Archive for January, 2011
In an earlier post, we introduced the Yellow Letter as a marketing vehicle to deliver your message of home and solutions to distressed homeowners. The yellow letter is a handwritten, usually brief message on old school yellow ruled paper. The response rate is typically much higher than traditional direct mail because it has the look and feel of personal correspondence.
Instead of laboriously hand writing each and every letter, you can use technology to simulate your handwriting and avoid getting writer’s cramp. Matthew Smith of shortsaledesmoines.com and MatthewSmithOnline.com offers a helpful tip on how to do this. If you save money on carpel tunnel surgery, be sure to send money to his PayPal account.
If you door knock to distressed homeowners, here’s how to guarantee your material is seen when the homeowner isn’t home
If you use our pre foreclosure list to door knock, there obviously will be some homeowners that need your help who are not home. In these cases, you shouldn’t move on to the next door and squander the opportunity to put a message in front of Mr. and Mrs. Jones when they come home. Although some REALTORS will leave a door hanger on the door, many homeowner’s will discard it before bothering to read it. They’ll just assume it’s a Domino’s pizza ad.
Want to make more impact and practically guarantee that the homeowner sees your material? Consider placing your material in an Express Envelope in the storm door.
One subscriber to our pre foreclosure data makes more of an impact by dropping off the express envelope first, without trying to make contact with the homeowner first – he just wants to get his message of hope and solutions in front of the distressed homeowner as a starting point. After waiting a few days, he’ll then go out to knock on the homeowner’s door and explain that he offers compassionate and ethical solutions to problems with real estate loans. Having already read his material, the homeowner already knows of the REALTOR so they are more receptive to the visit. The express envelope, which has an extremely high open rate, piques the homeowner’s interest and “greases the skids” for a face to face meet and greet.
There’s myriad different ways we can slice our early, accurate and exclusive pre foreclosure data. In terms of geography, we can target distressed homeowners by area code, county, city, zip code, or radius around a zip code. Keep in mind, the more finitely we slice the information, the larger the area we would have to select to generate a meaningful amount of records. The larger and more densely populated area, the more selective you can be. If you are in a less densely populated area, and/or are limited to a few zip codes, we may not have the luxury of being overly selective, unless it is a subscription that provides a fresh, updated list of distressed homeowners as new records become available.
> How far behind the homeowner is
We can filter the data by 30, 60 or 90+ days late. There are two schools of thoughts amongst our clients, and no clear consensus.
1) At 30 days late, the homeowner is not yet motivated to part with their home. They will either become current, get bailed out by their parents, or elect to do a loan modification. To the contrary, 60+ days late is a more serious indicator of hardship and therefor, the gravity of the homeowner’s situation sets in and they are more willing to explore all of their options, including a short sale.
2) By targeting homeowners at 30 days late, you ensure that you are the first to put your message of hope and solutions in front of struggling homeowners at the first sign of hardship, and have enough time to build trust and rapport with the homeowner. It’s not an overnight process to build this connection, much less work with the lender. So there is an early advantage to contacting homeowners 30 days late. If they do get back in good graces with the lender, it’s not rare that they can refer you to someone else that needs your help because obviously, you don’t have to look too far to find someone else – a friend, neighbor, family member, co-worker, someone in the gym – that owes more on their home than what’s it’s worth or has experienced some financial distress.
Your choice of number of days late will depend in part on the foreclosure laws in your state. Is it judicial or non-judicial? Do lenders move quickly to commence the foreclosure paperwork like Arizona and Texas, or are you in an area where foreclosure is a longer, more deliberate process? Depending on your area, it may make sense to target homeowners at the 30 day mark.
> Aggregate Mortgage Balance
Some of our clients have a niche in luxury homes, so we can target borrowers with a high mortgage balance. Other clients work with cash investors and prefer to target homes with a lower mortgage balance. Still others want to target distressed borrowers that want to target estimated home values that are in the most demand by buyers in their market. We can also keep the mortgage balances within conforming limits. Of course, the mortgage balance isn’t reflective of today’s market price, so we can adjust it accordingly.
> Number of mortgage trades
We have the ability to cap at one or two lenders to make your life easier and you are not a conduit between five different lenders that don’t communicate with one another.
It’s most practical to filter our data by how far behind they are, geography, and loan balance. You have the ability to estimate the percentage of equity in the home, which is not entirely reliable due to plummeting housing prices and property neglect. We can eliminate HELCOC’s on the second loan. You can limit the data to homeowners within a designated credit score range or target FHA or VA Loans. There are dozens of other filters we can apply, but once again, the more finitely we slice the information, the bigger area we would have to cover – we’d have to cast a net around a bigger pool from which to draw the increasingly dwindling data from.
To build a custom list according to your unique objectives, you can call me at 607-727-0620 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
A client of our pre foreclosure data sends mail to distressed homeowners on the list to drive them to a landing page to learn about their alternatives to foreclosure. The particular landing page is dedicated to troubled homeowners on the list – the URL link is not shared, much less promoted to anyone other than the recipients of his mail piece. There are hundreds of hits on the website, but the number of visitors entering their contact info is less than desired. In other words, the conversion rate is off. I knew that this is a topic I had to explore in a series of blog posts.
