Thoughts about real estate, referrals, technology and big data.

Maintaining a successful real estate business means treating your clients with five-star customer service. A great way to do that, while celebrating the sale is to give your clients a closing gift. Gift ideas can be tricky—you want something personal but not too personal, that’s also functional and shows you care about them and their new home. Bonus points, if your contact information is included on the gift somewhere.

We’ve compiled eight thoughtful and unique gift ideas for your favorite clients. Consider how you can swap out your typical gift ideas with these.

  1. Digital Home “Assistant”

Whether you’re considering an Amazon Alexa or Google Home, home digital assistants are fun and surprisingly practical.

“There’s an ever-so-slight learning curve in figuring out what Amazon’s Alexa can and can’t do, but once that’s passed, the Echo Dot can forecast the weather, read an audiobook, order a pizza, tell Dad jokes, or any number of things they should find charming,” says Kelsey Mulvey, with Business Insider.

  1. Compost Bin

A kitchen counter compost bin is a great place for the new homeowner to keep kitchen scraps before taking them out to be composted. Many retailers sell attractive kitchen countertop bins that close tightly to keep odors from seeping out while adding a decorative element to the room. With so many people trying to reduce their carbon footprint, this is a great way to get your clients started. Outdoor compost bins can also be found for reasonable prices if you want to set your clients up with a complete composting system.

  1. Designer Fire Extinguisher

A fire extinguisher falls into the category of “a gift no one wants, but everyone needs.” You don’t normally think of fire extinguishers as being sleek and modern or decorative, but the company Safe-T is out to change that with designer extinguishers that go with any home style or motif.

Consider your client’s home décor and match it accordingly to the variety of styles available for the perfect gift that will surely never be duplicated.

  1. Personalized Stationary

Help your clients say “Thank you” and “Thinking of you” to their loved ones more often with a personalized stationary. “One of my own favorite gifts to receive is personalized stationery and cards that I can use for individual thank you notes and special messages,” says Alyssa Gregory, The

  1. A Personalized Pet Portrait

If your client is a pet owner, a personalized pet portrait is a great gift to commemorate their love for the family pet. There are many places you can have this done, with a local artist that you know of. Otherwise, head online to work with a company like Paint Your Life or “commission” the work with a creative professional on Etsy.

  1. Wireless Home Security System

New security systems are simple to install, easy to monitor, and affordable. After purchasing the basic wireless “kit,” your clients can customize for their needs: “Motion detectors, glass-shatter alarms, and gate sensors are all compatible with these DIY kits and you’ll never have to worry about paying for equipment you don’t need,” explain home security experts. Best of all, this inexpensive system can provide your client with peace of mind in their new home.

Wireless options are also portable, meaning it’s a gift that your client can take with them if they need to, for vacations or extended stays away from home.

  1. Gift Cards

You can’t go wrong with a gift card. “To help alleviate the stress of being house rich, but money poor, get the new home owner a gift card,” says Jonathan Chan with Many homeowners find items that they weren’t planning on needing once they move into their home. Gift cards can take the sting out of having to make some of those big and small purchases.

  1. Framed Historic Local Maps

Unique and personal, a framed map of the area that your client lives in is just the type of gift they’ll appreciate for years to come. An aerial photograph is an alternative if you can’t find the type of map you want, or even a custom painted image of their neighborhood or the downtown area of their new city.

BIO: Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than 10 years and been in social media and content marketing for five. She’s currently a full-time blogger and has been written for Lifehack, Inman, Reader’s Digest,, and more. Follow her on Twitter @Jlsander07.

As many know, social media is not just a platform to keep up with distant relatives and high school friends, but a way to strategically promote your business and garner more referrals. Recently, social media expert, author and speaker Katie Lance of Katie Lance Consulting, and our VP of Marketing, Lisa Fettner shared how agents can maximize social media channels such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram to build a powerful referral network.

During the webinar, Katie and Lisa shared tips and strategies agents and brokers can do with social media to establish a nationwide presence while still being the local expert. They also shared best practices on how to use social media to promote your nationwide expertise and let friends/family members know you can help them with any real estate need.

Here are some key takeaways:

Choose your channels and strategy. It’s important to choose your social channels based on what your clients – and future clients are using. Don’t be afraid to simply ask your clients what channel they like the best and use the most. In the famous words of Benjamin Franklin, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” If you’re not able to manage everything yourself, it’s okay to hire someone to help – whether it’s a copy writer, video editor, etc. When it comes to social media, remember: quality over quantity. It’s better to use one or two social channels really well than all of them somewhat scarcely.

