Real estate referrals have always been a lucrative source of leads for seasoned agents. Referrals typically result from you providing such an exceptional customer experience that clients, friends, and neighbors are all compelled to recommend your services to others.
Knowing how to generate referrals is key to building your business. And winning organic referrals and repeat clients from your personal connections—the folks who already know, like, and trust you—requires thoughtful strategy. We put together some of our best advice and tools for building a steady flow of referrals (and income) from your sphere of influence.
7 Ways to Increase Your Real Estate Referrals
1. Create Buzzworthy Client Events
A surefire way to get your clients buzzing about you with their friends and family is to invite them to events that they can’t help but talk about afterward. These can be as simple or elaborate as your budget allows. You can go solo, or go bigger with your entire brokerage.
My brokerage recently started hosting big events twice a year and it has been the most beneficial decision we’ve made. The first event was a holiday party where agents invited past and current clients, as well as friends and family. It generated new clients for practically every agent in the office. My brokers decided it was so fun and such a great way to connect with our spheres, we should host a spring version as well.
2. Build Community & Connection Online
Your past clients are less likely to give you real estate referrals if you aren’t top of mind. So, consistently share both real estate market and lifestyle content online and encourage your social connections to share it with their friends and family. Just remember—don’t be boring. Have some fun with it. Maybe try your hand at vertical videos! 😎
If you’re ready to move beyond social media, you can build a community website with Parkbench and make it the hub for residents to learn what’s happening nearby. Host interviews with local business owners and give your recommendations for the best brewpubs, neighborhoods, dog parks, and eateries in your town or city.
Since they only allow one real estate agent per area, you’ll want to check out the Parkbench website to see if your market is available. Next you can reserve your spot and start talking up your community’s local hot spots.
3. Stay Top-of-Mind Using Key Market Insights
Agents who assume their clients’ interest in real estate ends at the closing table aren’t getting as many referrals as they could. From your brokerage to your local association to economic reports like the latest interest rates, you have access to a lot of data that clients will find useful (as long as you can break it down for them in an easily understandable way). Key market insights can help position you as a knowledgeable market expert who can strategically advise clients on a property’s investment potential or performance. Bonus: Make this info easily shareable on your socials for broader reach.
Use your real estate customer relationship management (CRM) system or email marketing platform to create templated messages you can use to send timely stats to your different client types. Then, pull the numbers from your market every other week and fill in the blanks. Coffee & Contracts has some gorgeous templates you can use that are perfect for sharing on social media.
If you really want to boost your efforts, create short videos to share to your social media too. Agents who post regularly about the market are getting tons of visibility on TikTok and Instagram Reels. You can also get some engaging ideas for vertical videos from Coffee & Contracts that aren’t boring.
4. Surprise Your Past Clients With Pop-by Gifts
With email drip campaigns and social media connections at your fingertips, it might seem strange to show up at your past clients’ door, unannounced. But the weirdness magically melts away when you have a fun gift in your hand.
When you can get in front of people in your sphere and remind them of your awesomeness with a pop-by gift, that’s a surefire way to boost your referral power. Pop-bys seem like a pain, but the investment of a small gift and a short visit will pay off in ways you can’t imagine. Stopping by to say hello, checking in to see how life is going, and just some fun chit-chat may not seem like a lot, but it’s that special connection that every human needs.
Check out Etsy if you need a little inspiration for clever tags, gift ideas, and more.
5. Ask for Real Estate Referrals at the Happiest Moments
There are many instances in a real estate transaction when you get to celebrate. The closing table is definitely one of them. But don’t forget about the moment you find that perfect property for a buyer or the moment your seller gets a full-price offer.
These are a few of the perfect moments when emotions are running high to subtly remind your clients how much you appreciate them sharing their positive experiences via reviews and referrals. And it never hurts to ask if they know anyone else who might need your services. It takes a little practice to get comfortable asking for business, but be confident and remember that the ultimate goal is to help others the same way you’ve helped your clients. And your clients will want to help you in return.
Referrals and reviews go hand in hand. A great way to increase your referral business is to send consistent, automated touches to your people asking for online reviews with a company like Birdeye. They take care of your online reviews to help you continue to grow your 5-star reputation. With more awesome reviews, you’ll get more clients who trust you and your customer experience.
