Discover the best real estate referrals and lead gen sources to help agents find their personal hook and start landing more business with a strategic mix of relationships, marketing campaigns and well-developed site content.
A real estate agent could spend a career trying to find the one golden referral or lead gen source that will next-level their business. Truth is, the key to unlocking more business is actually having a well-orchestrated network of past customers and professional partners; a blend of online and offline marketing campaigns; and a website full of rich content that drives leads organically to your brand.
By all accounts, your personal network of friends, work associates and family members will serve as your best source of agent referrals. According to Zillow Consumer Housing Trends Report research, 27% of buyers and 28% sellers who use an agent find them through family, colleagues or social connections, with millennials the most likely generation to turn to a friend, neighbor or relative.
According to NAR’s 2019 Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends report, nine out of 10 buyers say they would use their agent again or recommend their agent to others. And, according to Zillow research, nearly a quarter of sellers reconnect with agents with whom they have past experience.
Also, make sure you collect and refresh testimonials, a powerful word-of-mouth referral source that consumers today are increasingly listening to before making any purchase. For best results, strike while your happy customer is still in the honeymoon phase of a post-close to ask for a review. The easiest way to generate more reviews is by integrating your Zillow Premier Agent and dotloop accounts, which allows you to request client reviews with a single click.
Accountants, attorneys, local retailers, mortgage brokers, lenders, appraisers, inspectors, title officers, contractors, movers — the list of professional referral sources is virtually endless for real estate agents. Each relationship presents an opportunity to leverage the other professional’s client base as a strategic win.
Just remember, you can’t get unless you give, so make sure the professional partner represents quality work before sharing their information with your customers.
Divorce attorneys (again, do your research) can provide a particularly valuable source of referrals for divorcing couples who have a court order to sell their home or, even better, are otherwise highly motivated to move. In the latter case, the opportunity can result in three transactions, the marital home and a new home for each spouse.
According to Kelly Lise Murray, J.D., Co-founder and CEO of Divorcethishouse.com, agents can receive a special designation known as RCS-D™ (Real Estate Collaboration Specialist-Divorce) to demonstrate a specialty in this niche.
Life insurance agents also offer a prime source of referrals as they talk to many people everyday and are often clued into their prospects’ and clients’ personal and financial plans. To repay the favor, you might arrange a post-close meeting with your own customers and your life insurance agent partners to review the customers’ insurance coverage, especially if their new house represents a larger mortgage.
Lastly, don’t forget to cross-market with your community’s professional groups, including Elks Lodges, Toastmasters, Rotary, Kiwanis and Chambers of Commerce. By networking with local business groups, you’re more likely to learn about major local developments on the horizon.
One of the highest potential yet underutilized referral sources is your own peer network. According to the Referral Exchange’s “The Agent-to-Agent Referral Economy” survey, 42% of agents are earning $10,000-$50,000 annually in agent-to-agent referral fees alone. Best of all, agent-to-agent referrals have the highest conversion rate than any other online lead.
Still, only a third of real estate pros say they send two or three referrals per year to other agents.
“It’s an easier way to work,” says Jennie Wolek with The Wolek Group, Keller Williams Realty Advantage in Tulsa, Okla. “The people [agents refer] to you already trust you because their friends or agent already trust you. The relationship builds quicker.”
Consider that online resources account for 15% of how sellers find their agents* and that most home searches start online,** and it’s easy to see how social media can heavily influence your lead inbox. The key is to update your social pages daily with useful content of value to the consumer that demonstrates your local expertise, rather than simply posting endless requests for their business.
“Continually posting new information on your Facebook and Twitter pages will give prospective clients a reason to follow you and will establish your credibility as an agent,” says Zillow Product Manager and former real estate agent Ture Anderson.
Tech-savvy millennials and Gen Z buyers particularly gravitate toward social content, such as 3D video demonstrations and tours.
From CRM-triggered email campaigns and open houses to cold calling, there are many lead-gen types available to suit a wide variety of real estate agents. The success of the lead gen campaign will largely hinge on your comfort zone and ability to maintain its consistency and ROI. You might feel more comfortable building a stellar email nurture campaign compared to cold-calling or delivering a community presentation.