LinkedIn is the first place to connect with new and potential clients. LinkedIn may not be as fun as Facebook or Snapchat, however it is a great place to start if you’re looking to generate more referrals from your professional network. First and foremost, make sure your bio is current. Sounds like a no-brainer, but many people leave their profiles untouched, collecting dust for years. This includes updating your photo, skills/expertise, relevant photos/videos and most importantly, your contact information. Publishing new content (e.g., top mistakes homebuyers are making, biggest piece of advice I give my clients) and blogs on LinkedIn is a valuable way to share your knowledge and expertise.

Another great way to utilize LinkedIn is to give and ask for 5-10 recommendations. Remember, you have to give to get. One agent who Katie works with makes a point to give one or two recommendations on the first of every month whether it’s for a stager, lender or past client.

Lisa also added that, if you have a common name, putting it in ALL CAPS will push you to the top of the search results.

Facebook is still the #1 social network. With close to two billion users, Facebook is a mix of personal and business content, so it’s important to find a balance. We live in a mobile first world (1 in 5 mobile minutes are spent on Facebook), which means you have to consider how people are engaging with your Facebook content on a mobile device. It can be challenging to cut through the noise on Facebook, so when you’re creating your content, ask yourself:

  • Is my content thumb-stopping?
  • How do I win when there is so much content from their friends and family?

The best way people will connect with you is when you share who you are beyond business. Creating private lists (check out for clients (current and past) and potential clients is an effective way to connect with your sphere on Facebook. This will allow you to filter out your other Facebook friends so you can engage with their posts and see what they’re up to. Perhaps they’ve just had a Birthday or one of their kids just graduated high school – these are all opportunities for you to reach out and connect.

Using Facebook ads to reach more people is another great way to generate referrals by boosting posts that have to do with your business (e.g., new listings, a picture with your client after closing). Pro tip: start small and make sure you have a link to a landing page.

Instagram is one of the fastest growing social media platforms. Katie emphasized that it’s important to think beyond the listing photo and the front of the house. Every home has a unique story, and Instagram lets you share it in a creative and fun way. Highlight the best amenities of the home (e.g., cozy fireplace, pool with a diving board, spa-like bathroom) versus the boring old shot of the home from curb. Check out Orlando ReferralExchange agent Nicole Mickle’s Instagram page for inspiration at @iorlandorealesate.

Instagram is always updating their app to incorporate new features. Most recently they’ve made updates to allow users to upload several photos in one post that you can swipe through to see. Additionally, Instagram makes it really easy for other users to find your posts through hashtags (up to 30 for each post). Find popular and trending hashtags by selecting ‘Tags’ in the search bar and check out to search for relevant hashtags for your area. Instagram stories (similar to Snapchat stories) is another way to share “behind-the-scenes” videos and pictures that showcase your everyday meetings, appointments and activities you do to help your clients with their real estate needs.

Regardless of which channels you choose to use for your business, don’t underestimate the behind-the-scenes content (people love it!), cross pollinate your content, be consistent, be relevant and don’t be afraid to have fun!

Watch the full webinar here and grab a copy of Katie’s new book #GetSocialSmart

“How to stop resisting and start persisting.”

Are you looking for better balance and resilience in your personal and business life? If you nodded your head, keep reading. Bernice Ross, CEO of and author of The PQ Factor, recently joined us to share how to stop procrastination, be more successful, live longer, increase your emotional resilience, and truly make your dreams a reality.

During the webinar, Bernice shared how to apply the seven steps of the PERSIST model to improve your business and your life, become more persistent by increasing your emotional resilience and “Walk in the solution” to get the best possible outcome in any situation.

Here are some key takeaways:

Sync your brain for peak performance. If you’re ever down or having a bad day, Bernice recommends listening to music you like with a good beat that makes you want to snap your fingers or tap your feet. This allows both sides of your brain to get in synch which is associated with peak performance. Another way to reach peak performance is to anchor a positive feeling. For example, tapping your shoulder three times when you are laughing anchors that feeling — and you can then bring it back at any time by tapping your shoulder again when you need it.

Use the seven steps to PERSIST (perspire, embrace, resilience, self-ish, internal, service, timing).

Perspire: You naturally attract people who are similar to you. If you want clients who are fun, be fun. If you want clients who are honest, be honest. Often, we say “yes” to business that we should really say “no” to. If that little voice inside says a potential client is not a good fit, listen to it!

Embrace: No one ever got to the top by working on their weaknesses. Identify where you’re strongest and build from there. Top producers often specialize in one or two areas and delegate what they don’t do well to others. In addition, schedule your most difficult tasks or project during a time when your energy is at its peak. When it comes to your weaknesses, find the workaround.

