How Do Real Estate Agents Get Leads? The Ultimate List

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If you have found this post, congratulations. Chances are you looking for ways to make your business thrive. And the truth is, your real estate business will thrive if you put in the right mix of work, marketing dollars and strategy.

These lead sources on this list vary. Some require money. Others, require time and effort. Some will pay off quickly, others may take months to see results.

There are also different conversion rates. For example, pay per click search leads are low conversion rates (anywhere from 1-3% is typical), where referrals can have conversion rates as high as 75% or more if you are good with follow up.

Whatever lead source you choose, make sure it is something you know you will continue over the long run. Some of these will grow your business so you can help more people than you ever imagined, but you have to stay the course.

Here is the list.

Lead Source List for Real Estate Agents

• Your Sphere of Influence

The “sphere of influence” refers to people in your network who you already know, trust and who trust you. Friends, family and other close connections would fit into this category.

This should be a pillar of a good real estate agent’s source of income. If you are new to the area, then it is time to get out there are grow your network.

Some successful agents with a large number of connections use this source as most of there business.

• Past Clients

People who have bought or sold a home with your help are a great source of business. Each year, the NAR surveys show a majority of people would use their agent again.

However, surveys also show that many people actually forget the name of their agent over time.

The solution? Keep in touch with your past clients. Add value, like an occasional home value report or just a friendly check in from time to time. When they are ready to move, they will know who to call.

• Referrals From Sphere/Past Clients

73% of people surveyed said they would “definitely” recommend their agent to someone else for future services. Another 14% said they “probably” would.

The best real estate agents in the business have a plan to actively seek referral leads from past clients and also close connections.

Referral business is also great because usually the referral is coming from someone who that potential client trusts.

Because of this, conversion rates on referral lead sources are among the highest of any on this list.

• Referrals from Other Agents

Many real estate agents across the country (or world) are interested in actively building a network in areas they do not service.

Building these networks can be a great strategy for getting leads, because real estate agents sell homes for people who plan to move all over…not just locally.

Calling agents or meeting them at conferences/trainings can help you meet more buyers and sellers in your area.

• Referrals from Vendors

Hopefully, you have a strong network of servicers from other aspects of a real estate transaction. Lenders, bankers, contractors, inspectors, title companies and anyone else who you have recommended to clients.

You send some them business, and this can be a two way street, but many times you will have to ask for referrals.

• Professional Networking for Referrals

There are always networking opportunities to branch out from just your vendors. Check around you for local business groups, such as BNI or Chamber of Commerce.

• Estate & Divorce Lawyers

These professionals get their own section on the list. Divorce attorneys and estate attorneys see a large number of clients that need to sell properties.

I have found many of them do not have a real estate agent that they consistently refer business to, making this an underrated source of leads…specifically for listings.

Some agents shy away from this business because of the conflict and often tough times that these potential clients are going through. But that is all the more reason to try to give them genuine help from a caring professional.

• Organic Website Ranking

This is a time intensive, competitive and hard working approach to meeting buyers and sellers online.

It requires building a website, creating content and articles and learning SEO. In exchange for hard work and providing value with great written content, you can get connected to people who are actively looking for real estate services.

This is not a technique to rely on as a newer agent, because it can take a long time to see results (1 year+).

I wrote a guide on building your own site here, or if you want one done for you reach out to me.

• Pay-Per-Click Search Leads

Right above the top search results on search engines are ads. Pay per click ads also show up in other areas of the web, depending on the type of campaign that you do.

This is a way to get leads fast, but can also be expensive. If you go this route, get ready to track your cost per lead, conversion rate and also have the systems to follow up on each lead consistently.

This is true of all leads, but paid lead sources particularly require sharp systems to maximize your ROI.

If you do not want to set up the campaigns, you can pay a professional to do it. There are many companies that are experts at running pay per click campaigns for you.

• Portal Site Advertising (i.e. Zillow, etc.)

