There is one thing that almost every successful real estate agent has done to develop their business in a specific area or market demographic. They “farm” the area for business. Real estate farming simply means growing something. You plant the seeds of future business, carefully nurture them with good manure and marketing, and then hopefully reap the rewards in bountiful harvests and commissions. Farming can involve direct mail, door knocking, postcards, newsletters, email, or any other form of advertising.
The key to farming an area is to do it with regularity and keep on your message. Reports have it that nearly 88 percent of all home sellers and buyers work with a real estate agent at some point during the buying and selling process. Although it is not a question of whether people need or want your services – the above report already confirms that. It is a matter of branding your name efficiently in front of the people who want your help, and the most cost-effective way to do that is through neighborhood real estate farming. When you effectively own a neighborhood, people will see you as a trusted authority, and naturally leverage your expertise when they are ready to buy or sell a home. You are not likely the only real estate agent who wants a piece of that neighborhood, so you need to make sure you stand out from the others. Farming will get you noticed, so you can own the neighborhood or community of your choosing.
It is very noteworthy to clarify that farming a neighborhood is totally different from choosing a niche. In reality, specializing in a niche involves working with a particular type of clientele such as first-time homebuyers, seniors or some other clearly defined demographic. Having a niche that you specialize in can also involve certain kinds of properties such as urban condos or rural estates with acreage. For agents working in competitive markets, specializing in both a particular neighborhood and niche can also serve as an advantage in the industry. However, in smaller markets, it is important to make sure that you are not limiting yourself to too small a number of potential clients.
In some areas, agents can earn a healthy income from becoming the leading specialist for just a single residential building. Farming a community is powerful, but it is difficult, time-consuming and requires commitment and patience. It requires planning and yes, an investment of marketing resources, namely money. Meanwhile, you don’t have to break the bank to develop a successful farming plan. You also don’t just jump in and start spending money mailing out postcards or refrigerator magnets. You need to develop a marketing plan for your farming.
Table of Content
- 4 Mandatory Researches to Successfully Farm a Neighborhood for Real Estate
- 10 Tips to Build Authority in Your Real Estate Farm Neighborhood
4 Mandatory Researches to Successfully Farm a Neighborhood for Real Estate
To successfully farm a neighborhood for real estate, there are four different aspects of research you need to do in order to equip yourself properly to connect with the residents of that area. Although it might seem daunting, this knowledge will be a crucial part of engaging your audience, so set aside some time and get it done.
You have to find out if there are geographic elements of your farm area that are going to affect its salability either as a whole or in part. For example, are there homes in your neighborhood with private frontage on a body of water? Or maybe a community beach access for the whole neighborhood? Can it be a major highway nearby that you can hear from the backyard of particular homes? Is there a new grocery store on a block that everyone is talking about? Taking your time to adequately analyze and understand the geographic features in the farm area is surely going to be able to help you speak with authority about the area when buying and selling conversations occur, but this research is also important in that it helps you speak with authority with the residents of the area.
Consider making a list of all the geographic features that will affect the sale of property either positively or negatively (you can get a map and note them right on it), and learn all you can about these items. These are things that the residents of your farm live with every day, if you want to be the neighborhood real estate agent; you have got to know about them too.
After understanding the landscape of the neighborhood, it is time to know about the properties themselves. In a high density area with a lot of vertical construction, this is an easier task since units in a multi-unit building tend to have more similarities than an area with single-family homes. But, even a neighborhood with all single-family residences can be parsed out easily if you know what to look for. Below are some data to look at when doing this property research;
- Home Dimensions and Features: Homes are always different, but establishing a median representation of what the homes in your neighborhood typically possess in terms of square footage, bedrooms, bathrooms and other important features will help you identify a little more about the people living there, their lifestyle, and the things that are important to them.
- Typical Home Style: If the neighborhood was founded as primarily residential, it is not uncommon to have most of the homes in it to be of a common age and style.
- Median Sale Price: Anecdotal information about the price of a single home in the neighborhood is great, but imagine the authority you carry when you have a handle on the trend of the entire neighborhood’s pricing history. The more you get to know the individual prices of homes in the neighborhood, the better you will get at predicting the price of future sales.
- Median Lot Size: when working with single-family homes, knowing the amount of acreage included in a home sale is very helpful. Most especially in a single neighborhood, the price of land is going to be pretty consistent throughout (unless you have access to one of those aforementioned desirable neighborhood features that your neighbors can’t get to), so getting a good handle on how much ground people have underneath them (and what the median cost per acre is) is a good start.