Resilience: Optimism can help your business by helping you remain resilient. A Seligman research study found that optimistic salespeople outsold experienced salespeople by 56 percent. Additionally, your degree of optimism can also impact your health including reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer.

If you are facing a serious illness, remember that, “You are NOT the situation…walk in the positive outcome that you want to achieve.” When you can separate the situation from who you are, you can overcome major life challenges.

Self-ish: Self-ish in The PQ Factor is about caring for yourself so you can help others. You can achieve this by upgrading your self-care. For example, schedule 30 minutes to an hour a day where you do something for you (e.g., reading, gardening, cooking). Promise to give your body healthy food, plenty of water and an extra hour of sleep each night. Make sure to take time to unplug every day so you can recharge and be prepared for tomorrow.

Internal: Having a sense of control in your life is very important, especially for your resilience and health. You can become rejection proof by becoming more internally anchored. The next time someone asks you what you’d like to do, give a specific answer. No matter what happens to you, remember that while you may not be able to control the event, you can control how you respond to it. To help curb procrastination and end struggle, commit to doing one thing a day — whether it’s doing one push-up or walking five minutes. The point is that it’s a start, and once you get started, it’s easier to keep going.

Service: Bernice explained how to build your “Karmic” bank account. When you smile or laugh, you build up a reserve of strength in your body, which strengthens your autoimmune response. When you share a smile or laugh with someone, you’re giving them that same gift of strength. Also, it’s not enough to give; you must also be willing to receive. When someone offers to pay for your meal or do a favor for you, make sure you say thank you. It helps keep the pattern of giving and receiving going.

Timing: Time it right — when the timing is right, the doors open effortlessly. When you decide you’re going to implement something new in your business, you need to stick with it long enough to see if it really does work. Decide what the top three things are that matter most to you, and focus on those.

What is the one action step that you will take to stop resisting and start persisting in your life?

Watch the full webinar here and grab a copy of Bernice’s new book The PQ Factor.

You’ve collected up all your photographs, noted down all the relevant property information and now you just have to write the description and upload! Sometimes, it’s not always as easy as it sounds, is it? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. It can be challenging to write the perfect description that is both informative and engaging, and that sets your listing apart from the rest. To give you a hand with yours, we’re sharing how to write the perfect property description.

Step 1: Organize your notes and all relevant information. Try and get as much information and details as you can such as square footage, special features, garage space, back yard/garden size, etc.  Round up every aspect of the home that you think prospective buyers might be interested in.

Step 2: Think about your audience. Is the home in a bustling urban area close to bars, restaurants, shops and nightclubs or is it in the country? Not only is this information valuable as it fully informs potential buyers, it also helps you understand what sort of people are going to want to buy your property (e.g., families, first-time home buyers), allowing you to write a description targeting them. The more local information you can share that is tailored to that audience, the better.

Step 3: Put it down on paper. Start by writing a little introduction on your property and then write up a short description for each room. Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes to help them envision themselves living there. Be careful not to overuse words like beautiful and elegant. Use a couple here, but don’t describe every aspect of the property like that, since doing so doesn’t provide specific information.

Kevin Hall, a property writer from Academized explains, “When writing a property description, you want to build up this impression in your readers head that places them in your property as they read it. Using phrases such as ‘Imagine yourself’ doing this in your kitchen, or ‘Relax with beautiful views from your bedroom’ to really entice the reader into wanting to come and see this for themselves.”

Writing tools

If you’re having trouble summarizing all the impressive features of the home you’re listing, these tools can help.

  • Paper Fellows: This online writing community is great if you’re just starting out writing. They’re especially helpful if you need help with your grammar. Share your writing with the community, and they’ll help you improve.
  • Easy Word Count: This handy tool will check the length of any piece of writing. It’s a good tool for you, as there are often length limitations on property listings.
  • Do My Assignment: Before you start writing, you’ll need to conduct market research. This company can help you out, so you know exactly who you should market to.
  • Write My Ads: This service helps agents create fresh content for their listings, ads, publications, etc.

All in all, the most important things to remember with your description is to pack it full of relevant, detailed information, keep it engaging and neutral and really drive forward the sale!

BIO: Mary Walton is an editor at College Essay Writing Service, she lives in Santa Monica with her family. Being in copywriting and content marketing for seven years she enjoys sharing her knowledge and experience with readers. Mary writes for UK dissertation writing service. She is also a blogger and writes at Simple Grad. Read her latest blog post – Review.

Copyright © 2014-2019

As an agent, you can make yourself more valuable by giving your clients tools that will help them during the buying or selling process. The following web and mobile apps allow clients to prepare for homeowner finances, learn about the cost value of energy efficient appliances, and much more. Be sure to send this list to any new clients you’re working with.


