Panning for Gold in Your Inbox

An e-mail guide for real estate agents: discover how to turn queries into clients and clients into sales.

Panning for Gold in Your Inbox

You just received an e-mail inquiry from a new potential client. Jackpot! Your effort to capture the attention of web-savvy homebuyers is working! Now, how do you keep their attention? You use a personalized, effective e-mail to respond.

A buyer response e-mail is not the same as other, more sales and advertising oriented,
“campaign” e-mails. The same rules do NOT apply. When responding to an initial buyer e-mail, you should include the following:

Service Considerations:

  • Be helpful. Always provide the information they request. If they ask for addresses, give them addresses. Service is number one. If you hesitate to respond to direct requests, or try to divert them, you only succeed in appearing suspect.
  • Be timely. If you respond within hours to a first inquiry you are seen as efficient, available, and customer-oriented. Exactly the image you want!
  • Don’t grill them. Asking too many questions, especially in e-mail, puts the potential client on the spot and creates the image of you as salesman instead of service provider. Initially, you should be the provider of answers, not questions.
  • If you MUST ask questions control them with format. If you have a list of two or more questions to ask, put them in bullet form. Traditionally, you only “break
    out the bullets” with groups of three or more, but even two questions can get lost in an e-mail. Never ask more than one question per bullet.
  • Relax and be friendly. When you respond to their queries, keep the tone personable, even a bit “chatty.” The old school rules of “staunch correspondence” can be relaxed – but your e-mail still needs to be grammatically perfect and gracefully delivered.

Marketing Considerations:

  • Look up the properties they mention and find the common denominators. Perhaps it’s the location, perhaps size, maybe the style of home, or particular features that are common to most or all. Note the price range. Use the information you have, no matter how sparse, to open a dialogue.
  • Record. Start a file on this contact and keep the details you learn within easy reach. Any time you have another correspondence, or learn something new, record it. No matter how good you are, you can’t remember everything about everyone. Having these files means you APPEAR to remember everything!
  • Fish gently. Any fishing expeditions should be understated. For instance “I noticed you were interested in houses in the XYZ area. I have several new listings in that
    same $178,000 – 180,000 range in that area that I can send you, if you are interested. Would you like me to send information on homes with any particular

Image Considerations:

  • Your e-mail is a direct reflection of you. It personifies you to the potential client, so this is no time to be sloppy. If your sentence structure is lazy or your thoughts
    are disorganized, the potential client will assume these are personality traits and they will anticipate this type of service from you.
  • Be a “real” person. Reveal something about your own personality to help find common ground. If all the houses they select are “cottage” style –comment on how charming you have always found this type of house or how you lived in a house quite similar to MLS 123456 as a child. This is an aside, not a central theme of your communication.
  • Be modest. Don’t “spam” with a too-long signature line. Even if your standard outgoing signature line is long, be sure your e-mail program is set up with a minimal
    “reply” signature line. If they e-mailed you, they already have most of the information they need. Signature lines that have “too big” fonts, “too many” lines, and are “too multi-colored” appear to “scream” at the recipient. Simply put, beyond the first contact, they can be obnoxious.

Technical Considerations:

  • Observe the virtues of brevity. Respect your client’s time and write without
    insulting their intelligence. Offer details that demonstrate your knowledge, but do so with short, succinct, and exacting correspondence.
  • Watch your white space. Most people who communicate via e-mail do so to SAVE time. Many individuals won’t read an e-mail past the first few paragraphs. Paragraphs should be two to four sentences and should never be more than four
    or five paragraphs. One primary topic per e-mail is best. Use your white space to break up the “gray” of text.
  • Check it! Make a habit of copying the text into Word (or your text editor of choice). Run a spell check. Also check the reading ease, grade level and percentage of passive sentences in the text. You should have an easy-to-read, active-tense e-mail on a 7-8th grade level. The goal is a reading ease score of 60-70 and a low (approximating 0%) percentage of passive sentences. (See “Resource” box below)

Always remember to thank them for contacting you and give them an open invitation
to contact you again with any questions or concerns.

Initial incoming e-mails can be a bit cryptic and vague. They seldom outline all the specifics because the sender is unsure of what questions they need to ask and what information to provide to get the answers they seek. Your job is to lead them gently through the process. This is the time to tone down the sales approach and turn up the service.


Tom Darger (Darger & Associates, LLC in Midland Michigan) says his most generic inquiries are often, “Here are some MLS numbers, can you get me the addresses?” An example:


Some of these are a little higher priced than we want to go. But who knows, by the time we get ready to buy maybe we’ll be looking in this range. We would like to at least drive by these ASAP. (Followed by a list of 10 MLS numbers.)

Joe and Emma Smith

Once e-mail contact is initiated, your goal is to instill confidence and establish a relationship that will go comfortably to the next level — contact by phone or in person. Phone-to-phone and face-to-face contact will give you information about the client with
a more personal and dynamic exchange of information. Personal contact will also make you a “real person” to them –- someone to help them achieve their goals. In my own business this can be accomplished almost immediately. In Real Estate, it is a bit more difficult.

As Tom explains, some people contact him by e-mail because they don’t WANT a phone conversation or a meeting. They like the idea of getting the information without the implied commitment of personal contact. There is usually a “back and forth” volley of e-mails before the client becomes confident enough to initiate or welcome personal contact.

The following fictitious response to Tom’s real inquiry follows the guidelines for effective first response personal e-mails and opens a possible venue for future conversations without overwhelming the recipient:

Dear Joe and Emma –

Thank you for your e-mail. I have attached addresses for the homes you requested. If you would like a private showing of any or all of these properties, call me at 877-607-8833.

I noticed that you listed $170-200K homes that surround Williams Lake. I also have a few lovely homes nearby in the $140-150K range, if you are interested. A few of these also offer bay windows. Just let me know what features you prefer and I’ll be happy to send you a list of qualifying properties.

My son and I have enjoyed many Sunday afternoons fishing on the banks of the Williams. It is a beautiful, quiet area. Feel free to call me with any questions or concerns. As a buyer’s agent I’m here to serve YOU, not the seller.

Tom Darger, Broker/Owner
Darger & Associates LLC

This e-mail response accomplishes many of the objectives. It thanks the potential clients, gives information they requested, outlines willingness to be of further service, repeats information back to them about what they were seeking and makes note of the comment about lower cost housing being desirable. The conversational opener is the fact that all the houses are in a certain geographic area and that this agent can give them what they want in the desired area at the price they prefer.

Additionally there is a “chatty” aside, which validates the couple’s interest in this area, makes Tom appear more “real,” and opens a possible topic for future conversation. The
tone of the e-mail is friendly, conversational, and relaxed. There is a call-to-action and the opportunity to distinguish his services as a buyer’s agent from other agents in the area. His signature line is informative but not overwhelming.

All this in three brief paragraphs with no more than four sentences in each one. The e-mail measures in optimally with: 0% passive sentences, a 63.6 Flesh Readability score, and a 7.3 grade reading level.


  • To learn the proper use of active and passive sentences to improve your communication, see:
  • To learn more about using the Readability Scores and statistics see:
  • To display readability statistics in MS Word:
    • On the Edit menu, click Preferences, and then click the Spelling & Grammar tab.
    • Select the Check grammar with spelling check box.
    • Select the “Show readability statistics” check box, and then click OK.
    • On the Tools menu, click Spelling and Grammar. When Word finishes
      checking spelling and grammar, it displays information about the reading level of the document.

      © Copyright 2003 by Angela Allen Parker of Wicked Wordcraft