letter, but many don’t know what they mean by “best.”

In the context of expired listing letters, “best” means likely efficient (doing things right) to achieve the goal of getting a real estate listing contract or, in the case of a real estate investor, making a deal with the seller.

Since my focus is slightly more on realtors, it would be the real estate listing contract.

Efficient is when the expired listing letter converts as many seller prospects into seller leads and then, depending on your verbal sales and persuasion skills, converts them further into seller clients that sign a contract with you.

Do you think that the “best” expired listing letter in terms of being highly converting can be found by just searching on the Internet?

Or let me ask you differently.

Suppose you can find the “best” expired listing letter in terms of highly converting online.

Do you think it stays that way?

I asked you these two questions because it won’t stay that way even when you readily find this letter.

Why?

Because other real estate professionals will also find this letter.

And then, when many use the same expired listing letter template or sample, it will not stand out anymore. And one thing about good sales copy is to stand out.

It will only increase the “noise,” and seller prospects may think when receiving this letter: “Oh, one of those again. I got five of these yesterday already.”

This leads me to another preparation step for real estate sales copy: your positioning.

You want to know your unique selling proposition, answering the question: what is the one thing that makes you stand out and better than the competition?

And in the case of seller prospects of expired listings, what makes you better than your competition regarding helping the seller this time to sell their home?

So, if you just search and find expired listing letters that call themselves in the title “best” and then copy and paste them without any modifications or unique twists, you will not stand out and, thus, not communicate your USP to the seller prospect.

And as a consequence, since many others may do the same, it will not be the “best” anymore because it will not convert as well as it could.

You can use expired listing letter templates and samples for inspiration and improve them to increase your chances of better conversions.

This is what we will do in the next section. 

 

Expired Listing Letter Templates and Samples – Improving the Sales Copy for Better Conversions

In the former sections, I’ve already insinuated that when you write expired listing letters, you actually write a form of real estate sales copy (read my article on that topic here).

And as you can read in this article, you can use several sales copy formulas to improve the persuasive effect of your real estate copy.

Next, I will analyze one expired listing letter template or sample regarding how well copywriting principles were applied.

So, let’s start.

 

Expired Listing Letter Template/ Sample

“Dear [Name],

I noticed that you have previously placed your home on the market and that your listing expired without a successful sale. I would like to take a moment to introduce myself, as I would very much like to see that turned around for you.

As a [Realtor/Agent/Broker], I am very familiar with your area. I have completed many successful sales in the vicinity of your home and feel certain that I can help you accomplish your goals regarding the sale of your property.

Of course, we all know that a successful sale requires a successful plan. I have a well-established base in your area and am prepared to sit down with you and share some things your previous agent may have missed.

Selling your home is one of the most important financial decisions you can make. Normally, one’s home is their most valuable asset. There are key ingredients in devising a marketing strategy that will help ensure that you receive the full financial potential available to you through the sale of your home. In addition, that same well-planned strategy can minimize the amount of time your home is on the market. The first key ingredient is to select the right [Realtor/Agent/Broker].

I would love to have the opportunity to sit down with you to present a marketing plan that I know will produce great results for you. Please contact me on my cell phone [PHONE]. Having viewed your previous listing and your property, I am certain that you will be satisfied with the outcome of our meeting.

Sincerely,

[NAME]
[TITLE]”

(source)

 

First, I will list essential sales copy elements that we are looking after so we have something to compare the above letter sample with.

For that, I will use elements you can also find in the copywriting cheat sheet you can get as part of my “Real Estate Marketing Power Bundle” when you subscribe to the Hacking Real Estate Marketing Insiders Newsletter below.

So, here are the questions regarding the elements you want to compare this text with:

  • How well are the expired listing seller’s needs, pains, problems, wants, and/ or desires addressed?
  • How well are the benefits (not features) of the real estate service the realtor offers communicated?
  • How well does the real estate professional position herself or himself amongst their competitors or former agent (the “bad” one that led to the expired listing)? Is their USP communicated?
  • Is a personalized call to action associated with solving the problem, need, pain, etc.?
  • Was one of the many copywriting formulas applied in some way or form, such as AIDA (attention, interest, desire, action), PAS (problem, agitate, solve), etc.?
  • (Optional to additionally fine-tune the sales copy/ the icing on the cake): Were additional persuasive elements used (e.g., a guarantee, reciprocity, believability, credibility, etc.)?

The first impression I get from the copy is that it is not easily readable.

You want to write as if a third-grader or Homer Simpson is reading the text, and early on, the author is writing about him or herself using a lot of “I” and not that much “you.”

The first sentence already starts with “I.”

That’s for the general first impression, but let’s get into the copywriting elements.

