10 Best Real Estate Lead Generation Ideas (Ranked)

Best Real Estate Lead Generation Ideas
Founder of InboundREM an inbound marketing lead generation company focused on SEO. Blogger. Real Estate SEO expert. Real Estate Lead Generation expert. Real estate online marketing fanatic. Podcaster. Occasional public speaker and frequent vlogger.

Table of Contents

Let’s dive straight into one of the most frequently asked questions I have received in my 16 years of working with real estate agents: “What are the best real estate lead generation ideas and strategies?”

Whether you’re a seasoned professional or new to the industry, understanding the most effective ways to generate leads is crucial to your success.

Ranking Factors for the Best Real Estate Leads

When it comes to ranking lead types, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. The effectiveness of a lead generation strategy can vary greatly depending on the individual realtor’s style, market, and target audience.

However, certain factors universally affect the quality and viability of leads. Let’s explore these ranking factors to better understand what makes a lead source effective.

1. Lead Conversion Rate

One of the most critical aspects of evaluating lead generation strategies is the lead conversion rate. This measures how many leads you need to work with to convert one into a transaction. A high lead conversion rate means fewer leads are required to achieve your sales goals, indicating higher lead quality. Real estate agents must focus on optimizing their conversion rates to ensure they’re making the most of their efforts and resources.

2. Lead Cost and Acquisition

The cost to acquire a lead is another essential factor. Some lead generation strategies might produce high-quality leads but at a significant expense. It’s vital to balance the cost of acquisition with the potential return on investment (ROI). Effective strategies should not only generate high-quality leads but do so at a reasonable cost, ensuring that your marketing budget is well spent.

3. Longevity of Leads

Longevity refers to the ability of a lead generation strategy to continue producing leads over time based on past efforts. Some marketing methods offer long-term benefits, generating ongoing leads from a one-time investment. For instance, creating high-quality content for your website can attract potential clients for years. On the other hand, strategies like paid advertising may provide immediate results but require continuous investment to maintain lead flow.

10 Real Estate Lead Strategies Ranked

1. Sphere of Influence and Referrals

Sphere of influence and referrals have long been pillars of effective real estate lead generation. This approach leverages your circle—friends, family, past clients, and acquaintances—to generate new business opportunities.

My hot take is that sphere of influence and referrals are not as powerful as they used to be, and their slight downward trend in effectiveness will continue.

“Interestingly enough, the lead quality for sphere of influence and referrals has dropped because we live in the information age. Increasingly, the value of a sphere of influence or referral lead is really going to depend on the strength of your online information.”

The effectiveness of these leads should continue to be eclipsed as the internet provides better and better tools for connecting prospects with realtors. Increasingly, prospects will vet sphere of influence recommendations by researching your online social proof.


  • High Conversion Rate: Leads generated through referrals and personal connections typically have a high trust factor, leading to higher conversion rates.
  • Low Cost: This strategy generally incurs minimal costs since it primarily relies on existing relationships.


  • Variable Quality: The quality of these leads can fluctuate based on how well you manage your online reputation and personal brand.
  • Limited Reach: This method is inherently limited by the size of your existing network, which can cap the number of new leads you generate.

Sphere of Influence Leads in the Hyper Luxury Market

In hyper-luxury real estate markets, sphere of influence and referrals remain especially effective. High-net-worth individuals often rely on trusted recommendations when choosing a real estate agent, making referrals in this niche particularly valuable.

“Word-of-mouth referrals for the Top 1% of income earners changes to a 10/10 lead. It’s also, oftentimes, the only way that super, super, super, duper luxury agents expand their business.”

2. Cold Calling and Door Knocking

I’ve done more of these over my career than pretty much anyone.

The present and future of real estate lead generation is absolutely digital strategies like SEO content marketing, hyperlocal Google Business Profiles, and YouTube marketing.

My hot take is that traditional lead-generation strategies of cold calling and door knocking can be highly effective under the right circumstances. The quality of these leads typically ranges from 3 to 7, but with optimal execution, they can reach as high as 10.

Cold calling and door knocking have been staple methods for real estate agents for decades. My extensive experience in these areas has shown that while these methods require significant effort, they can yield high-quality leads when done correctly.

Quality of Leads

The quality of leads generated through cold calling and door knocking can vary greatly. If you are personally going out and making these contacts, you can qualify leads on the spot, improving their overall quality.

  • Immediate Feedback: Direct interaction allows for immediate qualification of leads.
  • Control: You have complete control over the lead generation process.
  • Labor-Intensive: Requires significant time and effort to execute effectively.
  • Variable Quality: The quality of leads can range widely based on how well the calls or visits are conducted.

Circle Prospecting

Circle prospecting is a targeted approach to cold calling and door knocking.

It starts by focusing on one of your listings or recent sales, drawing an imaginary circle around it, and then contacting the surrounding homeowners within that circle to see if they or anyone they know is looking to sell or buy.

  • Higher Quality Leads: By providing relevant information about a neighborhood, you can warm up cold leads significantly.
  • Efficient: Utilizes existing listings to generate interest and leads in the surrounding area.
  • Requires Listings: This strategy is dependent on having active listings in desirable areas.

