Shrinking housing inventories nationwide will continue to drive home prices upwards throughout 2016, according to NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. With low interest rates still available, rising home prices don’t seem to be scaring off buyers, however, so demand for homes is expected to remain high – at least for the foreseeable future. This is good news for homeowners who are thinking of selling – so where are they? Where can agents find motivated seller leads in a market where sellers are scarce?

Generating leads is one of the least popular aspects of working in the real estate industry, but it’s also one of the most critical. While “dialing for dollars,” door-knocking and other tedious lead-gen techniques work if performed consistently, there are more pleasant (and effective) seller lead generation techniques that agents can try.

We reached out to some agents to round up ideas for finding motivated seller leads. While these aren’t exactly new techniques, they’re not often used and may just bring seller leads in your area out of hiding and into your CRM.

Use Probate Sales to Find Motivated Seller Leads

The primary motivations for moving include death, birth, divorce, job relocation, significant gains or losses of income, and the desire to downsize or upsize one’s home. Of these motivations, divorcing couples are the most challenging to work with and those looking for a larger or smaller home are the hardest to find. Believe it or not, probate sales ― when a home needs to be sold to settle a deceased person’s estate ― can be the easiest and most lucrative.

Yes, it does sound a bit creepy to stalk a dead person’s executor, personal representative or family, but someone is going to get the listing and it might as well be you. It’s the creepiness factor that keeps most agents from pursuing probate leads so this niche is usually wide open.

When approaching a deceased person’s family, it’s important to be careful not to offend them during such a sensitive time. We spoke with one agent who specializes in probate sales who claims he never planned on targeting that niche but fell into his first probate sale while cold calling in his farm area. The deceased lady’s children happened to be at the house, cleaning it out, and invited him over.

Today, this agent uses a similar technique; he targets probate sellers by calling them with an offer for a free market analysis. By using a generic cold-calling script, he never has to mention their loss as a reason for calling.

Here are three ways to find motivated seller leads from probate sales:

  1. Check obituaries in the print or online version of your local newspaper. This technique is easy if your county assessor has an online database of property owners that is searchable by name. By entering the names of the recently-deceased people you see in obituaries into the assessor’s database, you can quickly learn if they were homeowners.
  2. The contents of the deceased’s home will need to be sold as well, so keep an eye out for estate sales in the area. Craigslist and work well for this purpose. While not all sales listed as “estate” deal with a deceased person’s belongings, most do so they’re worth checking out.
  3. Finally, check probate records in your area. Probate procedures vary from one county to another, so start with your local judicial district court – many publish their probate records and court schedules online.

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Hold Events for Potential Seller Clients

While holding events for past client isn’t exactly innovative, holding them for potential clients is a bit unconventional. Few marketing methods provide opportunities for getting face-to-face with potential clients so you can charm them up close like hosting events. If you’re worried about the limitations of your budget, keep in mind that even small events can net you a handful of motivated seller leads.

Here are two examples of events agents can use to drum up potential seller clients:

  • Banquets tend to draw a wide variety of people. Crab feeds, crawfish feeds, and other types of banquets featuring regional food favorites are particularly appealing, but a spaghetti feed will do if that’s all your budget will allow for. Invite people from your neighborhood and farm area, a select group of former clients (this will help you stay top-of-mind with them), and all the promising potential seller clients from your CRM.
  • A less expensive idea for using events to find more seller leads is to piggyback on another local event. One example of this might be providing free lemonade at the finish line of a charity fun-run. You can pitch a canopy and post signs promising free lemonade in the shade near the finish line. Offer runners and their friends and families a free local housing market report or seller handbook when they swing by.

As an adjunct to this technique, consider partnering with your favorite lender. The lender can extend invitations to their clients that have bought or are about to buy a home, and may need your help with selling their existing one.

The key to success with holding events to find seller clients is to gather information on your guests that you can add to your CRM. Have a guest book on hand, preferably at the door, and then follow up with your new or updated leads “until they sell or die,” as the old saying goes.

Fit Small Business offers additional information and resources in their new probate real estate guide.