Real Estate Lead Generation Strategies – Complete Guide

By Johnny Sebastian • Updated: 11/30/22 • 25 min Read
Real Estate Lead Generation Strategies – Complete Guide

New agents often have a scattershot mentality.

I have to do everything!

That is what I did. I door knocked, mailed a farm, started a homebuyer seminar called FSBOs and expireds, bought paid leads, worked with renters, networked with investors, blogged, and spent time on social media. Any real estate lead generation technique or tactic you can muster to begin growing your business.

The result? By trying to do everything, I did nothing well. I was not consistent because I was spread too thin.

Instead, focus on just four prospecting pillars, any one of which can support your goal 100%.

Then, resist the temptation to try other lead gen strategies.

real estate lead generation

In my article about the Hub and Spoke, the goal of lead generation for real estate agents is to build your audience. Your audience includes:

  • personal relationships
  • people who have eagerly and willingly engaged with you or your brand
  • anyone with whom there is no intermediary between you and them
  • vendors, colleagues, and even competitors you have relationships with

These are people in your CRM that you are marketing to.

Your audience is first and foremost. This includes your sphere of influence, referrals, and repeat business. Every agent has an audience, whether just starting out or a top producer.

Limit yourself to just four strategies for growing your audience.

The Four Pillars: How to Do Lead Generation in Real Estate

What is your business? Real estate?


It’s lead generation.

You can be the best real estate agent in the world. Without leads, you will earn $0.

You can be the worst real estate agent in the world. With leads, you will earn something (even if you’re just referring them to the best real estate agent in the world with no leads).

Real Estate Lead Generation Reality

real estate lead generation

To make it in this business, you must be a lead generation machine. That means focusing on a few lead sources that can sustain your business and mastering them. As you will see, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of ways to earn business. You can’t do them all.

Pick the ones suited to your strengths, and stay focused!

real estate business lead generation pillar

These are the principles taught by coaches like Verl Workman.

You need to pick pillars that can sustain your business. Is your goal to close 30 homes this year? Then EVERY lead source should have enough opportunities to generate 30 closings a year. That puts you on track for 120 closings, and if any pillar falters, you are overshooting your target.

Work backward from your annual goals to create weekly prospecting goals.

If you are growing into a large team or a brokerage, it is possible to add more than four pillars as your team grows. But most agents and teams should keep focused on four.

Mix it Up!

When selecting your four lead generation pillars, it makes sense to diversify between those with quick and slow results.

Real Estate Lead Generation Quadrant (Pick 4)

Lead Generation Quad

New agents need at least one business pillar in the “quick and free” quadrant.

The “Quick” quadrants feature lead sources so you can land listings and buyers quickly and start earning money to support your business quickly.

The “Slow” quadrants feature lead generation strategies more desirable for the long term: lower customer acquisition costs, building a brand, and scalability. You’ll want to start developing one or two of these strategies early on.

Mix it up!

Countercyclical Lead Generation

A countercyclical business model does well when the market is doing poorly.

Having at least one countercyclical business line can help hedge against a changing market and keep you alive during the following real estate crash.

Obvious examples include:

  • working with investors
  • listing foreclosures for banks
  • niching into short sales

In good times, these are probably going thin businesses. But by having an established competency in them, you will be well poised to pivot quickly when the market shifts.

Consider at least one countercyclical model as part of your four pillars.

Sphere of Influence

Sphere of influence, repeat customers, and client referrals! This is where top agents get most of their business and must be one of your pillars if you are serious about real estate.

The majority of leads still come from referrals and repeat customers. Not PPC. Not Zillow. Not social media.

These have the highest ROI because they are warm leads with high conversion, usually involve few to no commission concessions, and have a relatively low or even $0 customer acquisition cost (CAC).

Repeat &

Repeat, Referral, and SOI Lead Generation Strategies


  • Big Chunk of the Market
  • Cheap Leads
  • Higher Price Points
  • List to Last
  • High Conversion
  • Warm Leads
  • Undisruptable


  • Takes Time
  • Follow-Up Skills Needed
  • Difficult to Scale

Client &
Charity Events

Client and Charity Events


  • Supercharge Repeat and Referral Business
  • Expand Your Sphere
  • It ties in with Other Tactics
  • Circumvent Commission Negotiations
  • Build a Personal Brand
  • Give Back


  • Major Project
  • Need a Decent Sized Database
  • Expensive

Social Media

I can only begin to scratch the surface of all the different techniques, tactics, and platforms that might be worth your time.