As for addressing the seller’s needs, pains, problems, wants, and/or desires, a little bit is addressed, but not as much as it could.

In the first sentence, the author mentions that the listing expired without a successful sale. Still, the associated pain could have been more agitated, as suggested in the copywriting formula PAS (pain, agitate, solve).

Another problem or pain that is rather indirectly mentioned is that the former agent may have missed “some things.”

Here, the author missed the opportunity to position himself as the “prince on the white horse” that comes to the rescue.

One of the seller’s needs, such as getting the best price possible and having the home on the market for the least amount of time possible, is only mentioned in passing without getting more concrete and being assertive.

“…ensure that you receive the full financial potential available to you through the sale of your home. In addition, that same well-planned strategy can minimize the amount of time your home is on the market.”

Now, what about the communication of the benefits?

Unfortunately, it was done poorly and was pretty vague.

Just a short reminder, to find benefits or convert features into benefits, you want to ask the question “so what?” and/or “what’s in it for [target prospect]?”.

Most of the time, features were used.

The only moment the author comes close to a benefit is when it is mentioned that she/he has completed many successful sales in the seller’s vicinity, and their marketing strategy produces great results.

But overall, it is written pretty vaguely.

If I had the author in front of me, I would ask the following to improve this part of the expired listing letter:

  • How many successful sales at market value or above have you completed in the seller’s area in which period? (e.g., during the last 12 months, we helped 20 sellers get the full market price within 30 days for each listing).
  • What goals can you help the seller accomplish? (e.g., “The vast majority of our seller clients sell their homes 5% above market price within 60 days, etc.”
  • “There are key ingredients in devising a marketing strategy that will help ensure that you receive the full financial potential available to you through the sale of your home.” Whose key ingredients are you referring to? Yours? While this is not bad in an article, this part is written a bit impartially as if this was nothing the realtor herself or himself is offering.
  • “…sit down with you to present a marketing plan that I know will produce great results for you.” What results?

The thing is, even the improved examples in the brackets are not benefits.

How so?

Suppose you see a hammer in a DIY store that is offered with a rubber grip. The grip is the feature.

But when you ask “so what” or what’s in it for the buyers when using this hammer with a rubber grip, you likely answer: “so, that the hammer can be used more safely without flying out of the hand and ending up in your best friend’s leg.”

In my dissection, I improved it with “The vast majority of our seller clients sell 5% above market price within 60 days.”.

But, so what?

So, the seller has enough funding to get rid of the mortgage, can buy the second home he already made an offer on fast enough, etc.

You get to the real benefits when you know the real reasons behind the sellers wanting to sell.

And these reasons can go several layers deep.

 

Next, how does the author position himself among the competition using a USP?

Well, the only part of the copy that resembles something a bit like positioning is in this sentence: “share some things your previous agent may have missed.”

Unfortunately, this is a missed opportunity to communicate how this realtor will be different and maybe what the previous agent may have missed.

 

Was a personalized call to action used aligned with the problem, pain, need, etc., that the realtor will solve with her or his service?

Nope.

This is the call to action: “Please contact me on my cell phone [PHONE].”

A better one could have been. “Want to start moving to your second home in 60 days or less?

Then call me today at 123-123-1234.”

 

Was one of the many copywriting formulas applied in some way or form, such as AIDA (attention, interest, desire, action), PAS (problem, agitate, solve), etc.?

Unfortunately, not that I am aware of.

Maybe some fragments of ACCA were used, but I suggest not consciously.

ACCA means: Raising awareness regarding the prospect’s problem, comprehending the problem by explaining it, raising conviction to solve it, and calling the prospect to action.

 

What about additional persuasive elements (e.g., a guarantee, reciprocity, believability, credibility, etc.)?

Maybe a light version of one persuasive element was used, that of believability, when the author used this phrase: “I have completed many successful sales in the vicinity of your home.”

 

Now I will try to turn the current listing letter template/sample version into one with more sales copy elements but without removing too much from the original.

I will use a combination of the copywriting formulas AIDA (attention, interest, desire, action) and PAS (problem, agitate, solve).

We have already done most of the preparation work in the section above, “Why Do Listings Expire and Why It is Essential to Know?”

To summarize the needs, pains, problems, wants, and/or desires of the expired listing seller:

  • Lost buyers because of the process of getting lender approval
  • Suboptimal promotion and marketing for the property from the former realtor (problem of choosing the right realtor)
  • Pricing the home correctly
  • Maintaining a home show-ready (property that wasn’t kept in great condition by the owner)
  • The home that wasn’t depersonalized so buyer prospects could see themselves living in that home (owner is living in it)
  • Discouragement and disappointment (wrong expectations)
  • Need for answers for not having sold
  • Still want to sell
  • The usual “seller pains” to selling a home such as stress, time constraints, and limited planning due to showings

 

Improved Version of the Listing Letter Template/ Sample

“Dear [Name],

(ATTENTION, PROBLEM)
Did you know that you could have already been sipping Martinis by the pool of your new home, moved to this new place you had in mind, or said goodbye to your mortgage by now?