Specific Actionable Tips

To maximize the effectiveness of cold calling and door knocking, consider these specific, actionable tips:

  1. Pre-Qualify Your Leads: Before making a call or knocking on a door, research the area and the potential lead. Use online tools to gather information that can help tailor your approach.
  2. Use a Script but Be Flexible: Have a script ready to guide your conversation, but be prepared to adapt based on the responses you receive. A script helps ensure you cover all essential points, but flexibility allows for a more natural conversation.

Hook Them Early: The first few seconds of your pitch are crucial. Craft an opening statement that grabs attention and engages your potential lead immediately. This initial hook can determine whether the conversation continues or ends abruptly.

“Most door knocking opportunities are won or lost in the first three to five seconds. So, if you have a very, very strong intro, you can create a very, very strong lead.”

Example Opening Script:

“Hi, my name is [Your Name] with [Your Brokerage]. I just sold a home just down the street, and I wanted to let you know about the increasing interest in this neighborhood. Are you curious about what your home might be worth in today’s market?”

This script significantly increases your chances of keeping the potential lead interested and converting the conversation into a valuable opportunity.

What If They Say No?

If they show clear disinterest in anything related to real estate, I would pivot to inviting them to some sort of community event. Similarly, you can offer to send them a newsletter of all the best local events. That’s our #1 engagement strategy for real estate newsletters.

  1. Leverage Circle Prospecting: Focus on neighborhoods where you have active listings. Use these listings as conversation starters to engage potential leads.
  2. Timing is Key: Schedule your calls and visits during times when people are likely to be home. Early evenings and weekends are often the most effective times.

“You got to figure out when people are home, probably have to do it on the weekends.”

  1. Follow Up Diligently: After making initial contact, follow up consistently. Send a thank you note or an email to reinforce your message and keep the conversation going.

3. Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing focuses on attracting potential clients through valuable content and experiences tailored to them.

This includes blogging, video content, social media engagement, and SEO, which help establish your authority and trustworthiness in the real estate market.

“Inbound real estate marketing is by far and away the most efficient, effective, ROI-happy leads.”

Lead Quality

Leads generated through inbound marketing are typically high quality because they are already interested in your content and services. These leads tend to convert at a higher rate due to the trust built through consistent, valuable interactions.

  • High Quality Leads: Leads are well-informed and highly interested.
  • High ROI: Investments in content creation yield long-term benefits.
  • Longevity: Content can continue to attract leads for years.
  • Time-Consuming: Requires significant upfront investment in creating content.
  • Continuous Effort: Needs regular updates and new content to maintain effectiveness.

“Generally speaking, when I get leads for inboundREM through inbound marketing, my close ratio is between 25 and 50%.”

Specific Actionable Tips

To maximize the effectiveness of your inbound marketing strategy, consider these specific, actionable tips:

1. Create High-Value Content

Focus on producing content that addresses the most common questions and concerns of your target audience. This can include blog posts, videos, and social media updates.

2. Leverage SEO

Optimize your content for search engines to increase visibility. Use relevant keywords and phrases that potential clients are searching for.

3. Focus on Google Business Profiles

Ensure your Google Business Profile is complete and optimized. Include up-to-date contact information, hours of operation, photos, and client reviews. Regularly update your profile with new posts and special offers to keep it engaging.

4. Nurture Leads with Email Marketing

Follow up with leads by sending them valuable content through email. This keeps them engaged and builds a stronger relationship over time.

5. Focus on Hyperlocal SEO

Optimize your content for hyperlocal searches by including specific neighborhoods, landmarks, and local events. Create content that highlights local market trends and community information to attract clients looking for properties in particular areas.

4. Lead Generation Systems

Lead generation systems offer automated solutions for capturing and managing leads. These systems typically generate a large volume of leads, but the quality can vary widely. The effectiveness of these systems generally ranges from 3 to 6.

Overview and Examples

Lead generation systems like CINC, BoomTown, and YLOPO provide platforms that automate the lead capture process, making it easier for real estate agents to manage and follow up with potential clients. These systems use various tools and strategies, including pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, IDX websites, and CRM integrations.

“Iif you’re looking for high-quality leads, lead gen systems like these are not the place that you go. Full stop.”

Find out more by reading my reviews of these companies.

Lead Quality vs. Quantity

While these systems can generate a large number of leads, the quality often varies. Many leads may require significant nurturing before they convert, and the effectiveness can depend heavily on the follow-up processes in place.

  • Automation: Streamlines the lead capture and follow-up process.
  • Scalability: Can handle large volumes of leads efficiently.
  • Variable Quality: Lead quality can range widely.
  • Cost: Subscription fees can be high, especially for premium features.

“Their job is to generate you large quantities of low intent leads…it doesn’t make a difference which of these systems you’re talking about. They all require a huge amount of nurturing.”