Pro tip: If you’re still building your real estate sphere, consider adding a referral network, like NuOp, to your arsenal. It’s free to sign up and exchange referrals with other agents, giving you more opportunities to boost your sales and grow your business.
6. Sustain Client Relationships Authentically
The more you specifically tailor a message to the person, the more likely they are to respond to it. If you pay attention not only to what your client needs, but also to who they are, you can leverage that knowledge later to boost your referral rate—big time.
Get started on this strategy by using your CRM to keep all your client interactions organized in one place. Start by sending out a personalized email celebrating the anniversary of your clients’ purchase or sale. The typical agent will send out one or two of these emails every week, maintaining consistent, ongoing conversations with their past clients throughout the year.
You can create some of this communication well in advance (e.g., anniversary messages, birthday greetings, holiday well-wishes). However, you’ll want to create some of it in the moment. Find something you genuinely think your people will want to know and share it with them. Your authenticity will shine through.
You may want to add a little extra juice to these messages with a personal video. A company like BombBomb can help you create short videos you can embed into your emails. They work great for connecting with people and reminding them of your bubbly personality.
I created several videos using BombBomb and crafted entire campaigns using short videos. Making them was such a great experience because it felt like I was talking to my people directly. I saw a dramatic increase in my response rate too, once I implemented videos in my email campaigns.
7. Consider Joining a Real Estate Referral Network
Yes, there are more ways to snatch up referrals than just tapping into your past clients and sphere of influence. You can join a network where agents exchange referrals with other real estate professionals in other markets. Some of the most popular referral exchange networks are ReferralExchange, Agent Pronto, Referrals.io, NuOp and ReadyConnect Concierge (formerly OpCity).
Brokerages may also have their own referral networks you can join, like KW Connect, RE/MAX Global Referral, or Coldwell Banker Referral Network. When you have a client who wants to buy or sell in a market where you don’t typically work, these referral networks can help you find an agent to provide superior service for your clients in that market.
And likewise, you can help other agents take care of clients in your market. You share a portion of your commission, typically around 25%, for the lead. It’s lovely to have a real estate agent from another market call you up and offer to share a client without you having to do much to generate a lead. And for the referring agent, having a network of awesome agents makes life so much easier when you’re working with clients across the country.
It was always a challenge to find agents for my military clients in different states—researching and interviewing agents to find the right one. It’s extremely difficult and time-consuming. Having a trusted network saved me tons of time and stress.
When choosing a network for your referrals, start in your own backyard. If your brokerage has its own referral network, start by joining that one. If you belong to a boutique brokerage like I do, check out some of the referral networks I mentioned above to see if one might be a good fit for you.
Some things to consider when choosing a referral network:
- Referral fee percentage: Some networks charge as much as 40% in referral fees. With these companies, you might consider whether the juice is really worth the squeeze.
- Subscription fees: Some referral networks charge a monthly or annual subscription fee. Consider whether you’ll be able to justify the amount you’re paying to be a part of the network and whether you’ll be able to recoup any of the costs. There are a few networks that don’t charge a subscription fee and only collect the referral percentage. Weigh out whether the leads you get are high enough quality to justify your investment.
- Lead quality: Will the leads convert? It’s never a bad idea to check reviews to see what other customers have to say. Even better, see if you can reach out to someone who uses the network before signing up.
- Lead volume: If you’re paying a subscription for a referral network but you aren’t getting a lot of leads, reconsider your investment. Learn as much as you can about how many leads to expect from any given referral source before you sign up for a long-term commitment.
These are just a few elements to consider if you’re thinking of joining an agent-to-agent referral network. In addition to these, there are many other networks where you can pay for leads. If you want to learn more about companies that specialize in paid lead generation, you can check out the lead generation companies we recommend (as well as three you might want to avoid).
Over to You
Here’s the truth: The best way to generate referral leads from your people is to maintain solid relationships with them. Humans like to connect to other humans. So, keep those lines of communication open. You may be surprised to learn how many of your contacts love getting your communiques.
Have a great way to generate referrals organically that we didn’t cover here? Let us know in the comments. Also, if you need more real estate lead generation strategies, make sure to read our article on underrated lead generation ideas.