At first glance, that’s a great way for busy real estate professionals to produce content fast and start running whichever direct mail campaign.
However, this is not the best way to stand out and differentiate yourself from your competition.
You likely need to go the extra mile and either write the sales copy yourself or outsource this work to give you a better shot at converting more real estate leads.
Especially when you try to persuade unmotivated sellers in a low-inventory market.
Therefore, by discussing how to write better real estate letters that generate leads in this article, I also try to make a case for creating your own ones.
My article will discuss…
What a real estate letter is
What a real estate love letter is and whether they are maybe even illegal
What a farming letter is
What a golden real estate letter is and whether you should just copy them
What a yellow letter campaign is
11 additional types of real estate letters
Whether real estate (prospecting) letters work
What to write and include in a real estate letter
and finally, how to write better real estate letters that generate seller leads and get you listings
So, let’s start.
What is a Real Estate Letter?
The term “real estate letter” is often interchangeably used with the term “real estate prospecting letter” and is used by a wide range of different real estate professionals, such as realtors, investors, loan officers, and others.
It is typically a letter sent as a physical direct mail piece to seller and/or buyer prospects to generate different types of leads.
In the case of a real estate agent, the seller leads are ideally persuaded to work with the respective agent and list their home with them by signing a listing contract. In the case of a real estate investor, it’s about making a direct deal with them (e.g., signing a wholesale contract).
Regarding generating buyer leads from real estate letters, the goal for real estate agents is to persuade them to work with them as the buyer’s agents.
In turn, for real estate investors, it is to find cash buyers or other investors they can work with on a current deal they have under contract and/or future deals.
What is a Real Estate Love Letter | Are They Maybe Even Illegal?
Real estate love letters are much less sent from realtors than from real estate investors and are another type of real estate letter.
These letters are usually a combination of a letter and an attached offer to a potential seller.
In the contents of the real estate letter, the investor usually makes references to why they want to buy the respective home.
Although this type of letter has become increasingly unpopular over the years, in today’s low-inventory market situation, some buyers resort to it as some are borderline desperate.
Why have real estate love letters become less and less popular?
Because of the legal risks, they involve in potentially violating national fair housing laws.
In one article by the National Association of Realtors, they are called “Liability Letters.”
So what are these fair housing laws?
According to this government source, the Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing because of color, race, religion, national origin, familial status, sex, and disability.
If you want to know why running ads for real estate on Facebook are in a special category, there you have it.
So, let’s say potential sellers receive a love letter.
They may feel discriminated against in some way or form because the buyer paints a picture of children looking for Easter eggs in the yard.
In that case, the fair housing act may be violated.
There were already legal proceedings because of violations like that, such as in Oregon.
Love letters were first banned, and then the ban was again suspended. (source) So, some legal back and forth was going on there.
Nevertheless, you can see that this is kind of a risky area, and therefore realtors are generally advised against delivering real estate love letters.
Let’s get back to marketing basics here.
The only reason for the existence of love letters is to stand out in some way or form (like every good marketing campaign should).
Luckily, and thanks to human creativity, there are many other ways you can stand out with sellers in an advantageous position, such as is the case of the current low-inventory market.
What are these ways? You could sweeten the deal for sellers by…
…mentioning that buyers are pre-approved for a loan
…a higher down payment would be made
…including an escalation clause to beat higher offers
What Is a Farming Letter?
A farming letter is a mailer campaign that is run in the context of real estate farming.
The latter means growing a local subdivision or neighborhood (therefore, the word “farming”), and it usually refers to a particular geographic area you, as a real estate professional, may be targeting regularly.
Traditionally, this is done via direct mail and other offline prospecting methods, but it can also be done via digital marketing.
The key is that you focus on a specific neighborhood for your lead generation campaigns and ideally combine it with one or more other factors or criteria, such as:
- Local amenities
- Local demographics
- Turnover rates and average sales prices
- The overall size of the area (e.g., number of homes)
- The level of desirability
So, farming doesn’t mean that you suddenly start to use a large pick-up truck, plant “housing seeds,” and grow a real estate inventory of your own to counter a low inventory situation, for example.
