This article is part of a larger series on Real Estate Lead Generation and Marketing.
Real estate lead generation is the life force behind every successful real estate business. Generating real estate leads can be done organically through family, friends, and networking or through paid means like lead generation services, advertising, and marketing. Using various real estate lead generation strategies simultaneously to capture leads ensures a steady stream of prospective new clients for your business.
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Learn how to generate real estate leads with these top 17 free and paid lead gen techniques to foster growth and success in your real estate business.
Free Real Estate Lead Generation Strategies
Most agents prefer real estate lead gen strategies that are free and organic, especially at the beginning of their career. These methods can be incredibly powerful, and networking and building a referral system will help you build a foundation for a business that stands the test of time. However, they can also be time-consuming, so make sure you consider all of your options before diving in.
1. Generate Referrals From Your Sphere of Influence
Your sphere of influence (SOI) is a term that refers to people you know, including family, friends, colleagues, teachers, hairstylists, baristas, etc. Your SOI can be an incredibly resourceful place to get real estate leads, both from your actual connections and their contacts and referrals. In fact, surveys estimate that successful agents get from 64% to 80% of their clients from their SOI.
However, learning how to get real estate referrals from your SOI requires you to reach out regularly and consistently. Your friends may know you are in real estate, but that doesn’t mean they’ll remember to call you when someone they know is buying or selling a home. They may think you only do rentals, not sales, or you only cover one neighborhood when you cover the whole city. Even your family will need reminders.
When you reach out to your sphere to ask for leads, here are a few essential tips:
- Be direct, but not overbearing: Communicate that you are available to help them or anyone they know with their real estate needs, but allow the conversation to flow naturally.
- Offer yourself as a resource: Let people know you’re always happy to help answer questions without obligation and share specific areas where you have expertise. Make them feel comfortable coming to you without making them feel like they must hire you.
- Connection over sales: Since you have an existing relationship with members of your SOI, make sure they know you don’t see them only as dollar signs. Connect with people first, and if it leads to new business, that’s great—but don’t sweat it if nothing comes of the effort initially.
Connecting with your SOI doesn’t have to be complex or time-consuming. You can do it through a text, a short, personal email, or even through Facebook Messenger or an Instagram direct message. However, you need a real estate customer relationship manager (CRM) to help you stay on top of all your follow-ups and communication. For example, Pipedrive is an affordable CRM that provides a visual, easy-to-manage pipeline, an automated sales assistant, and communication tracking for every contact. Start using Pipedrive today.
For more tips on the best ways to connect with your SOI, read 7 Referral Email Templates for More Word-of-Mouth Referrals.
2. Embrace Networking
Out of all the potential lead generation strategies for real estate, networking is one of the most time-tested. It’s especially effective because it goes hand in hand with building your SOI. The main difference between the two is that networking focuses on making connections for the express purpose of building your business. In many cases, that means networking with other real estate professionals but also with people who have nothing to do with the real estate industry.
Successful real estate professionals network by becoming active in the community. 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 weekly.
Review market data and trends before going to an event, as any real estate conversation will include questions like, “How’s the market?” Use these questions as an opportunity to show your expertise. Be prepared to connect with new leads by having an elevator pitch and business card ready. Connect with them on social media or send them your website in a follow-up email after the event.
3. Be Generous With Agent-to-Agent Referrals
An agent referral happens when you connect another agent, usually in a different market, with one of your leads. When that agent successfully closes a deal with your referral, you are paid a real estate referral fee. The same rules apply if you receive a referral.
This strategy helps you grow your business in a few different ways. For one, you build trust with other agents, who will then be more than happy to refer clients to you. You also free yourself up from working with a client who isn’t in your target audience to focus more on leads in your ideal audience. This ultimately builds your reputation as a trustworthy professional and the go-to source for your real estate niche or target location.
To effectively grow your business through referrals, you can host client events, volunteer and participate in charities, or host workshops and seminars. You can also 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.
4. Pick Up the Phone & Call
Although texts and emails are more comfortable for most people than phone calls, talking to someone one-on-one is undeniably powerful. In fact, 57% of realtors say cold calling is the second-most effective prospecting strategy, beat only by real estate referrals. When done correctly, cold calling old acquaintances or leads who have fallen through the cracks can recreate a relationship that potentially generates new leads and referral sources.
