How to get listings in real estate: 11 proven strategies for 2024


Listings are the life-blood of all successful real estate businesses, but making the leap from working primarily with buyers to working with sellers can be a challenge for many agents early in their careers. As overall home sales decline on a national level, signing listings is more difficult than ever for agents of all experience levels.

To help, I’ve compiled the 11 most effective strategies that my coaching clients and I have personally used to find more listings and create inventory. If you’re open to new ideas an d a fresh approach and you want to learn how to get more listings, keep reading!

Summary
  1. Start with your sphere
  2. Grow your sphere consistently & purposefully
  3. Prospect old expired listings
  4. Door knock the neighborhoods you want to work in
  5. Host open houses for other agents
  6. Host open houses for FSBOs
  7. Send golden letters to specific neighborhoods or demographics
  8. Offer to help the top agents in your office
  9. Run home valuation social media ads
  10. Host educational events for sellers
  11. Build referral relationships with divorce and probate attorneys
  12. The full picture: How to get listings in real estate

1. Start with your sphere

Direct business and referrals from people you already know is by far the best way to up your listings game. Why? Because half the work is done for you! You don’t have to sell yourself to your sphere. They already know you, like you, trust you, and want to help you succeed. All you need to do is teach them how to help you and keep in touch. Here are my top do’s and don’ts for finding listing referrals through your sphere:

Do:

  • Educate your sphere about how to refer business to you. It’s an easy conversation: “Could I ask for your help? Thanks! I’m looking to work with more people who need to sell their homes. Could you help me by simply keeping your ears open and letting me know if anyone mentions moving? That would be amazing, thank you so much!”
  • Stay top of mind. This is both a mindset shift and requires action. Have you ever had a friend buy or sell with another agent? We all have. Did it sting? Of course. Yet here’s the mindset shift I’d recommend: Everyone is busy, distracted, and dealing with their own lives. It’s not your sphere’s responsibility to remember you, what you do for work, and that your business relies on referrals. That’s your job. Keep in touch to stay top of mind. That way, when they do have a potential lead to pass along to an agent, they’ll think of you and only you.

Don’t:

  • Talk about real estate in every conversation. No one wants to feel like you’re constantly trying to sell them something!
  • Worry if you don’t already have a large sphere. I knew very few people when I first started my real estate career. The key is to go build it! Go meet people and build your sphere of influence. It takes time, but it’s worth the effort.

Who’s it for? Everyone! Even if you’ve just moved to a new city and don’t know a soul, reach out to everyone you know in other cities and let them know you can help matchmake clients and agents anywhere in the country and collect a referral fee.

2. Grow your sphere consistently and purposefully

Meeting new people to add to your existing sphere will help grow your listing business exponentially — as long as you follow the previous strategy consistently. You can meet new people anywhere, and you never know who’s thinking about putting their house on the market. Here are some places to start:

  • Chamber of commerce: My very first listing came from my involvement in my local chamber. I met a woman who became a friend, and she hired me to sell her condo. She knew it was my first listing, yet she trusted me anyway. I sold her condo over asking, and I picked up two more pieces of business from that one listing.
  • BNI (Business Networking International): These chapters can be tricky to get into as a real estate agent, but if you’re able to find one with an open seat, jump on it. Or look into starting your own!
  • Sitting at bars: This is perfect for all you extroverts out there. Choose either a high-end restaurant bar (think Morton’s, Capital Grille, Ruth’s Chris) or the most popular local spot in your target area and just start talking to people.

To ensure you’re keeping track of everyone you meet and staying in touch with them, you’ll need a CRM that allows you to create custom daily follow-up reminders for everyone in your sphere. This way you’ll know exactly who to reach out to every morning. Top Producer takes this one step further. Each day, Top Producer gives you a list of five people you should connect with based on your relationship. They even provide templates for text and email follow-up so you know exactly what to say. 

Who’s it for? Everyone! This is a people-based business, and the only way to grow is to meet more people and stay in touch with them. The ways you go about finding new people can vary, of course. Keep reading for ideas to grow your sphere!

3. Prospect old expired listings

Calling the new expired listings every day is a popular strategy for finding listings; however, I’ve seen many agents have even more success by reaching out to old expireds — sellers who were on the market anywhere from two to five years ago. There are several benefits to strategically prospecting these sellers:

  • They likely will not be as annoyed when you call because you won’t be the 100th agent to call them that day
  • The higher price they weren’t able to get years ago may be more realistic now (not always, of course, but generally property values go up year over year).

You also don’t have to call them on the phone, if cold calling terrifies you. You can send a handwritten note, a mailer with market data and a call to action, or even show up on their doorstep.

PRO TIP: If you do choose the mailer strategy, check out Wise Pelican for super easy and affordable mailers. They send the mailers for you, too, so you’d save a ton of time! For handwritten notes, a service like Handwrytten can save you time and a sore wrist. They use robots with pens to create the effect of a real handwritten postcard or letter. Like Wise Pelican, they’ll also stamp and deliver the notes for you. If you use Zapier, you can integrate both services into a CRM like Follow Up Boss.