When you must have carefully analyzed the neighborhood and the homes in it, it is now time to focus on the market behavior of the neighborhood. You can’t very well call yourself a real estate expert for a particular neighborhood if you don’t know what is selling, how often, and for how much, but that is not where your investigation stops. Inventory can be a tricky metric to try and quantify, which is why if you are going to talk about and try to predict the future demand of homes in a particular area, as well as how you think the neighborhood will respond to that demand, you need to know about absorption rate and turnover rate. Just as the absorption rate helps you to understand the external market forces working on your farm area, the turnover rate helps you understand the internal forces. Using your turnover and absorption rate calculations, you can begin to estimate your potential income from a neighborhood farm.
It is now time to understand better the people who live in the neighborhood you want to farm. Below are few examples of the demographic data you should be researching:
- Average age of the person living in your farm area
- Family status
- How do they prefer to communicate?
- How do they hear news and information?
- Do they use social media?
(Also note that this sort of demographic data is for the purposes of understanding the makeup of your existing farm area, not for the purposes of populating it). Though the market is going to tell the tale when it comes to the number of homes that will move in a particular neighborhood every year, understanding your audience will better allow you to craft a message that will resonate with them, and allow you to capture more of those sales as your own.
10 Tips to Build Authority in Your Real Estate Farm Neighborhood
Your goal after choosing a good neighborhood is to establish yourself as an astute professional in the entire community. Some of the most proven ways to build reputation in a farm area are direct mail campaigns, door knocking, advertising, networking, and online marketing. Below are 10 ways to start building your presence in your farm neighborhood;
Assess the Competition
In this digital age, most marketing campaigns have an online presence. You can leverage this to identify who is already farming the area, and what kind of approach they are using. Start with a quick Google search, just type in the neighborhood name along with phrases like “real estate agent” or “realtor.” If you are tech savvy, you can also use online tools like Google Alerts or Hubspot’s Marketing Grader to find out which sites your competitors are using, and also how they are interacting with the community. Don’t forget that if someone already has the neighborhood well-saturated, it will take more time, effort, and money to break into the market. If there is little to no competition, then proceed. If not, dedicate your resources to an area where you can have a greater impact.
Every Marketing Message Must Provide Value and Have A Call To Action
First and foremost, every message you send must provide some sort of value to the people who are reading it. It doesn’t have to be the same value each time (in fact, it should be varied), but your receiver should walk away from your message better informed for reading it. The WIIFM (What’s In It for me?) factor needs to be considered with every message you send. Almost as important as value is a call to action. Every message you send to your farm recipients must contain a directive, some push down the funnel, even if that push is incredibly small and discrete. For instance, not every message has to end with “Call today to list your home with me.” Something more subtle like, “Sign up to receive a regular market report about your neighborhood” is also a significant funnel mover.
Target the Neighborhood on Your Website
The easiest place to begin neighborhood marketing is on your own website. Start by identifying which keywords you should be using. Google’s Keyword Tool is an easy and free way to identify what keywords or phrases to target. If you are not familiar enough with search engine optimization to tackle this, it is worthwhile to bring in a professional to help you get set up. Many SEO experts will gladly consult at an hourly rate, versus signing up for a package. Consider creating a dedicated landing page for the community on your site. Some basic info about the neighborhood can remain static, and should be optimized. You can also have the MLS listings pulled in, and can add community RSS feeds to keep the content looking fresh. Be sure to update the static content as often as it needs it, and review it for accuracy at least monthly.
This is not just a sales philosophy but words/concepts that are true in the building of any relationship. People do business with other people whom they know, like and trust. No debate if there is the option of choice. Note that with thousands of agents to choose from when buying or selling a home, clients have to know, like and trust you. It takes time for the homeowners in your farm to get to know and recognize you. They are not going to know, like and trust you based on a couple of postcards or other half-hearted marketing attempts.
Some experts believe it takes 12-14 touches for customers to remember you. Although the numbers seem to be significantly higher, out of sight is definitely out of mind. There is so much noise in the world that it is more and more difficult for your marketing message to be heard. The message gets lost in the chaos of everyone vying for your customer’s attention. Here you must create likeability in your marketing that additionally build a sense of trust, familiarity and competence with your audience.