Value: Helps clients customize space to imagine it as theirs

It can be hard to imagine a home as yours when you hate the furniture, layout and general look and feel. Clients can use the Homestyler app as they look through homes, adding their preferred style of furniture, light fixtures rugs, mirrors and more. The 3D image will give them a better idea of what the home will look like when they get their items moved in, which is always helpful.

The app version of this tool is available to U.S. residents online only; mobile is not yet available to U.S. users. Send clients to their website after they’ve taken photos of a few potential properties.


Value: Financial overview

As one of the most popular personal finance apps, this is a great tool for your clients. After using the app for a few weeks, they’ll have a crystal-clear picture of their current financial situation, which is critical during the home buying process.

“I really like tools like that aggregate data from all of your financial accounts and summarize it for you,” says Micah Fraim, CPA. He continues, “It gives a nice snapshot of your entire financial situation: how much you’re making vs. how much you’re spending, where your money is going, debt vs. assets, etc. This is a great tool if you’re looking to make any kind of major financial decision, like buying a home.”

As they’re determining cost range, and begin to factor in other fees such as HOA, your clients can turn back to their Mint account to see if the numbers add up for their current financial reality.


Value: Discover places near potential homes

Help clients learn more about their potential new home with the AroundMe app, which is simple and easy to use. Once downloaded, clients simply choose the category they’re curious about—these include: gas stations, movie theaters, parking, pharmacies, super markets, and more—and they’re presented with a list that includes the name of establishment and distance from the home’s location. Knowing what’s nearby can be the difference between making an offer and looking elsewhere.

Energy- and Cost-Savings Calculators for Energy Efficient Products

Value: Uncover the potential value of energy efficiency appliances

Moving into a new home may mean purchasing new appliances. Thanks to the proven value of eco-friendly products—families and businesses in the United States saved $34 billion on utility bills in 2015 alone, according to Energy Star—it’s safe to assume your clients are considering energy-efficient appliances.

The calculators provided by allow clients to find both the annual and life cycle costs and savings for various items like a central air conditioner, gas and water heaters and more. They can use these calculators to decide if the upfront investment will pay off in the end—when making a significant purchase like this, that information is priceless.

Real Estate Dictionary

Value: Have more effective home buying/selling conversations

Clients may struggle with the real estate terminology that comes second nature to you. Instead of dumbing down your conversations to help them understand, suggest they check out the Real Estate Dictionary app. It includes 9,000 images including property diagrams, and thousands of real estate terms from sources they’re familiar with like McGraw-Hill. The best part is they can bookmark terms as you’re talking and return to them later for reference. You can get this app on iOS and Android.

Bonus for First-Time Homeowners: BrightNest

Value: How to be a homeowner

BrightNest helps first-time homeowners get organized and manage their new house with ease. After adding important details about their home, your clients will have access to customized tips and maintenance lists, and they can take quizzes to customize the information that’s shared even further. They can also schedule tasks, set up recurring schedules, and set notifications for completing them. You can get this app on iOS and Android.

Be the most valuable agent you can by directing clients to these apps. They’ll appreciate your help and, as such, may be more likely to refer you to friends and family. In the end, everyone wins.

BIO: Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than 10 years and been in social media and content marketing for five. She’s currently a full-time blogger and has been written for Lifehack, Inman, Reader’s Digest,, and more. Follow her on Twitter @Jlsander07.

Forging successful partnerships – whether it’s with a fellow real estate agent, vendor, or client can yield benefits for all parties involved beyond an initial sale or deal. Perhaps you want to expand your service area, launch your product or program to a ready-made market, or implement technology that you don’t have resources to develop, these are just a few of the many reasons to develop a partnership.

Below are five best practices to use when creating powerful and lasting partnerships. One of our most successful partnerships, with CRS (Council of Residential Specialists), has followed this path – and it’s been a “win-win” for everyone involved!

  • Define a true need: The first and most important factor when forging a partnership is to identify and define a true need. What are the pain points your prospective partner is facing?  How can you help with those? What does your partner have that you need? How can you benefit from the relationship? What are the synergies that exist between you and a prospective partner? Of course, you also need to consider the potential problems – What are the downsides to working together? How could such a partnership impact your long-term plans?

When ReferralExchange launched several years ago, we had two main challenges – 1) We were always looking for top-performing agents to send referrals to, but many agents did not meet our stringent performance criteria. And, 2) even though we were a successful consumer-direct-to-agent service, many agents hadn’t heard of us.

