DENVER – Denver’s hot housing market makes it one of the best places in the country to be a real estate agent, but that competitive environment has its challenges as well.
Housing inventory in the Denver area hit an all-time low in February and that poses a problem for real estate agents: Not enough homes to go around. To get past the problem, agents will sometimes reach out directly to homeowners to see if they’re interested in selling.
“The inventory is so low that there’s just nothing,” said Libby Levinson, a broker associate at Kentwood Real Estate in Cherry Creek. “[So] we have to do our own digging to find new listings.”
Levinson said she often works with buyers who know they’re interested in a particular neighborhood or condo building, but they’re having trouble finding anything that’s available. In that case, Levinson will use public records to find out who owns nearby homes or condo units and she’ll send them letters saying she has buyers who are interested in properties like theirs.
A lot of people treat the letters like junk mail and throw them in the trash, but it’s a tactic that Levinson said has helped her find properties for buyers in places where other agents might not have.
“In some cases, I’ve sent out as many as 200 letters and I’ll only get one or two responses back,” Levinson said. She admits it’s not a huge return, but sometimes one or two responses is all you need.
Cold calls falling out of favor?
A similar sales tactic that seems to be less common in recent years is cold-calling homeowners.
Jon Ciardella, a broker associate at RE/MAX Leaders, said he’s been “prospecting” – finding listings that have left the market without being sold and calling their owners – for about seven years now. But he says many agents are hesitant to make those kinds of calls because of how awkward they can be.
Ciardella uses software that automatically finds and dials the phone numbers of owners whose listings have just expired, usually the very same day. In a four or five-hour calling session, Ciardella said he can reach 200 to 300 people and have actual conversations with five to 10. Though that sounds like a small number of leads, Ciardella says it’s been a successful tactic for him.
“Three years ago, I sold 54 properties in one year by myself. Out of those, about 75 percent were expired listings,” Ciardella said.
Because expired listings are few and far between in Denver’s competitive market, Ciardella will also sometimes call homeowners who live near properties that have recently sold to see if they’re interested in hearing how much their own homes are worth. The goal isn’t to pressure or nag someone into leaving a home they love, but to find those homeowners who are thinking about moving but need a little extra motivation.
“The highest volume agents in any given market are doing what I’m doing,” Ciardella said.
Can I opt out of these kinds of solicitations?
Homeowners who are being inundated with calls, letters and other unsolicited communications don’t have a lot of options.
The information agents use to contact homeowners is publicly available and there’s no database or list that homeowners can be added to that will opt them out. However, homeowners can sign up for the National Do Not Call Registry to at least reduce the number unwanted calls.
Ciardella said the software he uses to call homeowners will automatically flag those who are on the do not call list. While agents aren’t supposed to call anyone who is on the list, Ciardella admits that there are agents out there, namely non-Realtors, who do.
Those agents are just chasing a paycheck, Ciardella said, and don’t follow the same code of ethics that Realtors abide by.
“Our job is to help somebody get to where they want to be and the byproduct is a great paycheck,” Ciardella said.