As a real estate professional, you understand the importance of generating new business. Clients stick with you until they’ve sold their property or found their perfect home, and then you need to replace them with someone else. But when you’re already busy providing great service to the clients you have, it’s hard to find time to source new clients.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a pipeline that brings new home buyers and sellers to your door?

That’s where real estate referrals come in. Real estate referral programs use the strong reputation and positive client relationships you’ve built to bring in more business. 

Did you know that 41% of sellers choose their real estate agent based on a personal recommendation? People trust the opinions of friends and family, often more than they trust advertising. 

This article will explain everything you need to know about real estate referrals, including how to get more of them automatically using emails. But first, let’s cover the basics. 

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What are real estate referrals?

Real estate referrals are recommendations that someone makes because they think you do great work. They may come from colleagues or contacts in related professions, but they’re most powerful when they come from past clients.

When a client refers you, it means they trust you enough to let you serve their friends. You can’t buy that kind of clout.

How to ask for a real estate referral

As any experienced real estate professional will tell you, timing and style are the keys to persuasion. They’re why you wait until just the right moment to show the en suite bathroom with hot tub, and why you describe a house differently to a family with small children versus a couple of empty nesters.

The same goes for referrals. Whether you’re asking in person or by email, it’s important to bring up the subject at the right time and to use the right words.

When to ask

The best time to ask for a referral is when the client is happy, relaxed, and enjoying their work with you. These moments could come up frequently with current clients, so be ready. 

The most obvious moments are the big ones, like when a buyer’s offer gets accepted or the seller’s “sold” sign goes up. Be ready for these moments but don’t neglect the smaller ones, like those days when clients finally see the home they want.

These will be your golden moments with current clients, but don’t forget — your past clients are great sources for referrals too. For example, when it’s been a year or two years since they moved in, get in touch and ask how things are going. 

Then, remind them that you’d be happy to help their friends find the perfect property.

How to ask

Whether you ask in person or by email, the words you use matter. Here’s how to put your current or former client in a “yes” state of mind.

Reinforce your value

People refer professionals who do high-quality work. When you ask for a referral, subtly remind the client that they’ve been happy working with you. For current clients, this might sound like:

  • ‌I’m glad I’ve been able to help you.
  • ‌I love hearing that I’ve found someone’s dream home.

‌For past clients, you might say:

  • ‌Thank you again for choosing me as your agent. I’m glad I was able to find you a great home.
  • ‌We were proud to help you sell your home.

Appeal to their kindness

Most people appreciate the chance to help someone, especially if that other person did something for them — like finding them the perfect home. Don’t be shy about explicitly asking them to do you the favor of referring you to their friends. For example:

  • ‌If you know anyone who needs real estate help, I’d love an introduction.
  • Let me know if you know anyone who’s looking for a home. I’d really appreciate the connection.

‌This kind of phrasing is great as a follow-up to reinforcing your value. It emphasizes the “I helped you; you help me” message.

Be confident and positive

Avoid phrasing like “if it’s not too much trouble” or “if you don’t mind.”  These kinds of phrases make a client think that a referral is a much bigger ask. Instead, use phrases like:

  • ‌It would be great if you could pass my name along.
  • ‌If you know anyone who needs real estate advice, please send them my way.

You can adjust any of these examples to suit the setting and your style. 

Generating real estate referrals automatically with email

Timing can be one of referral marketing’s biggest challenges. You might sell the perfect home to an ecstatic client, but what if they don’t know anyone who’s moving at the same time they are? 

It’s important to stay top of mind with those clients. Eventually, someone in their circle will need real estate services, and you want them to think of you in those moments. Even if it’s five years down the road, you want them to offer your name and services enthusiastically.

Do you have an agent yet? You should give X a call. They really know the area and they got us a great selling price in a tough market.

To be this present in people’s awareness, you need to reach out once in a while. But how do you do that organically, so it doesn’t feel to the client like you’re using them to get more business? 

The power of the anniversary

An anniversary is a wonderful thing. It gives you a yearly reason to reach out and show someone that you care. It celebrates a milestone that matters to the person, and that’s why it’s such a great touchpoint for a real estate professional.

Think about someone who always gets in touch on your birthday or wedding anniversary. Even if you rarely hear from them at any other time, the call is welcome. It shows you that even though they’re busy, they care and remember what’s important to you.

It’s the same with a home-buying anniversary. It’s a nice touch when a real estate agent contacts you years later and wishes you a happy five years as a homeowner. Once that connection is re-established, it’s a natural next step to ask for a referral gently. 

The magic of automation

Homebuying anniversary emails feel good all around, but how do you make sure those emails happen? As your business grows, you have more satisfied clients every month. It would be tough to add everyone’s anniversary to your calendar, let alone find the time to reach out.

That’s where automated anniversary emails come in. With automation, you don’t have to do the legwork of scheduling and writing an email every time someone has an anniversary. You just have to set up a template and each anniversary email will go out to the right person at the right time.

How to set up an automated real estate referral email

Anniversary emails are quick and simple to set up, even if you’ve never worked with automation before. 

Create the email ASAP

Don’t wait until the client’s first anniversary in their home to create the automation. 

Instead, set up your automated anniversary email as soon as the client closes on their home. The client is fresher in your mind at that point than they’ll ever be, certainly more so than they’ll be in a year. 

Set a start date

In any automation builder, there will be a field that lets you specify a day of the year for each message to go out. Choose the final closing date or the client’s move-in date if you know it.

Include client details

The more details you use about a client, the more personalized your anniversary email will feel. Try adding their name and possibly even their city: We hope you continue to love Nashville!