But in a sense, it is. Why?
Because it’s about running a real estate lead generation campaign regularly in a specific neighborhood and nurturing the leads you generate to create an ongoing relationship with potential clients and get involved in the community.
What Are Golden Letters in Real Estate? Should You Just Copy Them?
A golden letter in real estate is just a short version of a real estate letter, including just one sentence attempting to persuade the prospect to do business with the respective real estate professional sending it.
This type of letter is usually sent from realtors, but slightly modified, it can also be used by real estate investors.
One of the typical samples you find when researching it is using this one sentence, well, actually the question: “Would you be interested in selling your home to a client of mine?”
The argument behind using them is why to write a lot of text when you can get the same results with less text.
This is a valid argument, and as everything marketing and lead generation related, it would need to be tested to be proven right or wrong.
So, you may need to test a “Golden Letter” against a long-form real estate letter and see what converts better.
From my experience in copywriting, I can say that the shorter you need to make the copy, the harder it gets to produce something truly persuasive.
The difficulty to write something super short and to the point has already been expressed way back in the past.
Usually, the citation I will shortly mention gets wrongly attributed to Mark Twain, but it’s actually from the French Philosopher Blaise Pascal and goes like this: “I wrote a long letter because I didn’t have time to write a short one.”
It’s more for the website owners and suggests that this type of real estate letter may have worked and still does. But the type of prospects they are targeting are likely not the same as yours.
That’s why generally, you want to be cautious when it comes to anecdotal evidence, including well-known and pretty successful real estate and realtor gurus covering prestigious cities in the U.S.
It’s easy to believe the methods of someone successful because of the survivorship bias.
The thinking usually goes like this: “Look at this guy – so well-known and successful! The methods he is suggesting must work.
Why else would he be where he is?”
But what most ignore in this way of thinking is that thousands of others likely used the same methods but failed.
The difference is these people are not visible to the public because of the latter.
That’s why I generally trust more empirical data or the data-driven approach.
Another risk in just copying and pasting the above golden letter example question is that all the other real estate professionals researching golden letters are finding the first results and then doing the same.
In my article “The Real Estate Mailer Performance Guide [Ideas, Costs, and Companies]“, I discussed this topic already.
Every marketing channel or lead generation method reaches saturation at some point in the future.
This happens when more and more people start using the same thing.
It relates to the so-called innovation lifecycle originated from Everett M. Rogers, who drew a nicer graph than me (attached below).
And there is another bell curve related to the above copying and pasting with the difference that it’s from the product’s perspective and not the consumer’s.
It’s the product life cycle curve.
This bell curve is divided into product introduction, growth, maturity, and decline.
So, we can view the marketing or lead generation method from the consumer or product perspective.
In the case of lead generation or marketing methods, I prefer to apply the product life cycle curve.
What happens when more and more real estate professionals copy this one sentence for their letters?
The method reaches maturity and declines much faster and thus gets less effective with seller prospects getting one of those same one-sentence letters again.
One side note: lead generation or advertising channels may decline.
But it doesn’t mean they die completely, and some can even resurge again and perform better than the newer ones.
In this article you can find an example of this in my overview table of real estate lead costs.
There, I analyzed that radio ads can actually get you higher conversion rates than Google Ads.
So, while this medium may have experienced a decline in the past compared to the new ones (digital), after some time, it can get you decent or even better results and shouldn’t necessarily be discarded completely.
What is a Yellow Letter Campaign? Handwritten Real Estate Letters Anyone?
Another type of real estate letter is the yellow letter.
A yellow letter campaign is a direct mail campaign where you use these types of letters to target seller prospects.
They are traditionally handwritten in red ink, and the paper – as the name reveals – has a yellow color and is lined.
Why red ink on yellow paper? It’s all about grabbing attention.
The red color stands out more on yellow paper than black or blue and gives an overall more urgent feeling.
The combination of all three (yellow lined paper, red ink, and handwriting) also makes a more personal, informal impression.
This type of campaign is usually run by real estate investors and less by realtors.
