Real estate farming is the act of focusing the bulk of your marketing efforts on a specific area (geographic farming) or certain types of clients (demographic farming) as an expert in that area. Real estate farming equates your marketing efforts to sowing seeds on a farm.
One of the easiest ways to get the word out about your services is to send information straight to the potential clients in your farm area. ProspectsPLUS!® has teamed up with the United States Postal Service to enable you to send beautiful, full-color, personalized flyers to every home in a neighborhood–without requiring you to walk door-to-door and hope that someone answers your knock. Click here to learn how to dominate your local market with ProspectsPLUS!®
How to Choose the Right Real Estate Farm Area
Since it can take a significant amount of time to see a decent return from your farm area, your choice is very important. Here are five tips to selecting a lucrative real estate farm area.
1. Stay Close to Home for Your Real Estate Farm Area
If you’re just getting started, then farming your own neighborhood is probably your best course of action. There are so many benefits of geographic farming in your own neighborhood.
You’re Already a Local Expert
Setting up your farm area in a place you already know and love is just the best possible combination. You know the streets, many of the residents, and have insights it would be difficult for others to establish. For example, you may know that your neighbor’s friend will be transitioning to a nursing home and selling soon. Not only can you provide a great service, but you often have a heads-up in the market.
Many people may already know you, so establishing trust and business in an area where you’re known will be easier than for a newcomer. Saying that, even if you’re new to the neighborhood yourself, it is far easier to network in the area where you already live. Establishing yourself as an expert comes in many forms. One of our top 47 real estate lead generation tips is to host local educational events on buying, selling or renting in the area.
You’ve Already Got the Connections
As a local resident, you likely already have solid connections in your real estate farm area. Your circle of influence (family, friends, people they know) is probably concentrated nearby, you probably know local business owners, and best of all, you can wholeheartedly recommend the neighborhood because you live there.
The perks of geographic farming in your own neighborhood are many. This is like catnip for both sellers and buyers, especially relocation clients. Think about it. If you were moving to a new city, would you rather work with an agent who lives two hours away, or one who has lived in the neighborhood for years?
I know for myself, when relocating to a new area, using a local agent has been invaluable. Not only did he know my neighborhood like the back of his hand, he knew reputable contractors I could use right off the top of his head. His recommendations kept a close relationship between us, and set him up to be an expert that I later recommended to friends moving to the area.
You’re More Available for Clients
When you live in the area you farm, there are opportunities to meet prospective clients wherever you shop and visit on a day-to-day basis. Places like the local gym, grocery stores, coffee shop, and hardware stores are all opportunities to network during ordinary conversation in your daily routine.
So often, ordinary conversations at the check-out counter can turn into inside information about a home coming on the market or a local person looking for a solid realtor. If you don’t already have a great CRM to store those contacts you meet, we love Contactually, which allows you to keep in touch in ways that seem organic and thoughtful.
Another reason to stay close to home when geographic farming is that you’ll have greater ability to offer last minute showings and previews. It is far easier for you to be available to show clients a great new listing that just came on the market if it’s just a quick walk or ride from where you live. It’s also easier managing your life and far better on the budget. Car maintenance and gasoline costs can be one of the largest expenses a realtor has, but it can certainly be minimized if your geographic farming is close to home.
2. Do Research on Your Real Estate Farm Area
When deciding on the right area for your real estate farming, being close to home isn’t the only criteria for choosing well. Another important element to choosing a farm area is local demographics. Before you start demographic farming, you need to know as much as you can about the area so you can make sure it’s someplace you’ll be happy working in, and can give you the income you’ll need to meet the goals in your real estate business plan. Ultimately, demographic components is one area of many that you’ll want to research in your farm area.
Here are some things to research for your farm area:
- Average income
- Average age
- Is it a commuter area?
- Large employers – Software companies, hospitals, factories, etc.
- Types of homes in the area (Victorian, Mid-Century, new developments, etc.)