Real estate agents spend hours devising the perfect cold-calling script when contacting leads. However, when communicating with a new contact for the first time, even the most seasoned agents can still stumble over their words or sound robotic. Therefore, before answering the phone, choose a thorough and natural real estate cold-calling script. Practice reading from your script several times to gain confidence and connect with your prospects seamlessly.
5. Target Business-savvy Buyers & Sellers
There are over 3 million real estate agents with an active license in the U.S. The majority of agents focus on residential homebuyers and sellers, which means that the competition is steep no matter where you are located. However, there are many other types of real estate clients that many agents aren’t marketing to at all.
For example, agents can work with real estate investors and home builders without any additional types of training or certifications. Unlike the average homeowner, investors may buy and sell multiple properties every year or even every month. Similarly, home builders may purchase many properties at one time.
You will have to create a specific marketing plan to connect with this audience and prove that you are the best agent for their needs, but it’s possible to start generating investor and builder leads in a matter of weeks. Plus, professionals in the investing and construction industries are extremely well-connected with homeowners and homebuyers in their communities. They are likely to become excellent sources of real estate referrals.
If you want to dive into working with real estate business owners, consider getting a commercial real estate license.
Paid Lead Generation Strategies
Although free lead generation strategies are extremely appealing, investing in this part of your real estate business is important. When you are serious about scaling your business, lead generation companies and paid strategies can save you time and quickly multiply your pipeline and deals.
6. Subscribe to a Real Estate Lead Generation Service
The best places to buy real estate leads will provide you with the names and contact information of highly motivated leads for buying and selling. Depending on the service you choose, you may receive leads by email, text, and phone. Leads may come in batches or one at a time.
One of the best services for generating buyer leads is Zillow’s Premier Agent program. It lets agents 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 reasonably basic. In addition, it’s not as good for targeting seller leads. If you need a more robust system to target both lead types, consider the following lead generation real estate sources:
Real estate professionals looking for exclusive buyer and seller leads
Agents who want an all-in-one lead gen and marketing platform
Real estate agents and brokers with multiple location niches
Professionals wanting to target listing leads before the competition
$129 per month
$299 per month
$309 ($299 + $10 for each MLS)
For a more in-depth look at each of these providers and other lead generation for real estate services like these, check out our guide on the 6 Best Real Estate Lead Generation Companies.
7. Farm Your Neighborhood With Direct Mail
Farming to generate leads in real estate 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 targeted marketing 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 in that particular area.
Although there are many ways to get real estate clients from your farm area, direct mail is an obvious and effective strategy to reach people within a specific geographical location. Plus, many brokerages provide you with postcards or branded print templates for free. For example, real estate farming postcards can include information on new listings, market updates, and even eye-catching concepts like recipes or inspirational quotes.
The most efficient way to start generating real estate leads from direct mail is by using a resource made for agents like ProspectsPLUS!. ProspectsPLUS! offers thousands of premade real estate templates for a variety of print products, like postcards, door hangers, newsletters, and brochures. You can create a custom campaign with just a few clicks. If you want to outsource the process fully, you can even use EDDM (Every Door Direct Mail) to have your prints mailed and delivered for you.
8. Advertise on Search Engines & Social Media
Search engines and social media generate both organic and paid leads. While organic real estate marketing is effective, paid advertising is another great way to supplement your organic strategy or speed up your results. To get the most out of your online advertising strategies, make sure you use them within a comprehensive real estate marketing plan. Ads alone can generate leads, but they will be significantly more impactful when combined with other marketing and lead nurturing strategies.
A few of the best opportunities to generate leads with real estate advertising include:
- Facebook and Instagram advertising: Social media ads allow you to target specific geographic areas and people with unique interests with more data than many other advertising methods. Plus, Facebook allows you to reach people through Messenger, Instagram stories, Marketplace, and the News Feed. Get a step-by-step guide to creating real estate Facebook ads.
- 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). Learn how to use Google ads to generate leads in our guide.