CRS was looking for ways to recruit new agents into their organization, while adding additional value to provide to their agents.

  • Be a true partner: Partnerships are based on an equal, synergistic relationship. Negotiating a deal that significantly benefits one partner over the other or hiding facts, figures, or capabilities can lead to disaster – potentially impacting your long-term relationship, reputation and bottom line.  Effective partners must work together towards common goals, try to identify all potential risks and pitfalls upfront and resolve them as quickly as possible.

The ReferralExchange/CRS partnership is equally beneficial to both organizations. We were able to welcome over 6,000 amazing agents into our network, and our relationship helped increase awareness of ReferralExchange within the real estate community. CRS was able to provide a free continuous stream of vetted referrals to their agents. 

  • Over-communicate and over-deliver: Launching and rolling out your partnership can be tricky – especially if your partner has multiple constituents and stakeholders. You need to promote the partnership to everyone involved and show them how it will be a benefit. Be sure to really listen to your partners – they understand their constituents the best. Follow their lead during rollout, while being accessible to support and help as needed.

ReferralExchange and CRS soft-launched the new program to CRS leadership first to garner their input and feedback. We then launched the program with webinars, articles, emails, and FAQ’s during CRS’s Referral Week. The partnership was announced on the various real estate websites as well.

  • Be patient: Partnerships take time to put together. Negotiating terms that work for both of you are not always easy to finalize and priorities are not always in sync. Don’t panic if a prospective partner “goes quiet” after an initial presentation. They might simply be trying to work things out on their end – or discussing the prospective partnership with stakeholders.

We first met with CRS during the NAR Convention in New Orleans in November, and the program launched the following August. Multiple in-person and phone meetings took place to finalize an agreement. We provided references, and CRS vetted us with members on their Leadership Team who also used our service.

  • Be in it for the long-term: A successful partnership continues long after the contract ink is dry. And success isn’t a given. You need to be flexible. Sometimes your initial vision might evolve into something different. Be sure to set regular “check-ins” to determine how the relationship is doing and set future plans and growth goals.  As the industry and business climate evolves, so should your partnership.

We have continued to foster and grow the relationship. We hold in-person check-in meetings several times a year to review performance of the program and set goals, and are currently planning on launching new offerings to CRS agents in the next few months. 

To date, the CRS Partnership has over 6,000 participants who have closed nearly 2,000 properties and generated over $14 million in earned commission. We are currently working with CRS to offer additional services to their constituents. CRS has also partnered with us on other joint projects such as an annual Referral Survey

Good partnerships can be hard to find – and you can’t “force fit” a relationship. You need to be willing to let them go if it’s not working.  But, if the need and mutual respect exists, the rewards are worth the effort. A successful partnership can lead to long-term growth, product legitimacy, and strategic expansion – and that’s definitely worth the time and effort involved!

Your real estate business is bigger than you think. ReferralExchange matches your clients with 3 great agents and pays you a 25% referral fee at closing.

Referrals. It’s the nine-letter word that’s music to every real estate agent’s ears. As mentioned in our Referral Report, “Agent-to-agent referrals are a foundational piece of the real estate industry. They are a source of passive income for those who send them. They are a key source of sales volume for those who receive them.” Joining a real estate referral network creates opportunity for agents to grow their business and help their clients in more ways than one.

If you nod your head to any of the six scenarios listed below, it may be time to consider joining a referral network.

  • You’d like to create a new source of passive income. As an agent or broker, you never want to leave money on the table. If you have specific leads you know you can’t service (e.g., buyer contacts from an open house, internet leads), use your trusted network to connect them with an agent. For example, one of the agents in our network is also in the military full-time, so he uses ReferralExchange as a source of passive income for clients he doesn’t have time to assist.
  • Your company referral network requires too much work with uncertain results. We hear it time and time again from agents that they send out a referral and lose track of it almost immediately. Did the transaction even close? Was the client happy? These questions go unanswered far too often. Make sure your referral network is transparent and offers some type of system (e.g., a CRM) to track the entire process.
  • You have leads, clients or contacts who don’t match your price range, specialization or market area. Have a lead with a price point too low? Desired location too far away? Don’t automatically throw those leads out. Not every lead or referral that comes your way is going to fall in your wheelhouse. See if you can find those leads an agent and earn a referral fee. One of our tech-savvy agents generates leads from her Instagram page. Often the buyers relocating to her area don’t have an agent to sell their house, so she submits them into our network to help on both sides.
  • You are retiring or going part time, but would like to continue generating income from your network. Just because you may be retiring doesn’t mean your friends, family, and past clients stop buying or selling homes. You’ve likely spent a good portion of your real estate career establishing and maintaining a loyal client base and network. Use your referral network to connect them with the best in their market. They get a good agent to assist them and you collect a referral fee. It’s a win-win. There’s an agent in our network who calls us her “retirement fund.” She submits leads/referrals she can’t or won’t service, lets us take it from there and we let her know when the transaction has closed.
  • You’re generating more leads from your online marketing than you or your team can handle. Newsletters, blogs, email marketing, online advertising, social media, etc. – these are all great sources of generating leads, but there are only so many hours in the day and only so many members on your team. Take time to evaluate which leads are worth your time and make the most sense for you to work. Submit the remaining leads into your referral network to see if there’s an agent who can service them. We always say, even a small referral fee is better than no referral fee at all.
  • You have personal referrals you want to place with a capable, proven agent. Our Referral Report found that “Many agents’ primary concern when referring out business is maintaining the reputation they’ve worked to establish with current and past clients.” Make sure the referral network you join has proven, qualified agents you know will take care of the client. Most of our agents have more than eight years of experience, over $5 million in sales or have completed 20 real estate sales transactions within the last 12 months. Simply put, they are true referral experts.