It’s an axiom in direct marketing that if you push everything, people will end up doing nothing. Put differently, too many choices paralyzes prospects into complete non action.
This client’s website had a wealth of information and reports tailored specifically for underwater and troubled homeowners, but was there too much information? Was it information overload? That was the first question that came to mind when viewing a cornucopia of reports.
In my view, a landing page to distressed homeowners shouldn’t divulge too much information, for a couple reasons:
- You don’t want the homeowners to close themselves on their alternatives to foreclosure. If you give them too much information, they will make up their own minds. You are the real estate expert, not them. If you only provide the broad strokes and not go into great detail, they will have a reason to reach out to you for consultation.
- By giving them too much to choose from in terms of links to various resources, you are not methodically guiding them along and run the risk that they will wonder astray. In my view, they should be given specific guidance, step by step, from A to Z, what to do, with specific calls to action such as downloading a singular report. I’ve seen a lot of informational sites that look more like e-commerce sites that give the homeowner too many choices, when the goal should be a specific call to action to convey one, specific message and obtain their contact info to continue the conversation.
Marketing Experiments Journal did a recent study on the topic, Landing Page Confusion: How Does Having More Than One Objective to a Page Affect its Performance?
What they learned in a series of case studies is that conversion increased significantly when choices and unnecessary distractions were eliminated — and the overall design and orientation of the page emphasized the call to action.
Feedback is most welcome.
Does the Do Not Call List have any teeth? A few thoughts on calling distressed homeowners and the DNC regulations.
I’ve had a lot of requests lately for phone numbers of distressed homeowners, and so I want to avail this post to provide some insight into some limitations of phone numbers in our 30-60-90 day late database and talk about some potential pitfalls when putting together a telemarketing campaign to defaulting homeowners that are falling behind.
First off, we include the phone number of the distressed homeowner when available, and the phone number is scrubbed against the Do Not Call List – it’s okay to call. In fact, we can’t even obtain a phone number unless it is compliant with the do not call regulations. One word of caution – although the homeowner’s phone number is compliant at the time you receive it, the federal DNC List is updated every 30 days, and it’s entirely possible that the homeowner will elect to register their number in the next updated registry. In order to periodically check if the phone numbers are compliant with the do not call list in a future period, you will have to get a SANS number that gives you access to the most updated database of homeowners that have opted out of marketing calls.
Having said that, do the do not call regulations have any teeth?
We routinely encounter REALTORS and investors that are impervious to the do not call regulations, and if they are set on calling distressed homeowners, they’ll look them up anyway without regard to the do not call list.
The sentiment is as a real estate professional, they are not really selling anything. Said one mortgage broker, “I’m not peddling anything. If it wasn’t for me, the homeowner would have their belongings moved to the curb.” There are many clients that share this view and feel that by offering hope and solutions, they are exempt from the do not call regulations. If you offer to save someone’s credit, help them get from underneath their homes, and move on to build better memories, is it a “campaign to sell goods and services” under the definition of the do not call regulations? I’ll let you decide.
Certainly, no responsible list provider would advocate calling people on the do not call list, but I view my job as the conduit of information, and it seems from my experience that most REALTORS are not concerned with calling homeowners on the Do Not Call List. One subscriber of our pre foreclosure data, in fact, had a programmer write a code or program to automatically take our list and have phone numbers populated from an internet yellow pages site. “These people have enough problems than for them to worry about suing me”, she said.
Where do you check in?
Nearly everyday, I speak with a REALTOR that tells me that they don’t want to work with short sales because they’re too much work and take too long to close. Yet the reality is short sales are real estate nowadays. With so many homes in distress, how can a REALTOR avoid short sales?
If you live on the California coast, you probably know what grunions are. For those that don’t, they are sardine-sized fish that are known for their very unusual mating ritual. At very hide tides, the females come up on sandy beaches and dig their tails into the sand to lay their eggs and mate. For the next 10 days, the grunion eggs remain hidden in the sand, but at the next set of high tides the eggs hatch and the young grunion are washed out to sea.
During this certain time of year when the grunions are running, the beaches are shimmering with thousands of grunions and people go onto the beaches with flashlights to scoop them up. The grunions are everywhere. Just like short sales.
“Short sales are grunions, and the grunions are running”, says Chris Sylvada, the founder of Simple Listing Solutions, a turn-key marketing system to position REALTORS as neighborhood expert for short sales. More than any time than ever, you need to be focused on filling your boat with short sale listings.
If you a REALTOR that dreads the work of closing short sale transactions, Chris points out that you don’t need to do the work you think you have to do. Sure, you’ll still have to do work, but you can focus on your core competency of working with home sellers and buyers.
