Our recent reader survey revealed that 83% of agents found new clients through real estate referrals. Client referrals stem from providing such an exceptional client experience that your clients, friends, and neighbors are 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 know, like, and trust you—requires thoughtful strategy. We spoke to top producers nationwide to get their best advice and tools for building a steady flow of referrals (and income!) from your sphere of influence.
If you’re looking to learn more about paid, broker, and realtor referrals, check out our recent article about referral fees, how they work, and best practices.
7 Ways to Increase Your Real Estate Referrals
1. Create Buzzworthy Client Events
Time commitment: 1 day plus follow-up
Go-to Close resource: 10 Unique Client Appreciation Event Ideas
A surefire way to get your clients buzzing about you with their friends and family is to invite them to be a part of events that they can’t help but talk about afterward. These can be live or virtual, and as simple or elaborate as your budget allows.
Top 1% Chicago Realtor Akos Straub has perfected this strategy. Here’s what he has to say:
“My best referral sources are private and intimate events for my past and current clients, usually for no more than 20 couples or families.
“For instance, before COVID-19 hit, I offered a private screening of the new Aladdin movie at a downtown AMC theater. I reserved all the seats for the Saturday morning show, and I offered popcorn, drinks, and a gift bag with Aladdin-themed items. When an attendee was asked how their weekend was, they were for sure going to mention my name and the event.”
2. Build Community & Connection Online
Time commitment: About four hours a week
Go-to Close resource: How Parkbench Helps Agents Drive Community Connections
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.
You can build a community website with Parkbench and make it the hub for the community to learn what’s happening near you. Host interviews with local business owners and give your recommendations for the best brew pubs, neighborhoods, dog parks, and eateries in your town or city.
Check out the Parkbench website to see if your market is available (they only allow one real estate agent per area), reserve your spot, and start talking up your community’s local hot spots.
Miami luxury listing agent Brad Cooke suggests a way to make your online content and social messages highly shareable:
“I am constantly keeping my name in front of clients with advertisements, postcards, e-blasts, and so forth regarding new listings, but I also include content like ‘My Favorite Places.’ Whether it be restaurants, bars, dry cleaners, or car washes, people share when they read something they agree with, so just give them a reason to share your message.”
3. Stay Top-of-Mind Using Key Market Insights
Time commitment: One hour a week
Go-to Close resource: How to Do a Comparative Market Analysis: A Step-by-Step Guide
Agents who think their clients’ interest in real estate ends at the closing table aren’t getting as many referrals as they could. Key market insights shared with potential buyers and homeowners help to position you as a knowledgeable market expert who can expertly advise them on a property’s investment potential or performance. Bonus: Make this info easily shareable for broader reach.
Use your real estate customer relationship manager (CRM) or your 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.
Manhattan luxury real estate agent Alyssa Martin uses this strategy regularly. Here’s her take on it:
“You’ve got to stay up to date on the latest real estate trends, and you’ve got to share those trends. I share valuable information with past and future clients, both to educate them and to stay on their minds. Most people don’t use the same agent twice; I want my clients, their friends, and all New Yorkers to know that I’m consistent, caring, and tenacious.”
4. Cross-pollinate Your Prospecting & Referral Game
Time commitment: Three hours a month
Go-to Close resource: 15 Clever Real Estate Prospecting Ideas to Boost Your GCI
Referral opportunities increase when your varied marketing efforts hit the same person with coordinated messages. Your neighborhood is a great place to start since this audience is already in your sphere of influence, they just aren’t active clients—at least not yet.
To get started, you’ll want to make sure your prospecting tools are sharp. For coordinated business cards, postcards, flyers, door hangers, and much more, check out Lab Coat Agent’s Marketing Center. This site is like Canva on steroids but for realtors. They’ll help you create recognizable, consistent media that will make your referral connections easier.
Brooklyn expert and New York real estate rock star Marie Bromberg shared with us:
“I regularly prospect Bushwick—the neighborhood where I live—and it just so happens that a parent, whose daughter went to the same school as my daughter, got my postcard in the mail, and we matched. This person was a part of my school circle, but my extra touch with the postcard helped to make the connection.”
5. Ask for Real Estate Referrals at the Happiest Moments
Time commitment: 30 seconds
Go-to Close resource: 9 Tips to Earn More Reviews & Help Build Referrals & Repeat Clients
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.
We heard more about this strategy from commercial real estate guru George Smith:
“The best way to get referrals is by asking for them at your client’s happiest moment.
“For example, I was once able to negotiate three months of free rent for a client. I congratulated them on their great deal and asked them right then and there if there was anyone else they knew that I could also help. Ask and you shall receive!”
6. Sustain Client Relationships Authentically
Time commitment: One hour a week
Go-to Close resource: 6 Emails to Send to Clients to Drive Repeat & Referral Business
The more specific a message is tailored to a 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 and in one place. Start by sending out a personalized email celebrating the anniversary of your clients’ purchase or sale. The typical realtor will be sending out one or two of these emails every week, maintaining consistent, ongoing conversations with their past clients throughout the year.
New York apartment expert Shanna Sharp uses this approach and gave us this example:
“I noticed a group of my past clients were major foodies and home cooks. Not being a great home cook myself, I wrote a blog-like email of my failed attempt at a pumpkin curry one fall.
“At the end, I jokingly asked for referrals since I should probably stick to real estate as my cooking career was clearly not taking off. I got multiple referrals that helped me have a strong winter that year.”
7. Maintain Client Communication Using a CRM
Time commitment: Two to three hours upfront, 30 minutes a week after that
Go-to Close resource: The Best Real Estate CRM for 2022: In-depth Reviews & Pricing
Stay on top of your post-closing communication by establishing a communication cadence—a plan that will dictate which messages you’re sending to which clients and when.
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. Make sure you’ve got a good CRM to help you manage your communication and remind you when it’s time to reach out.
If you need a recommendation for a CRM, check out LionDesk. It’s affordable, powerful, has excellent automation options, and they even offer an artificial intelligence (AI)-based virtual assistant that is so real, it’s a little spooky.
Tennessee real estate authority Sheila Reuther explained it this way:
“The key to repeated referral business is continued and consistent contact. Obviously, you need to do a good job for your clients, but those clients passing your name on to others is what matters here.
“Keep your name out there whether it’s mailers, email, phone calls, or social media. Remember the little things about people. A small detail can go a long way.”
Over to You
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 37 Underrated Real Estate Lead Generation Ideas.