This is another type of paid online lead source. There are large national sites that feature a home search for buyers.

You can pay to advertise on these sites and be featured as the agent who buyers or sellers reach out to to get more info on a property or a home value request.

These sites charge different amounts, such as “cost-per-impression” or number of times a user sees your info on the site. Some with a broker license may also charge a referral fee, similar to a partnership program below.

Cost of these leads fluctuate based on the market rates, more competitive markets with lots of real estate agents and high price points have higher costs (same with pay-per-click).

• Partnership Programs

Some websites are actual real estate brokerages, agents or are otherwise licensed and able to actively collect referral fees.

In these cases, these programs are able to offer leads to real estate agents for minimal or no upfront costs. They instead collect a fee at closing. This fee varies but %30 of the commission is typical.

This can be a good way to get leads without having to pay upfront. Some of these programs give out “excess” leads after their agents are already busy with leads. Each is different.

• Organic Social Media

This is one of the best ways to build a source of low or no cost business. Like most no cost lead services, it does take work up front to build a following or make connections.

But there are many real estate agents who have built entire businesses from leads and referrals from building up social media profiles.

Strategies will vary based on the platform. But generally, you want to spend most of your time adding value, connecting and creating great content. Make sure people know you are in real estate, but don’t over promote.

• Social Media Ads

This is a totally different strategy than above. Like pay-per-click ads search ads, most social media platforms also have the option to buy ads and target those ads based on many parameters.

This is a source of quick leads and the success rate will depend on your skill of creating ads, lead capture and also your follow up system.

Test and track ads and make sure you are always tweaking to maximize your ROI.

• Email Campaigns

In your database, you have a list of emails (or your should). Whether large or small, email campaigns are a great way to generate interest and meet new potential buyers or sellers.

You can send a newsletter, market updates, helpful tips for buyers/sellers, your new listings in the area and other content that will help potential clients engage with you.

• Open Houses

I have seen many agents in the business make this their primary source of leads, both new to real estate and agents who have been selling for years.

Hosting open houses is a great way to get in front of potential buyers (and often sellers) face to face.

If you do not have listings to hold open, network in your brokerage office to find listings to host an open for other agents.

Do lots of research both on the home and on the area to make sure that you are qualified to answer questions from prospects.

If you are genuine, connect with people and show you are truly a real estate expert you will gain clients to represent, either for the home you are hosting or another.

• Neighbor Only Open House

This is a creative type of open house that has a few distinct benefits.

First of all, neighbors love open houses and this will give you a way to connect with neighbors who are curious about the home and separates that crowd from the homebuyers.

Secondly, it is a lead generating activity. This will give you a chance to introduce yourself to other homeowners who may need your help to sell in the near future.

You can market a neighbor open house with mailers, door knocking (below) or through neighborhood social groups or online forums.

Many agents will do a separate day, or do the neighbor only open house first immediately followed by the public open house.

• Door Knocking

This canvassing technique is another free source of leads. And it does not have to necessarily be a “hi do you want to sell your home?” kind of approach.

Knock on doors around your listings to let them know it is for sale, ask them if they know anyone who might be thinking of moving to the neighborhood.

Or you can invite the neighbors to a “neighbor only” open house (see above).

If you make a connection with people, and they do have plans to sell you will find that out.

• Cold Calling

Cold calling has been a part of real estate sales for many decades. It has lost popularity over time, and in my opinion, for some valid reasons.

However, there are still agents and entire real estate teams that keep some form of cold calling as a pillar of their business, so it is included here.

• For Sale By Owners (FSBO)

The for sale by owner (FSBO) listings are owners that are trying to sell their home without an agent. Many of them are committed to this process, however others are just trying it out and will hire an agent if it does not work out.

Depending on market conditions, there is a large portion of these listings that end up going to a real estate professional. Often, it goes to the agent who got in front of them and made a connection.