Instead of haggling with banks, have someone on your team that is good at negotiating with lenders. By delegating the loss mitigation and lender negotiation part, you can focus on being a real estate professional that gets listings, ink contracts, market the home aggressively and sell the home in a tough market. In other words, you can be a Home Seller, not Lender Negotiator.
The proverbial grunions are running. They are plentiful and yours for the taking. Are you scooping them up, or are you digging for clams?
At preforeclosuredata.net, we provide early, accurate and exclusive pre foreclosure data for real estate professionals to get more completed transactions. Armed with this pre public record data, you can be the first to approach distressed homeowners with your message of hope and solutions before their hardship reaches any public file. If you’ve liked this post, follow us on Twitter @shortsale data, or download our complimentary ebook on pre foreclosure marketing at http://bit.ly/f3K1Hr
In real estate, nothing increases profits than being there first. This is especially true in the short sale and foreclosure business. One of our resellers used a vivid story of a father taking his son on a fishing trip to accentuate the importance of timing and beating the competition.
The father and son awake very early in the morning to get ready for a much anticipated fishing trip. They load up all their fishing gear, pour the hot cocoa in the thermos, get in the truck and drive to NOD Lake. There were hundreds of anglers fishing shoulder to shoulder, so they decided to find another lake to fish that wasn’t so crowded.
They pulled into the parking area of ForeclosureRadar Lake, and it was the same scene. It was early in the morning and the sun wasn’t even out, but there were so many other fishermen, they couldn’t even find a parking spot!
“Someone else told me there’s another lake up the hill that’s more secluded”, the father told his boy. “It’s called preforeclosuredata.net Pond.”
Once they arrived at preforeclosuredata.net Pond, they were amazed to find that they were the only ones there, with the exception of a park ranger. They looked down at the misty pond from the flood wall and saw a pristine lake unadulterated by other fishermen. Was the pond closed? they wondered.
In disbelief that they were the only two people that wanted to fish the there, they asked the park ranger if it was shut down for the season.
“No, the pond is all yours. Your the only one here. The pond was just stocked with thousands of trout. Enjoy this body of water to yourself, and catch your fill.”
The motto of this story? Once a homeowners hardship has reached any public file with a Notice of Default, Notice of Election or Lis Pendens (depending on your area), the distressed homeowner is inundated with solicitations. Everyone else is working the same list.
Our credit bureau data puts your message of hope and solutions in front of defaulting homeowners at the first sign of trouble.
When you are planning your next fishing trip, where will you go? NOD Lake, ForeclosureRadar Lake, or Preforeclosuredata.net Pond?
We’re often asked what works and what doesn’t work when approaching our list of distressed homeowners with your message of hope and solutions. We can generate some ideas and share examples of what has worked for other clients, but unfortunately, there is no one silver bullet that works for everyone.
The reality is there are myriad variables that influence the success of a marketing campaign to distressed homeowners. Your copy, your call to action, the frequency of contact, the day of your week your message is received, even the colors of your material are but just a few factors that play a role. Our best advice is to TEST, TEST, TEST again. If you are not testing your marketing, you are not marketing.
One way to test is to use different domains tied to different marketing messages. Let’s say you are contemplating two postcard designs that you want to send to 2,000 recipients. Naturally, you’d be interested in which postcard generates the most response.
As a call to action, you can direct 1,000 postcard recipients to SanJoseHomeHelp.com and use the other thousand postcards to send the recipient off to YouSaveHomes.com You can then check your log files or use Google Analytics to see which postcard generated the most web traffic.
We’re firm believers in the soft sell approach and that a great number of homeowners will seek more information online than picking up the phone to call. But there will always be people that prefer to call you to get information on how to get from underneath their home. For those people, you can assign unique phone numbers to each marketing vehicle. For example, you can send a letter to distressed homeowners and tell them to call you at 555-1235. A postcard can list your number at 333-1242, and dimensional mail such as a fortune cookie can instruct the homeowner to learn more about saving their home by calling 222-3555. There are many technology companies that can inexpensively provide multiple incoming phone numbers which can be directed to your office or cell phone. We use tossabledigits.com.
Let’s say that you want to test the call to action. In one mail piece, you direct distressed homeowners to a landing page where they can download a free report. In the same mail piece, you instead direct them to a pre-recorded hotline to anonymously listen to a 2-3 minute “fireside chat” that presents a calming voice of hope and solutions. You can easily determine which call to action gets the most bites through technology.
What doesn’t require technology is a simple question you can ask homeowners when they walk into your office, call you or fill out a form on your website – “I’m curious… how did you hear about us?”. Here at Homestead Data, anyone that calls us is asked this question, but one caveat: this question of how the prospect learned about you should be asked only after some minimal trust and rapport is established. You don’t want the leery distressed homeowner who is already cautious, to be even more on the defensive when they feel drilled for too much information.
The quintessential point is that your campaign to distressed homeowners should be scientific in nature and shouldn’t be based on what you think might work from guesswork. Rather, your marketing efforts to distressed homeowners should be shaped over time, in response to clearly defined metrics that can be tracked.