The practice of geographic farming by real estate agents is as old as the industry itself and one of the most tried and true ways to generate business. When done properly, it can have a massive impact on your business.
It's also one of the most incorrectly executed forms of marketing that I see agents do time and time again. I've seen agents spends thousands of dollars trying to farm an area and get zero business.
Then they say farming doesn't work, which really grinds my gears because 100% of the time they are not planning their strategy in the slightest.
Geographic Farming Defined
The term farming or ‘Geographic Farming' implies to grow things. In this instance, we're growing future business.
Farming is especially appealing because you get to choose the exact neighborhood that you want to work in. You literally get to choose the products you want to sell and clients you want to sell to.
You plant seeds of future potential business by nurturing homeowners and potential sellers by strategically marketing to them. Farming usually involves direct mail postcards, newsletters, door knocking and even buying the shopping cart ad-space at the neighborhood grocery store.
“The key to getting meaningful results from farming is to leverage technology and do it consistently. That's it.”
My Farming Story
During my second year in real estate, I took a class that my local Realtor association was teaching at the time and although I can't remember the name, that class definitely altered my path in real estate.
The class could've essentially been called “The 90's Guide to Real Estate Farming For Dummies”.
Don't get me wrong, I learned a lot but as a young millennial agent the spamminess of the direct mail marketing pieces they were suggesting really put me off. They were showing these super ugly and promotional postcards that to my surprise actual seemed to generate results.
The strategy and message were solid but the design and delivery were just all wrong.
Even though I was not a fan of the way they were doing it, I did recognize the opportunity and potential of directly targeting these homeowners. I was intrigued and determined to create my own strategy.
I wanted to blitzkrieg the homeowners with an online and offline attack that would position me as the go-to-guy for selling homes.
What Potential Sellers Want
One key thing that I did take away from the class was that before homeowners and potential sellers really consider selling, they want to know the value of their home.
“Before homeowners even think about selling, they want to know the value of their home.”
What they taught in the class was to send a postcard telling the homeowner to call us directly for a “FREE CMA”. I did not like that approach and knew I could do it better.
Wanting to come from contribution and give the homeowners exactly what they want (value) I created a basic newsletter design that showed the recently sold, currently pending and currently active listings in their neighborhood.
It was pretty basic but I gave them the information that they wanted, and they loved it.
I had homeowners actually reach out to me and thank me for the information and to keep it up after the first batch.
“Within 3 months, I had closed one listing and had another in the books for a total of $1.1 million in total volume.”
I actually remember asking the seller of my 2nd listing, why they chose to work with me and his response was, “Well, you're the guy that sends the real estate newsletter.”
I was hooked right then and there.
The Game Plan
In this guide, I'm going to walk you through a simple and effective strategy for gaining market share in a neighborhood and getting listings. Most agents take a very one-dimensional approach to farming that results in weak results or none at all.
When geographic farming is done correctly, utilizing technology like personalized landing pages, community Facebook pages, and automated postcards, you'll get better results faster.
Before you start spending any money whatsoever you must create a marketing plan outlining your farming strategy.
Choosing the Right Farm Area
|Geo Farming Comparison||Farm 1||Farm 2||Farm 3|
|Total # of Homes||150||200||250|
|Avg Sale Price||$255k||$290k||$276k|
|Total Homes Sold Per Year||9||10||18|
|Turnover Rate (homes sold ÷ total # of homes)||6%||5%||7.2%|
|Avg Days on Market||47||62||53|
|# of Current Listings||4||5||3|
The table above is an example of the data that you should be looking at when choosing a farm and just like the comparison worksheet that you can download for free at the bottom of this post.
When choosing a neighborhood to farm for business there are some important things to consider but the most important 2 metrics that you'll want to pay attention to are:
- Neighborhood Turn-Over Rate
- Competition Market Share
The turn-over rate refers to the average number of homes that sell each given year. For example, if a neighborhood has 100 homes total and an average of 10 homes sell every year, then that neighborhood has a 10% turnover rate.
“Aim for a neighborhood with a turnover rate of at least 8%.”
Competition market share refers to how much of the market share the competition has. For example, if there are 10 sales a year and one agent represents 5 of those transactions, then that leaves only 5 other listings to fight for.
Now, of course, there is a possibility you could get some of those listings instead but the reality is it will cost you more money and you're probably better off avoiding neighborhoods where competitors have a major market share.
Pro-Tips for Choosing a Geographic Farming Area
- Download the comparison sheet above and actually fill it out.
- Choose an area with well-defined areas
- Size Matters —- Choose an area that you can manage.
- Run the numbers, and do the research.
- Total number of homes
- Turn-Over Rate
- Average Sales Price
- The Competition
- Average Days on Market
3 Steps to Building Authority
In order to build authority in a neighborhood fast, you have to take an online and offline approach. I'm gonna break down the 3 most important steps to take if you want to farm a neighborhood successfully.
- Direct Mail —- We'll commit to at least 1 form of consistent direct mail.
- Community Facebook Page —- You're going to create an unbranded community Facebook page.
- Growth Hacking Marketing —- What can you do to stay top of mind and bring value to the residents of your target community?
Direct Mail That Works
There are many different types of direct mail that you can send homeowners including, but not limited to: just listed cards, just sold cards, newsletters, and market reports.
In a perfect world, you would send all of the above marketing pieces and more but with a huge farm area, it could get very expensive very quickly.
One cheap and automated solution is NoseyNeighbor “Just Sold” cards by Kunversion.
For a complete farming solution though, there is really only one company that I recommend and that's GeographicFarm.com (I am not endorsed or compensated if you purchase any of their packages). They've built the best turn-key and cost-effective farming platform that beautifully ties the online with the offline, which is specifically what we're after.
