With more than 1.6 million licensed real estate agents in the United States, competition to win the listing or bring in the buyer is fierce. And the booming housing market is only making the landscape more competitive.
According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), between 2020 and 2021, more than 156,000 new REALTORS® joined the profession—nearly 60% more than in the previous two years. As independent contractors, real estate agents can’t just sit around waiting for buyers and listings. If an agent doesn’t sell the home or submit the winning bid, they won’t make any money, so it’s incumbent on them to connect with prospective buyers and sellers, provide value and stay top of mind throughout the sales cycle and beyond.
I’m one of the 156,000 REALTORS® who joined the industry at the height of the pandemic, earning my license in November 2020. Though I’m relatively new to the industry, I have a long history as an entrepreneur and business owner—first as a private investigator and then as the owner of a multi-location dry cleaning business in Michigan. Whether selling dry cleaning services or putting people into new homes, I’ve always focused on helping others, which has allowed me to build a loyal customer base in every business (I’ve even helped put some of my former dry-cleaning customers into new homes).
While it’s not always easy to ensure you can foster relationships with customers, past and present, there are ways to continuously stay top of mind for those about to embark on their home-buying journey. Here are several ways that real estate agents—and other professionals—can build long-lasting relationships to stand out and grow their businesses:
Educate and Add Value
Buying or selling a home is always a big decision. For first-time homebuyers, the process can feel frustrating, especially in the current market, where low inventory is leading to a highly competitive bidding process.
It’s my job to provide as much information as possible so that when buyers or sellers are ready to move to the next phase, they’ll have all the information they need and will be more likely to reach out for help. I start by actively sharing market-specific news on my social media channels.
Once I begin working directly with a client, I walk them through the process and expected timeframe. If a buyer is interested in a home, I encourage them to place a bid, so they can better understand how the process works. The current market is highly competitive and, though it can be frustrating, it’s important for buyers to stay in the game.
Have a Trusted Team
As a real estate agent, I am like the quarterback of my client’s team, and it’s my job to help coordinate the various members—lender, home inspector, title company, etc.
When working with a client, I always suggest that they speak to several lenders. This is similar to the process many of us have when buying something new – we are always trying to find the best price and something that feels comfortable. Buying a home is just as big of a decision. Purchasing a home is typically the biggest transaction a person will make in their lifetime, and it’s important that they get a sense of the various options so they can feel comfortable with their decision. The same is true for their choice in real estate agents. While I’d love for every client to want to work with me, they should interview several agents and choose the person best suited to their situation and needs. I always caution buyers from using the agent on a Zillow listing, as that person represents the seller, and buyers should have a separate professional to represent their fiduciary interests.
Use Technology to Stand Out
Real estate is a people business. If you want to be successful, you need to go out of your way to connect with people and stay top of mind. I have found that technology can help with that.
One of my colleagues turned me onto CardSnacks, a platform that makes it easy to send ecards and gift cards. I’ve been a paid user for a while now, sending out cards to my sphere of influence for birthdays, anniversaries and holidays and as a thank you to buyers and sellers after a meeting or listing appointment. I’ve found it provides a memorable touchpoint. I also use them as a networking tool. Recently, I went to a real estate convention where agents were passing out cards to connect on out-of-state referrals. Instead of handing out a business card—which no one looks at anyway—I sent customized cards to all the agents. It’s a great way for people to remember “that guy from Michigan.”
In addition to ecards, I use other technology to stay productive. For example, when I’m taking a call in the car, I use AI to record it and save as notes in my CRM, which helps me stay organized and on top of potential follow-ups or work I need to do for a client.
Though technology is a great tool for standing out, real estate agents and other professionals must also remember the basics. When you’re in a business that serves people, it means putting people first and doing what’s right. I’ve had clients come to me after a previous agent refused to submit an offer because the bid was too low, and they didn’t want to take time in the evening to put the offer together.
If you’re in the business of selling houses, your job is to get people into a home, not look at the price point. I once sold a house, sight unseen, to an out-of-state buyer in Lansing, MI, which is a three-hour round trip drive from my home. I showed him the house via Zoom and then submitted the offer. After closing, my client drove to my office to pick up the keys, and when he got to the house, he called to say it is exactly how I explained it and perfect for his family. For me, that was the best part of the entire experience—not that I earned a commission but knowing that I found a family the right home.
The best real estate agents know that success is not transactional; it’s about helping people. If you come from a genuine place, you can easily learn the rest along the way.