The Solicitation Letter: New Trend or Classic Technique?


5 minute read

May 23, 2019

I remember the first time I saw a television ad for one of those “Cash for Gold” companies.

I laughed.  I actually laughed.  For a moment, I thought it was a spoof.  But as the ad went on, I realized somebody really, truly thought people were stupid enough to mail their gold to a post office box, in exchange for an unspecified sum of money.

That would never happen.


“Cash for Gold” is probably a billion-dollar business in 2019, and the only reason many of us never thought of the idea was because we didn’t believe people could be so stupid.

Case in point, if you described gold as “broken” and “unwanted,” nobody could really fall for that, could they?  I mean, it’s still gold.  It doesn’t matter if it’s “broken,” it’s still a goddam piece of gold, which is sold by weight.  Nobody could watch a television advertisement and be convinced that gold, which is an exchange-traded commodity with an easy-to-find spot price, could be worth less because it’s “unwanted.”

But alas, people are that stupid.

And tens of thousands of people across the globe, every year, take their “broken” gold and put it in envelopes (one company brilliantly marketed their special envelope as a “G-Pack,” which was sent for free), and mail to a buyer who does not specify the value and/or purchase price in advance.

I just can’t believe it.

I actually wrote about this ten years ago in a blog post appropriately called, “The Friday Rant: The Dumbest Thing I Have Ever Seen”

Just having re-read that post for the first time in a decade, I’m actually a little surprised (and disappointed…) about how less sarcastic I have grown.  Although I will note that my thoughts and feelings on “winners vs. losers” and the snowflake society we have become were perhaps a little before their time.

Just in case you have no idea what I’m talking about, and for some odd reason, haven’t already clicked on that blog link above for a fantastic read, let me dig into the YouTube archives and show you the original “Dollars4Gold” ad from 2008:


The quality isn’t great, but this is likely somebody videotaping their TV screen.

You get the idea though.

“Safe” and “convenient.”  And “from the privacy of your own home,” nonetheless.

Fast-paced, exciting, a smiling pitch-man, and all the while, trying to convince you that your unwanted gold is “old” and thus not worth as much, even though, technically, all gold is likely between four and ten billion years old…

Tell me if you think I’m wrong on this, and I’ll tell you I disagree.

Now when it comes to real estate, people can’t be as naive, right?

Once again, I have to thank my readers for emailing me not only the idea for this blog post, but the actual content as well!

I have here not one, but two hand-written solicitation letters that blog readers have found in their mailboxes over the last couple of months.

And much like the “Cash for Gold” pitch, these letters offer terms and services that aren’t really all that favourable to the seller.

Here’s the first one, and you can click on the image to enlarge:

I have chosen not to black out the name and/or contact information because these letters were left in public.  Also, those of you that don’t like real estate agents now have a viable alternative…

This letter is hand-written, and as the reader who sent me the image explained, “It even contained a small rip in the top right corner that was likely hand-made, to look like it was even more authentic.”

So what’s the pitch?

First of all, the letter uses CAPS to explain “AT FAIR CASH OFFERS.”

Then comes the dollar signs: $ We Buy Houses With Cash $

Who doesn’t buy houses with cash?  I mean, the term “cash offer,” historically, meant that the buyer didn’t need the vendor to take back a mortgage.  Over time, this has evolved to mean that the buyer is paying “cash,” and not taking a mortgage.

But in Toronto, why does this matter?

Why does it matter if a buyer has $1,000,000 in cash to buy a $1,000,000 house, or $200,000 and an $800,000 mortgage?  How does this benefit the seller?

My question is rhetorical, but some of you will suggest that the “cash buyer” is safer, because the bank could pull the funding, or an appraisal might not come through.  But these are extremely low-percentage scenarios; so low, in fact, that they really, truly don’t matter in today’s market.

These solicitation letters use the words “cash” for the same reasons that the “Cash for Gold” folks do; because the word itself makes us feel good.

Cash deal, no banks or additional fees involved.
Buy “As Is,” no need to clean or repair.

It’s true that there are no real estate fees involved, but the “no additional fees involved” seems to insinuate fees from the bank, when the buyer is actually responsible for the appraisal, if one is needed.  And it’s not like the seller won’t need a real estate lawyer in this case.

I also don’t think “as is” refers to a clause in the agreement specifying that no representations or warranties are being made, but rather it’s just a synonym for “no need to clean or repair.”