- Google Business Profile: When you create a business listing using the free Google Business Profile, 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.
For organic and paid social media strategies, using a tool to manage your content will help you grow more efficiently while spending less time on content creation. Sprout Social is an ideal social media management tool because it integrates with the highest number of social platforms, and provides content optimization suggestions, scheduling options, and detailed but easy-to-understand analytics for your ad campaigns. Plus, start using Sprout Social for free!
9. Host an Open House
Anyone who walks through the door at an open house is a potential lead, making them a rare opportunity for you to meet potential leads in person. You’ll meet buyers who are actively looking to purchase and neighbors who are contemplating selling. This makes open houses one of the most powerful low-cost real estate lead generation strategies.
However, generating leads from real estate open houses requires you to do more than simply leave a sign-in sheet and a pen by the door. There are many ways to connect more effectively with open house visitors and generate high-quality leads from these events. Use an open house checklist to set your event up for success.
Here are a few simple yet powerful ways to get leads from open houses:
- Engage with visitors as soon as they walk in, even if they are neighbors and not active buyers
- Offer multiple options to gather email addresses and phone numbers
- Implement an open house follow-up email plan
- Hand visitors prints or flyers with property details, market information, and your contact information
- Consider using a QR code on the printed materials for visitors to easily find and save your contact info
Pro tip: Even if you don’t have active listings, you can volunteer to host open houses for other agents in your brokerage or members of your real estate team. 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 clarified that they aren’t interested in the open house. Confirm with the listing agent beforehand to ensure you can keep each lead who walks in the door.
10. Build Targeted Landing Pages
Landing pages are one part of a real estate website, and they help agents attract and capture leads by providing specific, targeted content and resources in exchange for contact information. Successful real estate landing pages vary depending on the agent’s niche. For instance, home valuation pages attract potential sellers, and real estate listing pages attract buyers.
Moreover, creating a real estate landing page allows you to market something specific and unique, separate from your brokerage. For example, real estate broker Liz Kroft’s landing page attracts potential sellers by offering a home equity report. This is appealing to savvy homeowners who want to make sure they’re being smart with their finances and their home.
Building a landing page can be as simple as creating a page with a targeted heading, a contact form, and a call to action. This is especially easy to do with a real estate-specific design service like Placester. Placester provides over 35 beautiful and professional real estate website templates you can easily customize without dealing with code. They also uniquely provide a marketplace for you to outsource specific marketing tasks to increase efficiency. Plus, Placester is built for content marketing, with search engine optimization (SEO)-friendly tools and unlimited landing pages.
Look through the top real estate landing page examples to gather ideas about how to get real estate leads for your business.
11. Send Targeted Email & Text Messages
Similar to direct mail, email and text messages (or SMS marketing) can be sent to niche audiences and leads, helping you nurture leads more effectively. Studies show that emails receive 50 to 100 times the click-through rates than social media platforms, and the average open rate for SMS campaigns is 98%. It’s ideal to combine every method of communication when generating and nurturing leads, but text and email are particularly powerful for connecting individually with future clients.
The challenge with email and SMS marketing is that the CAN-SPAM Act prohibits you from sending unsolicited messages. Instead, your leads must sign up and give permission to receive your messages—that is why it’s so important to use a variety of lead generation for real estate strategies.
Once you have permission to contact leads by text or email, you have a few amazing opportunities to build a connection and nurture them to become clients. Here are a few ways you can use email and text messages to connect and convert leads:
12. Provide a Resource Through Experiential Marketing
When you host an event and offer an experience, you position yourself as an expert and place yourself in front of potential clients. This is also known as experiential or engagement marketing. Experiential marketing allows potential clients to meet you in person and get to know you in a pressure-free environment.
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 once you list a new property. With this strategy, you increase the odds of being hired or recommended because you give potential leads a chance to get to know you in person and feel comfortable. 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
13. Host a Live Webinar
As an alternative to an in-person event, consider creating a real estate webinar to attract targeted types of leads. A webinar is a two-way online seminar where you present material, just like you would at an in-person event, and attendees can engage with you to ask questions or provide discussion. It is also possible to record the webinar and provide it as an evergreen resource to other leads.