Who’s it for? Agents who are comfortable with rejection and confident in their marketing and pricing skills. If you’re able to clearly articulate how you will be able to sell a property that the last agent couldn’t sell, working expireds is a great strategy for you.

4. Door knock the neighborhoods you want to work in

Door knocking is old school, yet it does work! A few years ago, I was on a panel at a conference with an agent who built his business door knocking. The key is consistency. He went out every day for months and ended up selling over 40 homes in his very first year in real estate!

You’ll want to be strategic about which neighborhoods you door knock. Think of it as an opportunity to cultivate the specific type of listing business you’d like to have. It’s up to you! Choose areas you want to sell in. I usually recommend door knocking your own neighborhood as well, to introduce yourself as their hyper-local neighborhood agent.

PRO TIP: Bring something of value to leave behind if they don’t answer the door. Market data about the area, an invitation to an upcoming open house, or info about a coming soon listing nearby are all great items of value. Don’t forget to include your contact information and a call to action such as: “Call/text me to learn about your home’s current market value.”

Who’s it for? All you extroverts out there! Agents who love talking to strangers, make a great first impression, and want the added bonus of getting their steps in. If the idea of knocking on a stranger’s door absolutely terrifies you, that’s ok, too! We have 10 other ways you can find listings. 

5. Host open houses for other agents

When you have your own listings, absolutely do your own open houses. Many nosy neighbors end up turning into sellers, and hosting open houses is a fantastic opportunity to showcase your marketing skills. 

If you don’t have your own listings right now (or maybe you only have a few and want more open house opportunities), offer to run open houses for other agents in your office! Chances are, busy agents will be happy to let you cover their open houses and allow them some time off. 

The key to a successful open house is the pre-marketing: 

  • Door knock to invite the neighbors
  • Email all your prospects and everyone in your sphere — even if they aren’t looking to buy in that particular area, they may know someone who is!
  • Send an open house invitation in the mailer ahead of time
  • Post on all your social media channels (Bonus: This is a great hack for making yourself look more successful — people usually won’t know it’s not your listing)
  • Run hyper-local Facebook or Instagram ads 

PRO TIP: Choose listings that are larger and at a higher price point. Avoid condos and entry-level price points. This will increase the chances of the open house attendees being move-up buyers instead of first-time buyers, and then they’ll also be sellers!

Who’s it for? Agents who prefer face-to-face prospecting and who want a reason to reach out to their networks with an invitation. This is a good strategy for agents who are looking to work with buyers as well as sellers. 

6. Host open houses for FSBOs

Adding value, not being pushy, and building relationships with For Sale By Owner sellers are the keys to converting them to listings. One of the best ways to add value is offering to host an open house. Show the seller your open house pre-marketing plan (feel free to just copy the bullet points from the last step) and assure them there’s no obligation to hire you as their listing agent. 

Do make sure you check with your broker and have the correct paperwork (typically, a disclosure form and a one-day listing agreement or whatever your state requires) in place ahead of time. If a buyer does want to buy that particular house, you’ll need to make sure you’re getting paid somehow. 

The more common scenario is the seller gets fed up with trying to sell their house on their own, decides to hire an agent after all, and hires you because you have been there helping out all along!

FUN FACT: According to NAR, the average FSBO home sold for $310,000 compared to $405,000 for listed home sales. Stats like this are always helpful to have in your back pocket and casually mention to sellers as you’re educating them about the benefits of working with a professional real estate agent.

Who’s it for? Agents who aren’t afraid of approaching a “mean, scary FSBO.” In my experience, most FSBO sellers are actually very pleasant. They simply need some education, a little hand-holding, and to make the decision to hire an agent in their own time.

7. Send golden letters to specific neighborhoods or demographics

Golden letters are one-page typed letters, folded and in an envelope, that are mailed to potential sellers. The addresses are typically handwritten, increasing the open rate. The goal is to find homeowners who are thinking about selling, and this strategy is proven to work!

The content is very simple: “We have buyers looking to purchase a home in your neighborhood. Have you ever considered selling? If so, please call us at [YOUR PHONE NUMBER].” Include your full name, brokerage information, and contact information in the header and be sure to hand sign each letter.

Like all marketing strategies, sending golden letters is a numbers game. One of the top agents in my office started sending letters to neighborhoods he wanted to list in, 100 letters at a time. He found that for every 100 letters, he’d set one listing appointment. Now, he sends hundreds of letters and has closed seven listings already!

Most agents target a geographic area, but you can also send golden letters to a particular demographic, such as homeowners who have been in their home for 10+ years. Get creative with this. If you’re looking to work with the downsizing population, send a letter to everyone who’s been in their home for 40+ years!

Who’s it for? My fellow introverts! This is a perfect way to make the phone ring without having to cold call, door knock, or even go out into the world and meet people. It can literally be done without talking to a soul, until you get that exciting incoming call with an interested seller on the other line. 

