Top 20 Ways to Get Real Estate Leads

Updated June 09, 2021 12:00 AM

Generating real estate leads is a vital recurring activity for any successful real estate agent. It’s easy to keep yourself busy looking through or visiting new listings but if you don’t consistently generate leads, your pipeline of business is destined to dry up. To help you succeed, here’s a list of the top 20 methods you can use to generate real estate leads ranked by:

  • Difficulty: Difficult, Average, or Easy
  • Cost: Expensive, Average, or Free
  • Effectiveness: Ineffective, Average, or Effective

Use this list and ranking system to easily pinpoint which method - or methods - are best for you.

Specifically, this post covers:

Top 14 Ways to Generate Organic Real Estate Leads

1. Reach Out to And Serve Your Sphere of Influence

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Cost: Free
  • Effectiveness: Effective

Your sphere of influence (SOI) includes your friends, family, clients, fans and colleagues. These contacts already know, like and trust you. If you’re a brand new real estate agent, the people most likely to work with you are members of your SOI.

Ironically, many agents ignore members of their Sphere entirely because they’re afraid of being rejected, failing or being perceived as a nuisance. As a result, these agents are missing out on a massive opportunity to take care of and interact with the people they love most - not to mention all of the commissions that would result from doing so.

Serving your SOI does not mean that you should spam them or steer the conversations you have with them to be about real estate or your business. Rather, continue to be a great friend and resource, focusing on helping them without expecting reciprocity.

We repeat: do NOT focus on you and what you have to sell. Rather, DO focus on being valuable, authentic and charitable when interacting with any contact, whether they’re a member of your Sphere or an ice cold online lead.

Members of your SOI likely follow you on social media and/or subscribe to your email newsletter. These channels can be used to help you share VALUABLE real estate-related information, stories, client wins and resources with your SOI. Doing so will help you strengthen the relationships you have with members of your Sphere, help them understand how and when they should reach out and keep you top of mind so that when they’re ready to buy or sell a home, they’ll be more likely to turn to you.

How to get seller leads with sphere of influence marketing:

  • Share information about your local real estate market
  • Explain why it’s a good time to sell a house
  • Describe the ways that you help sellers get the most value for their home (like suggesting home improvements, physical staging or virtual staging)

How to get buyer leads with sphere marketing:

  • Share stories about how you work with buyers
  • Send a personal email or handwritten letter to past buyers asking for referrals

Example real estate referral email request template:

Hi ,

I hope you’re doing well.

Because we had a great time working together, if you ever hear of anyone who may need real estate advice, I’d be happy to help. I try to make an effort to ask friends if they know anyone in need of advice because by helping their contacts, I’m able to continue being of help to you too in a way :)

No need to respond - I just wanted to touch base to say hi and offer help if a need arises.

Chat soon!

2. Host an Open House

  • Difficulty: Average
  • Cost: Average
  • Effectiveness: Effective

Most agents already host open houses when they get a listing but they often don’t take advantage of all the lead generation opportunities available by doing so. During an open house, the majority of people who walk through the house are active buyers who may or may not be working with another agent. If you don’t have a specific system to gather their contact information, it’s time to create one.

How to get seller leads by hosting an open house:

Open houses are more conducive for finding buyers but they can also give you a great opportunity to demonstrate to prospective sellers that you go above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to hosting open houses in particular and marketing properties in general.

To help you make this impression on prospective sellers, get the photos of the home virtually staged and then display those virtually staged photos at the open house on a digital television, tablet or laptop screen. Alternatively, you could print out the virtually staged photos and showcase them on an easel, in a brochure, in a flyer, and/or in a postcard (which can also include details about how the buyer can easily turn the virtually staged designs into reality by easily making use of Stuccco’s online interior design service). Your open house will immediately stand out which will make any potential sellers remember you in the future - or motivate them to introduce themselves to you in that moment.

Read about more creative ways to sell a house fast.

garage virtual staging example
Show the home’s true potential with Stuccco’s virtual staging

How to get buyer leads by hosting an open house:

  • Bring a sign-in sheet on paper or on a mobile device to gather names, email addresses and social media profiles. Consider running a giveaway to those who provide their contact info, social media URL or provide a referral, offering them one entry into a drawing per item given.
  • Briefly ask each visitor if they’re actively searching for houses, then create a custom and automated email sequence to follow up with these leads.