My main recommendation is to focus on one or at least two social media platforms. It is tempting to start a Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram account as soon as you are an agent. While doing so may be worthwhile to brand yourself as a real estate professional, only select one for your real estate marketing effort. You will not be able to effectively manage them all.

Below are just a few social media channels. Instagram, NextDoor, Quora, Snapchat, Tik Tok, and other sites also might be great options for building an audience of home buyers and sellers.

Facebook Marketing

Facebook Lead Generation Strategies


  • Plenty of Education and Resources
  • Facebook Groups


  • Cutthroat Competition
  • Poor Organic Reach
  • So-So Ad Targeting

Linkedin Marketing

Linkedin Lead Generation Strategies


  • Complements investor/commercial strategies
  • Cultivate Industry Networks and Thought Leadership
  • Low Competition


  • Expensive to Market
  • Mediocre Campaign Reporting
  • Smaller Network Limited to Professionals

Instagram Marketing

Instagram Lead Generation Strategies


  • Works with Facebook
  • 2nd Largest Social Network
  • Mobile
  • Extroverts Welcome!
  • Highly Visual Brand Building


  • Quality Photos Expected
  • Can’t Link Out
  • Business Accounts Punished
  • Fewer Real Estate Tools

Content Marketing

What in the world is “audience building”? There are a few components: content marketing, building a brand, and top-of-mind awareness.

Your content strategy’s main effort will probably be your website and email marketing to your database.

This category is different than the others. Unlike leads you pay for or social media on which you “rent” space, you own these lead generation methods. Facebook can’t change an algorithm, and suddenly, you’ve lost your leads’ email addresses and phone numbers. Those are yours.

It is my favorite prospecting category.

Email Marketing

Email and Newsletter Marketing


  • Top-of-Mind Awareness
  • Can Carefully Refine Audience Segmentation
  • Engaging with Warm Leads
  • Inexpensive


  • Can Be Spammy
  • Requires Consistency
  • Need a Database

Website & Blogging

Websites and Blogging


  • Passive Lead Generation
  • Cheap to Get Started
  • Warm Leads
  • Easy to Multi-Purpose
  • Non-Confrontational


  • Takes Time
  • Expensive to Outsource
  • Difficult to Research
  • All In or Bust

YouTube & Video Marketing

Video Marketing


  • Passive Lead Generation
  • High Engagement
  • Build a Brand
  • Can Be Multi-Purposed
  • Great Analytics
  • Can Rank on Google


  • Not “Evergreen” Content
  • Must Continue Producing
  • High Effort


I define hustling as those tasks that are usually free but take your time and persistence.

Cold calling, networking events, sitting in open houses, and working hard as a real estate agent.

These prospecting methods often have a lower conversion and aren’t for the faint of heart. But that is an advantage for the agent who can stick to it persistently. They succeed where most agents do not.

These are also some of the best methods for agents new to the business to cultivate potential leads on the cheap and lead with revenue.

Door Knocking

Door Knocking


  • Free
  • Synergy with other Prospecting Methods
  • Targets Sellers


  • The Ring Doorbell
  • Seasonal
  • Inefficient
  • Not Scalable

Open Houses

Open Houses


  • Cheap
  • Targets Unaffiliated Buyers
  • It serves both Your Seller and You
  • Get Listing Feedback


  • Limited to After Hours
  • Low Lead Quality
  • Safety Risks
  • Missed Expectations


For-Sale-By-Owner (FSBO)


  • Quick Results
  • Cheap
  • Natural Companion with Expireds


  • Limited Volume
  • Competitive
  • Realtor-Skeptic Homeowners

Expired Listings


  • Quick Results
  • Cheap
  • Natural Companion with FSBOs
  • Target Leads are Open to Working with Agents


  • Competitive
  • Need Persistence

Meetups & Seminars


  • Non-confrontational Marketing
  • Demonstrates Subject Matter Expertise
  • Opportunity to Partner with Vendors