Also, they have the most beautiful direct mail marketing pieces that I've seen available, like the one below.
For most agents, I recommend sending Neighborhood Market Reports like the one above for a few reasons. The main reason is that you want to be the Realtor who provides meaningful data and value, not the agent that sends gardening tips and cooking recipes every month.
“Be the agent that provides value, not apple pie recipes.”
When most people think of reports they think of big long text-heavy papers but the postcard above is a perfect example of how to provide key information in a digestible and easy-to-read format.
Now that you've chosen your neighborhood and piece of marketing content, let's move on to the good stuff.
- Only mail to homes where owners have owned for more than 3 years.
- Always include a link to a landing page with a call-to-action AND provide a phone number (some people will always want to call)
Create Your Master Mailing List
Once you've chosen your target neighborhood, it's time to create your master mailing list of addresses in the community.
Each MLS will have different tools and processes for compiling your list but can usually be done by searching your county's online tax records. There are also premium 3rd party providers that can compile these lists for you too.
Some companies can even include email addresses and phone numbers, which can be helpful in creating your custom audiences in Facebook later when we start running ads.
Using Facebook Custom Audiences
Since we'll be bridging the offline and online world market to your targeted neighborhood, we'll need to create a custom audience so that you can start targeting these homeowners on Facebook.
“The goal is to be able to reach your target audience offline and online, wherever that may be.”
Facebook makes it pretty easy to draw a circle over your target neighborhood then specifically target homeowners. If you want to take it one step further, you can purchase the email address and/or phone numbers of those homeowners by using a 3rd party provider and upload them to your custom audience.
To take your marketing to the next level, you'll also want to use Facebook's Retargeting Pixel to target the most engaged visitors and prospects.
For a more in-depth look at how to use the retargeting pixel in your geographic farming strategy, check out this article on digital farming.
Unbranded Community Facebook Page
Create a community-specific Facebook business page for your target neighborhood. Remember, this page is not just for real estate related content but for anything that could appeal or be of value to residents of the community.
For example, one of my community Facebook pages is called “Live Love Spring Branch”, as you can see the name really has nothing to do with real estate. My target area is called Spring Branch, just to be clear.
Once you create the page, you're going to want to create some graphics for your business page profile and cover image. Remember, this page is going to be unbranded, which means it won't say anything about you or have your picture.
To really go above and beyond, hire your photographer to take pictures of the neighborhood and create a community video.
Pro-Tip: Create a Google Alert for that community name and you will be able to be the first to share that content.
If you live in your target neighborhood, do these two things:
- Sign up for Nextdoor.com if you haven’t already and add value! Reply to questions, be helpful, invite neighbors and answer questions. Don’t sell just be a friendly resource. People will know what you do.
- Check for a community Facebook Group, if there isn't one or it's dead, create one.
Make it private and start inviting people. Send people to the group through the use of emails and postcards. Use the same strategy as the community page to build up the group.
Growth Hacking Marketing
A lot of agents would say that they've done enough already and would stop right here in their geographic farming efforts, but that's not what a #completeagent does.
#CompleteAgents go above and beyond the industry norms. They take massive action and get massive results.
Growth hacking is a newly coined term that represents a process of rapid experimentation across marketing channels and product development to identify the most efficient ways to grow a business.
In this context, growth hacking your geographic farming strategy means trying everything, seeing what works and doubling down on that.
Here are some simple things you can do to really dominate your target farm area:
- Hold massive open houses for your listings and even FSBO and other agent's listings if they allow you too.
- Send personal handwritten notes to any homeowners you speak with.
- Add those owners that you speak with to your Client Appreciation Program and invite them to your events.
- Create a blog website specific to that neighborhood where you can add value to your farm area's homeowners.
The Schools: Get Involved
Getting involved with your target farm area's schools can create massive value for you. There are a few ways to get involved, some more expensive than others but don't be afraid to ask.
Sponsoring a school event or sports team is a great way to get involved and put you in front of a lot of community parents.
Suggestions for #CompleteAgents
- Neighborhood food and/or toy drive
- Advertise in the monthly neighborhood newsletter. (If there isn't one, offer to start it and get vendors to help with the cost or even pay for all of it.)
- Sponsor community and private garage sales by providing branded signage and online advertising.
- Create a neighborhood directory (host on your neighborhood website)
- Sponsor the Yard of the Month Contest (or start one)
- Best Christmas lights contest
- Scariest Halloween decorations contest
There are so many ways to get involved with your geographic farm area, but all that matters is that you come from contribution and aim to always bring value.
An Important Final Note
So that's the bulk of the geographic farming strategy, and as you can see there are a lot of moving parts to it.
The thing is, geographic farming is expensive and there's a big time commitment involved but I want you to know that successfully gaining market share in a neighborhood can make a huge impact on your business for years to come.
Heck, I even know of one particular team in my home market that made their entire business about servicing one specific neighborhood. When I say servicing one specific neighborhood that's literally all they did and they are one of the top teams in Houston and do very very well from that one neighborhood.
Mind you that community does have an average sale price of around $700k, so please be sure that you are investing in the right neighborhood that can give you a good return on your money.
A lot of agents have wasted a lot of money on trying to break into a neighborhood by rushing into it, not planning, and sending the wrong kind of marketing.
Take your time, research thoroughly and then double-down.
Be sure to check out this interview with $88 million team leader Alex Rezende where he shares some of his strategies for doubling down on neighborhoods he wants to work in.
Geographic Farming Key Takeaways
- To get results from geographic farming, you must be consistent.
- Make sure enough homes are selling to achieve a good return on your investment.
- The bigger the farm area, the more expensive to market.
- Knowledge is power. Setup a neighborhood hot sheet to know every transaction that goes on in the neighborhood.