A real estate lead is someone looking to buy, sell, or rent a property. The more leads you have, the better your odds will be to close a deal. Therefore, your business depends on maintaining a steady stream of incoming new prospective clients, which is a process known as real estate lead generation.
Agents can generate free leads when they focus on building their business and professional network. However, there are no guarantees when an organic lead will be generated as a result of meeting people. On the other hand, paid real estate lead generation services can then provide an instant boost to an agent’s business. For example, companies like Zillow give you leads along with tools to help nurture your leads throughout the process.
Here are some of the most effective ways, both free and paid, to find real estate leads and build your business:
1. Host an Open House
When an agent opens a property to the public for a certain amount of time, potential buyers can tour the open house without an appointment. Anyone who walks through the door is a potential lead. Capturing leads from an open house takes more than getting a name on a sign-in sheet.
You need to engage with people when they walk in. Make them feel welcome, even if they were just curious neighbors and not in the market for a home. Always be prepared with printouts of market information. An open house is a face-to-face audition in front of potential new clients, one of the few places where you meet someone and have a chance of becoming their exclusive real estate agent.
Your sign-in sheet can be the difference between capturing a lead or having a list of fake names. Don’t ask for their life story. Help them feel confident that signing in means you’ll follow up respectfully and professionally. Always make sure you ask them if they’re working with an agent and if they say yes, be sure to get their agent’s information so you can follow up. Try some of our free open house sign-in sheet templates if you’re just getting started.
Pro tip: Even if you don’t have your own listings, you can volunteer to host open houses for other agents in your brokerage. If you do, remember your number one job is to sell the open house you are hosting. You can move the conversation to similar listings, but only if they’ve made it clear they aren’t interested in the open house. You should be able to keep every lead that walks in the door, so be sure to confirm with the listing agent beforehand.
2. Ask Your Sphere of Influence
Your sphere of influence, or SOI, is a very sales-y term that refers to all of the people you know. Family, friends, colleagues, teachers, hairdressers, baristas―pretty much anyone you’ve ever met goes into the SOI bucket. You should be able to generate real estate leads over time by staying in touch with people after you meet them. Starting today, make an effort to collect contact information from everyone you meet, especially their email addresses.
When asking for leads, don’t be overbearing, but don’t be shy, either. Your friends may know you are in real estate, but that doesn’t mean they’ll remember to call you when the time comes to sell their home. They may think you only do rentals, not sales, or that you only cover one neighborhood when you cover the whole city. Even your family needs reminding.
To do this, reach out regularly. Let people know you’re always happy to help answer questions without obligation. Make them feel comfortable coming to you without making them feel like they have to hire you if you do. Connect with people first and, if it leads to business, great, but don’t sweat it if nothing comes of the effort in the beginning.
You may not see an immediate payoff, but don’t give up since your SOI will play a part in generating some of your best and most rewarding real estate leads. There is nothing more flattering than someone calling you because someone else had a great experience working with you.
3. Farm Your Neighborhood
Farming for leads means you’ve focused your efforts on a particular area or neighborhood to increase your name recognition in that one place. You can do this through mailers and community involvement. If your name is out there, you increase the chance that someone will call you when they need a real estate agent.
Farming can be challenging for new agents since you might wind up farming another agent’s turf. Don’t let that stop you. Some people prefer to work with newer, hungrier agents instead of those more established. Try sending postcards introducing yourself with sales and market data. Your brokerage is likely to provide you with a certain number of cards for free. The recognition you get from farming helps generate real estate leads for both buyers and sellers.
If you need more information on generating leads by working a specific farm area, check out our article on real estate farming. Within the guide, you’ll learn how real estate farming works, how to identify the right farm area, as well as learn the best ways to build authority within your chosen location.
4. Embrace Networking
Networking can be a fun way to generate leads. Networking goes hand in hand with building your SOI. The difference is that networking focuses on connections for the express purpose of building business. Be sure you’re networking with people who are in real estate and people who have nothing to do with real estate.