The $1,000 fee proposed at the bottom is awesome for the non-selling home-owner who does know of a friend who wants to sell, but again, doesn’t it just make the overall offering sound a bit fishy?

Here’s the second

Like the first letter, notice the use of the dollar sign!

$$$ I BUY HOUSES $$$

Who does that remind me of?


Ah, yes, this guy:

“$$$ I BUY HOUSES!!! $$$”

“I Buy Your Jewelry!”

You have to admit, whether you like this person’s solicitation letter or not, there’s a lot in common between the content of the letters and those TV pitch men like Oliver Jewelry and the like.

“If you wait, it might be too late.”

I mean, come on!  This is the oldest sales tactic in the book!


The only thing missing in the letter is something to the effect of, “And if you call now, in the next twenty minutes, we’ll give you a second Miracle Blade, absolutely FREE!”

Notice how both ads offer money for a referral to a neighbour or friend who is selling?  $1,000 and $500 respectively in the two letters?  I think that’s fair.  It’s like referring three friends to the gym, and getting a month for free.

It’s also not unlike:

Yes, just to show him the gold.  That’s all he wants!

Like when I asked my now-wife to come back to my condo to watch Anchorman after dinner on our first date.  I was really just in the mood for a movie that I’d already seen twenty times…

I don’t know the authors of two solicitation letters, so I can’t comment on them personally.

I will say, however, that in Toronto, in 2019, anybody who sells privately from a solicitation letter like those shown above, rather than exposing their home to tens of thousands of buyers on the open market, is going to come up short about 99% of the time.

There are cases where, for example, an extremely private individual who shudders to think about the idea of strangers walking through his or her home, would benefit from selling privately.

But I still think that person is leaving money on the table.

We all learned the following from watching The Simpsons twenty years ago:

I’m not so sure that one could argue the authors of such solicitation letters are attempting to “give back to the community,” nor are they running some sort of not-for profit.

So by the same token, I have no idea why a home owner would engage these people.

Yes, I’m biased.  I sell real estate for a living.

But I also don’t think that makes me incorrect.

I’d love to hear opinions to the contrary.  I’d also love to hear how much you got for your grandmother’s wedding ring through Harold The Jewelry Buyer

Written By David Fleming

David Fleming is the author of Toronto Realty Blog, founded in 2007. He combined his passion for writing and real estate to create a space for honest information and two-way communication in a complex and dynamic market. David is a licensed Broker and the Broker of Record for Bosley – Toronto Realty Group

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  1. Condodweller

    at 8:43 am

    It looks like it’s propaganda week at the torontorealtyblog this week. First I am stupid if I dare submit an offer at the asking price, or gasp, below the asking price. Now I am stupid if I sell my gold to Oliver, and presumably even stupider if I hire someone who will pay me cash for my house without having to pay him/her a commission twice my annual salary.

    Let’s see if I can identify the classic sales lines in this post….

    “If you wait, it might be too late.”
    “But I still think that person is leaving money on the table.”

    Have I missed any?

    I hope we get back to high quality posts next week. There were some interesting headlines this week:

    The articles/commenters claim 40% development charge increases during the last few years and $350/sqft hard costs.

    Disclaimer: I’m not recommending any of the above is a good/bad idea.

  2. Another David

    at 12:10 pm

    I also received the first letter from Mario and I don’t think they are handwritten at all. If you flip over the page, there is no indentation at all on the back side which is impossible when handwriting it.

    I wonder if this is some sort of scam to trick home owners into selling or stealing some other things I am not sure.

  3. GinaTO

    at 12:10 pm

    What we need here is a first-person account from someone who actually did this (or tried to). I’m dying to know how that conversation would go – what was the “fair” offer? Do they use timeshare sales tactics, i.e. grind you down until you sign, sobbing, on the dotted line? Does anyone know anyone who knows something? Bueller??

  4. m m

    at 4:29 pm

    Those adjectives will get you every time: “serious”, “private”, “fair”, “professional”, “experienced”.

  5. Alexander

    at 6:02 pm

    The whole situation reminds me of trying selling something on Kijiji ( even though nobody buys theses days ) – businesses are trying to squeeze the last cent out of your posted price, when you have 50-50 chance of private buyers trying to get a reasonable discount. Still remember the dinning table that was gone for 200+ and appeared at online shop a few days later for 1200+.