Dotloop integrates with 60+ front-end, marketing and back-end real estate software partners to help facilitate contact-to-contract creation and to inform email campaigns. Some CRM partners host branded IDX websites that help capture leads and their search criteria via an integrated marketing center.
Printed pieces, including direct mail fliers and ads, can be useful for agents wanting to target a specific zip code or demographic with listings. Anderson recommends sending “coming soon listings” to 50 houses located around the property. Then when the house sells, send circulars with that same “just sold” listing to the same targeted group as well as the open house attendees.
“This lets the neighbors know you sold the house successfully and, of those 50 homes, at least two to three will typically list within six months of your sale. Sending a card is a good way to put contact information in the hands of those sellers,” he says.
While some agents may roll their eyes at the idea of going after “for sale by owners” or FSBOs, those who market them successfully swear by this lead gen source. Inman real estate coach Mike Stott, for example, says FSBOs are one of the best, reliable sources of free leads available to the real estate agent. There’s “literally millions in commissions” waiting to be tapped by this source, he notes.
Real estate coach Tom Ferry agrees. “Love ‘em or hate ‘em. FSBOs are the fastest source of business opportunity,” he says. “The truth of the matter is there’s a small percentage of people who won’t be able to sell their home themselves and will look to hire someone like you to help them achieve their goals.”
Strong rental markets, technology that facilitates online home-buying and low interest rates continue to attract investors to U.S. real estate. According to CoreLogic analysis, investors comprise approximately 11% of the market.
Allison Bethell, a real estate investor and broker reports that she looks for several characteristics in an agent, including someone who’s an investor themselves or has at least two years’ experience working with investors; strong negotiation skills and market expertise; and a willingness to submit conventionally low offers.
She also looks for an agent who thinks innovatively, has access to off-market listings, and a strong network including lenders and title companies.
More than a quarter of buyers say they use broker websites, and 16% say they found their agents via their websites, according to Zillow research. Blogs can help by driving traffic from social pages to long-form articles offering useful consumer information on your site.
“One of the best decisions I ever made in my real estate career was to start a real estate blog,” says Bill Gassett of RE/MAX Executive Realty.
Blogs can unlock a significant amount of revenue and serve as a top lead generator but only with commitment, dedication and sufficient digital marketing.
The best real estate blogs report on local news and events in the community and surface new topics at least weekly. Gassett, a top RE/MAX agent in New England and widely considered a top blogger in the business, designed his Maximum Real Estate Exposure to offer buyers and sellers advice on how to make sound real estate decisions, featuring topics ranging from self-storage options to home-buying tax deductions.
In addition to offering rich, useful content, your blog will need to rank high enough in the search engine optimization (SEO) hierarchy to enable consumers to find your content.
In the Zillow Consumer Housing Trends Report 2018 survey, 21% of buyers reported knowledge of the area and the market to be highly valued characteristics in an agent. Similar to blogs, community pages posted on your site can help position you as an authority on the local area. They also help drive SEO to your site when consumers are searching for information on local attractions, restaurants and shopping.
The best community pages contain specific details and cover a wide range of topics, from the local real estate market statistics to community assets.
According to Consumer Media LLC, nearly 70% of consumers check online reviews before making a purchase. Real estate is no exception. Reviews are particularly relevant to younger generation home-buyers.
Generation Z and Millennial buyers are particularly fond of reading reviews and checking agent ratings. Zillow research shows that 57% of Gen Z buyers and 48% of Millennials who use an agent find online reviews and ratings to be “very or extremely important” versus only 30% of Baby Boomers and 29% of the Silent Generation.
With an ever-expanding range of online and offline lead and referral sources, it’s easy to see how an agent could feel easily overwhelmed by the many options. However, if you measure the ROI of your leads by tagging your loops in dotloop to track the sources, you’ll better identify which sources culminate in closings and develop a well-planned strategy that will pay dividends for years to come.
SOURCES: *Zillow Consumer Housing Trends Report, 2018 **Real Estate Tech Trends by Properties Online