As a real estate agent or broker in NYC, you know that leads can come from any number of places, but it’s up to you to decide how to treat each one.  Buyer leads are most common, and they typically flow directly through to the listing agent.

However, seller leads are most coveted because having listings always leads to more business. That’s because buyers are coming to see your listing. And if that apartment isn’t a good fit, you can show them others you might have listed or know will come up for sale soon. Additionally, in a strong seller’s market, leads tend to close faster, which means more referrals and more leads down the road.

1. Farming Buyer Leads

Buyer leads come in many shapes and sizes. It could be someone who fills out a form online, comes to your open house or calls you. These are all useful leads, but it’s just a matter of understanding how serious and qualified these folks are.

Studies show that today’s consumers tend to research independently for as long as they can, not only because they are self-sufficient and don’t want to tie themselves to an agent, but because they have access to a wealth of great information online. Rest assured, more often than not, the buyer will seek serious assistance in the eleventh hour. When that happens, brokers need to be well positioned to capitalize on the lead and close the deal.

There are two ways to get the buyers at the eleventh hour and close sales.

Identify the Red-Hot Buyer

NYC consumers tend to move quickly once they know what they want. Here are some signs of a customer who is determined to find their new home:

  • They spend a long time at an apartment
  • They ask to see it more than once and bring friends/family to see it
  • They ask if there have been offers or are current offers on the table

These buyers are eager and are likely to buy soon — you should contact them regularly.  They want to see listings and hear about any opportunity.  Buyers who are aggressively ready to buy make the search a priority, but they also don’t want to waste their time. Brokers have to pull out all the stops to find them what they want, in a very short period.

Identify Buyers Who Need Some Cradling

There is no reason to follow a consumer aggressively if they aren’t transacting soon.  But you should keep their email and stay in regular touch. A successful sales agent maintains a clean contact database and includes information about where they met each buyer lead and also keeps notes about their selling or buying desires.

  • Once a month, connect with them via phone or email to gauge their current purchase timetable.
  • Send them a new listing in the same building where you met them or let them know about a new apartment that sold instantly.
  • Send them comparable listings in nearby buildings.

Some buyers aren’t ready to buy today, but they will buy down the road.  Keeping in touch with them and making sure they know you are active and available will ensure that when they need to act, you will get the call or email.  You must make yourself top of mind to these buyers!

Some consumers think going directly to the listing broker is beneficial. You need to provide them with information and data they wouldn’t otherwise have heard about or seen online. Give them a reason to trust in your guidance and services so you can represent them at the closing table. Connecting with these buyers early in the process and proving your worth can help to prevent this tendency.

2. Farming Seller Leads

Identifying sellers can be more fruitful because listings lead to more business. Especially in up markets, seller’s listings tend to close more quickly than working a buyer lead.  And, when you have a listing you get phone calls, emails and requests from prospective buyers and sellers.  Having one listing can ultimately result in a few new pieces of business.  So, working for listings is the best use of your time.

But, seller leads are not easy to come by.  Buyers show their faces because they need to be physically out there, looking around and making requests to see properties.  Sellers can be more elusive and it takes a bit more work, but it can be done.

How to Farm a Building or a Neighborhood

Agents regularly “farm” or “canvass” buildings or neighborhoods to advertise themselves to obtain future listings. One way is to become a Building Expert. A smart agent will pick a building or two and put a plan together to consistently and regularly communicate with tenants. But choose your buildings wisely — don’t choose one where apartments rarely transact. And sending one-off postcards in the mail are always a waste of time and money.  For your name and expertise to stick, the apartment owners need to keep seeing your name and face… over and over again.

Agents with expertise in a building did not create that success overnight.  Sure, maybe a broker represented the sponsor of the original sales and they will likely have a leg up on future listings. But that is not always the case and there is an opportunity for agents to market themselves to become the expert. Sometimes agents mail to a building every single month for a year, before they get a hit.  Even if there is not a response, you can’t give up.

Farming to buildings requires a serious investment of time and money.  Choose a content plan for three to six months out and follow through.  You don’t have to have listings to farm and if you don’t, you’ll need an original plan.  If you don’t have listings, consider the message you’d like to communicate to potential clients.  Provide statistics and content that consumers will feel are relevant to them. You have three seconds to capture their attention in the mail room.

Ideas on How to Market to a Building

There is a lot of data available online, but a good broker can present that data to pique the interest of a potential seller.  Become the “data” broker. Here’s how:

  • Send a list of recent closings in the building with ask price and sold price
  • Put together a graph or chart showing prices in the building over a 10-year period
  • Do a comparisons chart to a comparable building nearby
  • Choose a handful of buildings to compare with the subject building to show the price per square foot differentials

Perhaps you are more of a “creative” agent and have had success helping homeowners stage or prepare their homes for sale? If you do, demonstrate that knowledge.  Send before and after photos of your recent work.  Send monthly tips or tricks to help would-be sellers de-clutter or prepare for their sale.  Be sure to let sellers know that staging and design ideas will help owners sell their apartments more quickly and for more money because ultimately a seller wants to know, “what’s in it for me?”

No matter your skill or expertise, if you plan to farm a building or neighborhood, it’s key to keep at it and keep on message month in and month out.  Once an owner has seen you enough, you will soon be top of mind when they think of a real estate expert for the building.  They will associate you with their sales transaction. Consider that farming to one building could cost up to $500 a pop, depending on what you send out. But just remember that one commission for the building will pay it back in dividends.


Building a real estate business is just that — a business.  A lot of thought must go into how to acquire new business and then, how to follow up regularly. Top brokers have systems in place and follow through, as opposed to just reacting. Reactivity means you’ll constantly be on the hunt for the next deal and might feel disappointed if a buyer doesn’t pan out after months of searching.

A farming plan means that you aren’t putting all of your sales eggs in one basket.  If one doesn’t pan out, there will be other opportunities in your database.  And, for every lead that falls apart, another will be right there to add to the mix.  What’s most important to know is that nothing happens overnight. You must invest time and money into building a serious business.  Doing so ultimately results in a reliable and sustainable book of future business.