“You gotta farm, it won’t do you any harm, and in fact it might even give you charm!”
My first day as a real estate agent I walked into the office and saw this a sign with this phrase on my broker’s desk. I was a little confused. What in the world did farming have to do with selling real estate? When I asked my broker to explain, he just said, “Get in the car, I have something to show you.”
We drove me to a neighborhood just a few blocks from the office and as we drove through the tract, I saw the posts of homes for sale, everywhere, with his sign on top. He stopped the car, then told me to get out and follow along. He grabbed some 5×7 cards out of his glove box and off we went.
I followed my broker along for two hours as he knocked on doors, and I realized that each of the cards he carried represented each of the houses on the street. It seemed so easy and fun because all the homeowners knew him, and one even gave us cookies.
After each house he would write his notes from the conversation on the cards, including things they shared with him about upcoming vacations, weddings, kids, etc. This would then remind him to ask about these things the next time he came through the area, which he told me was about once per month.
When we got back to the office, he wrote thank you notes to those who had chatted with us at the door and popped them in the mail.
He said, “Now do you get it? What we did is called farming.” He told me to pick an area, work it, and it would then yield a crop of listings just like his did.
He instructed me to choose an area to work and review it with him by Monday. So I drove around on the weekend and found a pretty area which, luckily, turned out to be a good farm. I did exactly what he told me to do, I mailed to it twice a month, door knocked it a minimum of one time per month, and it became a very profitable source of listings for my entire career. My husband, a 34-year real estate veteran, still farms his farm and it is very, very profitable!
Old School Method – New School Techniques
Farming is the old school method of gaining listings that still works today, but today you need to apply new school techniques if you really want to succeed. In other words, you need to be more strategic than I was!
Most top listing agents across the country have some type of farm, many a geographic farm of over 500 homes and potentially multiple areas. In certain parts of the country geographic farming has never really taken hold, and if you are in a market where agents don’t farm, how lucky you are! This will mean you have very little competition and potentially great opportunity.
Critical Steps for Successful Farming
If you are considering a farm and selecting your neighborhood, there are a few critical steps to take, things that I didn’t do years ago.
- Look at the turnover in the area. Some areas are lovely, but very few people ever move. You want to look for at least 4-5% turnover, or more. Your title representative may be able to help you with the data. You can also run the sales back 12 months to see how many sold and figure out your turnover that way.
- While you are at it, look to see who sold the houses so that you can figure out who will be your competitors and just how dominant they are.
- If there is a dominant farmer in the area, determine if you are willing to take them on or would prefer to find a farm that is less competitive.
- Many title companies and other tech services can give you data on who lives there, including their age, years in the home, etc. The reason this is valuable information is because it helps you decide what marketing messages and community activities would be most appropriate for them.
- When determining how many homes you want to farm, work backwards by setting your budget per month. Ideally, you will want to direct mail twice a month. To save money you can instead door drop or drop as you knock. You can also use every door direct mail through the post office, this is one of the most affordable ways to bulk mail.
- If you are not willing to door knock or door knocking is not allowed, then you need to find other ways to connect with the homeowners. Invite them to neighborhood sneak previews of new listings, fun events in the park, or sponsor events at the nearby school where their children attend. Run targeted Facebook ads and event set up a community Facebook page. Bottom line, find fun and friendly ways to connect and stay top of mind.
- If you decide to be a door knocker, decide how many times a year you want to be at their door and how many doors a month you will knock. Then just do the math to figure out how many doors you will need to knock to complete the plan for the year.
People always ask, “What are the best times to knock?” Of course this depends on the farm. If there are many retired homeowners, morning is great. If, however, it’s a neighborhood of young professionals, late afternoon or Saturday morning would be better.
If you are wondering what to talk about, here is a quick list:
- Market Updates
- New Listings or Sales
- Buyer Needs
- Open House Invitation
- Investment Opportunity
- Upcoming Community Events
- Anything they would find interesting and helpful!
For our coaching clients, we provide consumer guides that are educational resources to offer your prospects on topics such as moving up, downsizing, and investing, just to name a few.
You want to shine as the wise advisor and the area expert, but do not forget to remind them that you work a big territory outside of the farm and their referrals are always appreciated!
To learn more about our coaching programs and the educational guides I mentioned, go to http://excelleum.com/business-strategy-call/to request your complimentary business strategy session today.