3. Use Content Marketing to Leverage the Power of SEO

  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Cost: Free
  • Effectiveness: Effective

Search engine optimization (SEO) means designing your website strategically so that it appears in search results when people in your area search for real estate help. You can pay for search engine ads, but learning the ropes and writing content that attracts potential leads is free. SEO takes time to learn and doesn’t have an immediate impact, but it’s one of the most powerful long-term lead generation strategies.

How to get seller leads with SEO content marketing:

  • Designate one blog category with posts that answer sellers’ questions
  • Build a website page with the most common seller FAQs
  • Offer a free home valuation
  • Run a monthly or quarterly giveaway
  • Clearly describe how you sell properties to help them sell quickly and for the maximum price

How to get buyer leads with SEO content marketing:

  • Create a blog category with posts that answer buyers’ questions
  • Offer free in-person or video trainings about buying a home for the first time or buying a home in a competitive market
  • Create a website page with the most common buyer FAQs
  • Offer a free market report

4. Build Referral Partnerships

  • Difficulty: Average
  • Cost: Free
  • Effectiveness: Effective

According to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), 41% of home sellers found their agent through a referral. A great way to increase your referral leads is by forming partnerships with other businesses that serve potential buyers and sellers, like mortgage brokers, lenders, contractors, tradesmen, and even unrelated businesses like retail stores and dentists. Professionals in these fields also benefit from referrals, so you can support each other in the growth of your businesses.

Get real estate leads with referral partnerships

How to get buyer and seller leads with referral partnerships:

  • Build a website landing page for your partners to send you referrals
  • Design eye-catching flyers, brochures, or business cards for them to leave in their lobbies or offices
  • Send your referral partners high quality referrals and they’ll naturally want to reciprocate!

5. Be Active on Social Media

  • Difficulty: Average
  • Cost: Free
  • Effectiveness: Effective

Social media is a great way to interact with leads in a very natural way and build relationships. Unfortunately, many real estate agents don’t take full advantage of the power of social media because they are overwhelmed by the idea of constantly creating content.

The best way to overcome that is by focusing on just one or two social media platforms instead of trying to build a separate audience on all of them. You’ll get more quality leads and real relationships from focusing on building genuine relationships on one platform in comparison to posting low-quality content on all of them without actually engaging with other users.

How to get seller leads with social media:

  • Offer a free resource, like a home valuation
  • Share seller testimonials
  • Share posts, images, and videos that discuss common questions sellers have
  • Post gorgeous photos of your listings (professionally virtually staged, physically staged or designed) and outline how you sell homes for the maximum value

How to get buyer leads with social media:

  • Offer a free resource, like a breakdown of the pros and cons of different neighborhoods
  • Share testimonials from previous clients
  • Share posts, images, and videos that discuss common questions buyers have
  • Share stories about how you found and won properties for your clients in competitive situations
  • Share new listings and ask followers to send you a message for details or for a private showing

6. Participate in Local Groups and Apps

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Cost: Free
  • Effectiveness: Effective

Search online for groups of people in the towns and cities around you. One of the biggest benefits of digital real estate marketing is that you can find groups of your target audience who are already together. For instance, Facebook Groups and the Nextdoor app are goldmines of potential leads. Once you find groups with active people in your area, start engaging with their posts, building rapport and authority.

Avoid directly promoting yourself because that tends to repel people in the online space. However, as you build a reputation, other people will recommend you and even ask you questions, providing an opportunity for you to showcase your expertise.

How to get buyer and seller leads in local groups:

  • Engage on posts discussing real estate and property questions
  • Use your referral partnerships to recommend other businesses and encourage them to recommend you
  • Post fun pictures of home designs to encourage engagement

7. Set Up Your Google My Business Profile

  • Difficulty: Average
  • Cost: Free
  • Effectiveness: Average

If you’ve ever searched for a restaurant or retail store to find the address or phone number, then you’ve used Google My Business (GMB). Although your business as a real estate agent has a different format, creating and optimizing your GMB profile will help you generate leads. If you are working on your SEO strategy, GMB will help you rank higher. If and when potential clients Google your name, having a profile set up with positive reviews is a highly effective way to build their trust. In contrast, if a prospective client Googles your name and no reviews come up - or a few bad ones come up - that can form a negative impression.