Go to concerts, art shows, social events, or places where people gather. Become active with your alumni associations, join a committee at your children’s school, volunteer with a local charity, and attend fundraisers. Attend as many of these events as possible. Make it a goal to go out at least once per week. Be sure to review market data and trends before you go to an event so that you can answer the most common question you will likely get asked, which is “How’s the market?”
Don’t expect to generate a real estate lead on the spot when you attend a networking event. Leads grow from the way you follow up after the event. Check out our information on networking and other real estate prospecting tips.
Pro tip: Always send a quick email when you meet someone to say that you enjoyed meeting them. Make sure the signature of your email includes your contact information and links to your agent website.
5. Use a Real Estate Lead Generation Service
Real estate lead generation companies are focused entirely on providing you with the names and contact information of potential new business. You can expect to receive leads by email or text, depending on how each service is set up to deliver their results. Leads may come in batches or one at a time. I’ve touched on some below, but for an in-depth look check out our guide on the best lead generation companies.
Zillow’s Premier Agent is considered one of the top sources of paid buyers leads. Agents who pay for their service are connected with active home shoppers in their target ZIP codes. Premier Agent focus mainly on generating buyer leads, but you can also get seller leads through their service. Pricing depends on home prices in your area and the number of agents competing for leads, but you can expect to pay between $20 to $60 per lead.
Realtor.com is a real estate marketplace run by the National Association of Realtors for its member agents. Their paid lead generation service is called Connections Plus, which connects active buyers and sellers with agents who pay between $200 for nonexclusive leads and up to $1,000 per month for exclusive leads.
Prospecting for expired listings and for sale by owner (FSBO) leads can be tricky if you can’t figure out how to get hold of the homeowner. RedX takes away that guesswork by providing the most recent contact information available for each property. RedX offers a variety of lead generation subscriptions starting at $39.99 per month. They also offer helpful tools like scripts to use for calling different types of leads.
On Inbox, agents can sign up with a simple email form. When a lead is generated in an agent’s ZIP code, you get an email, and you can decide whether or not you want to purchase the lead. There are no contracts or upfront costs. Inbox runs the ads, collects the lead information, and sells them for $25 per lead.
BoldLeads is an integrated marketing and real estate lead generation platform. They create and place ads that drive leads to a customized landing page that will then capture their information and provide the leads with a way to contact you. You’ll be in it for a monthly $269 agency fee plus a minimum of $250 per month for advertising. You’ll pay more, but you’ll get exclusive leads plus tools to help you nurture them through your pipeline.
HomeGain runs ads on Facebook, Google, and Bing that drive potential leads to their website. Once there, those leads search for homes, and HomeGain offers the Agent Evaluator referral membership, which provides access to leads starting at $29.95 per month. If one of those leads converts to a sale, you’ll owe HomeGain a 22% to 27% referral fee at closing. However, HomeGain also offers a Pay-Per-Visit lead program that starts at $2 per click.
6. Take Advantage of Social Media & Online Advertising
People spend so much of their time online and on social media. Go where they are by creating a social media presence and advertising online. You’ll be able to generate real estate leads organically when you provide content that engages potential customers and advertises where they are already searching for information.
Facebook & Instagram
Facebook and Instagram make it simple for anyone by letting you create ads and target specific geographic areas, people with special interests or people you’d like to be working with. Social media can drive people to your website, and you can use ads to promote the special events you have coming up. Think of it like virtual farming, where the ultimate goal of social media advertising is to build your name recognition as well as help you capture potential buyer and seller leads.
Google Ads can be an effective way to generate traffic to your agent website or landing page. Google Ads run at the top and bottom of the search engine results page (SERP) and are designed to appear like the rest of the search results. To buy Google ad placement, you bid on a keyword, your site appears when that keyword is searched, and you’ll pay each time someone clicks on the ad.
Google My Business
When you create a business listing using Google My Business, your information will populate the entire right sidebar of SERPs. Potential new customers will see information, and you can customize that information about your company, including your phone number and a link to your website. Your business will also appear on Google Maps. This completely free service provided by Google is a great tool for driving business to your website.
Local Community Pages
Real estate agents should create a dedicated page on their websites that display an internet data exchange (IDX) feed with homes for sale in their target markets. These landing pages are called real estate neighborhood pages or community pages. If you’ve taken the step to build your own website, be sure you provide more than just your bio and active listings. Adding a community page will allow you to capture leads from people who are actively searching in your area.