This can be done by mailers or a direct contact.

• Expired Listings

Listing agreements in real estate are valid until a home sells, or until they “expire” and do not sell by a certain date.

Home sellers who have had their listings expire is a great example of a lead who needs help to get their home sold.

There are services that look up the MLS data daily to show you what listings are expired (many also have packages for FSBOs as well).

• Pre-Foreclosures

Pre-foreclosures consist of owners that are behind on their mortgage and have been served a notice of default by the loan servicer.

There are 2 ways to help these sellers. First, if they have equity in the property, they will be motivated to list the property to avoid foreclosure.

The second way is to suggest a short sale. This is for owners who are upside down on their mortgage (negative equity). A short sale can have some benefits vs. being foreclosed on for the seller.

Pre-foreclosures are a great source of leads for real estate agents who are interested in investment clients, as short sales tend to be a good fit for investors a lot of the time.

The best way to find pre-foreclosure leads is to get a subscription for a website that tracks properties behind on payments.

See Pre-Foreclosure Properties Now on Foreclosure.com

• REO Properties

REO, or real estate owned, properties are homes that have already been foreclosed on and have been repossessed by the bank or other lien holder.

Banks hire real estate agents to list and sell these homes and it is a golden source of listing leads in a market when there are foreclosures happening.

The key is to get in with the bank’s asset managers. A web search can find a handful of agent applications to different asset management divisions of large and small banks. Some more legwork and networking can find you even more opportunities.

Many times you can get your foot in the door by performing Broker Price Opinions (BPOs) for the banks and REO managers.

Keep in mind distressed property leads are very market dependant, in a very strong market they are much harder to come by. So make sure this is not your only source of listings.

• Geographic “Farming”

Some real estate agents pick a single neighborhood or town and focus their marketing dollars and efforts into that one specific area. This is known as “farming”.

You want to find an area that has a decent turnover rate (lots of homes being sold vs. number of homes). And you also want to commit to being the go to agent in that area for the long haul. Successful neighborhood specialists say it can take 12-18 months to gain traction.

Like anything in real estate, your results are dependent on the effort you put in. The best approach is a multi channel approach such as mailers, door knocking, sponsored events, etc.

• Absentee or Out of State Owners

There are a portion of homes in the country where the owners live elsewhere. A majority of these homes are rented out to others, but some sit vacant for a long period.

Either way, these out of the area or out of state sellers are going to need help when the time comes to sell.

You can even highlight the benefits of working with you even if they are out of state. If they realize you are willing to take care of the sale without them having to come back to the property, that can be a big benefit for some sellers.

• Become an Investment Expert

Buying investment properties is different from buying your primary home. It takes specialized knowledge to know what makes a home a good candidate for a real estate investor.

If you are interested in real estate investing, work hard to become an expert. Then you can help your network grow their wealth by investing. And you can also meet experienced investors who want someone who specializes in investment properties and who are ready to buy/sell multiple properties.

• Home Builders

New construction homes are a vital part of a healthy real estate market. Some of the large builders have an in house sales team and a licensed salesperson on staff who will list their homes.

But others do not. Small and medium sized builders are especially open to giving new home listings to agents who are active in the market and who are willing to help them.

Call around and see how you can help them. Maybe they are looking for land to develop, maybe they want certain marketing that they do not want to pay for in house or maybe you can make a connection that will add them as a client.

Just make sure you can talk the talk and walk the walk, new construction homes also require some specialized knowledge.

• Print Advertising

Print advertising has, not surprisingly, lost favor over the years as more and more people get their news and entertainment via the web.

And NAR has revealed in their annual surveys that less than 1% of homebuyers find the home they buy via a print ad.

However, print marketing can still be effective if done correctly through the right channels and to the right audience. It is more effective for finding sellers than marketing properties to buyers.

• Mailers

Mailers such as postcards and newsletters still have a place in generating real estate leads. They become even more effective when focusing on a certain lead source above.

