With inventory remaining at historic lows across the country and home prices on the rise, competition over listings is fiercer than ever. How can agents increase their flow of seller leads?

This spring, Inman is obsessing over helping you to tune-up your listings business, with actionable insights, the best advice from top agents and hundreds of helpful stories. This is part four of a five-part editorial series on improving your listings game (and general success in real estate) this season. Stay tuned for more to be published throughout this week, and view the rest of our “Spring Cleaning” stories here.

Listings, the crown jewel of real estate, are proving to be rare gems even as spring selling season should entice more homeowners to put their house on the market now and in the coming months. With inventory remaining at historic lows across the country and home prices on the rise, competition over listings is fiercer than ever. How can agents increase their flow of seller leads even when the market is dry?

There’s no single answer to success, but those working to drum up business might consider a combination of short-term tactics — leveraging tech tools and resources, as well as old-school methods to find leads in need of an agent’s services — while keeping an eye on the long game, that is, building up a great reputation and recognizable brand that will eventually encourage more leads to come to you.

Start with the people you know

First, consider marketing your services to homeowners who might be on the fence about working with an agent but simply need to better understand the value proposition that a real estate professional can bring to a home sale, namely, getting the absolute best offer for what’s likely to be a seller’s largest financial asset.

According to Omar Spahi, the founder of Ocean Avenue Realty Inc., in Santa Monica, the first step to finding new listings in a dry market is opening the old Rolodex and calling everyone you know — in real estate, that’s called your “sphere of influence.”

“Grab your phone, and start going into your contacts,” Spahi wrote in a piece that contained a multitude of tips for getting new listings. “Call your best friends. Call that guy you just barely know. Call anyone and everyone you can, and slowly build your network, even if it means going out for coffee or drinks with people you barely know.”

Chadwick Ciocci, the founder and CEO of Chilton & Chadwick in Connecticut, also provided a number of ideas for agents looking to generate business through their sphere.

“Just because your friends know you are in real estate does not mean they will remember that when the time comes to sell their home,” Ciocci wrote in a post for Inman. “Even your family needs constant reminding. To do this, reach out regularly — one good way to do this is through a weekly email newsletter.”

“If your friends are on your weekly distribution list, then not only will they know you are in real estate, but they will remember when the time comes. These people can also be reached via social media, especially Facebook and Instagram,” Ciocci noted.

Prospecting for FSBOs and expireds

For Aaron Wittenstein, a New York-based Realtor with Keller Williams who has nearly two decades of experience, consistency is key when it comes to contacting colder leads.

“As long as you’re sitting on the phone two-three hours a day, five days a week, you’ll stumble across business,” Wittenstein said. “You don’t have to be the best, you just have to be the most consistent.”

When facing a dry market, Wittenstein says for sale by owner (FSBO) and expired listings are usually the quickest source of finding new business. FSBO listings are a distance game, he explained.

“The first call, you’re just calling to gather information from them, with the intent that you’ve got to say on top of them every single week,” he said. “So when it comes to a FSBO, you call and ask if the property is still on the market, and you build a rapport with them. You send them out some information about yourself and your team. Then you tell them you’ll follow up in a week, and you follow-up, follow-up, follow-up. The typical lifespan of a for sale by owner is 30-40 days.”

There’s no perfect script to follow when contacting a FSBO, but many find a direct approach is the best way to start the relationship. A simple introduction and asking the seller if the home is still for sale can go a long way toward building that relationship, according to a group of real estate professionals who discussed this very topic in the Facebook Group “Lead Gen, Scripts and Objections,” of which Wittenstein is an admin.

For Jovandi Bermudez, an Illinois-based Realtor with Keller Williams, simple is the way to go: “Good morning. I’m Jovandi with Keller Williams Realty. Are you still accepting offers on your home?”

“When working with FSBO[s], the two things that they most care about is 1. How much can they NET for their house. 2. What will you do to sell it,” commented JJ Jara, a real estate coach and Realtor with Intero Real Estate Services in California. “Remember you only have LESS than 4 [seconds] to get them to engage/get their attention or disconnect!”

With expired listings, Wittenstein found that out of 100 leads, usually about 15 are “slam dunk leads,” where the seller will invite him to look at the property and give him the opportunity to list it immediately.

Managing all of this information can, of course, be daunting for any agent during their normal routine, so Wittenstein uses Vulcan 7 — a data service where he gets his FSBO and expired listing data. He takes all of that data and inputs it into a customer relationship management tool and dialer service.

Another unique tip Spahi had for agents: contact local developers — however, be aware you may be stepping on a competitor’s toes.

“Often the developers might already be working with another agent, but if you can also form a relationship with them and they like you, they can decide to help you out if they get any new listings,” he said.

Or take a page from Christine Lee, founder of SeizeTheMarket.com, who put the classic “find out what your home is worth” tactic on steroids by throwing in an “equity checkup” for homeowners. More on that strategy here.

For those trying to avoid cold calling, Bernice Ross suggested in her post “Lead generation strategies that keep on giving,” a few creative techniques for drumming up leads, including the “bait” house, in which you send around an interesting property on the MLS to your warm contacts; LinkedIn “coffee meetings” and short client video testimonials. (For more on these strategies, click here).

Working your long game

It’s not simply enough to know how to find listings — because, as all agents know, the market ebbs and flows — so it’s also important to constantly work on improving your brand. The only thing better than going out and finding new business is having that business come to you.

Listings offer the opportunity for agents to flex their creative side and prove their tenacity by marketing a home to the max to get top dollar for their client. If you’re able to achieve that, your value speaks for itself, and your clients will be likely to refer you to their network time and again.

Some agents have generated interest in themselves and their business with whacky marketing stunts, that for better or worse, bring attention to their brand and services, whether it be offering free tacos with the purchase of a home, putting up green pig cutouts around your community to entice residents to unknowingly Google your brand (you may create some enemies with such a stunt in the process) or just ensuring a listing gets the royal treatment with stellar photography and perhaps a single property website.

As Jon Starwalt, the director of technology with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Star Homes in the Chicago area points out: “The right tools and systems can only create more opportunities. Whether or not they turn into a workable lead depends on how you engage with them.”

Email Patrick Kearns

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