Trolling the Obituaries? THINK Before You Do

Real Estate Agent with Savvy + Company (704) 491-3310 228209

So You've Been Told to Build Your Business by Trolling the Obituaries? THINK Before You Do!

Obituary TrollsBefore you take the advice from your real estate broker, trainer or coach, PLEASE READ THIS.  You never know who the recipient of your contact REALLY is or, possibly even more importantly, WHO THEY KNOW!

A dear friend in the business shared with me that following the recent death of her father, her mother began receiving letters and calls from agents (coincidentally, all from the same brokerage), letting her know that they were sorry for her loss. Nice, right?

Well, before you respond, read on. Not only are they mailing and phoning this agent's mother their condolences, they are telling her that they are 'SURE' that she will want to either "escape the memories of her loved one" (by selling her home) or she "likely can no longer afford to keep her home!"  


Seriously, if I hadn't seen them, I don't know that I would have believed it!

My friend's mother shared these letters with those of us who visited her at her home following the funeral.  She felt that perhaps she was being too sensitive so, she wanted others' perspective on these letters (TEN OF THEM - I kid you not).  Every single reader of the letters exclaimed, "HOW RUDE!"  Every single person who read these letters also saw, not only the name of the agents who were so incredibly rude to send them but, the name of their brokerage.  Remember, they were very similar (form style) letters FROM AGENTS FROM THE SAME BROKERAGE!  

Don't be an obituary trollNow, this agent's mother is definitely not short of money, very well-respected in the community and in her grief, has managed to share her letters enough to turn an entire neighborhood (and a really nice one at that!) and a very large segment of the community against that ENTIRE brokerage whose agents were so incredibly disrespectful.  

This grieving widow's sweet comment was, "Why would I want to leave ______'s memories behind? I'm not going anywhere.  This is my home; this is where I feel at peace."

So, if you've been told to troll the obits, please beware of how this is received. I can assure you, this tactic will NEVER be well-received.

© Debe Maxwell | The Maxwell House Group | | Trolling the Obituaries?  THINK Before You Do

Comments (83)

Kathryn Acciari
Central One Federal Credit Union - Shrewsbury, MA
Mortgage Loan Originator

Appalling.  Surely there is a kinder, more thoughtful way to offer to help.

Nov 14, 2016 08:50 AM
Debe Maxwell, CRS
Savvy + Company (704) 491-3310 - Charlotte, NC
The right Charlotte REALTOR!

John Meussner - It's shocking first, that brokers or trainers are telling agents to do this but, to find at least a dozen who actually DO THIS is incomprehensible to me!

Nov 14, 2016 09:32 AM
Victoria Ray Henderson
HomeBuyer Brokerage - Washington, DC
Washington DC Real Estate

Wow! What an ugly way to get business! These agents need to double up on their ethics classes

Nov 14, 2016 09:51 AM
Nathan Gesner
American West Realty and Management - Cody, WY
Broker / Property Manager

Worse than ambulance chasers! I have no problem with a generic ad ("Getting divorced? Facing foreclosure? Call me today to sell fast!") but I disagree with direct contact in these situations.

Nov 14, 2016 09:52 AM
Thomas McCombs
Century 21 HomeStar - Akron, OH

While I do not do this, I can understand that it might work for some Realtors. Otherwise they would not do it. 

Business models vary. 

Nov 14, 2016 11:04 AM
James (Jim) Lawson, DBA LLC - Bonita Springs, FL
Broker Associate, RSPS, BPOR, HI & PE

When Mom died in 1997 I was so inundated with these types of agents that six months later I sold our family home as a FSBO and got fair market value. 

Nov 14, 2016 11:07 AM
Matthew Johnson - Chester, VA
Security Guard Marketing

WOW! That's sleazy..  Thankfully I have never experienced this..  But WOW!


Nov 14, 2016 11:48 AM
Harry F. D'Elia III
Avant Garde Residential Management Services - Phoenix, AZ
Investor , Mentor, GRI, Radio, CIPS, REOs, ABR

I can see this being a sticky situation when marketing to people who lost loved ones. Perhaps, a gereic card would of worked better. Leave it up to the seller to call.

Nov 14, 2016 07:21 PM
Mark Don McInnes, Sandpoint-Idaho
Sandpoint Realty LLC - Sandpoint, ID
North Idaho Real Estate - 208-255.6227

This past summer I was put into the same category of these realtor's.  I sent out cards to one of my farms.  Received a call, and of course I was happy to know cards were working.  Unfortunately by the end of the message, even though originally confused, I realized this lady had all too recently lost her husband.  The timing could not have been worse.  I had no way of knowing and there is no way we can check every name and address against our mailings.  I never would practice what you write of, and were there any doubts the disgust, hurt, anger in her voice on the short message would be enough for anyone to never to do it again.  I sent a card apologizing for the accidental timing and expressing condolences for her loss.  Signed my first name only and no card.  I felt terrible.  Mark 

PS...I just read quite a few of the other comments.  I am surprised how many have not heard of this tactic.  I have been to quite a few different seminars, education etc and heard of not only this but the divorce tactic.  Not through my brokerage, but general training either based on CE or paid 'how to' classes.  Even as a newbie I thought this to be low life.  $$$ all to often seems to run ramshod over morals and ethics in our business.  M

Nov 14, 2016 07:38 PM
Gwen Fowler-864-710-4518 SC * Mountain* Lake*Home
Gwen Fowler Real Estate, Inc - Walhalla, SC
Gwen Fowler Real Estate, Inc.

