It’s really odd how several people will ask me the same question over the period of a week or two. This past week I had no less than half a dozen real estate investors ask me the same thing; whether you should call probate leads as your initial contact.
Specifically they all wanted to know if they can pick up the phone and just call these folks as soon as they get the lead. My answer is always the same.
No! Don’t do that.
While there are exceptions, it’s almost always hurtful to the person on the other end of the phone.
The Grieving Process – How It Affects Probate Investing
You may or may not be the age where you start losing people that are close to you. It happens to all of us at some point. Grief is a funny thing; the smallest comment or event can cause us to end up in tears for no apparent reason. Even well-meaning friends and family often unintentionally say or do the wrong thing at times.
I know investors that actually work obituaries. What I mean by that is they track down the family often before the funeral has even taken place. Can you imagine how these folks feel when they get an unwanted call from an investor?
I can tell you from years of experience, folks in this situation are not only angry when you call them, but it can be very hurtful to them. They will remember your name but not in a good way. You can bet they won’t choose you when the time comes to sell the property.
The thing that is important to understand is that the person may have passed away last week or last year. Without doing unnecessary research you won’t know the actual date. At times the family may wait many months or even a year before opening the probate. Other times they may do it soon after the death when their feelings are still very raw.
Just by starting the actual probate process they are saying that they are ready to move forward.
Understanding the Probate Process
The probate process is really pretty straightforward.
- Someone dies
- The probate is opened. There is either an executor (if there is a will) or the court appoints an administrator when there is no will to carry out the duties of settling the estate.
- The assets are sold
- The creditors are paid
- The heirs get what is left
The executor or administrator is often a close family member. In addition to their loss, they have their normal
lives, their families and their jobs. Suddenly they now have responsibility of settling the estate. They are tired, emotional and often confused about the whole process.
Is There a Downside to Probate Investing?
Not that I know of. These folks don't want the house; they just want the cash that's in the house. Most of the time the process is very straightforward and without any problems at all.
How Should You Reach Out To Them?
Direct mail is the marketing strategy you should use when working with probates. Like many other niches real estate investors work in, there will be times you will get a call after only a couple of mailings. More than likely you can expect to contact them over a longer period of time before they call you about the property. I have found that this will happen on their timetable.
The great thing about this is that after sending them a letter every month, when they do call, they will typically be ready to sell the property. It’s fine to call probate leads once they have initiated that first call.
After the Probate Process Has Started
Does this mean everything is back to normal for them once they open probate? Not by a long shot.
It does mean that they are ready to move forward with the process. Don’t be surprised if the people you are dealing with are still sad. They may even be tearful at times. However most of the time they just want the business of settling the estate to be over with and are anxious to sell the property.
You have to choose your words carefully and above all, let them talk about their loved one. It’s not unusual for them to really need to tell you about the person that lived in the house. They have a story to tell. It’s important to them that you understand their loved one. Being a good listener is not only crucial for success in this business, but it is often when you will discover any additional motivation they have for selling the property other than money.
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Probates are some of the most motivated sellers on the planet which is one reason I love this niche. Just remember these folks may need a little “TLC” at what can be a very rough time for them.
Want to Learn More?
If you want to learn more about probate investing, check out this post “5 Reasons to Hate Probate Investing”.
If you are not already subscribed to the “Inner Circle”, be sure to do that today so you don’t miss any of the business building tips I have coming your way. I want this year to be your best year ever! And if you enjoyed this article, please share it.
Thank you for always sharing your wisdom and experience in this field! I am going to be focusing on this niche in the Northern California area. I have a list of probates and I am getting ready to send out letters to these folks. Do you have a sample letter of the verbiage that you normally send as your first contact letter? I want to be respectful as well as productive. I know this is a sensitive time for the people involved.
Sherri – send me an email so I can attach it. I will send you a sample. firstname.lastname@example.org
Love the article Sharon! I’m new to Louisville and would love to learn more about probate investing
I have written a lot about probate investing both here and on BiggerPockets.
Great advice, Sharon! I completely agree.This is great information to know. Please keep going. I will look forward to other posts.
Thanks for stopping by Khaliah! Happy New Year!