A real estate lead is someone looking to buy, sell, or lease a property and who has expressed interest in working with you, whether it was in person, online, over the phone, or through email. The more leads you have, the more opportunities you’ll have to close a deal and gain new clients. Therefore, your business depends on maintaining a steady stream of incoming new prospective leads, which is a process known as real estate lead generation.
Agents can generate free leads when they focus on building their business, audience, and professional network. However, organic leads can sometimes take longer to convert into a sale, since they may not be looking to buy or sell immediately. On the other hand, paid real estate lead generation services can provide an instant boost to an agent’s business because it sends you leads who need immediate help. 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 real estate lead generation methods, both free and paid, to build your business. Click on the heading to expand for more information:
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, you need to intentionally capture leads from an open house by doing more than leaving a sign-in sheet and a pen by the door.
Start by engaging with visitors as soon as they walk in. Make them feel welcome, even if they were just curious neighbors and not current homebuyers. Always be prepared with a few options to gather your visitors’ email addresses or phone numbers. You should also bring printouts of market information and business cards with your contact information. In fact, you could even use a QR code generator to encourage visitors to save your contact information to your phone.
An open house is a face-to-face audition in front of potential new clients, one of the few opportunities for you to meet someone face-to-face 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. Move the conversation to similar listings only if they’ve made it very clear that they aren’t interested in the open house. Confirm with the listing agent beforehand to ensure that you can keep each lead who walks in the door.
2. Ask Your Sphere of Influence
Your sphere of influence, or SOI, is a 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. Your SOI can be an incredibly resourceful place for leads, both from your actual connections and from their contacts and referrals.
To gain leads from your SOI, reach out regularly. You can do that through a text, a short, personal email, or even through Facebook Messenger or an Instagram DM. 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.
When asking for leads, don’t be overbearing, but don’t be shy, either. 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 there might already be an established agent in the areas you want to target. 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. You can also purchase magnetic mailers that give leads a reason to hang your contact information in their house. The recognition you get from farming helps facilitate real estate lead generation for both buyers and sellers.
Learn how real estate farming works and how to identify the right farm area in our guide to real estate farming.
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. Accessing this data can give you context and allow you to target areas with higher chances of conversions. SmartZip offers more back-end analysis than Offrs.com but is twice as expensive.
4. Embrace Networking
Networking can be a fun way to generate real estate leads, and it’s especially effective because it goes hand in hand with building your SOI. The difference is that networking focuses on connections for the express purpose of building your business. That said, the most effective networking strategies include rubbing elbows with professionals in real estate as well as people who have nothing to do with the industry.
Go to concerts, art shows, social events, virtual events, or other 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.
Be sure to review market data and trends before you go to an event, as any real estate conversation is going to include questions like, “How’s the market?” Use these questions as an opportunity to show your expertise.
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 and build rapport 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 quickly providing you with names and contact information of highly motivated potential buyers and sellers. You can expect to receive leads by email or text, depending on which service you use. 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 homeshoppers 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.
- Market Leader: Unlike Zillow, Market Leader can provide you will seller leads. Even better, you will receive a guaranteed number of exclusive leads, saving you from competing with other agents.
For a more in-depth look at each of these services and other lead generation services like these, check out our guide on the best lead generation companies.
6. Attract Leads With Search Engine Optimization
At any given time, there are people in your farm area using search engines to find answers to their real estate-related questions. With a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy, you can put your website in search results, answer common questions that show your expertise and trustworthiness, and capture new leads.
While SEO is not one of the simplest real estate lead generation strategies, it is a long-term strategy that can consistently bring you new, highly targeted leads without ongoing time and effort. For more details on how to get started, read the guide to real estate SEO.
7. Build a Social Media Presence
Although building an audience on social media requires an extensive amount of consistency and planning, it can also offer an incredible return on the investment of your time. With a strategic social media marketing plan, you can increase your reach and create a profile that displays your expertise to potential leads as soon as they click on your name. There are very few real estate lead generation methods that build the know, like, and trust factors as effectively as social media can.