Google my business example
Example of Google My Business profile

How to get buyer and seller leads with Google My Business:

  • Encourage previous clients to post positive reviews (include a link in the footer of your email signature and/or text/call clients and ask for the review directly)
  • Increase search rankings using SEO and content marketing strategies
  • Make it easy for leads to find your contact information, website and Google review form

8. Build and Nurture an Email List

  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Cost: Free
  • Effectiveness: Average

Generating leads from an email list takes time and consistency but it’s been proven to be effective over and over again. To get leads onto your email list, you should offer them something valuable. It doesn’t have to be extremely complicated or in-depth, but it should offer enough of an incentive for them to give you their email address.

Once you have a list of subscribers, you should email them regularly so they recognize your name and you gain authority and awareness in their minds. Regardless of your lead source, try creating a habit of emailing your list weekly or bi-weekly with interesting, valuable information that makes them want to read.

How to get seller leads with email marketing:

  • Offer a resource like a home valuation, consultation, or comparative market analysis (CMA)
  • Send emails with specific examples about how to sell a home for the maximum value
  • Send monthly real estate market reports

How to get buyer leads with email marketing:

  • Offer a resource like a buyer’s guide or free video training
  • Send emails with new listings
  • Provide tips on what to avoid in homes and what to look for during tours
  • Feature some of your favorite new listings

9. Make Cold Calls

  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Cost: Free
  • Effectiveness: Average

“Cold calling” means that you initiate a conversation with someone who has never interacted with you before. Making cold calls is one of the oldest real estate tactics in the book for generating new leads.

While this is probably not going to be the most enjoyable method of gathering organic real estate leads, it can be effective. You will get a lot of no’s, but if you keep calling, eventually you will find a new client who you might have missed while focusing on other marketing strategies. Plus, as you gain more experience, you can implement some strategies to become extremely effective at making cold calls and talking with prospective leads.

How to get buyer and seller leads by cold calling:

  • Use data to find people who are more likely to be buying or selling a home (expired listings, FSBOs, absentee homeowners, etc)
  • Use a real estate script to guide your call in the right direction
  • Use the first call to make a connection, not to make an immediate sale

10. Send Cold Emails

  • Difficulty: Average
  • Cost: Free
  • Effectiveness: Ineffective

“Cold emailing” means reaching out by email to people who don’t have a previous connection with you. Many agents prefer emailing over calling because it’s easier to do and puts them at a lower risk of feeling rejected. Sending cold emails can go quickly, although you should spend a little bit of time customizing each email.

The primary drawback to sending cold emails is that the majority of your emails will be ignored. However, if you have the grit, sending cold emails could earn you your next real estate sale.

Of note: if you send a cold email, ALWAYS clearly spell out who you are, include your mailing address and contact info and give the recipient a way to opt out of future emails. These are required by the CAN-SPAM Act.

How to get buyer and seller leads by cold emailing:

  • Send strategic emails to homeowners who may be likely to buy or sell
  • Test various subject lines and use an email tracker to see what gets the best results
  • Test different email templates
  • Stay direct and to the point and customize the email so it sounds like you and is relevant to the recipient
  • Offer a very clear and simple call to action, like a click to your website, a free resource, or to schedule an appointment

11. Offer Resources to a Specific Niche

  • Difficulty: Average
  • Cost: Free
  • Effectiveness: Effective

It’s not necessary to niche down to a specific audience, but there are some major benefits to doing so. If you are an agent in a saturated market, niching down can help you stand out as the go-to expert for something specific like first-time buyers, expired listings, luxury listings, divorces or even servicing members who live in a specific ZIP code or speak a specific language.

As you get to know the pros and cons of each niche, you’ll see common questions asked and challenges faced by your clients. You can then use this knowledge to create unique and valuable resources for that audience and you’ll get higher conversion rates as a result.

How to get buyer and seller leads by niching down:

  • Film a video training and offer it to build your email list
  • Provide a simple resource, like a first-time homebuyers FAQ or tips for dividing assets in the case of a divorce

12. Pitch News Outlets

  • Difficulty: Average
  • Cost: Free
  • Effectiveness: Effective

Getting featured in magazines or online publications goes a long way in proving your trust and authority with potential clients. It also gets your name and expertise in front of new people and potential leads.