(AGITATE THE PROBLEM)
The sad thing is you aren’t doing that because your listing expired without a successful sale, and now instead of a Martini, you may rather need chocolate to fight the discouragement and disappointment.

(SOME MORE PROBLEM AGITATION)
The worst part is that if you now choose the wrong realtor again, it will get exponentially more challenging to sell your home in a timely manner.

(SOLVE)
But as the saying goes, the first best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, and the second best is now.

Who is this tree? We are.

So no matter what happened in the end (maybe your past realtor wasn’t as good in digital marketing and home valuations as we are in your neighborhood→USP/positioning), you can still turn this around.

Guess how many sellers of your neighborhood could either get rid of their mortgage, move within 60 days to their second home, or just do whatever they liked with the earned cash from their home sale in the last 12 months with our help? (communication of benefits and persuasive element of credibility/proof)

It was 50, to be exact.

How were we able to do that?

We have a well-established and well-oiled home valuation and, more importantly, a well-oiled marketing machine that brings in highly-qualified pre-approved buyers that can move quickly like clockwork. (some more credibility and proof)

While other realtors in your neighborhood are still looking for the power button of their computers, we speak digital marketing all over. (USP/positioning)

Ready to move in 60 days and try something that works for a change? Call us today at 123-123-1234″. (personalized call to action)

 

Although I tried hard to stay close to the original, this new sales copy for the expired listing letter example is almost unrecognizable.

But I hope you can see what I did with it.

I put some short descriptions of each copywriting element in round brackets.

By the way, if a seller had a gun to my head and I had to pick one of the ready-made expired listing letter samples you can find online, it would be sample number 6 I found on this website.

 

7 Steps to Write an Expired Listing Letter from Scratch

how to write an expired listing letter

As you could learn above, to write an expired listing letter from scratch, you apply the same copywriting principles you always have to apply regarding sales copy.

To summarize the steps a bit, I prepared a small list below.

  • Determine the goal of the sales copy for your expired listing letter (e.g., an appointment)
  • Research and collect the seller’s needs, wants, desires, problems, pains, and emotions.
  • Work out the benefits you can offer to the expired listing seller.
  • Know your USP and how you differ from your competition in solving the target prospects (expired listing sellers) needs, problems, wants, etc.
  • Use one of the many copywriting formulas (you can get a large collection in my copywriting cheat sheet for real estate above) to write the actual copy for the expired listing letter, such as PAS and/or AIDA.
  • Use persuasive elements to fine-tune the copy (e.g., show credibility, differentiators, believability, optimism.
  • Additionally, you can also anticipate potential objections and handle them right in the letter, such as these:
    • The seller not being a big fan of realtors and thinking they are all the same.
    • The seller believing he had enough marketing skills and market knowledge
    • The seller believing they can sell their property themselves easily

 

How to Write a Short Expired Listing Letter

You write a short expired listing letter the same as a longer one; the difference is you have to condense it to the most important sales copy elements without a trade-off for persuasive power.

The short version of the one I wrote above would be the following:

“Did you know that you could have already been sipping Martinis by the pool of your new home, moved to this new place you had in mind, or said goodbye to your mortgage by now? However, your listing expired without a successful sale. (problem, agitate)

Since we helped more than 50 sellers in your neighborhood in the last 12 months to get rid of their mortgage or move to their second home within 60 days, we can also help you turn this around. (solve)

While other realtors in your neighborhood are still looking for the power button of their computers, we speak digital marketing all over. (USP/positioning)

Ready to move in 60 days and try something that works for a change? Call us today at 123-123-1234″. (personalized call to action)

 

How New Agents Should Write Expired Listing Letters – 4 Things They Need to Take into Account

Writing an expired listing letter when you are a new agent is much trickier.

Generally, you will be at a disadvantage because of a lack of a track record; thus, the seller prospect will have a higher level of doubt.

So, you wouldn’t be able to use a phrase like this:

“Since we helped more than 50 sellers in your neighborhood in the last 12 months to get rid of their mortgage or move to their second home within 60 days we can help you turn this around, too.”

So, how could this disadvantage be mitigated with the right real estate copy in an expired listing letter?

There are several persuasive elements and psychological tricks you could apply.

 

1) Credibility by Osmosis and Borrowed Credibility

A typical example is the person in a white coat selling toothpaste, looking like a doctor.

