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. That said, 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. However, 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.
If you aren’t sure how to get started, check out our more comprehensive article on how to host an open house.
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 that 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 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 prefer to take a more automated approach, Offrs.com and SmartZip both offer predictive analytics tools to find the next big real estate market to focus on. The difference is SmartZip offers more back-end analysis but is twice as expensive.
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 and how to identify the right farm area, as well as 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. That said, you want to network with people who are in real estate as well as people who have nothing to do with the industry.
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. It’s a good networking tip to attend as many of these events as possible, so make it a goal to go out at least once per week. Just be sure to review market data and trends before you go to an event, as the most common question you will likely get asked is “How’s the market?”
Pro tip: Don’t expect to generate a real estate lead on the spot when you attend a networking event. Like all things, networking is a process, and leads grow from the way you follow up after the event. So always send a quick email when you meet someone to say that you enjoyed meeting them, and include your contact information. Check out our information on networking and other real estate prospecting tips.
5. Subscribe to a Real Estate Lead Generation Service
While it may be preferable to generate leads through free, organic strategies, there are also real estate lead generation companies that can save you time by providing you with the names and contact information of potential buyers and sellers. 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.
One of the best services, particularly for generating buyer leads, is Zillow’s Premier Agent program. This is because it gives agents the chance to connect with home shoppers in their target ZIP codes by featuring them on many of the most popular real estate search sites, like Zillow and Trulia.
However, Zillow’s tools for managing incoming leads are fairly basic. In addition, it’s not as good for targeting seller leads, so if your needs are more robust, consider:
- Real Geeks: This incredibly powerful service helps you capture leads through IDX websites, automatically responds to incoming leads with SMS messages, and includes social media advertising tools for additional lead capture.
- Zurple: Like Real Geeks, this service allows you to generate leads by creating websites designed to pull leads from hyper-targeted areas, but also gives you a robust customer relationship management (CRM) tool and artificial intelligence (AI)-powered chat tool to nurture incoming leads.
- BoldLeads: This service offers an all-in-one tool for generating buyer and seller leads with ultra-easy setup, integration with top CRMs, stealth voicemails, and preset follow-up funnels.
For a more in-depth look these services, and other lead generation services like these, check out our guide on the best lead generation companies. You can also take this quiz to learn what service may be best for you.
Which Real Estate Lead Generation Software Is Right for You?
Answer a few questions about your business and we'll give you personalized product match
6. Advertise on Social Media & on Search Engines
Social media and search engines are great marketing channels. However, to get the most satisfaction out of your social media marketing and online advertising efforts, you will need to think of it like virtual farming, where the ultimate goal is to build your name recognition rather than sell to every lead. That said, as long as you provide content that engages potential customers, these channels can be a great source for leads.
Some of the best opportunities for generating leads through online advertisement are:
- Facebook and Instagram advertising: This lets 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.
- Search engine advertising: The most well-known services are Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising, which let you target keywords and feature your listings at the top and bottom of the search engine results page (SERP) in a way that is designed to appear like the rest of the search results.
- Google My Business: When you create a business listing using the free Google My Business service, your information, such as your name, phone number, and link to your website, will populate the entire right sidebar of the screen.
- Local community pages: These are dedicated landing pages that can be linked with internet exchange data (IDX) feeds and display homes for sale in a specific target market. This makes them a great tool to include in your listing marketing plan.
- NextDoor: NextDoor is another social platform that provides message boards where neighbors chat about issues, look for lost dogs, and talk about local concerns. However, its Neighborhood Sponsorship tool also offers you the chance to promote yourself in pop-up ads as users scroll through content for between $100 and $1,000 per month.
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, and 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 it. 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. It also serves 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. Be Generous With 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 can 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. 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 Targeted Landing Pages
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
While people increasingly prefer texts and emails to phone calls, cold calling, or the act of reaching out to someone you don’t know by phone, does still work when done properly. It’s also a better real estate lead generation strategy from a safety standpoint compared to a technique like knocking on a stranger’s door. For help with what to say, check out our roundup of the top 10 real estate cold calling scripts.
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.
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). It is worth noting, however, the minute a listing expires, sellers are typically inundated with calls from agents who want their business—so expect competition. Why? The odds of converting a frustrated seller are higher than finding new business from a completely cold call.
However, if you would rather be out selling instead of spending hours searching through MLS records for leads that might not be motivated to list again, consider REDX. REDX is a real estate prospecting platform designed to connect agents with qualified niche leads like those with expired or preforeclosure leads. Visit their website to learn more.
13. Watch for Aging FSBO Listings
Property owners who list their property without an agent typically choose to go it alone for a reason, usually to save on commissions. This means for sale by owner (FSBO) leads can be harder to covert. However, in time, many come to realize how much work is involved with selling a house. While it’s impossible to know when they’ll be ready to throw in the towel, it never hurts to let an FSBO know you’d be thrilled to help give their listing some added exposure.
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. However, 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.
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.