One Way We Find Bellingham Homes For Sale

I want to touch on a delicate subject in this blog post.

For those of you who know me well, you know I love to be of service, to help, to contribute.

I am not that guy who goes around looking to “poke the bear” or cause trouble, and I am reasonably well aware of the effects my actions have on those around me.

I mean no harm.

But in my career as a Realtor, and as the captain of this ship known as BNP Realtors, I am most definitely guilty of causing some deep, deep discomfort with some members of the greater Whatcom County community.

I have received phone calls and voice mails. I have gotten letters. I have had people drive across the County and walk un-announced into BNP headquarters specifically to express their outrage at a particular action myself or my partners at the firm undertook.

Yet we do it regularly. And we’ll do it again.

I am here, today, to try to explain.

Let Me Set the Stage…

At BNP Realtors, we work with buyers and sellers of real property. A slight majority of our business — even in a “normal” year — is working with buyers.

As you know, the amount of available “inventory” or Active homes on the market, has never been lower for this time of year… and has barely been lower at any point, ever. (We’re currently at 38 Active listings in Bellingham, for example.)

Here’s the graph of inventory over the past decade.

Meanwhile, as we’ve discussed in past newsletters, the DEMAND has risen.


Imagine you look out and see this swarm of starlings… only to find out they’re all competing for a mere 3 dozen mosquitos.

It’s like that.

Wait, though… we don’t need gifs of swarming birds to make the point.

Let’s use actual MLS screenshots of various Bellingham neighborhoods right now, as of today.

Pretend you’re a buyer with no limit to your budget, and you’re looking in the Silver Beach and upper Alabama Hill neighborhoods.

In this image below, the Yellow icons are already Pending, the Red icons are already Sold… and any Green icons would be Active listings, available for offers.

Ahh yes, there’s one, over to the left.


Oh, right…. but Silver Beach and that area are SUPER popular, right? So…. what about South Hill? Remember: Greens are Active.

Ohhh, South Hill too, huh? But that’s a premium neighborhood with views and walk-to-Fairhaven. What about a non-view neighborhood like Columbia??? Greens = Active.

Hmmm. OK… but Columbia is in the “Core”! Everyone wants the Core. So how about we get out of town a little bit and look over by Lake Padden for some Green/Active listings?

You get the point. Those swallows may be swarmin’… but they ain’t eatin’!

Yet when we have buyer clients with financing in place or cash to spend, and they are calibrated to the market conditions, the competitive landscape, and the prices, we ARE consistently getting them into contract on a house.

Those houses are just not always “ON the market.”

OK What the Heck Does That Mean?

“On the market” is used to describe an Actively-listed-on-the-MLS home for sale.

Those are the ones represented by the colored icons in the images above. They have -some version of the representation of a listing broker, a sign in the yard, an online presence,.

They are searchable and find-able by all the other Realtors in the MLS database.

(In this market, with a starling-like swarm of buyers fighting over 3 dozen mosquitos, if you’re selling, you generally WANT to go ON-MARKET.)

ON-MARKET = MID-STARLING-SWARM. Right in the writhing, chomping, voracious thick of it!

But not everyone wants a starling-swarm of buyers walking through their house, it turns out.

They may be willing to sell, but they have not, for any number of reasons, finalized or even started the process of calling a Realtor, packing up half their life, optimizing the house and grounds…

They may not know a Realtor. They may be unsure if their house or their financial situation or their life story even ALLOWS for a sale.

Selling is a big deal and can be overwhelming to even think about for some people.

They may be intimidated by starting at all.

And that is totally reasonable.

The point is, those people are out there. And, simply put, we want to know who they are.

So How Am I Offending People?

We KNOW there are people who would sell, who aren’t on the market.

Now we just need a way to find them. To get them to raise their hands and say, “Yeah, I would consider a sale.”

Nowadays, some Realtors will try any number of ways to find those people:

  • Cold calling on the phone, day and night
  • Door knocking
  • Elicit texting
  • Letter mailing
  • Postcard mailing
  • Trespassing
  • Facebook ads
  • “I’ll buy your house for cash” signs stuck all over town
  • Squeeze pages
  • Phone-number capture

The list is very long, and I am sure that most of you home-owners have gotten MOST of the above list, likely multiple times.

At BNP, we of course wish we had a secret radar that would ping us whenever an off-market seller was ready to do business.

(There are actually artificial-intelligence software products sold to Realtors that use “predictive analytics” and claim to know exactly who is about to sell! Hmmm.)

But we do partake in an aspect of this outreach, I readily admit it.

The buyers who hire us expect that we’ll do more than just “follow the MLS” to find them a house.

We have found, over the years, that mailing an honest, one-page letter is the least offensive or intrusive way to initiate a conversation with a potential seller.

The letter generally introduces our firm, our clients, and their desire to buy for full, fair market value in that particular area or that particular house.

There is no bait-and-switch, no “scam”. It is 100% legitimate.

And the beauty of a letter is that it is 100% obedient to the recipient’s schedule. We open our mail when WE have time… not at the moment the sender decides to initiate contact.

Does It Actually Work?

We generally send out letters in batches of 100.

The list of names and addresses are provided by Whatcom Land Title (WLT), extracted from public records. (If you own real property, you and your property are in the public record.)

We set some criteria such as area, house size, age of construction, lot size, tax assessed value, things like that.

WLT then emails us a list, which our intern Emma then transfers to envelopes, stuffs the letters, stamps them and sends them out.

For every 100 letters we send, we get between 2 and 3 responses. We’ve had as many as 7 or 8 responses.

And occasionally, a recipient opens our letter and is fully triggered. Outraged. Offended. They call, write, or come by the office to tell us.

Again, I am sure you have gotten such a letter… probably many.

Please know that, at least from BNP Realtors, it was sent in sincerity and with honest intentions.

A number of readers of this newsletter have purchased a home with our firm, that we discovered because we mailed some letters.

It’s a really, REALLY good feeling when a win-win is created for a buyer and seller because a simple letter was mailed.

For anyone not interested in selling… a letter is a simple thing to recycle.

On behalf of myself, the buyers looking to buy homes in this excruciatingly lean market, and the Realtors who rely on this type of outreach, if you are or have been annoyed or worse… please accept my humble apology.

I’m available to talk more about this if you’d like. And of course, if you’re interested in selling… please contact me.

I’m at 360-319-0696 or [email protected]