Ad I Ran in a National Magazine that Resulted in Me Calling the FBI
With the exception of television ads, I have tested every type of marketing imaginable during my career in real estate, including internet, direct mail, local magazine ads, local newspaper, out-of-area newspaper, radio, newsletters for neighborhoods, yellow pages, walking neighborhoods, and more. But only one form of advertising has consistently brought strange buyers and odd correspondence to our door, and that is the national luxury magazine Robb Report.
In case you are not familiar with this magazine, it caters to a very exclusive and high-end reader. The average subscriber household income is $1.4 million. My wife has jokingly remarked that it is the best possible place to find a $1000 belt. Basically, if you are trying to reach a very exclusive group of luxury home buyers, this is a good place to start. They feature the finest cigars, yachts, homes, vehicles, electronics - you name it.
Before I mention the strange "buyers" that we dealt with, I would also like to point out that this magazine is also responsible for generating my first $1+ million closing, which ended up leading to way more business:
The quality of the leads was generally very strong, and I would recommend them with one caveat: you must count on getting at least one very odd buyer each time you run a high-response ad. Some of you may be thinking that you get this on every ad you run, so why not try it?
Well, maybe you would like to hear about a couple of our experiences:
We had a buyer for a huge ranch property that would have been the most expensive sale in the Austin MLS EVER, back in 2001. I spent months of my life working on that deal, and the buyer provided a fraudulent verification of funds and even manufactured a fake "attorney" that was assisting him throughout. Actually, the latter was something that we figured out on our own pretty quickly. The buyer was not a grammatical genius, and his false attorney made the same errors in his letters to us and to the seller. Long story short - we think he was probably money laundering for a foreign national and had his accounts frozen by the goverment before he could close on the property.
Another guy that came from these ads actually signed the closing documents, then never funded the transaction. It turns out that he was running a scam and he was stealing money from teacher retirement accounts. Lovely.
But the one that takes the cake was the man who wrote separate, similar letters to me and to my business partner asking for our help in locating the perfect property in the Austin area. He was a big spender, according to what he told us. He was going to be starting a modeling agency in Texas, and he also wanted our help finding the right kinds of girls to model for his "company". He promised us a very large financial incentive ($50,000 each) for our help with the purchase. As if this wasn't weird enough, you must understand that the letters were both written on Xeroxed letterhead that included a shirtless picture of himself. Yes, you read that last sentence correctly. He was shirtless on his "letterhead" and the letters were handwritten. I quickly contacted the post office and my fears were confirmed - he was writing to us from prison!
I contacted the FBI, and they asked me for copies of the letters that we received. They were very thankful, because this guy had a parole hearing coming up, and the letters served as great evidence to keep him locked up. The FBI agent that I spoke with told me that the man was convicted of raping an underage girl and transporting her across state lines. After hearing that, I was especially happy that we were instrumental in keeping him in prison. The crazy thing was that he used his real name and address. The crazier thing was that they have Robb Report in PRISON!! Why is that anyway?
At any rate, I guess my overall take is this - our national ads brought us some really good clients, but we had to weed through some weird ones as well. If you like high-stakes gambling, why not give it a shot?