Seattle Buyer Attempts Cold Call Letter to Find a House

A friend of mine who lives in one of Seattle’s more popular neighborhoods (e.g. Ballard / Phinney Ridge / Green Lake / Ravenna) sent me this “cold call” letter that he received in the mail recently (I’ve removed personally identifying information):

To Whom It May Concern:

by Flickr user Leslie Seaton
For Sale Sign?

I am writing to inquire simply about your home. My wife and children and I have been scouring area since last summer and trying to buy a home in the neighborhood to no avail. I’m at the point of trying to go direct now to homeowners and thought this less intrusive than literally knocking on your door, so I hope this isn’t too forward.

We recently lost an offer on a home nearby but aren’t deterred, just trying this approach directly now. We have cash to buy, I’m familiar with real estate transactions (I am in a related industry), and we can pay market value – we just want the chance to deal prior to agents getting involved with the hassles and costs associated with them and marketing etc. This saves everyone money and we aren’t worried about ones that are in need of repairs (in fact prefer those) so we can customize a bit to our family’s needs. We look at anything!

If you or anyone you know may be considering selling for whatever reasons please pass my name along or save this for if/when you are considering as we are patient. I’d love a chance to discuss options so please call me.

Thanks so much for your time and consideration and feel free to call or email me anytime!

Presumably every homeowner in his neighborhood received the same cold call letter in the mail.

With inventory at an all-time low and the number of new listings still down from a year ago, it’s not surprising to see buyers getting creative like this.

Has anyone here had experience with a “cold call” letter like this, on either the buying or selling side? Do they ever work? I’d love to hear your stories.

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About The Tim

Tim Ellis is the founder of Seattle Bubble. His background in engineering and computer / internet technology, a fondness of data-based analysis of problems, and an addiction to spreadsheets all influence his perspective on the Seattle-area real estate market. Tim also hosts the weekly improv comedy sci-fi podcast Dispatches from the Multiverse.


  1. 1
    Drone says:

    Interesting. I was considering attempting this tactic as a buyer, but it seems someone else already beat me to it. Perhaps a more targeted approach would be necessary. Curious if it actually has worked for anyone though.

  2. 2
    whatsmyname says:

    Funny, we had a similar type thing forwarded through the HOA email.

    But check this out:

  3. 3

    RE: whatsmyname @ 2 – 200 unsuccessful offers? That reminds me of Elizabeth Rhodes’ story about the guy who couldn’t sell his condo.

    Something else probably has to be going on, like having no agent, having a really bad agent, not being pre-approved, being completely unrealistic on price, having a last name “Sellersuk” or something.

  4. 4
    Tracy @ WSB says:

    I tweeted last week after a real-estate agent – who wasn’t even West Seattle-based (her flyer focused on Pierce County properties) – left a bag on the doorknob of our somewhat run-down 2 bedroom/1 bath hovel advertising herself and her services, noting the state of the “we need sellers” market (via a photocopied article from a non-local news source), and including a candy bar (which I threw out, not knowing the source). Seemed like overkill. And our hovel is mostly future-teardown (view lot) fodder anyway.

  5. 5
    The Tim says:

    RE: Tracy @ WSB @ 4 – Strange that someone would go to that trouble but not bother to put a little more effort into it. It’s not like there haven’t been stories in the Seattle Times or P-I about the local inventory shortage.

  6. 6
    Dan Ryan says:

    I received the same letter in Kirkland in December. the letter says he is buying a home for his own use, but when you look at the website at his email domain, he has some sort of property investment business. I’d call it a scam if I knew the angle. I suspect the angle is that he thinks he can get better prices by dealing with sellers who are unrepresented.

  7. 7
    toad37 says:

    I told my buddy and his wife to try this in Snoq Ridge. They found a couple that was interested but they ended up buying a bank owned home.

  8. 8
    David Losh says:

    I have had a variety of properties in questionable repair over the years. Some might have been termed neglected.

    I have gotten the letters, and I have sent the letters, but I am more of a knock on the door kind of guy.

    However this is just a ploy that needs an over all strategy. You need to be persistent. One letter doesn’t get it done. You may cruise the neighborhood and find what really works for you, and target a dozen or so.

    You should have a list of what you are looking for and concentrate on those.

    Let’s say a mid century modern with three bedrooms two bath rooms in an area like around Wedgewood, or in a school district you like. I have also gotten those letters where the people want to be within walking distance of the elementary school.

    I know of one guy who has been successful because of his approach, as a mortgage broker, with his financing in place, or cash, and the promise to close quickly. He’s done the same thing twice.

    We bought a house I vultured for about a year. That was a direct contact though.

