Is Direct Mail Still a Good Way to Sell Your House?

Should your real estate agent be spending time and money on direct mailers as part of your listed home’s marketing strategy? The answer might surprise you.

“Direct mailers are used much more infrequently now, because agents are listing on the internet, so they don’t want to spend extra time and money,” explains Mikel DeFrancesco, a top-ranked broker who’s sold over 74% more properties in Quincy, Massachusetts than the average agent. “So if your agent does use mailers, that can set your listing apart from the competition.”

So when paired with other types of marketing, real estate mailers can be a powerful (and effective) add-on—let’s dig into the most recent trends around direct mail advertising and then we’ll get into best practices on how to make those print ads for your house work a little magic.

Stack of real estate mail sticking out of door's mail slot.
Source: (Chanikarn Thongsupa/ rawpixel)

Not sold on snail mail in the 21st century?

The concept of an agent using “snail mail” for advertising home sales might be cringeworthy to you—especially if you’re thinking about how many of those things you’ve tossed without reading.

You may even worry that you’ve got the wrong Realtor. Instead of hiring an experienced agent, you’ve signed on with a dinosaur clinging to outdated, old-school techniques that are wasteful and ineffective.

At first glance, it looks like the data backs that mindset up.

Now that the real estate world has fully embraced the digital age, your local MLS sends your listing out to over 900 websites, giving the world access to your home’s photos, stats, and list price instantaneously. Plus, nearly all generations of home buyers rely on the internet to help them house hunt.

In fact, direct mail doesn’t even make the list of top information sources used by buyers to search for homes.

Infographic of information sources used in real estate home search.
Source: (nar.realtor)

With so many home selling resources online, a lot of agents have significantly reduced the amount of direct mail marketing they do, and some have dropped it altogether.

But that fact can actually work to your advantage.

But how far can you really stand out if only a handful read your agent’s direct mailer and printed mail is essentially dead?

The rise and fall of direct mail

From that day in 1775 when Benjamin Franklin was appointed as the first Postmaster General to the glory days of the Pony Express, direct mail has been a powerful form of communication in the US.

Back in the day, it looked like “snail mail” was here to stay—until Alexander Graham Bell and his invention of the telephone just over 140 years ago changed how we communicate forever.

Yet even while the world fell in love with the ability to talk to each other instantly, the power of written communication stayed strong. Everyday people still enjoyed sending and birthday cards, letters home, and even love letters, while the business community knew the value behind the phrase “get it in writing.”

Things looked bleak for direct mail once again when email gained popularity in the 1990s. And this fact seemingly seals its fate: the number of adults sending the type of mail people actually enjoy getting has been steadily falling since 1996.

Infographic showing how rate of decline of first-class mail has slowed in recent years.
Source: (uspsoig.gov)

But direct mail isn’t quite dead, yet. And recent data indicates that it may continue to show signs of life for some time to come.

A report from the United States Postal Service (USPS) shows that the decline in direct mail services has actually leveled off in recent years.

Infographic showing how marketing mail decline has slowed recently.

Infographic showing how marketing mail declines have slowed in recent years.
Source: (uspsoig.gov)

And the Direct Marketing Association recently found that direct mail has a 4.4% response rate. On the other hand, marketing emails (which often filter directly to spam before the consumer even sees it) have a miniscule 0.12% response rate.

Infographic show how much mail was received in US households in 2017
Source: (thedma.org)

Their data also shows that 66% of people have made a purchase because of marketing materials they received via direct mail.

Then there’s the fact that it’s more exhilarating (relatively speaking—mail’s not a roller coaster or a rock concert) about opening the mailbox and sorting through paper mail than there is sifting through spam in your email.

This fact is true for every generation, as proven by a recent Gallup poll that found that even 36% of millennials look forward to checking their physical mailbox daily.

Infographic showing statistics of what generations of adults look forward to reading mail each day.
Source: (news.gallup.com)

So what does this mini history lesson on mail have to do with selling your house? It’s proof that print has staying power.

The true fate (and benefits) of direct mailers

What’s in your mailbox? And do you even bother to read it?

It’s commonly accepted that most people walk right from the mailbox to the recycling bin. Instead of reading those colorful, expensive direct-mailed flyers and postcards, they ignore it as mass-mailed “junk” and throw it right onto the trash heap.

In truth, more people are reading direct mail than you think. Surprisingly, 27% of recipients surveyed by the Gallup poll reported having a positive reaction to advertising cards and mailers.