To start generating real estate leads through social media, you’ll have to decide which platforms to focus on. Read more details about how to do this in our platform-specific how-to guides:
Building an audience on social media is a long-term strategy to generate organic leads, but you should also consider advertising to substantially boost your progress from the beginning.
8. Advertise on Search Engines & Social Media
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. Search engines and social media can be used to generate both organic and paid leads. You can use paid advertising to get more results in less time, or combine the strategies for long-term impact.
In order to get the most out of your 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 immediately 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. Advertising with Facebook allows you to reach people on Messenger, Instagram stories, and the News Feed.
- 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.
9. Send Targeted Messages & Mailers
Targeted mailing focuses on people who meet certain criteria, like a good credit score or high-income households. Mailers, like a postcard or newsletter, or bulk electronic marketing, like email or text messages, allow you to reach even more potential clients than you can 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.
Click on the tabs to learn more about the ways to send targeted messages:
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 sent. For example, try cold canvassing rental buildings in your town with information and titles like, “Why rent, when you can buy?”
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 there’s no harm in trying it. Use postcards to announce that you’ve joined a new brokerage, to promote a new listing, or with local market information. Include a headshot, and make sure you proofread your postcards. Grammatical and spelling errors will send your mailers straight to the circular file.
Pro tip: You can make your mailers count by purchasing a targeted mailing list so that you’re sending them to a specific audience. For example, REDX offers qualified lead data that is divided into specific subsets of prospective sellers, like expired listings, FSBOs, and preforeclosures.
Email marketing, when done correctly, directs traffic to your website and captures more leads. It also serves the purpose of keeping you in front of mind with people in your sphere of influence (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. Be sure to 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.
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 any leads that 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 to generate new leads as other methods.
10. Be Generous With Agent-to-Agent Referrals
An agent referral happens when you connect another agent in a different market with one of your connections. 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.
11. Offer an Experience
When you host an event and offer an experience, you position yourself as an expert and place yourself in front of potential clients. Try hosting a tour of the area where you sell or an educational event at one of your listings. You could also host a “neighbors-only” open house as soon as you list a new property.
Experiential marketing allows potential clients to meet you in person and get to know you in a pressure-free environment. 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
12. Use Targeted Landing Pages
Creating a landing page allows you to market something specific and unique, separate from your brokerage. After you create your landing page, drive traffic to it by posting or advertising it in networking groups, on social media, or on search engines.
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.
13. Pick Up the Phone & Call
Although it seems like people prefer texts and emails to phone calls, talking to someone one-on-one is still highly effective. When it’s done properly, cold calling old acquaintances or leads who have fallen through the cracks can recreate a relationship that potentially generates new leads and new referral sources. The key to a successful cold call strategy is a thorough and natural real estate cold calling script.
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.
14. Follow Up on Expired Listings
Expired listings are properties that didn’t sell during their first appearance on the market. You can usually find the expiration date in the listing details for a property on your multiple listing service (MLS). Searching for expired listing leads can be a great way to showcase your ability to sell challenging houses.
It is worth noting, however, that 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’d rather be out selling instead of spending hours searching through MLS records for leads who may 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. And while REDX does have a setup fee, it’s offering Fit Small Business readers $149 off the setup price when you click the button below.
15. Watch for Aging FSBO Listings
Property owners who list their property without an agent typically choose this path for a reason, and usually it’s the opportunity to save money. For this reason, for sale by owner (FSBO) leads can be harder to covert. However, in time, many FSBO sellers 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. Read more details on how to find FSBO leads and prospect them successfully.
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.
Real estate lead generation may not always have an immediate impact, but you can be confident that your efforts build your business over time. Whether you buy leads, focus on building one-on-one relationships, or focus on organic methods, generating real estate leads is a crucial piece of building a successful business.