8. For newer agents, offer to help the top agents in your office

We’ve talked about this in terms of open houses, but a more broad strategy to get listings is offering to help the top agents in your office with anything they need — not just open houses. Volunteer to be their runner. Meet the fire department for the smoke inspection. Put the lockbox on. Swap out the “coming soon” rider on the yard sign. 

By humbling yourself and being of service to your fellow agents, you’ll accomplish several things: 

  • You’ll learn the business faster, with more hands-on experience
  • You’ll increase your chances of other agents referring a listing to you! I’ve seen this happen many times. Top agents have the luxury of being more selective in the business they choose to take. If a multi-million dollar luxury agent has a lead for a $300k listing, there’s a high likelihood they would gladly pass that along to a newer agent. But only if they know you, like you, and trust you!
  • That same agent who referred you the lower priced listing may recommend other agents in the office do the same. Now, all of a sudden, you’re the go-to person for listings the top agents don’t want or don’t have time for. Maybe they’re further away, a lower price, or more tricky, such as a short sale or estate sale.
  • You may even find a top agent who’s thinking about retiring. Read the book “The Golden Handoff” to learn more about taking over another agent’s business. 

Who’s it for? Newer agents who have the time and the desire to learn. 

Running social media ads is a great way to get in front of potential sellers quickly, efficiently, and for very little money. This a highly-leveraged strategy: once you set the ad up, it just runs on its own. You can also choose your budget and invest as little as $5 per day on Facebook and Instagram. On TikTok, the minimum spend is either $20 or $50, depending on the type of ad you choose.

Choose the platform you’re most comfortable with and the one you think your target audience (for sellers specifically) is on. For guidance, check out this comprehensive social media demographic chart, provided by Pew Research.

PRO TIP: Lead capture and conversion is the most important part! You’ll definitely want to partner with a company that provides property valuations, plus a lead conversion tool. RealGeeks has an awesome all-in-one tool called EstateIQ that provides all these features.

Who’s it for? Agents who already use and love social media. It will be much easier to set up and navigate if you’re already familiar with the platform you choose. If social media isn’t your thing, either skip this one or hire someone else to do it for you!

10. Host educational events for sellers

We’ve all heard of first-time buyer seminars, yet there are so many different types of educational seminars or webinars you can host. Here are some alternative topics to experiment with: 

  • First-time sellers
  • Downsizing
  • Buying and selling at the same time
  • 1031 exchanges – “How to avoid paying capital gains taxes on your investment properties”
  • Renovations with the highest ROI
  • “Love it or list it?” What to consider when deciding whether to add on or move
  • Most common home inspection issues to avoid when selling

The key is choosing the topic and applying good marketing. You want to make it buzzy and interesting enough that the general public will want to take the time out of their day to attend. It also helps if you feed them and give them a cocktail!

Don’t worry — you don’t have to do these events alone. I always recommend bringing in other professionals to share the burden of content, to help answer questions, and to split the cost of venue/refreshments.

For seller-focused events, some key vendors to bring in are: home stagers, organizers, professional moving concierges, accountants, attorneys, and home inspectors. A mortgage lender could be helpful, too, if your audience is likely buying and selling.

Another benefit? For newer agents, hosting an event like this positions you as a real estate expert (even if you don’t feel like an expert yet). If you are asked a question you don’t know the answer to, simply say “let me double check and get back to you.” Easy!

Who’s it for? Agents who enjoy public speaking and educating. This is a perfect fit for any former teachers! It’s also great for agents who like to be in control of the conversation. Yes, you’ll likely include a Q&A session at the end, but you’ll choose the content you cover, the vendors you’ll bring in, and you’ll run the show. 

11. Build referral relationships with divorce and probate attorneys

Working with divorce attorneys and probate attorneys is an untapped gold mine for listing leads. If you’re looking to meet motivated sellers, make these attorneys your new best friends. Often in divorce settlements, there’s a requirement that property be sold. Even if it’s not mandated, it’s still very common. Divorce situations can be more tricky and come with a different set of emotions, but if you’re up for the challenge, you can do a lot of good for people while also selling more listings.

Lead with value — be sure to send them business, as well. Remember the BNI mantra: Givers gain!

Probate attorneys step in when someone passes away and there’s real estate to be handled after the fact. Partnering with these professionals is smart because it sets you up as a resource for families. I’d recommend networking with moving concierge companies to offer even more value and set yourself apart.

Another way to find probate listing leads is to leverage a predictive analytics tool like CatalyzeAI. With CatalyzeAI, you get 30 inherited property leads for $360 to $450 per month. This is an effective option for agents who don’t have the time or desire to network with attorneys and would prefer the ease of purchasing leads instead. 

Who’s it for? Agents who are highly emotionally intelligent and skilled in navigating difficult situations. Real estate is always part therapy, but working with divorcing clients and estate sales can be especially challenging. 

The full picture: How to get listings in real estate

Now you have 11 new ideas for finding listings! While they might not all appeal to you, that’s ok. They’re each proven to work when done consistently. So, choose one or two to focus on, make a plan, put them in your calendar, and go create some new inventory!




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