A couple who is looking to buy a home in the ritzy, wooded community of Hillsborough, south of San Francisco, has used an unconventional search tool: snail mail.

Steve Navarro and wife Ivana Fabbri, who live in the nearby community of San Mateo, worked with a Realtor to prepare and mail letters to hundreds of Hillsborough property owners.

Navarro said his family had put in several full-price offers on homes in Hillsborough but have so far not been able to purchase a home there. “We’ve worked with a Realtor and then we found out that maybe it’s better to work with a bunch of Realtors,” Navarro said. “We found out that doesn’t work – or hasn’t worked for us – and we thought we’d try this approach.”

Sam Kaykin, a Realtor who is a commercial property specialist for RE/MAX Today, suggested using the letters to help find a home, Navarro said. Kaykin, who has worked with Navarro in several commercial property investments, provided a contact list for 550 Hillsborough homeowners who are living at other addresses.

“He was seeing our frustration and wanted to help,” Navarro said. “He gave us the stamps, the envelopes, we went back and forth on the letter a bit.” The letters were mailed out in mid-December.

Kaykin said that while his focus is in commercial real estate, he does some residential work for his commercial clients. “I knew the situation. It’s hard to find a deal in Hillsborough,” Kaykin said. “I came up with this idea.”

The letters state: “I have never done anything like this before” and describe why the family is looking for another home. “A little more than a year ago we had a newborn girl and now the house we live in has become too small for our family of four and we decided to sell it and buy a larger house in Hillsborough, where our kids will have the opportunity to attend better schools,” the letters state.

“The reason I am writing is to let you know that we are on the market to purchase a home in Hillsborough and if you have any plans to sell your house, please contact me.” Fabbri is listed as the contact person.

The letter also states, “If you are not ready to sell right now and/or your tax consequences keep you out of selling, we are also open for the long- or short-term lease with option to buy.”

Navarro said that he has fielded some phone calls that were responses to the letter. Several calls were from real estate agents who are hoping to list their San Mateo home for sale, he said. Others were skeptical about the intent of the letter. “They didn’t know exactly where this was coming from and were not very trusting. In reality it’s a real letter. We’re really looking to move. It’s been a frustrating deal.”

The couple has also looked into foreclosure properties in the Hillsborough area, Navarro said. While home prices in the Hillsborough market can climb well above $5 million, Navarro said his family is looking for a lower-end home – in the $2 million range.

Kaykin said a $2 million home is “entry-level” in Hillsborough. “I don’t think even today you can find a fixer-upper for $2 million.” Kaykin said he asked for no compensation for assisting Navarro with his home search. “I know how tough it is to find a home – a good home.”


Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to glenn@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 137.

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