It also may not be as hard as you think to get good publicity. Use your networking skills to learn more about local journalists and publications. You can also sign up for HARO (Help A Reporter Out) to get daily emails from publications looking for specific input from professionals like you. Keep in mind what news outlet your ideal client type pays attention to when you’re choosing which news outlet to work with.

How to get real estate leads by pitching news outlets:

  • Create a list of possible topic ideas
  • Familiarize yourself with each individual publication and their audience
  • Look for journalist and/or editor names and emails
  • Make personal connections with them through their experience or mutual connections
  • Share the benefit of your topic and expertise for their audience
  • Set up a website landing page to generate the most leads from your publicity

13. Network with Local Businesses

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Cost: Free
  • Effectiveness: Effective

For a lot of agents, their top source of real estate lead generation comes from networking. For other agents, networking sounds uncomfortable. But you should think about networking as relationship building. It shouldn’t feel forced or overly sales-y, but it should be an incentive to get to know people in your community.

You can network with anyone in your community, but business owners are often easier to find and have more community connections than others.

How to get seller and buyer leads by networking:

  • Attend community events for business owners
  • Join networking groups, like the local chamber of commerce
  • Actively seek out conversations with business owners and community leaders

14. Ask Clients for Online Reviews

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Cost: Free
  • Effectiveness: Effective

It’s common for real estate agents to have many satisfied clients but they miss out on positive reviews because they simply don’t ask for them. We live in an age where most people don’t make a purchase before reading reviews, so this is a necessary element to generate real estate leads who really want to work with you. If you’re working on your SEO strategy, you should specifically ask clients to leave you a review on Google to boost your GMB profile. Other authoritative real estate agent review sites include Zillow.com, Realtor.com and Yelp.com.

How to get leads with client reviews:

  • Ask previous clients to leave a review specifically about the process of buying or selling with you
  • Share the review on social media
  • Share the reviews within the “buying” or “selling” categories of your blog

15. Subscribe to a Real Estate Lead Generation Company

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Cost: Expensive
  • Effectiveness: Effective

There are many well-known paid real estate lead generation companies like Market Leader and BoldLeads. If you choose to invest in leads through a company, do some research into how and where each company gets their leads.

In general, paying for leads will allow you to receive more leads without additional time and effort, but the leads are not always high-quality and you will still need to follow-up with the lead to qualify and convert them. For instance, your previous clients might rave about you to your friend. Leads that come from those referrals are going to be thrilled to work with you, while leads that you get from an online service might be more skeptical and therefore much harder to convert. Before hiring any outsourced lead generating service, make sure they are clearly indicating how they are generating your leads.

How to get seller leads with a real estate lead generation company:

  • Look for a lead gen company that uses predictive analytics to estimate when homeowners are going to sell
  • Use a company that offers a free home valuation to attract sellers

How to get buyer leads with a real estate lead generation company:

  • Look for a company that offers exclusive leads
  • Create a system to follow up with your leads so you don’t miss an opportunity
  • Create an automated funnel so you connect with each lead quickly and without spending hours writing emails, texting or calling them

16. Use Online Advertising

  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Cost: Expensive
  • Effectiveness: Effective

Online advertising basically takes the channels that are effective organically, like social media and search engines, and gets you results faster. Using ads successfully can multiply your leads and scale your real estate business quickly, but there is a steep learning curve.

Here are a few common platforms to try real estate advertising:

  • Facebook ads
  • Instagram ads
  • Gmail ads
  • PPC (pay per click) ads that show up in search results and in Display Networks

How to get seller leads with online advertising:

  • Run ads to your free home valuation
  • Focus on the ways you help sellers get the most value for your home (i.e., virtual staging before and after images)
  • Run ads to homeowners in particularly popular neighborhoods with high home values

How to get buyer leads with online advertising:

  • Research keywords like “single family home des moines” to drive targeted traffic to your website
  • Run social media ads to a free home-buying training

17. Send Unique Mailers

  • Difficulty: Average
  • Cost: Average
  • Effectiveness: Average

Direct mail has been used in real estate for decades, but it’s decreased in effectiveness over the last few years. However, you can use this technique and add a twist to make them even more effective.

