Of all places to get into a debate about investing in fixer-upper homes, your local auto repair shop might be one of the oddest. But that’s exactly what I found myself doing while getting my car’s oil changed last week. My mechanic, Jim, has been picking my brain for over a year about how I do what I do so well, but on the topic of how to market to distressed homeowners, he was skeptical. Obviously, he’d been thinking about becoming a real estate investor like me but was stuck on what he’d heard at a seminar on how to find and win the best deals.

I told him that I didn’t think there was any contest. But because we’ve known each other for years, I told him I was willing to hear what he’d learned at the seminar for argument’s sake. I set one ground rule: he had to be open to my analysis if he really wanted the inside scoop on how to succeed. He agreed. So after he changed my oil, I got to work on changing his mind.

How to Market to Distressed Homeowners and Win the Deal

How to Market to Distressed Homeowners

To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of real estate investing seminars to begin with. They offer too little information in too little time, leaving would-be investors confused about what works in the real world–like how to communicate effectively with homeowners in distress. Yes, you want their business, but you also want them to feel good about doing business with you. Good guys like Jim often walk away from these events with a lot of vague ideas to chew on, but not enough practical, or ethical, advice to actually use.

And, in my experience, making good real estate investment decisions has to include marketing in ways that gain a homeowner’s trust. When I stressed this point to Jim, I knew I had his attention. He’s a man of integrity who takes pride in his work. So we reviewed the tactics the seminar promoted and I suggested a better, more principled, plan of marketing action. He was all ears. I hope you will be too. Here’s what we covered.

Cold-calling is one of the oldest methods of getting a distressed homeowner’s attention. This technique certainly includes literally picking up the phone and calling the homeowner, but more often these days it also includes sending a text. I usually throw pounding the pavement into this bucket as well, because it involves calling on an individual at home who hasn’t taken the initiative to contact you first. I get why real estate investors make cold calls. They want to do whatever it takes to stay on a homeowner’s mind, especially if they aren’t the first in line to reach them. It’s an old-fashioned practice that hasn’t gone out of style, in part, because it sometimes still works.

Unfortunately, cold-calling is a risky proposition to take with homeowners who are in a difficult financial situation. If they’ve fallen behind on mortgage payments, for example, it could be due to job loss, divorce, or a death in the family. Sure, these scenarios may improve your chances of finding motivated sellers, but not necessarily for earning their confidence if you come across as meddlesome or insensitive. And with people more on guard than ever about their privacy, you’re more likely to seem nosy than nice.

Postcards and fliers and other printed materials offer real estate investors a potentially less invasive approach for reaching distressed homeowners. After all, people can choose to throw a piece of mail away, save it for later, or read it on the spot. If they can be convinced to sell, and to you, by the credentials you’ve supplied on your mailer, you might find you’ve won a great investment property for the price of a few stamps.

As idealistic as this sounds, that’s all it is. Though it can seem like you’re giving homeowners more space and control with this method, you still have to make the first move–and an impressive one if you want them to reach out in return. And distressed homeowners are regularly overrun with junk mail like the rest of us, but even more so. So convincing someone with mortgage worries to choose you over the countless other investors touting their credentials takes a lot more stamps than you might think. Your postcards will probably reach the trash faster than homeowners will reach you.

Internet marketing is here to stay and today’s real estate investors are taking note. There are numerous opportunities now to create and promote an online presence for almost any budget. From Craigslist to targeted Facebook ads and SEO-optimized websites, the internet has made the earth a little flatter and the chance to make a buck a little easier. The big plus for investors is the alternative to approaching homeowners directly. With a recognizable national brand, in particular, people can, and often do, easily find what they need online and reach out on their own.

The big minus, however, is that to really make a dent in cyberspace these days, you really should have a budget for it. To stand out on Google, Facebook, or anywhere else online–and to drive enough traffic to your website to justify its cost–you’ll need money, time and, possibly, a few pricey experts to help. Both reputable real estate investors and hacks are everywhere, making it confusing for people to know where to turn when ready to sell. Carving a name for yourself in this landscape when just starting out is tough–and potentially expensive.

If not executed carefully, each of these plans can look more like a ploy for tricking distressed homeowners into trusting you. For cold-calling and mail campaigns, you’ve also got to find the leads on the homeowners in the first place. Most real estate investors do find motivated sellers by buying lead lists, which have been bought by every other investor in town and are not always up-to-date. That’s just one more step toward spinning your wheels on marketing tactics that don’t always get you closer to winning the deal.

Winning the Deal With Proven Marketing

An easier strategy for winning over distressed homeowners is to become a part of the franchise team. HomeVestors® has been earning the trust of homeowners in “ugly” situations for over three decades with their nationally-recognized “We Buy Ugly Houses®” brand and the integrity of its over 1,100 independently owned and operated franchises.

I told Jim his entrepreneurial personality and solid work ethic were a perfect fit for HomeVestors® and encouraged him to put a call in. Unable to argue with that, he did. It was a good move for a good guy.


Each franchise office is independently owned and operated.


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