You know you’ve got just five income-producing months left to reach your income goals for 2023. But in many markets, it’s gotten a lot harder to get leads—let alone turn those leads into clients. 

What’s a real estate agent got to do to get a steady stream of leads coming in?

Let’s start with a question: How many ways do you know to get leads without paying for them up front? If you’re drawing a blank or wondering, “What’s the catch?” you’re in the right place. 

In last week’s Knowledge Brokers Podcast, Byron Lazine and Tom Toole broke down the top five income-producing activities for agents. And number four happened to be “Get leads you don’t have to pay for up front.” 

That got us thinking, “Why not create a list of the best ways to get leads pouring in without an upfront investment—and without paying a cent for leads that don’t pan out?”

We know of four main lead sources that fit that description. 

Referral networks

Online referral portals are a great option for agents who don’t want to pay out of pocket for leads that may or may not be worth cultivating. Referral networks like Zillow Flex and provide high quality leads because they don’t get paid unless those leads result in a closed sale. 

Sign up for every single one of them, if you can. Keep in mind some are highly selective when it comes to the agents they will work with. Some only work with brokerages—or with agents with a proven track record. Contact as many as you can find to see what your options are. 

Here are some of the best-known online referral networks:

Lead Generation Sites (Pay at Closing)

With lead generation sites, you pay a referral fee once the deal is closed. Each of the following lead sources have different requirements, but agents can sign up for as many as they qualify for

Team leads

If you’re still a fairly new agent and you have very little to show for the time you’ve spent in the business, online referral networks may not be an option for you.

Consider joining a team or brokerage that provides leads for its agents. When interviewing team leaders, be sure to ask what types of leads they receive, and how agents pay for those leads. 

Then, leverage that benefit and go above and beyond for those leads—doing everything you can to keep the deal alive—and those same networks will eventually recognize you as a safe bet for hot leads. 

Once they’ll know they’ll get paid if you’re the one cultivating those leads, they’ll want to keep sending them to you. 

Sweat equity leads

If you want to drum up some leads without paying a cent for them—up front or ever—you’ll need to invest a hefty amount of sweat equity to get those leads yourself, using as many of the following tactics as you can manage. 

  • Door knocking—If you don’t know where to begin with this, check out the BAM ebook, Door Knocking 101: Strategies, Scripts, & Objection Handling by James Harris and David Parnes, with added strategies by Byron Lazine. 
  • Cold calling—For many, this sounds terrifying at first. But once you know a basic script (like the Phil Jones O.F.Q. formula) and get started calling up FSBOs, expired listings, or other possible leads, it gets easier. 
  • Social media—If you’re on social media (and you should be), be the agent sharing high-value, engaging content on the housing market—local and national—to educate your audience and attract those (link to “4 types of videos to generate leads” once live) looking for help with buying or selling a home. Spend time every day answering DMs, commenting on other posts, and engaging with your audience.
  • Videos and vlogs—If you’re not already creating video content for your audience, now’s the time to get on that. Even pros have first videos they now cringe over. Get started now and remain consistent for optimal results.
  • NetworkingAttending real estate conferences throughout the year is a great way to network and build relationships with other professionals in the industry. Make it your goal to have as many conversations as possible. 

Better yet, do all of the above

Forget about the size of the commission check. Be thinking about ‘How do I get 100, 200, 500…1,000 past clients into my database, so that I’m pulling 20% out a year from that database?’ If your database isn’t as big as those numbers I just talked about—triple figures and beyond—you’ve got to get there anyway you can….The easiest way to do that is to get leads that you don’t pay up front for.

Byron Lazine

By giving up some of your commission, you can increase the flow of opportunities and build a database full of clients with a lifetime value of five, 10, 20 referrals for you down the road. 

Sounds better than spinning your wheels and getting few to no leads while the months fly by. 

And they will.