    It can work, but the odds are people will want to have the house on the market for full market exposure. There are things to overcome that like no Real Estate commssion, and the promise to pre inspect so there are no surprises.

    It may cost you, but if the inventory is bleak, what have you got to lose? You may be pre inspecting anyway.

  9. 9
    The Tim says:

    RE: Dan Ryan @ 6 – Hmm, was it literally the exact same letter? Because the one my friend sent me was signed with an email

  10. 10
    David Losh says:

    RE: Dan Ryan @ 6

    Sorry I missed this comment.

    Yes, there is a husband and wife team I have come across repeatedly who send out these letters. The e-mail gets you on the contact sheet that they use for future reference.

  11. 11
    Dan Ryan says:

    RE: The Tim @ 9

    the one I received wasn’t Gmail. I don’t have it around, but the text was very close to this one. the email domain was the guy’s own website.

    the other ‘fun’ thing I recall was that we received it only a month after moving to Kirkland. the area on the outside of the envelope was our new address, but the address on the letter itself was our former home in Woodinville. looked like a high volume but not very careful mail merge

  12. 12
    Mike says:

    No letters here, as we’re in the less ballardy part of ballard. We did get an inquiry this winter from someone that made an offer on our place asking if we’d sell. They were still looking, some 4 months later.

    Our house needed a moderate amount of work at time of sale and was priced accordingly. I figured they were fishing for a “buyers remorse” or “in over their head” resale.

  13. 13
    David B. says:

    Exhibit A of Why I Am Perfectly Willing To Rent For A Few More Years Until Inventory Improves.

    Eh, scratch that. Now that I’ve read some of the other comments, it looks like it’s just a sleazy real estate agent at work. Still, that the story is plausible enough to be used is itself evidence in favor of being willing to wait this period of crappy inventory out.

  14. 14
    corndogs says:

    RE: David Losh @ 8 – “I have had a variety of properties in questionable repair over the years. Some might have been termed neglected.”

    some might call the place you live in now a “sh!t dump”, but that is only semantics…. please continue

  15. 15
    Erik says:

    RE: Corndogs @ 14
    All Corndogs does is try to beat others down to his level. This is one of my favorite posts of when Corndogs got owned. He even irritates Tim. This is probably my all time favorite. In this post, Corndogs keeps trying to defend his poor investment until you finally tucked your tail between your legs and ran away. Then Tim came out of the shadows at the end to shame Corndogs and he finally started back peddling and minding his manners.

    This is the same post Corndogs indicated how much he respects his friend with an almight masters degree in Engineering. The whole time he talks like he and his friend are really logical and the rest of us are a bunch of idiots.

  16. 16
    dorothy says:

    We get these letters all the time. At least two or three a year since forever, more frequently during the bubble. And they usually are easy to trace to someone in the real estate biz. Can’t share exact wording because they go straight to recycling.

  17. 17
    Pegasus says:

    RE: Erik @ 15 – Corndoggie is a troll and you are constantly feeding him. Save us all from Corndoggie’s baloney by ignoring his nonsense and he will move on to greener pastures.

  18. 18
    David Losh says:

    RE: Corndogs @ 14

    So what? It’s what I buy. It’s what I make money on.

    How about that new roof?

  19. 19
    Young Gun says:

    If someone mailed me something I would probably trash it. That seems pretty ineffective and fairly expensive. My last purchase was the “knock on doors” approach. I was striking out pretty bad. My wife and I had been looking there for about 3 years. I finally got sick of waiting for something good at a rock bottom price to come on. I just started knocking on doors of people I thought might be interested. I found an abandoned house on over 2 acres. I asked the neighbor for the owners number. It took a few attempts of “smiling and dialing” but I got ahold of them. They where fine letting it go into foreclosure. They bought it in the late 90’s. I was content to take over the what they owed and pay all closing costs. It worked out. The house was trash but I got a deal on the land and they threw in a house for free. Also, the first house I bought we (my dad and I) knocked on the owners door and asked if he wanted to sell. I think it can work well but I would not trust any desperate letter in the mail.

  20. 20

    The Rusty/Decrepit Mail Box In Tim’s Article Says It All

    Money’s running dry and people are getting more rude, grumpy and obnoxious.

    All you have to do is watch TV lawsuit commericials and get a handle on the local and national economy. Lately, its lawsuits against nursing homes neglect of our disabled elderly. Have you also noticed we get a new prescription drug(s), then 6-12 months later its a TV lawsuit advertisement for poisoning us?

    BTW, I did break out the property tax reduction champaign….a 40% drop in my SE King County home/property assessed value last October is officially a 31% drop in my property taxes last Valentines Day….waaahoooo!!!!