- Local amenities – Beaches, parks, nightlife, etc.
- Transportation options
- Recent changes or coming changes – Gentrification, construction, etc.
While most of this data will be a Google search away, you may have to use Census data to get incomes and age. This data can be useful in directing you to the kinds of commission checks you can expect, what type of homes people might be looking for, and amenities they may be interested in.
While you’re doing your research, try and focus on aspects of the neighborhood you personally respond to. For example, if you love vintage homes, it will be much easier to sell them than new developments. Since purchasing a home is largely an emotional decision, buyers will respond to your enthusiasm and personal knowledge on the topic.
Once you choose a geographic farm, if it’s in a larger area, you may also try to narrow down a specific demographic that you want to work with within that area, often referred to as demographic farming. For example, you might want to focus on homes worth over $1 million or senior communities. Researching the neighborhood and local demographics will help you make the choice of what works best for you.
3. Choose a Real Estate Farm Area with Well-Defined Boundaries
Whenever possible, try and pick a neighborhood with well-defined boundaries to help market your listings. Having well-defined boundaries when real estate farming helps you to market your listings more easily, because the geographic area you work in is clear to yourself and others. Even in large metro areas like NYC, there are well-defined boundaries.
In Manhattan, for example, the Upper East Side starts at 59th Street, from 5th Avenue to York Avenue, then extends up to 96th street. In the past few years, gentrification may have pushed the boundaries of the neighborhood a bit, with some agents calling listings up to 103rd Street the Upper East Side. Still, when you tell most clients you’re taking them to the Upper East Side, the boundaries are generally understood.
People envision a certain type of home and a certain lifestyle with designated neighborhoods. Almost all neighborhoods in any area have certain reputations, and capitalizing on these can help you market your listings. Our ultimate guide to real estate branding will help you leave a lasting impression on your customers by creating a brand that matches your target audience.
4. Make Sure Your Real Estate Farm Area Is the Right Size
In geographic farming, size matters. You need to make sure the area is large enough to ensure a decent turnover, but small enough that you can build a name for yourself there without draining your retirement fund.
A great example of this could be Manhattan. While the Upper East Side is a great place to work, it’s also home to a few hundred thousand people. Staying top of mind with the whole neighborhood would cost you tens of thousands of dollars per month. Instead, most agents who work on the Upper East Side focus on micro-neighborhoods like Yorkville, Lenox Hill, or The Gold Coast.
No matter where you live, consider the size of your neighborhood when real estate farming. The planning done up front will save you time, money, and ensure a nice pipeline of clients for years to come.
5. Run the Numbers in Your Real Estate Farm Area
Once you find an area you want to work in, the next step is to run the numbers to make sure the area has enough sales activity to make real estate farming worthwhile. In an ideal world, you want to find a farm area that has high sales prices, high turnover, and low competition. In reality, however, neighborhoods like this are extremely rare. To hedge your bets, you may consider looking at several farm areas and picking the one with the best balance of price, turnover, and competition. Here’s how to do it.
Average Sales Price
It’s easier than you might think to get an average sales price in your anticipated farm area, and takes just a few steps to complete. First, fire up your MLS program or a program like Realtors Property Resource (RPR) and choose the zip code of the area. RPR and many MLS systems offer the ability to draw an area on the map.
To get the average sales price of your anticipated real estate farm area, you’ll then draw your anticipated real estate farm area on the map, and pull all sold listings for the past two or three years. The average sale price will be the average price of the sold homes.
Once you have the average price, you can figure out what your commission will be per transaction. Once you know this, you can determine how many listings you will need to close in your farm area to make a profit and meet the goals you’ve set for yourself.
Just a note: if you haven’t used RPR before, it’s free with your NAR membership dues and offers an incredible amount of information in one centralized place that usually saves you time.
