Over the years, real estate agents have tried just about everything imaginable to get a leg up on the competition in an effort to get more clients and make more sales.

  • Prospecting the recently deceased, listings that are still under contract and disaster ridden areas are icky tactics at best. Employ empathy, compassion and timing in your marketing efforts.

Over the years, real estate agents have tried just about everything imaginable to get a leg up on the competition in an effort to get more clients and make more sales.

Some of the marketing ideas these creative souls have implemented have been innovative and groundbreaking, but others’ methods have left a bad taste in the mouths of their real estate industry peers.

At times their tactics have been considered unprofessional or unethical, occasionally even crossing the line to illegal. Below, I’ve come up with a completely unscientific and definitely personally biased rating system for some of these marketing methods.

1. Prospecting the heirs of the recently deceased

It takes a certain level of boldness to reach out to homeowners after their loved ones have passed, and that boldness goes up immeasurably when an agent shortens the waiting period, from let’s say a month or two after the event, to just a few days.

Although the method may not sit well with most, I don’t believe it’s breaking any rules. It can yield results, and it also can give the appearance of ambulance chasing.

Unprofessional: Probably an eight or nine on a scale of one to 10 if the initial “reach out” occurs before the will is even read.

Unethical: Not really, it just takes a certain type and a whole lot of hustle.

Next level: Reaching out is one thing. However, buying ad space on the bus bench or the billboard that sits next to the cemetery promising “Top dollar for the bed you don’t need now that they are dead” will surely guarantee an inbox of hate mail.

Not a real agent ad (design created by Sterling Williams)

2. Reaching out to expireds and canceled listings prematurely

Recently, I overheard a conversation among a few real estate agents about this old-school method of lead generation (their words, not mine) and was surprised to hear the level of disgust in the agents’ comments.

As the conversation progressed the word “vulture” came up quite often as well.

Unprofessional: Nope. In fact, the argument can me made that a successful expired agent’s professional skill level is higher than that of most their peers.

Unethical: Not a bit. There is a reason those statuses exist in the first place, right?

Next level: The intentional “pre-marketing” of listings still under contract with an agent is a game changer. As if a busted reputation wasn’t bad enough, there is also the grievance hearings, sanctions and fines that go along with this tactic.

Perhaps the MLSs may consider looking into their own promotional campaign for this demographic. Marketing to the listed will get you blacklisted!

3. Disaster marketing

Yes, you read that correctly. Show me a hurricane, wildfire or tornado, and I’ll show you how an agent used it to solicit business.

A marketing plan aimed at investors with a message to take advantage of the destruction and the desperate is a tried and true method to become the most unpopular person in town.

Unprofessional: Absolutely. Enough said.

Unethical: Perhaps it’s legal, but it’s still not the right thing to do.

Next level: Can it really get any worse? Look no further than Facebook, Instagram or Twitter for agents who have become not famous, but infamous using social media for this.

Memes and other clever posts that showcase that vulnerability will truly help an agent earn a spot on the Realtor “Wall of Shame.”

Not a real investor ad (design created by Sterling Williams)

Stay away from these icky marketing tactics, or if you are going to approach, do it with compassion, empathy and good timing. Don’t give the rest of us a bad rap.

Dan Smith is an authorspeaker, strategist and team leader in Mission Viejo, California. Follow him on Facebook.

Show Comments Hide Comments


Sign up for Inman’s Morning Headlines
What you need to know to start your day with all the latest industry developments
By submitting your email address, you agree to receive marketing emails from Inman.
Thank you for subscribing to Morning Headlines.
Back to top
Only 3 days left to register for Inman Connect Las Vegas before prices go up! Don't miss the premier event for real estate pros.Register Now ×
Limited Time Offer: Get 1 year of Inman Select for $199SUBSCRIBE×
Log in
If you created your account with Google or Facebook
Don't have an account?
Forgot your password?
No Problem

Simply enter the email address you used to create your account and click "Reset Password". You will receive additional instructions via email.

Forgot your username? If so please contact customer support at (510) 658-9252

Password Reset Confirmation

Password Reset Instructions have been sent to

Subscribe to The Weekender
Get the week's leading headlines delivered straight to your inbox.
Top headlines from around the real estate industry. Breaking news as it happens.
15 stories covering tech, special reports, video and opinion.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
It looks like you’re already a Select Member!
To subscribe to exclusive newsletters, visit your email preferences in the account settings.
Up-to-the-minute news and interviews in your inbox, ticket discounts for Inman events and more
1-Step CheckoutPay with a credit card
By continuing, you agree to Inman’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

You will be charged . Your subscription will automatically renew for on . For more details on our payment terms and how to cancel, click here.

Interested in a group subscription?
Finish setting up your subscription