Webinars have become more popular since the pandemic, and they continue to be effective because they allow leads to attend your event without leaving their home. This is an ideal lead generation strategy to appeal to targeted audiences and provide them with a convenient way to meet you.
Free or Paid Real Estate Lead Gen Strategies
In some cases, you can find new real estate leads without paying for extra resources or fees, or you can pay the extra money and save time to use the same method more efficiently. The following strategies may be used without additional tools to generate leads for free, or you can pay for tools and resources to save time and increase efficiency. Many agents may start using these methods for free, then upgrade to paid tools once they see the value.
14. Build a Social Media Presence
Forty-six percent of realtors report that social media has provided the highest number of quality leads—even more than the local multiple listing service (MLS), digital ads, and customer relationship managers (CRMs). Although building an audience on social media requires consistency and planning, it undeniably offers an incredible return on the investment of your time.
With a strong real estate social media marketing strategy, you can increase your reach and build a strong reputation in your community. Very few real estate lead generation methods build the know, like, and trust factors as effectively as social media can.
Even though every social media platform has the potential to generate leads in real estate, it’s best to start by focusing on one at a time. Choose the right one by reading our guides:
- How to Set Up a Realtor Facebook Page
- 16 Tips to Use Instagram for Real Estate Lead Generation
- How to Generate LinkedIn Real Estate Leads
- 12 Ways to Generate Leads on TikTok for Real Estate Agents
- 15 Social Media Tools Every Real Estate Agent Needs
15. Attract Leads With Search Engine Optimization
According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), 96% of buyers used online tools during their home search process, and 47% of buyers searched online for properties before reaching out to an agent. For this reason, creating a marketing plan with search engine optimization (SEO) to attract online searches is a great way to find high-quality buyer leads.
While SEO is not one of the most straightforward or easy real estate lead generation strategies, it is a long-term strategy that can consistently bring new, highly targeted leads without ongoing time and effort. Start by using catchy and relevant real estate words like “move-in ready home,” “professionally decorated interior,” or “perfectly priced,” as well as words that describe the neighborhood, location, and features of the property such as the kitchen, bedrooms, living room, and bathrooms.
Choosing the right keywords is a core element of any successful SEO strategy. To help you find the best keywords, use a reliable and robust tool like Semrush. With Semrush, you can search for any keyword and easily view its search volume, competition, and search intent, and compare it with other related keywords. If SEO is part of your lead generation strategy, Semrush will be a key investment in your business.
If you want to learn more about attracting real estate leads through search engines and increasing your website’s traffic, check out our article Real Estate SEO: Best Real Estate Keywords to Increase Traffic.
16. 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. It is a real estate prospecting platform that notifies agents of new expired listings so you can reach them before your competition.
REDX Brand Builder gives you access to professional social media content creators who can turn your images and videos into a cohesive social media strategy. This helps you target any audience, including expired listings, through online and in-person or over-the-phone methods.
17. 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, FSBO leads can be harder to convert. However, in time, many FSBO sellers realize how much work is involved with selling a house and may be willing to work with an agent who they believe can solve their problems.
While it’s impossible to know when they’ll be ready to become clients, it never hurts to let an FSBO know you’d be thrilled to help give their listing some added exposure. Consider using an FSBO script from Mike Ferry to build a connection. Use a clear, simple tone and pay close attention to what homeowners have to say while demonstrating genuine interest. Make sure you also communicate respect for their decisions.
The best way to find FSBO leads is by using a lead source that automatically provides verified contact information. Here are a few of the best FSBO lead sources:
Professionals wanting reliable FSBO leads and ongoing training
Agents and teams wanting widest range of data with lead management tools
Agents wanting an all-in-one tool to find and market to FSBO leads
Real estate professionals wanting AI to automatically target potential listing leads
Starting Monthly Price
5 cents per month per targeted area property
Pro tip: You cannot knowingly solicit business from someone 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.
Many of the best real estate lead generation strategies build your business over time. Whether you buy leads, build one-on-one relationships, or focus on organic methods, learning how to generate leads in real estate is crucial to building a successful real estate business.