Lori Dake, a real estate broker with Kale Realty in Chicago, is sending 1,000 hand-drawn, stamped and addressed holiday cards this season, as she has every year since her days as a high school student.

But as a real estate broker, it’s a tradition that now helps her keep in touch with clients while driving referral business.

“It goes back a long time,” Dake told Inman of her holiday card writing tradition.

During high school, one year her family couldn’t celebrate Christmas so she went to Walgreens and bought a box of cheap Christmas cards with mini candy-canes and stick-figure drawings and handed them out to friends.

As quickly as she could hand the cards out, others asked where theirs were, so she got another box. Then another box. And then another.

The card Dake sent out in 2017. (Credit: Lori Dake)

“It got to be this little club,” Dake recalled. “[People] were sticking them in their lockers and showing them off to each other, but the most important part, was that at home where we weren’t doing any kind of holiday, the whole living room was filled with cards from people giving me one back.”

Dake carried the tradition with her into college, where she was waiting tables while attending classes. She would wear a Santa hat and offer each of her customers a hand-written card with a little stick-figure drawing of them scrawled along the outside.

“People were like, ‘Oh okay, thank you,’ and I got a little extra tip.”

The gesture also filled the restaurant’s tables with repeat customers, many of whom would return the favor with their own cards while filling booths during the typically slow months following the holidays.

Now she’s using that same strategy in her business as a real estate broker, hand drawing and coloring each card, sending them to the printer, writing notes and hand-addressing and stamping them herself. Her logo and contact information are on the back of each card, with each accompanied by a message at the bottom.

She told Inman that sending mass-produced cards feels impersonal and each one takes her a couple minutes.

And just like it did in college, the heart-felt gesture has provided her business a boost. She’s received referral business from the cards and she told Inman it’s been a great way to keep in touch with clients she’s worked with in the past — even if by only retrieving their new addresses.

Dake’s 2018 holiday card. (Credit: Lori Dake)

“On my Facebook, I make this an event, just like I did 30 years ago in high school,” Dake said. “It turns into this cool little thing. I’ve got people that see the pictures and are, like, ‘Wait don’t forget me, here’s my new address!’”

Dake is focused on residential sales and leasing, so a good portion of people on her card list are young renters, who tend to move frequently.

“Some of these people I’ve been talking to for four or five years,” Dake said. “I was there holding their hand when they needed mom to co-sign for them with two roommates.”

Email Patrick Kearns

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