Chart showing positive reaction statistics to receiving different types of mail.
Source: (news.gallup.com)

And just who are those marketing mailer-loving people? Believe it or not, millennials.

A 2016 InfoTrends study found that more than any other generation, millennials are likelier to read direct mailers—and 25% of those millennial readers actually enjoy reading it.

The mail-reading habits of millennials should matter to you because data from the National Association of Research tells us that currently, millennials make up a whopping 36% of the home buyer pool.

So if you want to sell your house fast and for the most amount of money, you need to target your marketing materials at biggest buyer pool—and millennial home buyers read direct mailers.

Female real estate agent editing photos on computer for real estate mailers.
Source: (Andrey_Popov/ shutterstock)

The 3 keys to producing successful mailers that people will read

It’s not easy to make sure your mailer gets read by potential buyers instead of tossed with the rest of the junk mail. The keys to success are: the right look, catchy content, and impeccable timing.

1. The right look

When you’re clicking through hundreds of houses on an MLS-fed website, every listing starts to look the same—but a direct mailer offers a better chance that buyers will remember your house.

Why? Because they can’t just quickly click past a direct mailer.

They have in their hands a hard copy, physical reminder that your gorgeous home is up for sale—whereas digital listings are out of sight, out of mind.

So your mailer needs to make it look so gorgeous that buyers are inspired to schedule a showing.

“Direct mailers should be similar to the glossy handout that you’d have at open houses,” explains DeFrancesco.

So make sure your mailer is printed on heavy cardstock with the best photos of your home. What you say on the mailer is just as important.

2. The catchy content

Real estate mailers have a singular purpose—selling houses. So the basic content of the copy (or text) that’s written on it is pretty straightforward.

“Your mailer should include all of the information about the property, the price, the square footage, and its best features,” says DeFrancesco.

But just because your limited word count needs to be information-heavy, doesn’t mean that it has to be boring. The better your mailer copy is, the better your chances are that buyers will book a showing.

The more showings you have, the higher your odds are to get multiple offers.

So get creative with your word choice. For example, instead of using a vague descriptor like “spacious” to describe your kitchen try “chef’s kitchen.”

Infographic showing how to write real estate copy for mailers.
Source: (blog.househuntnetwork.com)

And ask your agent what buzzwords are currently trending with buyers. If “open floor plan” and “resort-like” yard are drawing crowds (and offers), put them in your direct mailer copy.

Just make sure your home actually has those features you described so creatively, or they’ll walk away disappointed and without making an offer.

3. Impeccable timing

Great-looking mailers with killer copy don’t stand a chance of bringing in buyers if they aren’t sent out at the right time.

“I don’t send out mailers until the property is listed, because I don’t think it benefits the seller,” says DeFrancesco. “You want maximum exposure for the property, so you want the listing to hit with a big marketing push.”

Unfortunately, some agents only send out mailers after a property has sold.

“When used for a seller, most direct mailers are what’s called ‘just sold’ announcements where agents advertise sales they’ve just had in that area. That only benefits the agent,” says DeFrancesco.

“I think the better way to use mailers to sell property is a ‘just listed’ announcement, because now it’s not just advertising the agent, it’s marketing on behalf of the seller. I’m a big fan of ‘just listed’ mailers.”

’Just listed’ mailers are typically sent to other homes in your area—whether the homeowners are planning on moving or not.

Okay, so your neighbors probably aren’t going to buy your house—they already live there! But if your neighbors love where they’re living, they’re the best advocates for the neighborhood and your listing.

“When your neighbor gets that ‘just listed’ notification, they’ll pick up the phone and tell a friend, a family member, or a coworker about your house,” says DeFrancesco. “When the recommendation comes from a trusted source, that has a lot more value than coming from an agent trying to sell them a house.”

Direct mailers definitely have a place in the real estate world for the foreseeable future. True, they shouldn’t be the only marketing material your agent uses, but savvy sellers know to include mailers in the sales strategy.

“I think direct mailers will stick around for a while,” says DeFrancesco. “I call it the ‘kitchen sink’ approach where you use every marketing option available to you. Sure, you’re going to get buyers through the MLS listing and the internet exposure, but that’s what every listing has. When you support that with specialty marketing techniques, you’ll set your listing apart from everything else that’s out there.”

In fact, while curb appeal may be the first in-person impression your home makes, your direct mailer can make an impression just as impactful if you play your cards right.

find a real estate agent

Find a top agent in your area