Specific Actionable Tips

To maximize the effectiveness of lead generation systems, consider these specific, actionable tips:

1. Implement Robust Follow-Up Processes

Since lead generation systems often produce low intent leads, having a strong follow-up process is essential. Use automated email sequences, SMS follow-ups, and regular phone calls to nurture these leads effectively.

“Yes, every once in a while you get a phone call…and they’re just ready to go. It’s like bang, let’s go. Okay, great, fantastic. But most of the time, it’s a combination. It’s email marketing, it’s nurturing when somebody’s registered, it’s adding value over time with systems.”

2. Utilize CRM Integrations

Integrate your lead generation system with a robust CRM to manage and track leads efficiently. This helps ensure no lead falls through the cracks and allows for more personalized follow-up.

“If you’re using pay-per-click in conjunction with inbound marketing strategies, like so many of these other things, the lead quality spikes up.”

3. Focus on Training

Invest time in training your team on how to use the lead generation system effectively. Understanding the platform’s tools and features can significantly improve lead conversion rates.

“YLOPO is one of those circumstances where there’s so much support and so much training on how to get maximum value out of these leads that they’re generating. On the other hand, you’ll need that training to have a chance at working the leads well.”

4. Segment and Prioritize Leads

Use the tools available in your lead generation system to segment and prioritize leads based on their behavior and engagement level. This allows you to focus your efforts on the most promising leads.

“Some of these leads will have notes, and some of them won’t. The ones with notes will be far more qualified than the ones that don’t have notes.”

In my opinion, all of these PPC systems just aren’t that great. However, if you’re going to do PPC, check out:

5. Email Marketing

Email marketing remains a powerful tool for nurturing leads and maintaining client relationships. As a standalone strategy, its effectiveness ranges from 3 to 6, but when combined with other marketing efforts, it can score between 8 to 10.

Standalone Strategy

Email marketing involves sending targeted emails to potential clients to nurture leads, provide valuable information, and keep your audience engaged. This strategy can be cost-effective and allows for direct communication with potential buyers and sellers.

“Email marketing, by itself, as a standalone lead generation strategy is really low. 3 to 6, let’s call it.”

Combined Strategy

When integrated with other marketing efforts such as direct mail, social media, and inbound marketing, email marketing can significantly enhance your lead generation and conversion rates. This multi-touch approach helps to build a stronger relationship with potential clients over time.

“Those multi-touch leads nurtured by email are 8 to 10. They’re so fantastic.”

Lead Quality

The quality of leads generated through email marketing can vary. Standalone emails may struggle to engage recipients, but when part of a broader strategy, they can effectively nurture and convert leads by providing consistent, valuable content.

  • Cost-Effective: Relatively inexpensive compared to other methods.
  • Direct Communication: Provides a direct line to potential clients.
  • High Engagement: Can yield high engagement rates with well-crafted content.
  • Filtering Issues: Many marketing emails end up in spam or updates folders.
  • Dependence on Quality Content: Requires compelling content to be effective.

“People still open their emails, they still read the emails, the only thing is that email itself has gotten better at filtering.”

Specific Actionable Tips

To maximize the effectiveness of your email marketing strategy, consider these specific, actionable tips:

1. Segment Your Email List

Divide your email list into segments based on criteria such as location, stage in the buying process, and past interactions. This allows you to send more personalized and relevant content to each group.

My email guy is so good that I get people, who’ve never heard of me before, clicking on buttons and calling me. His click rates and open rates are 3-4x the industry average. If you want to analyze his strategies, sign up for our newsletter.

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2. Create Compelling Subject Lines

The subject line is the first thing your recipients see. Craft engaging and curiosity-piquing subject lines to increase your open rates.

3. Focus on High-Value Content

Provide valuable information in your emails, such as market updates, home buying tips, and local news. This helps build trust and keeps your audience engaged.

4. Use Automation for Follow-Ups

Implement automated email sequences to follow up with leads consistently. These can include welcome emails, drip campaigns, and reminders, ensuring no lead is left unattended.

Prospects need more and more “touches”, or different instances where your brand or content gets in front of them. Email marketing works best as part of a high-touch strategy.

5. Track and Analyze Performance

Use email marketing tools to track open rates, click-through rates, and conversions. Analyzing this data helps you understand what works and allows you to refine your strategy for better results.

“The closing ratio percentage is going to be something like anywhere from 10 to 30%. So, relatively high close ratio, in my experience.”

Example Email Marketing Strategies

Welcome Series

Create an automated series of welcome emails for new subscribers, introducing them to your services and providing initial value.

Monthly Newsletters

Send out monthly newsletters with market insights, community news, and helpful tips for buyers and sellers.

Event Invitations

Use email to invite your contacts to open houses, community events, and webinars, encouraging engagement and fostering relationships.

6. Social Media Advertising (Paid and Unpaid)

Social media advertising involves using platforms like Facebook and Instagram to reach potential clients through targeted ads. While it has the potential to reach a broad audience, the quality of leads generated through social media can vary significantly.

“Social media lead quality is one of the worst that exists.”

Lead Quality

Leads generated from social media platforms tend to be low quality when used as a standalone strategy. Users on these platforms are often browsing casually and usua