Free Leads for Real Estate Agents (Part 3)

Gabrielle C. King

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In the final part of this 3-part series, we’re still talking about how to get leads for free, but I’m adding a few affordable options.

In this series, I’ve offered real estate lead generation ideas for new agents, and I’ve focused on ideas that don’t require any check equity. The reason is simple—new agents tend not to have a large marketing budget.

In Part 1, I focus on referral-based real estate leads and building relationships. At least half of those ideas are about how to get involved in your community and become known as the local expert.

Part 2 suggests a comprehensive Facebook marketing strategy that doesn’t include buying ads. Facebook’s paid advertising can be highly effective, and it’s among the first I recommend for new agents. But like I said, free is the name of this game.

leads funnel

When you can get leads for free, each transaction becomes more valuable.

In this final part, I continue to highlight real estate lead generation ideas that only require sweat equity. Sweat equity is a resource that new agents are likely to have in abundance. They’re eager to make their businesses successful, so they willingly put in the long hours and hard work to get that all-important first lead.

They simply need to be pointed in the right direction toward ideas that work.

  1. Referrals
  2. Open houses
  3. FSBOs
  4. Thank you cards
  5. Social networking services

1. Referrals are still the best way to get real estate leads

There is a frequently cited 2017 statistic from NAR that says 64% of sellers found their agent through a referral, which was typically a relative, friend, or neighbor. If it wasn’t a referral, then they used an agent they had worked with before (who they probably found through a referral.)


Referral-based real estate leads are at the top of the list of ways to get leads for free.

In 2020, NAR reported most buyers found their real estate agent through a referral, with friends, neighbors, and relatives being the source of these referrals.

But get this … three-fourths of buyers interviewed only one real estate agent during their home search. That means the first agent recommended to buyers is the agent that 75% of people hired to find them a home.

Here’s another number that should make an impression: 90% of buyers would use their agent again or recommend their agent to others.

2. Open houses are perfect for buyer leads

Open houses act like the pied piper for agents trying to find buyer leads. Why some agents think they are a waste of time is beyond me. Maybe they expect immediate results. (Hint: marketing doesn’t work that way.)

During an open house you literally get an opportunity to talk face-to-face with people who want to buy. So what if some are just curious? Keep the long-term game in mind. Hand everyone a sign-in sheet asking for an email, and you’ve got another potential client down the road.

open house sign

Open houses give you a valuable opportunity to meet prospects who can then put your face to your name.

Here’s a tip from Mitch Ribak, real estate coach and author of So You’ve Got Your Real Estate License… Now What? and 100 Mph Marketing for Real Estate: Internet Lead Generation and Sales Success. (#ad)

I don’t advertise my open houses. I prefer to use lots of signs. This way if someone walks into my open house and they would like to look at [the] property, I just close the door. You need to make sure you have every possible cross street covered with an open house sign. The more signs the better.  We did a test on this last because my Agents [sic] didn’t believe me. We had 9 people come to our open house that day and 8 were from the signs.

3. FSBO leads require patience and finesse

Converting FSBO leads into agent listings can be tricky, but FSBOs can also be highly lucrative. And you don’t need to be hesitant about approaching a FSBO—nine out of 10 eventually hire an agent.

The finesse you need to exhibit with these sellers stems from being aware of why they didn’t select an agent to sell their home. Some reasons are based on mistaken beliefs.

Bar graph comparing the reasons home owners sell without the help of an agent

If you can provide FSBOs with the facts and explain to them your value, like the consequences of poorly written contracts, dealing with inspections and appraisals, and errors and omissions, then you’ve got a good shot of getting the listing.

To help promote your value, offer FSBOs a copy of The 5 Biggest Mistakes to Avoid When Welling Your Home. It’s a free lead magnet you can download from our site. It explains some of the more problematic issues FSBOs can face and typically, when a FSBO understands how difficult it can be to sell a home, they’ll seek you out.

FSBO websites

Marketing on and for FSBO websites is primarily directed toward buyers and seller and not agents, which makes sense. The same is true for reviews of these sites. As an agent, you aren’t concerned with a site’s features, you just want to find the properties.

Here are a few you can use to get started:

Additional FSBO leads

Craigslist: Craiglist is searchable by city; consequently, some searches will produce more results than others. In addition to being popular, Craigslist is also free to those who want to list a FSBO. During peak season, there could be a huge number of owners looking to sell.

Newspaper classifieds: Believe it or not, people still use classified ads. Because most states require agents to list with a Realtor® designation or broker information, look for ads without this information. If this information isn’t included, then it’s probably a FSBO.

older people on bikes

Facebook: Is there anything you can’t find on Facebook?

Search: No tech here! Take a Sunday drive through neighborhoods with properties that have the best returns and keep a look out for FSBO signs. Make note of the address, do your research, and approach the seller.

4. Thank you cards

For a buck a piece (which makes this real estate lead generation idea practically free), you can send hand-written thank you cards to all the people who initially said, “no thanks.” But, I promised you free, so you can also download free, beautifully designed gratitude cards from our resource library. A card is warm and personal, and it will stand out.

lady in mailbox

Numerous surveys report that people still enjoy receiving mail. Your thank you card can add to that enjoyment.


If the statistics remain steady, once they get into the weeds of selling their home on their own, they’ll be desperate for an agent to help them out. Your polite thank you note with a business card tucked inside could be what they reach for.

Cold calls

Cold calling isn’t easy, but the deal isn’t dead if you hang up the phone without an appointment. No doesn’t have to mean no . . . it could mean not right now. Your card may get tucked away in a file or might even trigger a referral. And if you need some help with what to say, we also have free scripts. You can download them here.

5. Social networking services

The most popular of these services is Nextdoor. According to their website, one in four U.S. households are members. And these members have provided more than 50 million local business recommendations.

Kim Angeli is the founder and president of Grateful Box, and in Episode 134 of Stay Paid Kim talks about the benefits real estate agents can derive from using Nextdoor, including getting ratings similar to Google ratings.

Don’t limit yourself

Give these ideas for how to get free leads a try, and be patient. Marketing is a long-term game . . . you need to commit to a plan and stick with it. If your first open house doesn’t produce an immediate result, it doesn’t mean open houses don’t produce leads.

You also need to commit to following up. When you do get a lead, don’t let it sit. Follow up immediately and frequently. Another Stay Paid guest, Cody Butler, reports that only 15% of buyers make a purchase in the first 90 days. It isn’t until after 18 months that 50% of buyers will commit.

If you walk away too soon, you’re leaving money on the table.

stacks of $100 bills

Don’t leave money on the table! Even the best way to get real estate leads will amount to nothing if you don’t follow up.

The number of real estate lead generation ideas available is limited only by your own imagination and creativity. Not all ideas will work, but you don’t know until you try. Because it’s not popular, doesn’t mean it won’t work. In fact, your idea may work precisely because no one has done it before.

If you’re committed to growing your business and want to take advantage of the #1 source of leads, then check out our sophisticated suite of print and automated digital products. We’re the experts in helping agents and professionals in 180 additional industries generate referral-based leads.


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Written by Gabrielle C. King

I’ve spent my 30-year career making complex and unfamiliar ideas easy to understand. Today I routinely write 2,500 words or less to help entrepreneurs like real estate agents, RIAs, insurance agents, and others better understand marketing and feel a renewed confidence in their ability to close more deals and retain more business.