In order to figure out the turnover rate in your potential farm area, simply divide the number of homes in your farm area by the number of homes sold in the last two years. If you want to keep your lights on, make sure the area you want to farm has a relatively high turnover rate. Tom Ferry, a noted real estate coach, recommends only considering areas with a six percent or higher turnover rate.
Once you’ve determined the area has enough sales activity to sustain you, the next step is to figure out what your competition looks like. Be sure to take particular note of the top closing agents for the past few years. If you see that one agent already dominates the area, getting a piece of the pie might be an uphill battle. Chances are that agent has been working the area for years and is very well established.
However, if you see there are a variety of agents closing in the area, and there is high enough turnover to justify working there, then there is more than likely room for you as well.
Putting It All Together
Now that you know all about the demographics of the area, the kinds of homes and amenities that are there, and the numbers around sales activity, turnover, and competition, you need to pull all your information together to choose a farm area.
Over at The Lones Group, they put together a table you can create in order to pick your farm area. It should look something like this:
Choosing Your Farm Area – Example
|Farm Area One||Farm Area Two||Farm Area Three|
|Total Number of Homes||150||200||250|
|Estimated farming cost per year|
(mailings, open house costs, advertising, etc.)
|Average Sales Price||$300k||$350k||$400k|
|Average commission per sale|
(calculate at your average commission %)
|Total homes sold in farm, previous three years||15||16||12|
(total # of homes divided by total homes sold)
(total homes sold x average commission)
|Average Days on the Market||43||39||61|
|Number of Current Listings||13||3||7|
Based on this example chart, Farm Area One will probably be your best bet. While income potential may be a bit lower, it has a much higher turnover rate and more current listings on the market. That means more room for you to gain a foothold.
When analyzing your real estate farm area, let the data make your decisions. Using a formula to lay out the numbers clearly can give you confidence that investing in this area won’t simply be wasting your money. It can be easy to get emotionally invested in an area only to find out there is nowhere for you to grow in your business, and analyzing clearly avoids that costly mistake.
How to Build Authority in Your Real Estate Farm Area
Once you’ve chosen a farm area that makes sense for you, the next step is to begin making a name for yourself there. Your goal is to establish yourself as the go-to real estate professional for the entire community.
Since you’ve already done the research, you should know your audience like the back of your hand. This makes choosing your marketing strategy much easier than it would be otherwise.
Here are eight ways to start building your presence in your farm area.
1. Direct Mail
Direct mail is one of the oldest and most effective methods to spread your message to a specific community. By using the Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) service from the United States Postal Service, you can send mailers to everyone in your farm area even if you don’t have a mailing list. If you haven’t taken advantage of it before, EDDM is a cost-effective, targeted direct mail service from the USPS. EDDM lets you choose a mail delivery route via their maps, and you can then send your direct mail to every house along that route.
Another option would be to use an automated direct mail service like QuantumDigital. The great thing about QuantumDigital is that they allow you to design postcards and literally set up your system so that they mail out on a monthly schedule. This set-up of monthly mailings can be done within a few minutes, taking a task off your plate every 30 days. They even have a service called Auto Mail Plus that, along with the postcard, has a link to a personalized market report that shows the recipient neighborhood sales data. When the user retrieves this data and gives information, you get an email for a new lead to follow up with. Plug that new lead into a CRM like Contactually, and be on your way. Here we show you how to use Contactually to nurture your leads and close more deals.
The key to staying top of mind is touching everyone in your farm area multiple times. You should plan for at least two or three mailings before expecting a return.
2. Door Hangers
Door hangers are another tried and true way to reach homeowners in your farm area. The reason door hangers work so well is that unlike a postcard, which can easily get ignored in a shuffle of mail, homeowners have to physically remove your door hanger to get into their home.
A company we love for producing high quality and inexpensive door hangers is ProspectsPlus. For about 35 cents each, you can get an effective lead generating tool that a homeowner can’t ignore. For more on door hangers, check out our in-depth guide here.