  • Must Market to Achieve Target Attendance Numbers
  • Public Speaking and Presentation Skills Required

Investor Friendly Agents


  • Repeat Business
  • Suitable Pathway to Investing Yourself
  • Suited to Analytical Types
  • Countercyclical


  • Lower Pricing Points
  • Demanding Clients
  • They May Outgrow You
  • Eggs in One Basket


Networking also has much in common with Referral and Sphere of Influence strategies. Making friends at your kids’ soccer practices, attending your local Toastmasters, and expanding your SOI are all ways of building a database.

I see networking as building mostly B2B relationships (lenders, investors, property managers, etc.). These relationships can unlock massive potential.



  • Cross Sell a Property Management Database
  • Captive Audience
  • Opportunity to Transact on a Portfolio


  • Easiest With a Property Management Business



  • Cross Sell a Property Management Database
  • Captive Audience


  • Easiest With a Property Management Business

Agent & Vendor Referrals


  • Works Great with a Niche


  • Need to Build Credibility
  • Often Involves Referral Fees

Business Model

I call this business model prospecting because it pursues a specific niche, usually a B2B relationship from which you get leads.

These often require the cooperation of your broker if you are not a broker-owner. They often sacrifice some of the commission for a steady volume of leads.


Representing Homebuilders


  • Opportunity for Dual Agency
  • Free Advertising
  • Repeat Business


  • Very Low Listing Commissions
  • Exclusive Listing Relationships That Are Hard to Crack
  • Only So Many Builders in an Area


Representing Foreclosure Banks


  • Repeat Business
  • Countercyclical


  • Brokers Only
  • Limited Opportunities in a Single Market


Relocation Services


  • Predictable Business Volume
  • Good Fit with B2B LinkedIn Marketing
  • High Conversion


  • Very High Referral Fees
  • Strict Rules
  • May Be Prohibited from Marketing to Clients Post-Close

Paid Leads

Buying leads is the easiest way to lead generate, although it’s expensive!

Consider, if you, on average, make about $5000 on a commission, would you pay $1000 for a lead? Of course!

And that is about what the numbers work out to. Targeting a 5:1 ROI is very typical for these leads. You can see how the math adds up quickly. If you want to do 30 deals this year, you probably need to spend $30,000 or more on paid leads.

The problem is that this assumes a good lead conversion, often about 2% for these lead types. Most agents don’t have the patience or follow-up to realize a conversion that high. Instead, they waste money and then complain that the leads are junk.

Good agents get contact information and stick with it 6, 12, or more months after the lead.

Often these leads are prospects buying or selling in a particular zip code who were captured on a landing page, either your own, Zillow’s, or another third party like BoldLeads.




  • Quick Lead Generation
  • Scalable


  • Requires an Airtight Funnell to Maintain ROI
  • Low Conversion Rates
  • Forced Registration

Portal Leads

Portal Leads (Zillow,, etc.)


  • Quick Lead Generation
  • Higher Intent Leads
  • Scalable


  • Requires Airtight Funnel to Maintain ROI

Direct Mail


  • Targeted Marketing
  • Matches Well With Other Strategies


  • Must Be Able to Afford Consistency
  • Low Conversion and Open Rates

Purchased Databases


  • Warm Handoff
  • Quickly Build a Database


  • Unpredictable Quality
  • Not Many Opportunities to Buy Databases


Farming is not its category, as it includes elements of the previous prospecting plans. If you are farming a neighborhood, you will want to apply elements of all the prospecting methods above.

For example, you might send direct mail to your neighborhood while hosting a community event, working open houses for builders in your neighborhood, participating in the HOA leadership, and creating or commenting in the neighborhood Facebook group.

Geo Farming


  • Build Long Term Presence in a Market
  • High Converting Leads


  • Not Scalable
  • Need Strong Connections to the Community


Lastly, you need to implement a system to be consistent with the pillars you’ve chosen. Your CRM might have workflows that keep you on track. CRMs don’t just have to be for reminding you to call leads. Many can be used to remind you to do a task.

Browse my list of the best real estate CRMs for your business!

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