Real Estate Prospecting - Turning Cheese into Soul - Expired Listings & FSBO's

Education & Training with Sell with Soul

Here's the first installment in a series - Turning Cheese into Soul. For Sale

For the record, I have never seriously pursued Expireds or FSBO's myself; however, I have BEEN an expired listing and have appeared to be a FSBO, so I speak from the perspective of a consumer, not a real estate agent or trainer.

And I tell ya - the expired and FSBO campaigns I've personally been the recipient of are pretty darn cheesy. Obviously the agents are taking a shotgun approach to getting business from us poor saps who desperately need their "professional services." The good old Numbers Game - throw enough doo doo against the wall and eventually something will stick. And most of it is, indeed, doo doo.*

Here are some examples of the cheesy marketing I've gotten from agents who want my business...

  • Daily postcards addressed to "Property Owner."
  • Postcards with a hand-written "Call me! I Have a Buyer for Your Property!" (uh, the house was on the market for the last 9 months).
  • Envelopes with my name misspelled (at least that's a step above "Property Owner")
  • Letters with promised "enclosures" missing (e.g. "enclosed is a list of homes that have recently sold in your neighborhood!")
  • A laughably cheesy series of letters with an insultingly condescending tone.

I've also been cold-called, of course, although not nearly as much as I expected. In almost all cases, the caller was obviously calling from a list and was not in the least bit prepared for a real live human bean to answer the phone. They were usually nervous, probably due to the fact that they were not at all prepared to intelligently discuss the specifics of my listing. I guess they were just shooting for the appointment, and didn't bother to "waste any time" in preparation.

Here's the thing.

The owner of an expired listing or a FSBO probably really WOULD like to hear from you... if you have something to offer aside from a cheesy canned marketing piece and a desperate desire to get a listing agreement signed. These people are not the enemy - they're, yes, real live human beings who have a need they'd love you to fill. But no mass-mailing or cold-calling campaign is going to convince anyone you're the right (wo)man for the job. 

What to do instead?

Quality over Quantity. Instead of simply shoveling out postcards, brochures and missing enclosures to as many targets as possible, take the time to personalize your approach to a few. Drive by the home. Take a close look at the expired MLS listing or the FSBO brochure. Note any marketing challenges you see and think about how you would address them. See if you can identify why the home hasn't sold - it may be price, but it very well may not be. Try to figure out if the property is a short sale; that will affect your approach. Ask yourself - "CAN I SELL THIS HOME?"

That's what your target audience wants to know. Can you sell their home?

If I had received just one personal letter (and I don't just mean a hand-written envelope) from an agent who had taken the time to actually LOOK at my situation and address it specifically, that agent would have had a great shot at my business. If one of the agents who called me actually knew where "Doe Run Estates" is located and why it's special (and challenging), I'd have been impressed. If any of them had indicated they had a clue why my property didn't sell, or even a sincere desire to find out, they might have caught my attention.

But, sigh, no. All attempts to entice me to take the next step were in vain. Hopefully they had more luck with their 99 other targets-du-jour...


*For the record, I like Borino's Expired Plus system. It's not cheesy and it's not simply a series of letters designed to beat down a homeowner's resistance. It's aggressive, but do-able for a soulful sort.

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Leslie Helm
Tennessee Recreational Properties - Jamestown, TN
Real Estate For Trail Riders

Hi, Jennifer. Good post! FSBOs are a tough nut to crack here in a "destination" area because sellers believe (and rightfully so, in many cases) that, with so many people coming and going, the location will sell the property. Expireds are another matter. Those properties have probably been on the market for quite a while and have already been listed with a series of realtors....and probably the wrong realtors.

You're right...those sellers probably would love to hear from someone who has a marketing plan tailored to them, if approached properly.

Missy, do you have a link to that old BB post with the letter you mentioned?


Dec 01, 2009 12:09 AM #3
Karen Poss
Coldwell Banker Pinnacle Properties, Florence Alabama - Florence, AL
Realtor - 256-366-6292 - Search Florence Al Homes For Sale

I have tried several including my own(probably the cheesiest of  I have been on the "other" side too and see the benefit of "real" information instead of the usual "bs".  Thanks for posting this info.

Dec 01, 2009 12:16 AM #4
Glenn S. Phillips
Lake Homes Realty - Birmingham, AL
CEO, Lake Homes Realty /

If anyone calls me about anything that has real value to me or is likely to REALLY make me money, I'll take that call and even make an appointment.  Alas, that standard is rarely met.

All the Best!

Dec 01, 2009 12:43 AM #5
Bill Saunders, Realtor®
Meyers Realty - Hot Springs, AR

Hey Jennifer,

It is definitely necessary for all of us to view our "product" from the eyes of the consumer. The consumer is much, much different now than in times past...

Thanks for your great posts.

Dec 01, 2009 01:08 AM #6
Judy Chapman
Referral Network of Illinois LLC - Chicago, IL

Love this approach, Jennifer. I'm going to try it out immediately. Just one house at a time.

Dec 01, 2009 02:15 AM #7
Cara Pearlman
Frankly Real Estate, Inc - Bethesda, MD
Realtor - ABR, SFR

Great timing of your post for me!! The agent that I work with is pressuring me to call expired listings today since it is the first of the month. I hate calling people unsolicited but it is definitely a good opportunity as long as you know what to say and you have something to offer (as you made very clear in your post). I look forward to reading the rest of the series.