  6. M

    at 6:11 pm

    Any worse than the random solicitation flyers/letters/fridge magnets/calendars from realtors?

    1. jeff316

      at 9:03 am


  7. Jimbo

    at 11:28 pm

    I don’t know how many people sold their grand mothers jewellery to these “Companies” but they sold a lot of unpaid for jewellery to them. No questions asked, can’t even get that from the average Pawn Shop.
    What if you sold your non-principal property this way, no tax, no fees? Can you even get away with that with the new tax form?

    1. Appraiser

      at 5:58 am

      When is Jimbo gonna move out of his mom’s attic?

      1. Jimbo

        at 5:49 pm

        lol a long time ago unfortunately……… I am a home owner you know
        I rethought about the post and if it was in bad taste or not. I realised after that I probably couldn’t delete or recall it. I didn’t mean anything negative, just focused on the good debt vs bad debt process and what is probably your view on owning rental properties.

        Didn’t mean anything along the lines of who the presenter was or annoying factors of the video.

  8. Kyle

    at 8:19 am

    Alex has pretty much carpet-bombed the City with his “hand-written” letters. I’ve received a half dozen of them at a couple of different addresses (over 7 km apart) over the last couple of years..

  9. Condodweller

    at 10:22 am

    I find it interesting how people like to crap on other people’s businesses. Oliver has been in business for decades now. Given how long he has been in business and If he can afford to run commercials on major Toronto networks I’d hazard a guess he is doing well. The whole premise of business is to find a need and fill it for your clients. Obviously, there is a need if he managed to stay in business this long.

    David, please take your grandmother’s gold ring to your local bank branch and let us know what they tell you.

    Regarding these cash for your house offers let’s review what are the three major pain points surrounding selling your home:

    1. People don’t like buyers trudging through their homes for at least a week.

    2. People stress over what the value of their property is and whether their agent is competent enough to price it properly. Buyers don’t like bidding wars and the offer process.

    3. Sellers don’t like to pay the huge realtor’s fees, especially for the buyer’s agent.

    So these guys are offering to eliminate the top three issues about selling their homes. I would say it is potentially a great business/marketing idea. Regarding dropping their flyers at your door, isn’t this what a lot of RE agents are doing?

    1. Not Harold

      at 11:17 am

      These are predatory business practices and should be called out and crapped on.

      I like scotch and wine, but selling mickeys of the cheapest whisky or tall boys of malt liquor is morally evil, feeding and feeding off of the addicted homeless. Selling cocaine to an investment banker or a condo developer is one thing, selling crack to the bums on George St is another.

      Just like how payday loans are the easiest, cheapest, and frequently only financing available but practices to get people on a treadmill of ever increasing debt thanks to rolling over loans is wrong. ayday interest HAS to be high to pay for processing costs and high risk, but getting people trapped is another story.

      Oliver is high pressure, low ball pricing and should be called out just like this property buyer who is pressuring people into taking far below market prices.

      It’s one thing to submit an offer to an agent, with everyone properly represented and decided to sell. It’s another to push people to do an unrepresented off market sale.

      1. Kyle

        at 11:56 am

        100%! Exploitive business models need to be crapped on, otherwise one can say drug dealers, psychics/mediums, pimps, sweatshop owners, quack doctors, and door to door HVAC contract sales people are all just filling a need. After all their business models have all been around for a long time.

      2. Condodweller

        at 10:31 am


        I’m with you on the predatory lending practices however drug/alcohol abuse is a different story. Unfortunately, as bad is they are there is still a need. And as long as there is a need there will be people/businesses who will address that need. The moral aspect of it is again a separate issue.

        I don’t get your analogy though between the above and gold buying and cash for houses. Are you saying selling gold rings to Oliver is addictive and/or out of necessity?

        I have never dealt with any of these and don’t know anyone who has, therefore, I can’t comment whether their prices are fair and selling tactics involved. I will have to take your word for it if you have experince with them. Even so, it is up to the seller to accept the price or not. I would be curious to see what prices are offered for houses and how “unfair” they are.

  10. Ed

    at 12:18 pm

    If I was in the business of trying to sell reverse mortgages I think this might be a good foot in the door.

  11. shrey

    at 2:09 pm

    Get cash for gold instantly and with complete transparency. Find the real value of your gold and have the financial edge to stay ready for anything in life.

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