It drives my family and friends crazy, but I don’t routinely check my mail. I pay my bills online, so rarely do I receive anything critical requiring my immediate attention. Most of my mail is from companies and organizations I wish would just leave me alone.

I’m talking to you Capital One, AARP, and the American Association of Individual Investors!

When I do retrieve my mail, its piled mighty high, but it takes just minutes to sort. Flyers. TRASH. Mass Mailings. TRASH. “We miss you” subscription offers. TRASH. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but the only mailings I routinely open are from Valpak, the coupon company. Great deals on car washes, dry cleaning, and occasionally local restaurants.

My last mailbox haul contained a handwritten envelope that escaped immediate rejection. It was addressed to me and had a return address in ritzy Santa Monica. I don’t know anyone in Santa Monica, and quite honestly, I find people in that affluent, ocean-bordering community rather snooty. Think NYC’s Upper East Side — except with palm trees.

The envelope contained a handwritten letter from Ron Wynn, an agent at Compass, a local real estate agency with whom I’ve previously had unpleasant dealings. The letter was short and to the point.

Dear Eric,

I’m working with an early 30’s couple looking for a first home with potential to upgrade later. They are currently renting a home near yours at (my address noted),and wish to stay in the area. John and his fiancé Becca just need a small yard for their English bulldog, “Roxy,” and they can be very happy. Is there a chance you would consider selling if my client would meet your price expectations? They realize that it’s still a sellers market. Please call me at (number included).

Sincerely yours,

Ron Wynn

I’m constantly receiving mailings and intrusive flyers left on my door from brokers touting their services and informing me that it’s a great time to sell my home. (With real estate brokers, it’s always a great time to sell — or buy — depending on whom they’re talking to.)  I read them, but only because I’m curious about the ridiculously high prices my neighbors are fetching for homes that just a decade ago could be bought for a fraction of the price.  

Most homes in my hood are tear downs; developers are buying them so they can throw up tasteless oversized homes, each one uglier than the next. It’s one of the hazards – or benefits, depending on your point of view – of living where tech companies like Google have decided to set up shop.

Wynn’s letter impressed me. For starters, he took the time to research that I was the owner of my property. He could have just written, “Dear Resident.” Wynn’s letter was handwritten with near flawless penmanship, which is very time consuming. And he personalized the client he was representing.

I often receive letters and cold calls from brokers telling me they have a buyer interested in my home. I’m savvy enough about real estate to know often no such buyer exists; it’s a popular ruse to get my listing. As I’m not interested in selling, I usually volunteer an obscene asking price. I never hear from the brokers again.

But I didn’t do that to Ron Wynn. He wasn’t a broker representing a faceless or imaginary client. He was writing on behalf of John and Becca and their dog “Roxy,” a young couple looking to make a life together, and given their “upgrade” plans, likely planning a family. Milking John and Becca for all I could possibly get might crimp their children’s college education funds. I’d want to be fair in any deal I did with them.

Ron Wynn

On a hunch, I checked out Wynn’s background. As I suspected, he isn’t some schlock broker. According to his website, Wynn has been named among the nation’s top one hundred sales associates by the Wall Street Journal for ten years running. He previously was among Coldwell Banker’s top ten brokers in the world for 15 consecutive years. He refers to Compass’s “special technology and pivotal marketing platform,” so I’m guessing that’s why he jumped ship.

My house is at the lower end of the spectrum of homes Wynn traffics in. So, I was surprised that when I called Wynn immediately knew details of my home and its history. I respected him too much to name some ridiculous price that might incentivize me to sell. I told him that I wasn’t interested in selling but that I was incredibly impressed with how he approached me. He earned my respect by treating me with respect.

Wynn was a lot more down to earth than I expected. Though there was no immediate potential for a listing, Wynn was quite gracious and spent time educating me about real estate in my neighborhood, including why I must pay for flood insurance when I live miles from the ocean. Turns out there was a flood out here more than a century ago.

I’m constantly reading about the power of digital marketing and how platforms like Facebook can help companies and individuals do more targeted outreach. My mailbox is bombarded every day with mass emails intended to deceive me into believing they were written specifically for me or that I’ve had previous communications with the sender (i.e. Re: Following up on our conversation). I refuse to do business with anyone who’s dishonest with me at the outset.

The unit cost of sending mass emails is a fraction of the 37 cents that Wynn spent to mail his letter. And I’m guessing the time it took to research the ownership of my house and write a thoughtful handwritten letter took another 30 minutes, which possibly was written by an assistant. Wynn talked to me on the telephone for about 10 minutes with no chance of an immediate sale on a property that’s barely worth his personal time and effort.

But when the time comes to sell my home, Wynn is the first person I’m going to call. His website promises “hands on, personal attention” regardless of the listing size. I know that he means it. I’m not surprised that most of Wynn’s business comes from referrals.

I especially like that Wynn represents seemingly wonderful people like John and Becca. I don’t even know them, yet I feel badly about not selling them my home.