Dec 01, 2009 03:11 AM #8
Robert Rauf
HomeBridge Financial Services (NJ) - Toms River, NJ

Jennifer, I do believe you are Spot on, (as usual)

The response from the personal approach will certainly be so much better. Take the time to research before you call. You may not make 100 calls, using up the time to research. but 5 targeted, educated calls will certainly make up for 100 pieces of crap bouncing off the wall.

Dec 01, 2009 03:43 AM #9
Ann Allen Hoover
RE/MAX Advantage South - Hoover, AL
CDPE SRES ASP e-PRO Realtor - Homes for Sale - AL

Yep, this is definitely a much better plan than throwing doodoo at the wall. :o)

Dec 01, 2009 04:11 AM #10
Cheryl Ritchie
RE/MAX Leading Edge - Huntingtown, MD
Southern Maryland 301-980-7566

I guess it is take an interest in them for them to take an interest in you. Good Point for the Cheddar Chesse chapter.

Dec 01, 2009 08:46 AM #11
Marian Pierre-Louis
Fieldstone Historic Research - Medway, MA
Metrowest Boston

I think my problem is I spent too much time customizing each letter.  You remember all those agents that say "this is a numbers game".  Well at this rate I won't be winning the numbers game but it certainly feels better.

Dec 01, 2009 10:40 AM #12
Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn
Sell with Soul - Pensacola Beach, FL
Author of Sell with Soul

Marian - I'd much rather see an agent spend "too much time" putting together a quality piece than not-enough-time putting together... well... doo doo! My personality simply doesn't allow me to play the numbers game, even if I wanted to!

Cheryl  - Exactly!!! Seems so simple, doesn't it?

Ann - Amazing how the very basic tennant of most prospecting is the doo-doo approach.

Rob - Yep! Five good calls will have far better results than 100 bad ones. If you're gonna spend the time, do it right...

Cara - Exactly! It's much easier to make a phone call if you truly believe you can help.

Judy - VERY well said!!!

Bill - that's a great point. What "worked" ten years ago simply feels cheesy today. Not that it didn't feel cheesy ten years ago, but, well, we're finally sick of cheese.

Glenn - But isn't it cool when the standard IS met? And it's really not that hard in an expired/fsbo scenario to be that person.

Karen - every real estate agent ought to be on the other side of a sales pitch. It's cringe-worthy.

Dec 02, 2009 01:59 AM #13
Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn
Sell with Soul - Pensacola Beach, FL
Author of Sell with Soul

Missy - I've heard good things about BB's letter. Seems I"ve seen it, but can't remember what's there now...

Heath - those are the ones I want!!!

Leslie - I'd be terribly flattered if someone just said "I drove by your house yesterday..."

Dec 02, 2009 02:02 AM #14
Sam Gamgee
Eugene, OR

Good post.  Your advice reinforces the approach my client and I are putting together for marketing to FSBOs in 2010.  People selling homes don't want a real estate agent, they want a buyer.  Agents are essentially a means to that end.

Dec 02, 2009 03:02 AM #15
June Piper-Brandon
Long & Foster Hampden - Baltimore, MD
Piecing Dreams One Home at a Time

I have gotten some really cheesy letters.  A few years ago I listed my investment property for sale, when the listing expired I got a raft of expired letters.  They didn't have my name spelled right and they didn't even bother to check that it was the same person that listed the house that is the owner.  Agents need to do their research before sending off those letters.  Some of the letters were really good, so I kept them and revamped them to use myself (after I do the research). 

Dec 02, 2009 04:52 AM #16
Deborah & Steve Love
Salt Lake Homefinders at Aubrey & Associates - Salt Lake City, UT

Jennifer, what great ideas!  I have NEVER been inclined to seek out FSBOs or expireds, now I might just think about that.  I am the type that cannot go to people if I don't feel I have something better to offer them, and just a "me too" letter or phone call has never been exciting to me. 

Think now, with a bit different approach, I can make the cheese into soul as well.  Thanks for the inspiration!

Dec 03, 2009 02:51 AM #17
Debbie DiFonzo
Debbie DiFonzo - United Country VIP Realty, SW Missouri - Lebanon, MO
Lebanon MO and Buffalo Missouri Real Estate

I do believe picking and choosing which expireds and FSBO's to pursue comes with experience - the same with new listings in general. When I first started in real estate, I would have did take any listing that walked in the door. . . I am happy to say, that is no longer the case!

(I remember BB's letter as well....but don't think I saved a copy. Perhaps Jennifer or Missy can ask BB to re-post?)

Dec 04, 2009 04:42 AM #18
Steven Pahl
Keller Williams Tampa Properties - Tampa, FL
Real Estate Consultant Tampa, FL 813-319-6423

Want to make an impression on FSBO's:

Drive by, take one of their fliers, make 20-25 copies and bring them back to give to them..."I noticed you only had a few fliers left on your sign and I thought I would help you out.."  Now they have to thank you!

If they don't have any fliers out, knock on the door and ask for one, politely say you just wanted more information and leave (don't go inside).  Repeat step one, bring back 20 - 25 copies at a later date.

Dec 10, 2009 01:33 PM #19
Sharlena(Charli) Reese
Coldwell Banker West Shell - Cincinnati, OH

Great post! Steven I really like your fsbo idea!! I'm gonna give that a try!

May 11, 2011 01:05 PM #20
Laura Murray
Weichert - Silver Spring, MD
Search Montgomery Co., MD for homes

Great advice , oh and i loved your book "Selling with Soul".  You sell in a way that I find very authentic and this is the way I want to model my career.

Jul 12, 2012 04:11 AM #21
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Aug 19, 2012 08:29 PM #22
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