“The letter to owners has to be carefully crafted to emphasize confidentiality for the homeowners and must be written diplomatically yet with something specific about the buyers,” says Dunn. “You need to make sure the owners understand that you aren’t sending out a blind solicitation for a listing.”
While Dunn only sends out letters on behalf of a buyer, those letters can also generate future listings for him. Ricci Tan, a homeowner in the Potomac Elementary School district, received one of Dunn’s letters a year ago when she wasn’t ready to sell, but she recently got in touch with him now that she and her husband are considering listing their property.
“When I send a letter to homeowners, I am very careful to put in the caveat that ‘this isn’t a solicitation of services’ and that we really have a buyer we’re working with, because a lot of homeowners assume you’re just fishing for clients,” says Kay McGrath King, a real estate agent with Washington Fine Properties in D.C. “I also add that if they are working with an agent or brokerage that they can have their agent contact me. There’s just such a dearth of inventory that you have to try every means to find a place for your buyers.”
From a homeowner’s point of view, being contacted at a real estate agent’s initiative can make selling an attractive option. Some may discover they have more equity than they realized or that a potential sales price is higher than they think.
“I hadn’t been thinking about selling when I got a postcard from Marjorie Dick Stuart, but I called her because I was kind of a reluctant landlord,” says Frank Finamore, a condo seller in Woodley Park. “It worked out great because I didn’t have to worry about showing the property with a tenant in it or waiting until the tenants left. I contacted a real estate attorney just to make sure I was doing everything correctly and paid my former Realtor a small consulting fee to check out the contract.”
Finamore says he was able to negotiate the commission with Stuart and was satisfied that he received the highest possible price because he had recently had the condo appraised for a refinancing. While some sellers feel they will get a higher price on the open market, they may be able to keep more of their profit if they can pay a lower sales commission and if they can avoid extensive repairs before putting their home on the market.
Real estate agents must clearly state to the homeowners whom they are representing in a sale. Dunn has homeowners complete a form that allows him a one-time showing of the property to his buyers even though the property isn’t on the market, and he has the owners sign a form that states that if a sale occurs, the sellers will pay a specific percentage of the sales price for his commission.