As long as you have the relevant details as part of the client’s contact data, you can change this field every time you create a new automation.

With Constant Contact, this is as easy as clicking on the Insert drop-down in the text editor and selecting Contact Details:

Here’s what entering contact details looks like, within Constant Contact.

What to include in your automated email

If you want to ask someone for business, you need to lead up to it. That’s a standard best practice in marketing, and it applies to real estate referrals as much as anything.

Even if they get your newsletter regularly, you should treat the anniversary email like it’s the first time they’re hearing from you since the last anniversary. Yes, you’ll use the message to ask for a referral, but that request shouldn’t come across as its primary purpose. 

If you’re not convinced, think about that one person you know who only emails to ask for a favor: Hey Tim, hope you’re doing well. Would you mind…?

Stay focused on adding value for the client, then gently drop in the request for referrals at the end.

A great subject line to start

People spend an average of 11 hours a week just going through their work emails. For your anniversary message to make it through triage and get read, it needs a catchy headline.

Effective headlines are teasers. They stand out from the pack and compel readers to choose yours. They also usually hint at something important behind the click.

These kinds of headlines are easier to create than you might think. Just follow these best practices:‌

  • Keep it short. About 60% of Constant Contact recipients open emails on mobile, and you want them to see your entire message. Try to stay under 40 characters, which is about five to seven words.
  • Mention the anniversary. Either people won’t remember that it’s their home-buying anniversary, or they will remember and be thrilled that you do too. By mentioning it in your headline, you’ll have them wondering what other nice things you’re going to say about their milestone.
  • Celebrate, but keep it professional. Exclamation points and emojis are both fine, as long as you use them in moderation. A single exclamation point and a party popper emoji are just right for your anniversary email. 

Following these guidelines, you’ll be able to  create warm, enticing subject lines like:

  • ‌Happy first-time homebuyer anniversary, {Name}!
  • ‌On this date, you became a homeowner!
  • ‌It’s your home selling anniversary, {Name}!

‌Think of these headlines as the front page of a birthday card. Wouldn’t you open that card to find out what’s inside?

A celebratory message

Open the email with your happy-anniversary message. Ensure the wording you use is consistent with your brand, not more casual or formal than your clients would expect from you. 

If you’re stuck, think about how your company would talk and interact as a person. (If you’re a solo real estate professional, think about the type of language you use to write to clients.) In particular, are you more formal or casual?

This popular branding technique can help you to come up with engaging opening lines like:

  • ‌It’s with great pleasure that we wish you a happy anniversary.
  • ‌Happy anniversary, first-time homeowner!
  • ‌We wish you a happy home-buying anniversary … and a stellar new home-owning year!
  • ‌We’re thrilled to wish you a happy anniversary in your new home.

Another thank-you

You’re still grateful to the client for choosing you as their agent, so make sure you tell them so. Once you’ve put the focus squarely on the client, you can add a bit of how proud you are to have played a role:

  • ‌We were thrilled to be by your side at closing.
  • ‌You trusted us to help sell your home, and we’re still so proud of that.
  • ‌We’re honored that you chose us as your partner in home buying, and we’re proud to help you celebrate this milestone.‌

Wishes for the future

Including a “many happy returns” line in your anniversary email adds a nice touch and gets your recipient thinking about the future. Both are important when one of your goals is to encourage real estate referrals. These lines are easy to write and sound truly thoughtful: 

  • We hope you enjoy many more happy years in your home.
  • ‌We hope you continue to thrive in {city}.
  • ‌We wish you many more years of beautiful memories in your new home.‌

This messaging works well for both buyers and sellers. After all, most people move somewhere after they sell their current home. You can always cut the line if it doesn’t make sense — for example, if a client used you to sell a vacation property and didn’t move anywhere.

An invitation to reach out

As you wind down your email, remind them that you’re still around and available to help. This brings you to the top of their mind if they’re thinking about a new property while also reminding them that you care.

For best results, don’t just tell them that you’re available for their next purchase or sale. Include language about answering any questions they might have. For example:

  • ‌We’re still here if you have questions about your property or interest in someplace new.
  • ‌If you have questions about your property or the real estate market in general, please don’t hesitate to reach out!
  • ‌We’re always happy to hear from our clients! Always feel free to reach out if you have any questions or interest in a new property.

The request for referral

The “feel free to reach out” line is a great lead-in to asking for a referral:

  • ‌And if you know anyone else who’s looking to buy or sell, send them our way!
  • ‌We hope you’ll keep us in mind if someone you know needs real estate advice.
  • ‌We love working with great clients like you, so we hope you’ll introduce us to any of your friends who might be looking to buy or sell. ‌

If you want to keep things even shorter, you can weave the two lines together:

  • ‌If you have questions about your property, are looking to buy or sell, or know someone who needs real estate services, don’t hesitate to reach out!

Use a template

You don’t have to build your anniversary email from scratch. Constant Contact has convenient pre-built real estate email templates, including an anniversary template. 

All you have to do is drop in your company information and a few client details if you choose:

Adding the client’s name is a great way to customize your email.

It’s easy to change the colors, images, and links to match your branding. That way, people will recognize you, even if it’s been a whole year!

Getting started

By this point, you have a thorough grounding in the benefits of a realtor referral program. You’ve learned how to use an automated anniversary email to generate referrals and collected ideas for effective wording.

These tips will help you to stay top of mind with your happy clients. Remember, the best way to earn real estate referrals is to provide an outstanding experience for each person you serve. The happier they are, the more excited they’ll be to pass your name along.

Who was the last person you thrilled? Set up your first automated real estate anniversary email for them today. Then set up another, and before you know it, you’ll have a whole pipeline of referrals in the works.