Your real estate business is bigger than you think. ReferralExchange matches your clients with 3 great agents and pays you a 25% referral fee at closing.

The biggest obstacle to home ownership is often the down payment — both for first-time and some move-up buyers. With rising interest rates and home prices that continue to grow, saving enough money for a down payment has become even more difficult.

Sean Moss, SVP, Director or Operations and Customer Support at Down Payment Resource recently joined us to share information about down payment programs, which agents can use to turn their sidelined buyers into homeowners.

Sean encouraged everyone to contact their mortgage partners and local housing agencies to learn about programs available in their specific areas. Agents can then promote these programs when marketing/targeting buyers.

Who offers these programs?

Home buyers can access down payment programs through the State Housing Finance Agency (HFA), cities and counties, housing authorities, non-profits, employers and more. These organizations receive federal funding and are all designed to provide down payment, closing cost or tax credit help, as well as education. Their overall goals are to design products that help make housing affordable for more buyers. And, depending on the area, the dollar amounts available can be substantial.

What are the common requirements?

Almost all programs are for owner-occupied properties, meaning vacation homes and investment properties do not qualify. They also require a minimum investment from the buyer (e.g., percent of purchase price, a hard dollar amount). Many of the programs require homebuyer education as well to ensure that buyers truly understand the homebuying process. Lastly, the home buyers must qualify for a 1st mortgage.

Are these programs only for first-time homebuyers?

No, however all down payment programs are available to a first-time homebuyer. A “first-time homebuyer” can also mean someone who hasn’t owned a home in three years. Sean shared that “37 percent of people don’t have a first-time homebuyer requirement — they could be veterans or teachers, for example.”

What are the most common homeownership programs?

The three most common homeownership programs include:

  • Down Payment & Closing Cost Help: This is the most common homebuyer program (e.g., down payment or closing cost assistance) and are typically non-profit or government funded. They offer anywhere from several to tens of thousands of dollars depending on the homebuyer and location.
  • Affordable 1st Mortgage Loans: These loans often offer reduced interest rates or PMI waivers.
  • Mortgage Credit Certificate (MCC): These are federal income tax credits that allow a buyer to claim mortgage interest paid as a tax credit (not a deduction) on their federal tax returns. Once they have taken the full credit, they can then deduct the rest of their interest as a standard mortgage interest deduction. These programs are often good for the life of that loan so long as the buyer lives in the home.

How can agents promote these programs to prospective buyers?

According to a survey by Down Payment Resource, 92% of consumers want information on down payment programs from their agent or lender. As an agent, it’s important that you first know the program basics — qualifying and benefits. You can educate yourself by getting to know the programs in your market, connecting with a participating lender (rely on their expertise) and by attending trainings provided by your HFA.

When showing a prospect listings, setting up email marketing campaigns or newsletters, don’t be afraid to share information about down payment programs in your market. Sharing these resources could create a hook for potential buyers to reach out to you to learn more. Whether it’s through your website, email, blog, newsletter or social media channels, create and share content (e.g., resources, success stories) that will capture first-time homebuyer attention.

Nurture your prospects by blogging about local programs and how to search for them, engage your lender in the prequalification process, and add down payment program-eligible leads to a special email list with information about down payments, local programs, first-time homebuyer tips, etc.

How can agents develop partnerships?