For example, when you use mailers to stay in touch with your sphere of influence or you mail continuously to a certain defined area.

• Handwritten Notes

Sometimes a personal touch can go a long way to making a connection with someone. Handwritten notes show that you took extra time and personalized it, unlike a postcard.

This is a good option to send to your sphere of influence, to a referral and also can be an option for new leads for example you met at an open house. This can be the difference between leads calling you or calling another real estate agent.

• Reporters

Some of the best free advertising you can get is by making connections with reporters for local (or national) news sources.

Fredrik Eklund discusses this technique in his book The Sell. Commenting on a real estate story, or pitching a real estate story to a reporter can get you quoted in the publication and position you as an expert to any of the readers.

Reporters are always looking for experts to use in their content, and are always open to hearing about a good article idea.

• Wear Your Brand

You would be surprised how much business can happen by being a friendly, outgoing person. And the perfect reminder that you are in real estate is if you are wearing a branded shirt or hat.

You can get gear from your brokerage’s store, something custom with your own branding, or something unique and fun on Amazon.

• Car Magnet or Wrap

This is another low cost marketing technique that brings in leads for some of the top real estate agents. When you are driving for appointments, at a listing appointment or just driving around doing errands, people will know you are in real estate.

• Join a Class or Club

Sometimes, getting out into the community does not mean you have to go door knocking or hold open houses.

Joining a class, club or playing a casual sports league means you will meet others with your same interests. This is also a great way to grow your sphere if you are new to an area.

• Start a Podcast

This is another “long” game for getting real estate leads, but there are agents out there who do it at a high level.

You can invite guests, talk about the market, fun facts about real estate and anything else really. Let your personality shine.

• Radio Ads

Yes, the radio has lost popularity over the years. But there are still a lot of people who turn on the news or a morning talk show as they head to work.

And there is a reason that you will hear real estate agents on the radio, it works to bring in leads, many of them listings if you craft the right ad.

• Video Ads

These could be traditional TV ads or ads on social media or video sharing platforms. If you have a flair for the camera, this could be a good option for you.

• Start a Vlog

If you do not like writing, but would be fine talking and educating others about real estate, then you would be a good candidate to create video content.

Videos with market updates, how to videos and walk through tours of your listings are just a few ideas. The possibilities are endless.

• Real Estate Seminars

You can set up a home buyer, home seller, investing or other specialty real estate seminar. This is a great way to make connections with local people who are looking to learn more about real estate.

This is a great opportunity to have your partners in lending co sponsor the seminar and teach about mortgages as well.

• Host Events

Events are fun. Fun for you, fun for the people you invite and can get you contacts and sales if you make them memorable and make sure everyone knows you are the go to expert for real estate.

Agents do everything from throwing housewarming parties, community ice cream socials or pool parties, holiday parties, fundraisers for charity, sporting events, rent out movie theaters and more.

The most effective events invite your sphere, past clients and encourage them to bring along friends and family.

• Find Your Unique Lead Source

You may find a way to meet buyers and sellers that is not listed here. If it works, use it. Getting creative is great, but make sure that you track the money and time that you spend and the leads you bring in and deals you close.

And do not forget to pick a lead source that matches your personality. If you are energetic and extroverted and choose to write articles to rank in search engines….well you are unlikely to do that long enough to succeed.

Conclusion

There are no shortage of leads for ambitious, genuine and hard working real estate agents. This list is some of the popular lead sources and also some that are lesser known.

Some of these are very competitive, others require money, others require time. They work best if you commit to a few of them fully rather than do a lot of them “here and there”.

Do you have a lead source you think might work, or something that should be added to the list? Reach out below.

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Will Rodgers

Will Rodgers is a real estate expert, creator of this site and partner at the Alper Real Estate Group. Will has been sought after by many major publications for his expertise and creates sought after content for buyers, sellers and investors.