Instead of sending a flyer that most people are going to throw in the trash, send a magnet, folder or a gift. If you send them something reusable, they’re much more likely to keep it and look at it often. For example, send them a calendar magnet or a football schedule. They’ll put the magnet on their fridge and see your logo multiple times every day.

real estate leads with unique mailers
Example magnet from Custom Magnets Direct

How to get seller leads with unique mailers:

  • Include a website link or a link to your landing page that explains how you get homes for the most value
  • Grab their attention by naming specifically how much you could get for their home

How to get buyer leads with unique mailers:

  • Send mailers to renters
  • Include a website link or a case study on a neighbor who recently bought a home
  • Give specific numbers on the benefits of buying a home and how to buy a home

18. Offer Referral Incentives

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Cost: Average
  • Effectiveness: Effective

If you notice that you don’t receive a steady flow of referrals - even if you have referral partnerships - you may want to add an incentive. Sometimes, your friends and previous clients are happy to tell other people about you, but it’s not always on their mind. You could offer cash or a gift card to anyone who sends you a referral that ends up closing with you.

How to get real estate leads with referral incentives:

  • Offer a gift card or cash giveaway
  • Mention your referral program on your website and on social media

19. Sponsor a Local Community Group or Event

  • Difficulty: Average
  • Cost: Expensive
  • Effectiveness: Effective

Sponsoring is a more official way to network and gain publicity. Think of local groups and events like art fairs, sports teams, or a radio station, ask if they need sponsors. You will pay a fee upfront, but you may get speaking opportunities and have your logo displayed in busy places. This is a great way to build trust, familiarity, and loyalty with a specific audience.

How to get real estate leads through sponsorships:

  • Sponsor your son or daughter’s sports team
  • Sponsor a niche event and offer to speak or contribute

20. Generate Leads from Zillow.com and Realtor.com

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Cost: Expensive
  • Effectiveness: Effective

Zillow receives more than seven billion visits in a year, and Realtor.com is not far behind. Since the vast majority of real estate buyers and sellers are checking these apps and websites daily, why not take advantage of the massive lead generation potential?

Zillow’s lead generation program is called Zillow Premier Agent. While it can get pricey, Zillow will favor your profile over other agents and it makes it extremely easy for buyers to reach out to you. On the other hand, Realtor.com’s program is called Connections Plus, and uniquely offers you the option of getting exclusive access to all leads in one ZIP code.

Zillow and Realtor are heavily focused on sending buyer, not seller, leads.

How to get leads with Zillow Premier Agent and Realtor Connections Plus:

  • Optimize your Zillow and Realtor.com profile
  • Create an automated follow-up system to ensure no lead falls through the cracks
  • Track your spending and clients to make sure you’re getting a good ROI

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FAQs about Real Estate Leads

What is Real Estate Lead Generation?

Real estate lead generation is a marketing term that basically means finding potential buyers and sellers to hire you as their agent or broker. For example, when someone messages you on Instagram and asks how you can help them sell their home for the most money, you just gained one lead.

Generating leads can look very different for each real estate business. A high volume real estate brokerage will find leads in very different ways than an individual real estate agent.

Is Buying Real Estate Leads Worth it?

Buying real estate leads is a quick way to increase the chances of you closing a sale. It is the fastest way to generate the highest number of leads but it may not provide the long-term results that you want. It’s possible that your best results will come from a different strategy. The only way to learn the best strategy for your real estate business is by trying different things.

What are the Best Leads for Realtors®?

Leads are simply people who have a chance of hiring a Realtor® and becoming their next sale. There is no individual place to get the best leads. However, you might find that you enjoy getting leads from referrals, SEO, or social media the most because they already want to work with you.

How can Virtual Staging Help Generate Real Estate Leads?

Virtual staging with Stuccco is an extremely affordable way to show the full potential of any home and sell listings for the maximum value. In order to generate seller leads in particular, homeowners will need specific reasons why they should pick you over another agent.

Using virtual staging in your real estate lead generation efforts shows your expertise and authority without you needing to explain it. Plus, it only takes 24 hours to virtually stage any home - try it out and start seeing the benefits by tomorrow.

Stuccco virtual staging kitchen before and after
An example of a virtually staged photo by Stuccco

If you enjoyed this article, we think you'll enjoy Stuccco, where you can get any room professionally designed in as little as a day. Learn more below:

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