NextDoor is a national platform that provides local, neighborhood message boards where neighbors chat about issues, look for lost dogs, talk about concerns, advertise goods, and garage sales. NextDoor’s Neighborhood Sponsorship tool offers you the chance to promote yourself in pop-up ads as users scroll through content for the neighborhoods you know best. Costs range from $100-$1,000 per month depending on your ZIP code.
7. Send Targeted Messages & Mailings
Targeted mailing focuses on people who meet certain criteria like a good credit score or high-income households. Mailings, like a postcard or newsletter, or bulk electronic marketing like email or text messages, allow you to reach even more potential clients than you might through networking alone. While you can create your own targeted list, you can also buy address lists from third parties to speed up the process.
Postcards, flyers, business cards pinned to bulletin boards at coffee shops are all examples of a prospecting tip called cold canvassing. Cold canvassing builds name recognition, which can be especially useful for newer agents trying to break into a big market. However, you are more likely to get a lead if you tailor your content based on where it is being left behind. For example, try cold canvassing rental buildings in your town with “why rent when you can buy” information.
Postcards may not have the highest return on investment, but many brokerages offer agents a certain number of postcards per deal as an incentive to join the firm so that there’s no harm in trying. Use postcards to announce that you’ve joined a new brokerage or promote a new listing. Include a headshot somewhere. Make sure you proofread your postcards. Grammatical and spelling errors will send your efforts straight to the circular file.
Pro tip: You can make those mailers count by purchasing a targeted mailing list so that you’re sending them to a specific audience. For example, Experian offers mailing lists that are divided into very specific subsets of prospective buyers and sellers. You can market a luxury property to a list of high-income families, for example, or market an environmentally friendly property using their “green movers” list.
Email marketing done right will generate traffic to your website and capture more leads. They also serve the purpose of keeping you in front of mind with people in your SOI. Make sure your emails have some value like community information or a call to action (CTA) like offering to provide a free market evaluation. Make sure that you follow up after someone clicks through.
Try something like, “Hey, I noticed you clicked on my latest market report. Crazy how sales have seen a double-digit increase in your neighborhood, right? Let me know if you have any questions.” For more insights like specific steps and strategies, check out our guide on real estate email marketing.
Bulk Text Messages
Text messages are a great way to contact a potential lead without interrupting anyone’s day. Use texts to respond quickly to inquiries so that you can capture whatever leads come your way. However, text too much, and you’ll look like you’re spamming someone’s phone, which can be detrimental to lead generation efforts. For this reason, while texting can be great for nurturing leads in your pipeline, it is not as effective for generating them as other methods.
8. Leverage Connections by Making Referrals
A referral happens when you connect an agent in another market with someone you know so they can buy or sell property in that market. When you send a referral to another agent, and they close a deal, you can expect to be paid a percentage of that commission, usually between 25% and 45%. If you receive a referral, the same rules apply, and you’ll pay a percentage to the referring agent. You can make connections on your own or use a referral service.
For example, you use a referral service like Fast Expert, which connects active leads with real estate agents. Fast Expert allows you to choose buyer or seller leads and filter the leads by ZIP code. Agents only pay if the lead results in a successful closing, and a 25% referral fee is only applied in these cases. According to the company, there is no setup fee, monthly fee, or startup costs.
Agent-to-agent referrals provide an excellent source for relatively passive income. The more referrals you send to other agents, the more likely you are to get referral checks when people close deals.
9. Offer an Experience
When you offer an experience, you position yourself as an expert and put yourself in front of potential clients in a pressure-free environment. Try hosting a tour of the area where you sell or an educational event at one of your listings. Host a “neighbors-only” open house as soon as you list a new property.
Experiential marketing allows those potential clients a chance to meet you in person. It never ceases to amaze me how many people think real estate agents are like used car salespeople or used home salespeople. By giving them a chance to get to know you in person and feel comfortable, you increase the odds of being hired or recommended. Follow up immediately to thank them for coming.