There are several benefits to building relationships with down payment organizations. For example, it’s not uncommon for state housing agencies to offer agents opportunities and tools to learn about their programs such as networking events, free marketing materials, education events that you can attend and support resources for your questions. Developing relationships with loan officers is another way to be the number one resource for your clients and prospects. Identify who your loan officer partners are and which down payment programs they participate in. Ask them about expectations, timelines, guidelines and information about programs so you can pre-qualify prospects to bring back to them. Invite your HFA to a buyers’ event to cover specific down payment programs, or consider attending a first-time homebuyer class to show your expertise, educate others and find referrals.

Watch the full recording here and learn more about programs for your clients at

Converting purchased leads can be challenging and frustrating. Prospects don’t return phone calls or emails — and it’s often difficult to stand out from the digital crowd. When managed effectively, however, online lead gen can be a lucrative supplement to your current business. Our VP of Marketing, Lisa Fettner, recently hosted a webinar alongside Kimberly Cameron of Better Homes & Gardens Preferred Properties and JLA Realty’s Ryan Bokros, to discuss tips to get you closer to the close.

During the webinar, Lisa, Kimberly, and Ryan shared five best practices for turning cold prospects into closed deals:

  • Help your leads get to know the “virtual you.”
  • It’s not about you (it’s about the needs of the lead).
  • Provide instant gratification.
  • Be prepared to play the long game.
  • Have a lead management plan.

Tip #1: Help your leads get to know the “virtual you.” Online lead generation is a lot like agent client dating. You really want your clients to get to know who you are — it’s about reputation, not vanity. That’s why you must have a professional/recognizable photo, consistent information across the web (from your Zillow page to your Linkedin profile) and a clear, unique selling proposition. It’s also important to be professional, but human. People want to work with people with whom they connect and have common ground, so don’t be afraid to share things like your involvement with your local community.

Tip #2: It’s not about you. For every prospect or lead that comes through the door, you should be thinking about what they want or need. Sharing testimonials from past clients is an excellent way to show prospects that you have the experience and expertise they need. Make sure that you have a variety of different ones targeted to different audiences. Based on that information, make the data you send them personal so you can be their “go-to” real estate resource. Lastly, you need to be responsive. Whether you’re helping them put an offer on the home of their dreams or managing inspections on their listing — time is everything.

Tip #3: Provide instant gratification. Our reality today is that we live in an instant world — everyone expects everything, immediately. When servicing clients, a quick follow-up is critical. You should respond in kind at least 4x (don’t be afraid to pick up the phone!) and provide information with each response. Between showings, client meetings, family life, and those rare times you get to catch some shut-eye, it’s humanly impossible to be available to your clients 24/7. In those cases, an auto-response is better than no response. This enables you to let your clients and prospects know that you’ve received their message and will get back to them as soon as possible. If you have a team, consider providing a team members’ name and contact info if the inquiry is urgent. When you do finally get in touch with a prospect, make sure to inform them (e.g., property, neighborhood, market info), engage with them (e.g., “What are your needs?” “What’s your preferred price point/area?”) and interact with them (e.g., set an appointment, provide a walk-through, view properties).

Tip #4: Be prepared to play the long game. Lead generation is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Although prospects expect instant gratification, as an agent, you have to be prepared to play the long game. Keeping in touch with clients occasionally (no nagging allowed), could be the difference between a prospect forgetting who you are or calling you a year later to sell their house. Keeping in touch doesn’t mean you call them once a month to ask if they are ready to sell. It means you continue to provide value to them by creating engagement opportunities (e.g., invite them to a block party in their favorite neighborhood), tell a story (e.g., what’s new in the community) and by being their real estate resource and subject matter expert. It doesn’t have to be all business all the time. Letting a prospect who you know is a dog lover know that a new local dog walking service is available doesn’t just show that you’re a valuable person to know, it also shows you are thoughtful. For buyers, consider sharing information with them such as market data, a home buyer guide, relevant testimonials, and information on the community. Sellers may be interested in recent comps/sales, selling tips/guide, and an info sheet on your process of selling a home. These topics can all be shared easily through different touchpoints such as a blog, social media channels or remarketing. Kimberly shared that she adds all prospects to her teams’ monthly client parties which include coffee meet-ups, dog happy hours (“Yappy Hour”), bowling nights, and fun events celebrating national holidays like Margarita and Doughnut Day. This gives prospects the opportunity to meet Kimberly and her team in a casual environment and chat with their past and current clients.

Tip 5: Have a lead management plan. If you don’t have a CRM and a system in place to manage your leads, it’s going to be very challenging to get the type of ROI that you want from your lead generation efforts. Many leads could take anywhere from six to nine months, or even longer to convert. You need to have tracking in place to manage and prioritize leads and assess what’s working and what’s not.