3. Door Knocking
Definitely not for the faint of heart, door knocking is still a great way to get to know homeowners in your farm area. It’s also 100% free. All you need are comfortable shoes and a desire to connect with people.
One of the things about door knocking is that you never know where the conversation will lead, and in the age of so much tech, it’s a great way to get face time with real people. Most people are doing their advertising online, and for the right kind of person, a personal campaign can really stand out.
Door knocking can be pretty intimidating, but it’s a great strategy for being top of mind. We compiled a list of the top 16 door knocking tips if you decide to brave the path and reap the rewards.
4. Zillow Premier Agent
Since Zillow Premier Agent lets you advertise to one specific zip code, it’s a great way to reach leads in your farm area online. It is estimated that for every $1 you spend on Zillow, you get $2.50 back in commissions.
More leads give you more closed deals at the end of the day, and Zillow offers you targeted leads in your farm area. To learn more about how Zillow Premier Agent works and the benefits of using it, we’ve written up a guide showing you the costs and results of the platform.
5. Facebook Advertising
Outside of real estate specific advertising platforms, Facebook advertising is likely the most effective method you have. Using Facebook allows you to not only target by zip code, but by dozens of other criteria as well. You can target by age, income, interests, recent job, and much more.
The amount of information you can use to find your target audience on Facebook is pretty astonishing. Facebook even has a category called “ready to move,” which is made up of people whose online behavior is consistent with people who are ready to move. To learn specifically about using Facebook as a realtors, we’ve written a comprehensive guide to get you started.
6. Participating in Online Local Forums
Another great way to build trust in your farm area is to participate in online forums dedicated to your farm area. Sometimes the best way to develop trust is to participate as an ordinary citizen who also happens to be a realtor.
Find where your farm area gathers online and join the conversation. Look for neighborhood Facebook groups, Patch sites, Nextdoor sites, city data forums, or area subreddits. Contribute to the conversation, throw in a listing every now and again, and remember that whenever you interact, you represent your business as well.
7. Local Events and Meetup Groups
Probably one of the best ways to connect with people in your farm area is through local events and meetup groups. Focus on being social first, business second. Enjoy a rowing group, or help raise money for your local pet rescue organization.
Participate in the community you love with honesty, and often the rewards come back in spades. Once they get to know you, they’ll seek out your services. Be sure to take photos you love and post them to Instagram, and use the moments of connecting with the community to show your true self. Look for things you’d enjoy being a part of – fairs, charity events, bake sales, or anywhere else the community gathers.
8. Get Your Website to Rank on Google for Local Search Terms
If you’re new to real estate, you will definitely need a website and be able to get that website seen by those in your farm area. Realtors who do not have a presence online are becoming less and less relevant as we become a more digital society, so be sure to be where your customers are looking.
If you’re fairly tech savvy, you can often put aside a day and throw together an IDX-integrated website on your own. We give you all the tools to put together a fantastic site here, and take you step-by-step through the process. You can even get Canva to design a professional logo for you. However, having a nice site isn’t going to help you if no one is able to find it.
Google is an incredibly powerful tool to help you stay top of mind with your farm area. For example, let’s say your farm area is Turtle Bay in Manhattan. If you use the words “turtle bay” somewhere in your website’s URL, you will come up higher in Google searches for the area. Something like “turtlebayhomes.com” will get you one step closer to the first page of the search results. If you want to know how to rank on Google once you have a site, we offer tips and tricks for businesses to rank using local, organic, and paid traffic.
The Bottom Line
Real estate farming is a tried-and-true method to become a local expert and close more deals. Taking the time to research your farm area thoroughly before spending any marketing dollars will pay off handsomely down the road.
While it can initially seem like a lot to undertake, you can dominate a farm area using the tips above, and if you want even more ways to reach out to your target group, check out our 53 Real Estate Marketing Ideas the Pros Use.