- Become Active in Online Communities
If you used any of the online monitoring tools, you have likely already identified several websites on which the neighborhood’s residents congregate. Consider creating accounts on these sites if you can, but don’t use them to sell your services. Again, your goal should be to provide useful or relevant information to the community. This way, they start to see you as a friendly neighborhood expert, whom they can turn to when they need help. It is also worth noting that all of your profiles should have the same profile image, for the sake of brand recognition. Keep your accounts looking as similar as possible, in content, cover photos, and other media. Some of the most useful places to have accounts include:
- Neighborhood Link, NextDoor, and other community sites
- Build your Brand
Every single touch must be professionally crafted and directly reflect you – your brand. Your marketing materials are a direct reflection on you. Bluntly put, half-assed, unprofessional content will kill your efforts quicker than anything else. Professional photography, videography, edited grammar and spelling and other quality materials are not optional – they are required in abundance. Excellence is the language everyone understands. Never settle for less than perfect. Every touch is not simply a marketing message or brand building opportunity – it is an audition. It is a sample from your professional portfolio. It speaks for you so make sure it is giving you a good recommendation every time. We all know the agents in our area who don’t get this concept. You have seen their cringe-worthy marketing, their vomit inducing listing photos and property descriptions. They don’t answer or return calls, emails or texts even when you have an offer in hand. Their “professional photo” was from the last decade and everything they put out there demeans the real estate profession as a whole. They don’t care and their potential customers won’t either. Establish your brand above the mediocrity that perpetuates this industry.
- Use Flyers and Real Estate Farming Postcards to Reach People Directly
Note that an effective strategy will involve going door to door. It is better if you do it personally, so you can introduce yourself. Don’t forget to bring a flyer, brochure, magnet, business card, or some kind of physical material to give to the people you meet. Postcards are also an essential part of real estate farming tools, as they enable you to reach a targeted audience quickly. Bear in mind that the more often you reach out to people, the greater your brand recognition will be, and it may take several rounds of mailings before people recognize your literature and begin to think of you as the go-to neighborhood real estate agent. Be sure to get printed literature into the hands of the community:
- To introduce yourself initially
- When you receive a new listing
- When you host an open house in the neighborhood
- When you sell a house in the neighborhood
- Statistics Always Work
No matter what you find for common ground, the one thing everybody always wants to know is their home’s potential value in the current market. Even if they are not thinking of selling, they like to keep up with what their home is probably worth in the current market climate. Go to your multiple listing services (MLS) and check out the type of reports you can output. There should be sold property reports by timeframe. If you are going to do a mailer, postcard, letter, or email newsletter, you can position yourself as the local expert with statistics.
- Leverage Cross-Channel Marketing
No matter which venue you are using to market, always mention at least one other place people can find you. Links to social media profiles are expected, but you can also mention neighborhood-specific sites, like the HOA or a site like Neighborhood Link. Posting video tours of the neighborhood or its events to YouTube is easy marketing. When you share that video on Facebook or Twitter, it is bound to get shared. To lead more visitors to a video or website, you can inform them through direct mail postcards as well. Moreover, people will want to connect with you in the easiest method for them, so although one person might not want to follow you on Twitter, he might be active on your Facebook page. You can link to various sites through your main website or display the various sites on your flyers and postcards.
- Giveaways and Contests
Have it in mind that one of the fastest ways to build an audience is to conduct a contest or giveaway. There are plenty of platforms for this, and you can hold contests using just one marketing channel (such as Facebook), or across several at the same time. The greater the prize is, the more entries you will have, so go big whenever you can. It is beneficial networking with local business owners as well. Some of them may be willing to give you freebies to give away as part of their own marketing strategy, while others may be happy to accept your business cards to leave out for their customers. You can also gain from greeting new businesses and residents to the neighborhood with a welcome basket. Although reports have it that almost three-quarters of buyers planned to use the same agent again, only about one-in-four actually does. Establishing yourself as the neighborhood authority with newcomers helps secure referrals, as they are likely to tell others if they are happy with the neighborhood and they feel like they know you.
Neighborhood farming is time – intensive, and requires strategy but there are tools to help, and when you own a neighborhood, the results are unmatched. Each person who sees you as the neighborhood real estate agent will have you in mind when they are ready to buy or sell, and they will send friends and family your way. The more often you deliver something useful, and not sales-related, to a neighborhood, the greater you cement yourself in the minds of your past and future clients. As you evaluate your own potential farm area, consider the type of property you want to sell, who you want to sell it to, and the competition you may have to face. Once you have chosen your farm area, create authority and build a solid reputation by engaging regularly with the community.
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