It targets less semi-motivated retail sellers that may have room for paying a commission, but motivated sellers of probates, absentees, pre-foreclosures, and other distressed properties.
This is where the odds of this type of real estate letter are usually the highest for getting responses.
Since they should be hand-written, it can be a time-consuming endeavor to produce them in mass.
Therefore, several yellow letter providers have popped up over the years where you can outsource the time-consuming part.
Two providers that offer handwritten yellow letters that come to mind are YellowLetter HQ, and Yellow Letters Complete.
While increasingly handwritten direct mail providers enter the market (mainly for postcards), only a few offer it for the typical yellow letters.
11 Additional Types of Real Estate Letters
The above sections are about the major types of real estate letters, but there are additional ones, which I will provide in the list below:
- New agent sphere of influence letters
- Divorce prospecting letters
- Expired listing letter (read my article on this topic here)
- FSBO prospecting letter
- Pre-foreclosure prospecting letter
- Expired listing letter for high-end sellers
- Buyers prospecting letter
- Prospecting letter for probates
- Out-of-town owner prospecting letter
- FRBO prospecting letter
- Open house follow-up real estate letter
I could have dug deeper into each of them as I did above, but you may have found that there is a common principle.
The only differences between them are the type of real estate sellers or buyers targeted and addressed, who, of course, will differ in their individual life situations, including their needs and wants.
The rest is, or rather should be, “standard” real estate copywriting, which brings me to the next section.
Do Real Estate (Prospecting) Letters Work?
As already mentioned, the above real estate letter types have many commonalities, such as persuading a seller or a buyer to do business with the respective real estate professional.
But you may wonder, do they even work?
Looking at the stats I already discussed in this and this article, real estate letters should work, at least according to the marketing performance data there is.
- 31% still have their mailers at home after a month
- 42% read or scan their mailers
- 70% prefer physical mail for cold offers
- Direct mail has a response or lead conversion rate of 6.6%
But there are averages and aren’t based on industry-specific studies on direct mailing.
Who knows, maybe doing a specific study for the real estate industry would result in performance data that will make you cry.
Instead, we can know that working in terms of lead generation or advertising means converting (it even rimes a little).
So, the goal is to convert as many seller/buyer prospects as possible with the least cost.
What’s the common denominator to make that happen?
Wait for it… here he comes again with the dead horse he beats all the time… it’s good and persuasive copywriting.
If you do this with your real estate letter content and align the mailer’s design with it, you will have the best odds of increasing the conversion rates. You may even beat the above-mentioned performance stats of direct mail.
So, do real estate letters work?
Assuming “work” shall mean “convert,” they work based on average performance marketing statistics of direct mail.
And provided you write good real estate sales copy, you can further increase prospect-to-lead conversion rates.
What to Write and Include in a Real Estate Letter?
Pondering the important question of what to write and include in a real estate letter anticipates step two before step one.
What do I mean by that?
In my opinion, whenever you want to persuade a prospect with the written word to do business with you, you enter the copywriting field.
The thing is, copywriting is roughly 80% research and 20% writing and several rounds of editing.
So, when you have done enough research about your seller or buyer prospects (e.g., their needs, wants, pains, etc.), you would actually know what to write and include in a real estate letter.
But let’s assume you did your research and know who you are targeting and their needs, etc.
Then you would use different copywriting principles and elements to “assemble” the real estate letter, such as the following:
- Work out a great hook
- Write benefits and bullets
- Grab their attention with that great hook and a headline (on the mailer and the actual letter)
- Describe the problem, wants, desires, etc. in the prospect’s words (requires again having done research)
- Agitate on the problem, wants desires, etc.
- Describe how you can serve/solve their problems, wants, desires, etc.
- Make them act with a call to action
- Refine the copy with persuasive elements (e.g., believability, uniqueness/USP, etc.)
Well, almost everybody can write.
And learning copywriting basics can take a few months, but as with everything in life, mastering it and creating high-quality persuasive sales copy usually takes years of practice.
But let’s dig deeper and create a real estate letter that generates seller leads and gets you listings.