  21. 21
    Judy B says:

    I’m a buyer who sent out my own letters a few ago, I did get one response but it was too late – we had given up and purchased a condo.
    We are again looking for the same type of property and our agent has sent out letters to a specific group of properties. I have endless hope that someone will respond.

  22. 22

    I would think checking out Zillow’s “Make Me Move” properties, assuming that still exists, would be more likely to succeed. At least there you know the person has some interest in selling, assuming they aren’t putting down a value 3x the value of the property.

  23. 23
    The Tim says:

    By Kary L. Krismer @ 22:

    …assuming they aren’t putting down a value 3x the value of the property.

    Wait I thought that was the only point of “Make Me Move.”

  24. 24
    DGAB says:

    I must be honest. I recently did this as well. The difference is that I sent it to the owner of an abandoned property. The place has been neglected since 2001, but it isn’t owned by the state. I figured worst-case scenario I’m in the same situation I’m in now — still looking for a place with character in a neighborhood I like.

  25. 25
    Mike says:

    RE: The Tim @ 23
    And oddly enough, Meshugy WAS interested in selling despite the fantasy pricing.

  26. 26
    corndogs says:

    RE: Pegasus @ 17 – “Corndoggie is a troll” Corndoggie is a person who intellectually dominates stupid people until they stop trying to be smart on public blogs and are reduced to snarky quips. I’ve noticed you don’t have much of an opinion about things lately…

  27. 27
    corndogs says:

    RE: Erik @ 15 – HAHAHA is TeenErik really digging through the archives trying to find a mistake made by Corndog? Did you really read all the posts from now back to June 2012?… HAHA don’t lay awake at nights worrying about Corndog TeenErik…. this is just a blogsite…. it’s for fun.

    Regarding that thread, Corndog kicked ass in that thread…. he predicted inventory would evaporate going fwd, which it has…. Corndog made no errors or faulty predictions in that thread or any thread on Seattle Bubble…. keep searching little inchworm. Corndog has been amazingly consistent… and correct… as it turns out…

  28. 28

    RE: Corndogs @ 27 – I will say I went back to that thread to see what Erik was referring to, and didn’t see it. It would be nice if in the future a specific post or claim was mentioned.

  29. 29
    Erik says:

    RE: Corndogs @ 27
    I don’t have a facebook account. I blog on here to procrastinate doing homework. Yes I did dig this up. Yes you got owned on this this thread.
    Kary is right, you never really say anything that is substantial. You throw darts at others for “fun” without adding constructive input. I always read your comments cause they are funny, but you should add in something of substance with them.

  30. 30
  31. 31
    corndogs says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 28 – “I will say I went back to that thread to see what Erik was referring to, and didn’t see it, It would be nice if in the future a specific post or claim was mentioned.'”

    Thanks Kary, it means a lot when someone commons to the defense of a total A$$ like Corndog…. Maybe it’s time for TeenErik to get back to his sippy cup and have a few gulps of STFU. Unless of course he has something specific to talk about.

  32. 32
    Erik says:

    RE: Corndogs @ 31
    Kary needs to be specific about with parts he didn’t see. I mentioned that it appears you failed in your real estate investment as our friend losh pointed out.

    You implied Tim didn’t know much about real estate and then he came at you and you back peddled saying that wasn’t what you meant.

    You talked about your friend with a masters degree in engineering like he was great and logical like you. I will have my masters degree in engineering in a month and you consistently let me know how dumb I am. Why don’t I get the same treatment as your friend? If that degree is important to you, I should be let into your “logical club.” The point is, I bet a lot of people on this website are really smart. I bet some are even smarter than you corndogs. All you do is beat us down and degrade us.

  33. 33
    corndogs says:

    RE: Erik @ 32

    TeenErik…. let it die. None of that is true as Krismer indicated when he called you out for being a little be-otch. If you have something specific give a link and quote exactly what was said, don’t continue with your long drawn out diatribe with no supporting evidence. Corndog slapped your peepee a few times for being stupid. Try harder in the future. That’s all you can really do… don’t be butt hurt and carry it on to a further extent. You’re being a spoiled sport and a cry baby.. Step it up, get specific and try to defeat Corndog or else get back to your sippy cup…

    and quit trying to include yourself as part of a larger group. Corndog calls that the ‘victim shout out’ … it’s a pathetic attempt for help… you’re all on your own inchworm.

  34. 34
    Erik says:

    RE: corndogs @ 33
    How did you win? If you add the thumbs up minus the thumbs down, I beat you, just like me and everyone else beats you at life.

    PS: I accidently gave you a thumbs up on your last comment, but i’ll count it anyway and i still destroyed you

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