Finding homeowners who want to sell can be challenging, but there are cost-effective methods for attracting seller leads, and turning them into real estate clientsWhen you list, you last, or so the old saying goes. How, then is an agent expected to last when finding a homeowner who wants to list is like trying to find Waldo?

That’s the question on the top of agents’ minds nationwide. Forbes real estate writer Morgan Brennan tells us that buyer interest is high – 40 percent above what it was last year. Inventory, on the other hand, has dropped over 25 percent from where it was last year. Some markets are worse than others – Seattle, for instance, had one month of inventory in March and April, according to Sam DeBord with Coldwell Banker Danforth.

Ok, so in much of the country it’s a seller’s market. It seems, however, that someone forgot to mention that to homeowners.

A lot of the experts recommend a return to the basics in this changing market if you hope to attract homeowners who want to sell. Others say that may be a waste of time. Let’s take a look at some cost-effective ways to market to sellers.

Tip: If you don’t have a database so you can use contact management software, take the time to build one. The software is the tool you’ll use the most in your efforts to attract listing clients.

You’re Getting Warmer

Start with the warmest contacts in your database and work your way to the cold prospects. This means starting with your sphere of influence – reaching out to family, friends and past clients with the age-old question: “Do you know anyone who is planning on selling their house?”

Even if the answer is no right now, the story may be completely different next week, and you’ll be top-of-mind after reaching out.

In her efforts to find homes for her buyers, St. Paul agent/broker Teresa Boardman struck on an interesting idea. She went through her database and pulled out the names of homeowners to whom she gave a listing presentation sometime in the last three years. After checking to ensure they hadn’t sold with someone else, and crunching some numbers to determine if they were underwater, she started contacting them.

“Some of them were unrealistic,” she explains, “wanting $275,000 for a house that’s worth $200,000.” Out of the few calls she’s made so far, however, the plan seems to be working. “One I’m going to list for sure, and another one looks like a real strong possibility, and another is trying to decide if he should rent out the house or sell it,” she said.

A Little Colder

Another technique that typically works during low inventory periods is to go after expired, cancelled and withdrawn listings. Real estate trainer Tom Ferry suggests choosing the worst year to be on the market out of the past three years and aggressively marketing to those homeowners. Even if they don’t want to list right now, put them on a drip campaign; chances are good that they will sell their homes in the future. Sure, it’s old-school, but it works, and most significantly, it’s cost-effective.

If you live in a market like Seattle, however, this method may not work. “The difficulty is that there aren’t many expired listings right now. We have maybe 20 expired listings a week, and that’s not enough for even one office to pursue,” Seattle’s DeBord says.

Cast a Wider Net

“We’re trying to connect with people through social media and through blogging,” explains DeBord. “We’re getting the word out that it’s not just that the market has gotten better, it’s that there’s no competition for sellers right now.”

And it’s working, for both he and Boardman. “I wrote a blog post and shared it in a couple of places,” DeBord explains. “I got a call from an old acquaintance that read the post on LinkedIn and was surprised that the market had changed so much.” Yes, he got the listing. Boardman picked up two this week that she can directly trace back to her blog.

Bellingham, Wash. real estate ace Ben Kinney suggests that since buyers and sellers want completely different information, creating a dedicated seller’s website is important. Then, target your marketing to drive all potential home sellers in the area to that site. If the site is integrated with your contact management system, you can track the leads in real time and respond quickly.

Jun Choo, general manager of advertising for Market Leader, cautions that this strategy is only viable for agents who generate hundreds of leads a month and work large areas. “It is very difficult to drive targeted PPC traffic for seller leads,” he said.

One option is to buy seller leads. If you work them right, Internet listing leads can be a cost-effective marketing tool. Make sure that you buy from a company that ensures exclusivity in your market or zip code and promises a set number of leads per month. Market Leader offers a seller lead product called HouseValues.

Sure, inventory is low right now, and sellers are reluctant to jump into the market. But adapting to a changing market by combining technology with some of the prospecting tools you learned as a rookie provides you the ability to list – and last.