If you have an overflow of leads or leads that are outside of your preferred property type, price point or area, use a referral service such as ReferralExchange, or take the time to find someone who can handle it for you. A 25% referral fee is better than no fee at all.

Kimberly is a big believer in implementing a system and using a script when contacting prospects for the first time. She highlighted the importance to always do the following:

  • Ask if it’s a good time to talk.
  • Ask them for their story and what they need.
  • Close with a contact request or an offer of assistance.

Watch the full recording here to learn the best ways to leverage these techniques every day in your lead generation activities.

Vendors and professional resources can be a huge source of referral opportunities — but you must keep yourself top of mind with both them and your clients. Rob Morelli, CEO and Co-Founder of HomeKeepr — a home vendor recommendation app that agents can customize and give to their clients — recently joined us to share tools and tips that help maximize the potential of your network precisely to increase your referral business. Rob, whose company helps homeowners discover the best home service pros in their communities through “local expert” recommendations, shared how to accomplish all of the following:

  • Generate the most value from your current vendor relationships.
  • Engage your professional relationships.
  • Stay top of mind and create true partnerships.

The value of professional relationships. Homeowners want personal referrals from people they know and trust. There are dozens of sites (e.g., Angie’s List, Yelp, HomeAdvisor) that can help your clients find someone to work with, but none of them offer the key element of a trusted referral. By recommending painters, plumbers, contractors, etc., you help alleviate the stress your clients may otherwise feel by having someone unknown work in and around their home.

A steady source of referrals. You can earn referrals from your professional partners through several different ways. First, they are often in touch with soon-to-be sellers, with 50% of sellers spending $8,000 or more on home improvement before listing. In addition, typical home service pro businesses rely heavily on referral relationships. Many of these vendors are often not the best marketers in the traditional sense, so they rely heavily on word of mouth and understand the value of referral relationships. These professionals are typically very well connected in the community, often times growing up in the community in which they provide their services. Keep in touch and maintain good relationships with these professionals so when they have a client who needs a real estate agent to list their home, they think of you.

Pros are connected to other pros. Your pros know who the best people are in their industry and the local community. The best plumbers often know the best electricians in town, and so on. Getting to know them will not only help provide introductions to potential prospects for you, but also connect you to other professionals in the community who can assist your clients with home maintenance needs. Because they are connected to these people through referral relationships, you know that the people they are connecting you with understand the value of a referral relationship as well.

It’s all about the referrals — give, then get. If you want to get referrals, you must first give them. The best way to get people to refer you is to give them something of value first. The best part about referrals is that you are connecting two people who both need the other side — a mutual benefit.

Communication is key when maximizing and building your vendor and professional network. Best practices include introducing yourself via a phone call or in person and letting them know that your referral program is a serious undertaking — not some hollow promise they’ve heard before. Let them know your referral list is exclusive, not something they can pay to be on, and includes only the best vendors. Emphasize the connection to “new” homeowners, which is a big opportunity for them, particularly when one considers how much people spend on their property when they are about to buy or sell a home. This is also a long-term business opportunity for them as they could become the clients’ “go-to” maintenance person. Lastly, suggest they post occasional offers for your clients. This is a way for you to pass along value to your clients as well as drive value back to these professionals. For example, have one offer per business per month for your clients — that way you can highlight each of the vendors in your network.

You don’t get if you don’t ask. Once you’ve described how you are going to drive business to the vendor, it’s your turn to explain your business and what you do. After all, their reputation is on the line, and they need to know that you treat your business seriously. Don’t be afraid to ask them directly for referrals. By sending business their way, you can’t assume they will refer business back — you have to ask. You should also ask them for introductions to other home service pros who would be worthy of inclusion in your program.

Never stop adding to your professional network. HomeKeepr has hundreds of categories of vendor types, so even if you know three outstanding electricians, there is always room to grow your network and contact list. Grow your professional network through referrals from your professional relationships and by finding out who your clients love (e.g., ask them on social media). Remember, everyone’s got their “go-to guy.”

Show them the finished product. Visuals last longer than words, so show the vendors in your network where you will be advertising their services and where people will find them, such as your website or a specialized app. If it’s on a platform they can share with their family, friends and clients, it will make a lasting impression and will show them how you are adding value.

Follow up and demonstrate your value. Whatever software or platform you use, it should be very clear when people are calling your preferred vendors so you can track it. If your clients are using your vendors, you want to make sure you follow up with those professionals to let them know that their new client came from you and ensure that they take good care of them. Rob noted that “Everyone wins when you support your community by supporting small business.”

Watch the full webinar here and get $50 off any HomeKeepr annual plan using code REFERRALEXCHANGE.