How to Respond to Online Real Estate Leads

Mar 20, 2022

Online real estate leads are hard. They have one of the highest degrees of difficulty for most real estate agents to convert to clients. Constant discussions, seminars, blogs, etc… in the industry about how to convert online leads.

What if I add in more calls? Double dial? Call the leads faster and faster? Tactic after tactic. Tactics are useless if they aren’t part of a winning strategy.

The truth is there’s no silver bullet for online real estate leads. Most are looking at the problem from the wrong angle. Many focus on getting as many leads as possible then hammering the phones to find a couple who are ready to go now. This can work but it’s pretty close to building a business cold calling. It works to build a business but it’s a grind that wears most down and has high turnover.

This approach leads to thousands and thousands of agents saying “online leads are %*$#.”

Ask any vendor in the industry that helps agents generate or convert leads and we hear it all the time. Said the exact same way. If you’re used to referrals or sign calls, traditional online real estate leads are %*$$.

The exception to the rule is if you’re doing inbound marketing and driving people to reach out to you. Like farming a neighbourhood, inbound marketing takes time. Once it’s up and running, the leads coming in are high quality.

Here’s the thing…most are looking at online real estate leads from the wrong perspective. Most are skipping one of the most crucial steps of the lead conversion process. Nurturing.

Online “leads” aren’t prospects yet, they’re leads on potential prospects. They are further upstream than most. Prospects are people planning a move soon that may hire you. Leads are people who may be more likely to be a prospect than the average person you run into on the street.

Online leads can be anywhere from 12-18 months away from moving. Dean Jackson did a study with one of his clients of every lead he helped an agent generate and after 5 years. 50% of all the leads generated over that time had moved. They didn’t all use his client, but within 5 years, half of everyone who had reached out in any way moved.

Does that change the perspective a bit about “%*$# leads”?

You should be thinking about it from this perspective: I want to find out which of my leads are looking to move soon. Everyone else is simply moving later.

When you simplify the lead conversion process, you’re breaking it down to two distinct phases. Those who are moving soon, and those who are moving later.

Phase 1 of Online Real Estate Leads: Soon


This phase is where 95% of lead conversion energy focuses on yet, at most, it’s 10-15% of the leads coming in. Your job isn’t to try and turn every lead into someone moving now. It’s to identify which of the leads are ready to go soon and then push the rest into your long term follow up.

The key here is to get to know them as much as possible. We all know the easiest way to generate leads online is to leverage listings. It’s what people want and has the lowest cost per lead by far.

When you generate the leads, don’t push right away to get them into a contract. Your first push is to get them engaged in a conversation and discover everything you can about them. Learn their unique situation.

When a lead first comes in, according to Phil M Jones recommends this simple framework:

Opening – A polite intro sharing your name and agency

Fact – A mutually agreeable fact

Question – An easy to answer question

In practice, that might look something like this:

“Hi, it’s Andrew from JSH Realty. Recently you were browsing online and showed some interest in one of our homes for sale in XYZ neighbourhood. Are you still looking or have you now found somewhere?”

All you’re looking for here is for them to respond. Once they respond the goal is NOT to push to get more answers about that specific property. It’s also not about any specific property at this point.

Your goal now is to find out why they’re moving, what the motivation is. Learn about their situation and where they are in the process. Once you know that you can truly be helpful to them. Instead of potentially offering other listings that may not actually be a good fit for them.

Lead with curiosity and get to know them as people first.

Some questions you could ask instead of asking about the specific property:

  • How long have you been looking?
  • What is prompting the move?
  • Have you seen many homes in person?
  • What needs to happen with your existing home when you move?
  • When are you looking to move by?

Once you know about their specific situation, you can jump into a soft close.

“So it seems like the best next step would be to….” or “Based on what you are saying – it sounds like we should….” then go for what is the best next step for them.

Our team here at Just Sell Homes brought in Phil Jones to help train our clients on Lead Conversion.  He did a couple of hands-on workshops. From that we created a PDF outlining an 8-Step Framework. This focuses on the 8 steps to creating conversations with online real estate leads. It’s definitely worth your time to download and read through!

What about all the leads that aren’t ready to move soon?

Phase 2 of Online Real Estate Leads: Later


This is where most Realtors don’t have a good system in place. Systems here, if any, are usually the odd follow up email or text. Could be a canned email once a month or a calendar reminder to call them in 8 months. A lot of the time, Realtors do nothing.

Our recommendation is to educate and entertain them every week. A well-done weekly newsletter can have a massive impact on your business.

Not the canned content about how to winterize your home or other generic advice. That doesn’t keep people coming back. You want them excited to open your email every week.

The easiest content is real estate focused. People are always interested in what’s going on in the real estate market. So tell them. Don’t share the stats your local board sends out, interpret it for them. Answer the “What does that mean for me?” question. Put in sold prices for properties that are notable Help people keep a tab on the market.

Another real estate angle that works is a “Deal of the Week”. Nobody wants to miss out on a great deal. Each week you send a “Here’s the best deal we found on the market this week.”

When I sold real estate, I remember asking someone if they wanted daily emails of properties. The standard automated ones that come from the board. They said yes then showed me their phone. They were already getting them from 4 other agents.

A lightbulb went off that we need to stand out above that. I started writing them emails with my honest thoughts on properties that were a fit. They started working with me instead of the other 4 who had been emailing them for months.

The other way is to curate content that’s local about their community. For example, we send our weekly newsletter to real estate agents like you. We curate information useful to agents because that’s our community. What’s going on in market, whats new in social media, good marketing from other agents. If we think it can make someone a better agent, we share it. Our pitch is simple; make you the smartest agent in the room in 10 minutes once a week.

Take the same approach but focused on being the most informed resident of their town in ten minutes once a week.

It’s not about YOU. It’s about making them better and providing as much value as possible on a consistent basis. These newsletters include easy calls to action throughout. The specific mechanics of a great newsletter will be in a future blog post. We’ll hyperlink it from here when we have it finished, too!

The reason we like to send it weekly is that it keeps you top of mind. If someone signs up today and your monthly newsletter went out this morning, they’ll forget you by next month. Weekly keeps you top of mind.

You want to be top of mind so that when someones plans change on when they’re moving, you’re first person they think of. They could get pregnant and need a bigger home. Someone could have had a fall and need to move into a nursing home unexpectedly. Divorces, love, growing families, work, or a million other reasons can cause a change in timeline. You want to be there when that happens.

That’s why you need a regular long term follow up strategy that’s more than checking in from time to time.

Phase 1 is identifying the soon people, phase 2 is keeping in touch with the later people. This simple framework allows you to focus on the rest of your business. Don’t overcomplicate it.

Online real estate leads don’t have a silver bullet that makes it easy. It takes work. Focus on identifying the people moving soon and then staying in touch with everyone else.