How to Write Better Real Estate Letters that Generate Seller Leads and Get You Listings
Two things inspired and challenged me for this section.
I found a real estate letter example in this article and the concept of the super short-form real estate letter, the golden letter.
The real estate letter example I found in the mentioned article targeted sellers and showed the zeitgeist of the current market situation – a low inventory market. Although, in my opinion, the days are counted for this type of market.
As you may know, it always takes a while until it sinks in with homeowners still holding on to the “opioid dream” of selling at like 20% above market value while prices start dropping left and right.
But I digress.
So, most of the real estate letter templates and samples you find are okayish but not necessarily good copywriting, making sellers salivate to want to sell their homes and work with you.
Why not start with a scenario and assume the real estate letter will be used for geographic farming to mostly unmotivated sellers in a low-inventory market?
The goal: persuading homeowners that hadn’t considered selling to sell and work with you as a realtor.
Since it’s a generic campaign and not specific to certain types of homeowners (e.g., FSBOs, expired listings, out-of-town owners, etc.), it’s actually a worst-case situation for copywriting.
But so be it.
I just assume that someone asked me for a favor and insists on not wanting to further specify the targeting of potential seller prospects.
As I’ve already mentioned, copywriting is about 80% researching your target prospects (here, it’s unspecified low-motivation sellers) and 20% actual writing and editing rounds.
Usually, I would take my time for the research, but to get this article to an end, I limited my research time to about an hour.
In this hour, I have to find out the target seller prospect’s needs, wants, problems, and pains and what to focus on (also sometimes called the marketing or copywriting angle).
Additionally, I give it two editing rounds.
However, I am sure that if I slept one night over it and dedicated a whole day to research, I probably would not be completely happy with what I will produce next.
After two hours of research and reading, mainly focusing on the reasons why sellers don’t want to sell and when they might consider selling…
What did I learn about sellers’ needs, wants, problems, etc., in the low-inventory environment?
Many things I did know already because I keep track of the U.S. real estate market, but for the sake of completeness, here is what I found mainly from this source:
- 56.9% of homeowners think their home would sell above the asking price if they were to sell in the current market
- 74.9% have the belief that they could sell their home in less than a month
- 63.4% don’t even think about selling their home
- 13.2% don’t want to sell because of the current market situation (meaning they are worried about not finding a new home afterward)
- 48.4% don’t want to sell because they are satisfied with their current home
Then, on the other side of the equation are the home buyers that get more creative by the day to get into a new home, pampering and spoiling the homeowners even more.
They do things like paying well over the asking price, paying closing costs, putting more money down, adding some crypto coins on top, and forgoing home inspections.
At first glance, this looks like a copywriter’s nightmare; at least there are not many problems and pains to work with. But thankfully, as a copywriter, you are not limited to only working with problems.
For the type of sellers we are generically targeting in this campaign, there is almost no motivation to sell, and there is only the secondary worry or problem of getting from their actual house into the next one smoothly.
So, we need to market actually to reluctant sellers and cautious buyers at the same time because they actually embody both.
It’s a bit like marketing to a split personality. Nice.
Luckily, there is a bit more we can work with.
In the same article, there are three factors mentioned that sellers in the current market would motivate to sell their homes:
- 24.9%: because it’s a hot market and money to be made (finally something for copywriting: greed)
- 22.1%: desire to relocate (that’s another element to work with: a want, not a need)
- 10.1%: desire for a more updated home (and another element to work with, even one of the important ones, “comfortable living conditions“)
I will skip some copywriting elements to make this article no longer than it already is.
The goal is to create something short similar to the “golden letter” anyways.
Therefore, I will primarily work with a headline, benefits, sales bullets, and the call to action.
So, let’s summarize what we need to work with:
- Seller’s greed to make a great amount of money in the current hot sellers’ market.
- The potential want or desire to relocate
- Living in comfortable conditions in a more updated home
The share of sellers who haven’t even thought about selling and those who are satisfied with their homes will only be able to move from their couches by inducing greed.
And since there is no initial pain to find, we need to create one. How do we do that?