Examples of experiential marketing include:
- Sponsored happy hours
- Panel discussions with real estate professionals
- Invitation-only open houses with cocktails
- Tours of your market area
10. Use a Landing Page With Built-on Lead Capture
Creating a landing page allows you to market yourself away from your brokerage website and create something unique. Capturing leads is as simple as building your own destination page with a contact form and call to action. Our review of the top real estate website builders is a great place to start.
11. Pick up the Phone & Call
Cold calling is when you reach out to someone you don’t know by phone to try and solicit their business. I can’t think of a single agent who relishes the thought of prospecting like this. For it to succeed, you need to adopt the “Always Be Closing” mindset from “Glengarry Glen Ross” and sell who you are from the second they say hello.
That doesn’t mean generating real estate leads via cold calls isn’t worth a shot, keep in mind people tend to prefer texts and emails. For help with what to say, check out our roundup of the top 10 real estate cold calling scripts.
Cold calling is also a better real estate lead generation strategy from a safety standpoint compared to a technique like knocking on a stranger’s door. What would you do if the person answers the door and invites you in? You would never go into a stranger’s house alone under any other circumstance, so don’t start now. If you do choose to go door-to-door rather than risk someone hanging up the phone, protect yourself and bring a friend or colleague.
Pro tip: If cold calling makes you break out in a cold sweat, even with a script, consider hiring a virtual real estate assistant to make those calls for you. Refer to our guide on virtual real estate assistants for advice on how to hire these professionals.
12. Follow Up on Expired Listings
Expired listings are properties that didn’t sell while there was a listing contract in effect. You can usually find the expiration date in the listing details for a property on your multiple listing service (MLS). The minute a listing expires, sellers are typically inundated with calls from agents who want their business. Why? The odds of converting a frustrated seller are higher than finding new business from a completely cold call.
13. Watch for Aging FSBO Listings
FSBO listings can be tougher to convert. That said, it seems like most of the FSBO listings in my town eventually wind up being sold by an agent. Property owners chose to go it alone for a reason, usually to save on commissions. In time, many come to realize how much work is involved with selling a house and realize that they may be missing out on the kind of exposure a brokerage can give to their listing.
Others realize that they still might need to offer a commission to the buyer’s agent since most buyers have representation. While it’s impossible to know when they’ll be ready to throw in the towel, it never hurts to let a FSBO know you’d be thrilled to help them get it done.
Pro tip: You cannot knowingly solicit business from someone who is currently signed up with another agent. You’ll save time and stay out of hot water by asking upfront if they have a signed representation agreement with another agent. Do this before you make your pitch.
Types of Real Estate Leads
There are two types of leads you can incorporate in your real estate lead generation strategy: free and paid. You’ll have the most success when your lead generation strategy includes a balance of both types. While free leads may not cost you a dime, you’ll invest a lot of time and effort trying to capture them. Paid leads offer an instant boost to your pipeline, but they can be prohibitively expensive for agents on a tight budget.
Free leads can come from anywhere. You’ll be able to generate real estate leads doing most of the things you already do to build your business and make connections. Unlike a paid lead, free leads may not be ready to buy or sell a house. You’ll need to make a connection and nurture those relationships so that you’re top of mind when someone needs an agent
Paid leads from companies like Zillow who capture and collect contact information which is then sent directly to you. There is a wide range of paid options, including buying leads from real estate lead generation companies, paying for placement in search results and running ads on social media. Paid lead generation requires investing money upfront, and it may take months to close deals before you see a return.
When you’re just starting out and looking for business, paying for leads can seem daunting. Research carefully before you decide how much capital you put in, or you may wind up spending much money without ever seeing results. You can also check out our top picks for where to buy real estate leads.
Pro tip: Whether your leads are paid or free, make sure you respond to every lead immediately. It seems obvious, but you need a backup plan since you won’t be able to respond to a new lead when you’re showing a house. Create an auto-response message for text and email, so you’ll be ready to acknowledge the lead even if you’re not able to engage with them right away.
Real estate lead generation may not always be linear, but you should feel good that any effort you make builds the potential for new business. There are countless ways to get leads. Whether you buy them or work hard to get them for free, generating real estate leads is a crucial piece of building a successful business.