They could have saved themselves by looking at the county history.  You have to research and if there is no mortgage and someone has lived there for awhile, then solicitations would not be received well.

If the person had just moved into the home and they did not have a support group in the area, these might have been received better.

My business has never been so low that I had to go through the funeral home to get it.

Nov 14, 2016 09:17 PM
Debe Maxwell, CRS
Savvy + Company (704) 491-3310 - Charlotte, NC
The right Charlotte REALTOR!

Mark Don McInnes, Sandpoint - I am so sorry that you experienced that as we all farm and don't know who has lost a loved one in a large farm (unless we live there and still, in a large area, we may not know).  The difference between your cards and these vultures' letters was that you were simply farming and not mentioning that you're guessing that this widow couldn't afford to live there or simply can't emotionally live there!  I do hope the woman understood the difference!

I had never heard of it either - I'm still shocked that it's taught and that there are agents who think it's a great idea!

Nov 14, 2016 10:26 PM
Dorte Engel
RE/MAX Leading Edge - Bowie, MD
ABC - Annapolis, Bowie, Crofton & rest of Maryland

Dear Debe,

I wonder, who thought that one up? Clearly not anyone familiar with the stages of grief outlined by Kuebler-Ross. After a big loss, it is best to do nothing until you figure out the rest of your life. That can take a while. Maybe one of the stages should be "outrage at insensitive vendors." 

Nov 14, 2016 11:22 PM
Ron Aguilar
Gateway Mortgage Group - Saint George, UT
Mortgage & Real Estate Advisor since 1995

if your biz comes to this, then maybe you should look at other options

Nov 15, 2016 01:22 AM
Ron and Alexandra Seigel
Napa Consultants - Carpinteria, CA
Luxury Real Estate Branding, Marketing & Strategy


We knew a realtor who would come in to my hair salon every Wednesday and read the obituary section.  She was well connected in the charitable circles of Beverly Hills.  She was not crass like the ones you described in your posts, she knew how to reach the bereaved in a classy way.  And yes, she did very well selling those homes.  A

Nov 15, 2016 02:13 AM
David Alan Baker | Laveen & South Phoenix Realtor
Keller Williams Realty Phoenix - Laveen, AZ
Your local Expert

This is not one that I do, thankfully.  Yet, I assume, like other things it will work for some people.  If not they wouldn't be doing it.  Though, it would make me think 2x before doing it, when seeing your post about the negative impact.  In the end, is it worth it.

Nov 15, 2016 05:24 AM
Lyn Sims
Schaumburg, IL
Real Estate Broker Retired

It's nice to hear that women's perspective & how it is taken. I'm pretty shocked actually that someone would say you can't afford to live there any longer. 

Nov 15, 2016 06:47 AM
Larry Brewer - Benchmark Realty llc
Benchmark Realty LLc - Nashville, TN

Hi Debe - These are probably new agents who haven't had to deal with many upset home owners. They will learn if they stay in business long enough.

On the other hand, the person who is teaching this needs a phone call from someone who can set them straight.

Nov 15, 2016 08:03 AM
Dale Taylor
Re/Max 10 New Lenox Illinois - Frankfort, IL
Realtor = Chicago Illinois Homes Townhomes Condos

Early in my career I would prospect through the law bulletin for the probate niche.  I would get such angry calls because Relatives either did not know, nor understood, or were very intimidated with the term probate.  The calls were taking me far too much time to calm them down and explain, plus my efforts were not producing any listings, nor referrals.  If you are going to market this sorrow niche it is far better to just send a simple greeting card with your business card which may generate a referral.  You never want to appear you are exploiting a loss to gain a listing.  We always want to think about how we can improve the perception our REALTOR IMAGE in our propsecting.

Nov 15, 2016 08:55 AM
Kathleen Daniels, Probate & Trust Specialist
KD Realty - 408.972.1822 - San Jose, CA
Probate Real Estate

Debe, that is beyond rude. It is yet another form of begging. It's what the low information agents do ... because they don't have any other game. Desperate people do desperate things.  Despicable?  Beyond! 

Nov 15, 2016 09:56 AM
BethAnn Long
RE/MAX of Spokane - Spokane, WA
Realtor, CRS, e-PRO, CLHMS Spokane Wa Real Estate

I have been in this biz 13 years and literally never even THOUGHT to troll the obits for business. That is truly tacky.

Nov 18, 2016 02:11 PM