Well, pain can occur when you don’t take advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
So, we can use the fear of missing out and/or the regret of missing out. That’s what greed can convert into.
Then, we have the desire to relocate. Why does someone want to relocate? Here are some of the top reasons according to my research (source):
- Changing lifestyle
- Experiencing new cultures
- Relationship reasons
- More education options
- A new job
- Wanting to change the neighborhood
- Upgrading or downsizing
Since in the real estate letter campaign, we will likely deal with boomers (they still represent the majority of homeowners, source), we can cross out some of the reasons for relocation above, and are left with these more likely reasons:
- Wanting to change the neighborhood
- Upgrading or downsizing
- Relationship reasons (yes, it happens in all age groups)
- Changing lifestyle
Potential objections they can throw at us (from the reasons above why they don’t want to sell):
- Not want to sign a listing contract for more than 60 days (since they think they can sell in less than a month)
- Worry about finding a new home in time after selling (afraid of being buyers in the current market conditions)
And lastly, why do people want to update their homes? These are some of the main reasons:
- To freshen things up
- To be able to enjoy their time at home more
- To brag a bit to their friends and feel slightly superior and receive admiration and compliments
- To increase the market value even more (again, a bit of greed)
Now, we continue creating a hook.
A hook is one of the most important elements of a sales copy and is a phrase or a combination of words that speak to the prospect’s mindset (requires that you know their mindset). It is created to grab attention and should run through all of the sales copy.
The process of creating a hook could fill pages and is, more than anything else, a creative process where you research the potential pains, greed, and wants and brainstorm as many associations as you can come up with.
From all these associations, you then start to combine and may come up with several hook ideas.
After some short creative brainstorming based on what I had already researched, I came up with these:
- Sunshine Deal Program
- Truckload Deal Program
- Truckload Confusion System
Next, let’s summarize the benefits that you can or will offer the seller prospects based on the above research:
- Making bank, a once-in-a-lifetime truckload of money that’s more than enough for a nest egg and a new home.
- Living comfortably and securely in a new, updated home, you get admired for making you feel like a blue-blooded superhero.
- Changing that noisy, nosy, and gray vampire-attracting neighborhood and starting a new life in a new peaceful and sunny location with a nicer live and let live neighborhood.
And now the sales bullets:
- A simple system that turns your home into a once-in-a-lifetime truckload of money, more than enough for your nest egg and your new home without becoming a desperate buyer that would sell their mother… last chance before the market dips.
- A sure-fire way to start living comfortably and securely in your new updated home in a sunny location with a nicer live and let live neighborhood that earns you admiration from your friends and family, and it’s not what you think.
Coming up with sales bullets often leads you to realize what is currently lacking in your service offer.
Since you don’t want to lie about what you are offering but may need to sweeten the benefits with something else that overcomes objections, you often realize that something is lacking in what you can offer at the moment.
For example, the first bullet states, “…without becoming a desperate buyer that would sell their mother“.
This implies you have a solution for the sellers on how they will find a new home after selling the current one in a timely manner that leaves them enough money for an additional nest egg.
It may be using “geo-arbitrage,” meaning the sellers sell in a hot market and move to a not-so-hot market where prices for updated homes would be lower.
Or it could be done with sellers who may want to live in an updated home but also want to downsize.
These are just two examples.
Let’s now get to the final result.
On the mailer for the new version of the golden real estate letter, you could put something like this:
“You’ve Just Qualified for the “Sunshine Deal” Program…”
“Dear Mr. Seller,
Yes, that’s right, you’ve just qualified for the “Sunshine Deal Program,” and you rightfully wonder what on earth this may be…Well, it’s…
- A simple system that turns your home into a once-in-a-lifetime truckload of money, more than enough to have a nice nest egg and buy a new home without having to become a desperate buyer that would sell their mother… last chance before the market dips.
- A sure-fire way to start living comfortably and securely in your new updated home in a sunny location with a nicer “live and let live neighborhood” that earns you admiration from your friends and family, and it’s not what you think.
Call me at 123-123-1234.
WEBSITE, etc. “
This article has been reviewed by our editorial team. It has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policy.
Author & Founder