Unconsciously by association, potential consumers will perceive the product as more trustworthy.

An example in real estate could be a photo of yourself you took a while back with Grant Cardone or another real estate authority figure.

So, you may want to consider what persons and organizations in your industry may have a reputation that could endorse you.

By doing that, some of their credibility could be transferred to you.

Think about which people and organizations in your industry have a reputation that carries sufficient respect.

If you got them to endorse your business, product, or service, you could capitalize on the transfer of credibility it would create.

A weaker form could be a well-known logo you use on the letter.

 

2) Authority via Quotes and Statistics

This is the little brother of point 1) above. You could also use quotes that align with your sales message.

In your case, that could be that you are new to the game but work three times as hard as the established realtor.

The same is true regarding relevant statistics from trustworthy sources that you can align with your sales copy.

 

3) Guarantees

You could offer a guarantee to reduce the perceived risk of working with someone new.

This is a classic risk reversal method.

For example, you could offer that if you don’t get the home sold within 30 days, you won’t charge a commission after this period or just charge a symbolic flat fee commission of $1 (if it is legally not possible to not charge a commission).

 

4) Liking and Anticipating the Doubt by Being Honest

Being straightforward and honest about being new to the game could cause the sellers to like you.

The liking factor is also a persuasive element that can move the needle in the right direction.

So, as an additional objection handler, you could mention that an allegedly well-established realtor didn’t sell the home, so why not try someone new with a fresh perspective on things?

 

When to Write Handwritten Letters to Expired Listings

I would prefer the handwritten one if you can choose between running an expired listing letter campaign in print or handwritten.

Why?

First, a handwritten mailer has a much higher open rate than a printed one. To be exact, it’s 98%, according to this source.

Second, you will stand out more because as time passes, fewer and fewer people receive handwritten letters (source).

The downside is that if you have to send hundreds, you have a problem and might need a hand massage after a while.

Doing this on scale on your own could become a full-time job.

So, if you can use a service like this (only postcards), this, and this one to outsource the writing, running such a campaign on scale would be a more realistic option.

 

How Many Expired Listing Letters to Send? – Crunching Some Performance Numbers

Suppose you want to get three new listing contracts from sellers of expired listings per month.

Assuming an average closing rate of 27%, you would need 11 monthly seller appointments (3 divided by 27%).

In my article about real estate prospecting conversion rates, I worked out that in direct mail (expired listing letters belong to the category of direct mail), you can expect, on average, a lead to an appointment conversion rate of 6.6%.

You must send your expired listing letters to at least 183 sellers.

At least with this provider, you will likely pay $4.50 per letter (including stamp costs).

This would mean monthly marketing costs of $823.50 ($4.50 x 183) and a cost per sale or, for a better word, per listing contract of $274.50 ($823.50 divided by 3).

Remember that the 27% average closing rate could be higher if you have great verbal sales and persuasion skills.

Of course, the average 6.6% lead-to-appointment conversion rate will likely be higher when you use handwritten letters and a good sales copy.

This, in turn, would lower your costs per appointment and thus listing contracts.

 

How to Make Expired Listing Letters Work

I want to leave some final words about how you can make expired listing letters work.

To increase your chances, you may also consider not just sending one expired listing letter per seller but several techniques you would also use in an auto-responder email campaign.

Why?

Because according to the numbers I covered already in my article about real estate follow-ups, you will need more than one touch point to stay in the seller’s mind.

But you may also test two approaches: one with just one letter and a superb sales copy with a handwritten letter, and, a bit later, you run another campaign with several touchpoints.

In both cases, you want to track the performance to compare your return on investment.

But in the case of a campaign with several touchpoints, in my article “How to Follow Up with Potential Home Buyers Like a Boss” (also relevant for sellers), I discussed that you need between 6-8 touchpoints to generate a viable lead.

The basic principle with email marketing auto-responders and also a sequence of physical mailers is that what you may have written before in just one piece of sales copy you can now extend over several pieces of mail and include and alternate it with just valuable content for the seller.

You can borrow ideas from my article “254 Real Estate Content Ideas & Samples [How-To Included]“for content.

There could be several combinations of value added (only valuable content without any sales copy), soft-sale added (some value, but also sales copy), and hard-sale added (only sales copy) letters.

You could start sending the letters on the first day the listing expires and each day for the following six to eight days.

Another idea to increase the chances of success is to use other tactics to stand out besides handwritten letters, such as using larger envelopes.

And as already mentioned, you want to keep track of the performance of your expired listing letter campaign by using a dedicated phone number and/or a dedicated landing page where sellers can contact you.

By doing that, you know where an incoming seller lead came from.

 

 


This article has been reviewed by our editorial team. It has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policy.