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Growing Your Real Estate Business Is All About Retaining Clients

Rachel Burris7 minute-read
November 13, 2019


So you’ve just sold your clients a new home. The deal has closed; the keys are in their possession. Your work is done, right? Wrong.

For the highest-grossing agents, the end of a sale is just the beginning because they know that retaining clients is the most essential part of growing their business. Building relationships with clients after closing the deal is the way that you ensure you stay at the forefront of their minds.

You want all of your clients to seek you out whenever they have real estate needs. But that doesn’t happen magically. You need to work to nurture your relationships in order to keep those clients. Here are the top reasons that you should strive to retain your clients and the strategies to help you do it.

Retaining Clients Bolsters Your Reputation

The decision to buy or sell a home is not taken lightly. When clients choose to work with you, they’re choosing to entrust you with what is likely their most significant investment. That is why trust needs to be the epicenter of any good agent-client relationship.

By retaining relationships with clients even after a sale, you demonstrate that you are someone who cares about the wellbeing of those with whom you work. Of course, retaining relationships with your former clients helps to build their trust. But it also encourages future clients to trust you.

Remember, there are many individuals out there who are still skeptical of real estate agents because they assume agents are mercenary and only in it for the commission. But when potential clients see the relationships that you’ve established and maintained with people you’re no longer working with, individuals you no longer have a vested interest in, they’ll implicitly understand that you see people as more than just dollar signs.

“Beyond the transaction, we are also there to help them make good financial choices – whether it's to refinance when rates are low, cash out of their investment when the market is high, or help find a property to grow their wealth – we are trusted advisors beyond the life of the one deal,” says Katie Messenger, REALTOR® with the Bello Dimora Real Estate Network of Keller Williams Realty. “Gary Keller said that if agents did their job [by staying in touch with clients], Angie's List would never exist because they would come to us for every vendor need they have.”

When you’re able to nurture lasting relationships with your clients, you establish a reputation for being the go-to resource for all of their present and future real estate needs. In the real estate business, your reputation is the key to your success. And building that level of trust with your clients has long-term effects when it comes to growing your business.

Retaining Clients Encourages Repeat Business

Although some people buy only one home in their lifetime, the majority choose to buy a new home at various stages of their life. According to the National Association of REALTORS®, only 33% of the homes sold in 2018 were purchased by first-time buyers, which means that 67% of buyers had the potential to be repeat customers.

If you don’t retain your clients after sales, you’re likely to leave a lot of money on the table. Failing to keep up with your previous clients gives them reason to seek out another agent. And we all know there are plenty of agents to go around.

“Realtors are a dime a dozen. But good Realtors are harder to find,” says Robyn Flint, licensed REALTOR® and home insurance specialist at Expert Insurance Reviews. “Many are in it for themselves and the money. It takes a knowledgeable and professional Realtor who truly puts the needs of their clients first. Those are the ones you want to use. So if you find one, you make them your go-to real estate professional.”

As a real estate agent, you need to play the long game. Retaining clients is all about planning for your professional future. Overlooking your previous clients is like handing them over to your competition. Just think about how much easier it is to retain clients than to find new ones. Developing relationships with your clients outside of a specific transaction saves you time and money. With loyal clients, there’s far less networking and marketing needed to sustain your business. 

Retaining Clients Motivates Referrals

Even if your clients never sell their home, they still know others who will. And you want to be a name that they not only remember but speak of glowingly.

The National Association of REALTORS® reports that in 2018, 41% of buyers purchased a home with an agent who was referred to them by a friend or family member. And 63% of sellers chose agents whom they had either worked with previously or had heard about from someone they knew.

“Clients not only tend to move after so many years, but they have the ability to refer. Referrals are your lowest cost of acquisition. It beats Zillow leads, cold calling or anything else. Having the third party validation is key,” says Rick Albert, broker associate for LAMERICA Real Estate in Los Angeles. “This year has been mostly referrals because I stay in contact with past clients. It has saved me a considerable amount of time.”

As mentioned, people want to work with agents they trust. When people don’t have a frame of reference in the real estate world, they rely on the recommendations of the people they know.

So by retaining clients and consistently reaching out to them, you build their confidence in you and exponentially increase the chances that they will tell their neighbors, friends and relatives to enlist your services.

Just ask Messenger, who is dedicated to retaining her clients by fostering their trust. “I have a core group of folks that are my advocates and raving fans. Any opportunity they get, they will spread my name to others and support my business,” she says. “So far, of my 67 sold/pending transactions of 2019, 31 of them are from repeat clients or referrals, so almost 50% of my business is from maintaining relationships with a core group of valuable clients.”

Useful Strategies For Retaining Clients

Now that you understand the value of retention, you must learn how to deepen the relationships you have with your clients. While each of the strategies that agents use to retain their clients is advantageous, applying all of them to your business will lead to the best results.

Get To Know Your Clients Personally

Your ability to retain your clients is determined by the relationship that you establish with them from day one. Clients want to feel that they’re being looked after, which is why frequent communication is a must. If you regularly touch base with your clients while they work with you, the transition into keeping in touch after the deal closes becomes smoother and more natural.

But if you really want to retain your clients, the conversations that you have with them must extend beyond merely professional. You must get to know your clients by asking them about their families and interests.

Being social creatures, humans prefer to do business with people they not only respect but also enjoy being around. Therefore, you must make sure that before you close the deal, you’ve fostered a personal relationship with your clients.

Send Thank You Letters

When real estate agents send their clients thank you notes after the sale, it signals that they care. Some agents like to send thank you or house warming gifts after closing. While a gift does go that extra mile in showing your gratitude, you don’t need to buy clients’ loyalty.

Sending a thank you note is not merely a polite gesture, it’s the first step in opening the door to a more lasting relationship. In a world that revolves around electronic communication, a handwritten note tells clients that your relationship is not just about business, it’s personal. And people are loyal to those with whom they’ve developed intimate relationships.

Reach Out For Special Occasions

As you get to know your clients, be sure to make note of their birthdays and anniversaries. Although many agents send out holiday cards in an effort to retain their clients, sending messages on special occasions is much more effective.

People receive so many holiday cards from vendors that they often go unnoticed. However, when clients receive a card on their birthday or anniversary, it’s considered more personal and thoughtful. Birthday and anniversary letters communicate a level of familiarity and fondness that goes beyond the average agent-client relationship.

Utilize Social Media

For those who feel more uncomfortable reaching out often, social media is a great way to keep in touch. Social media has become a beneficial tool for advertising yourself and your services, but using these platforms to cultivate and preserve relationships with clients is even easier.

You don’t have to have an established presence in order to use social media to engage your clients. By connecting with clients, you can keep up with their lives and share in their experiences. All it really takes is a click of a “Like” button or an encouraging comment here or there.

“Social media is huge now. There are so many ways to connect with past clients in ways in which they want to be connected,” says Messenger. “Not everyone likes to talk on the phone, but an exchange on a family photo on Facebook is a good way to keep yourself top of mind.”

Establish An Email Marketing Campaign

Although it is less personal, creating an email list for clients does wonders for retaining them. Through email marketing, you can regularly remind former clients about your services and provide them with useful content that piques their interest and helps them navigate the world of homeownership.

The best part of email marketing is that it can all be automated, so you can stay in touch with all of your clients at the same time. With a good email service provider, like MailChimp, Constant Contact or GetResponse, you can create quality newsletters and streamline your communication, giving you time to close more deals and focus on the more challenging aspects of your business.

So instead of running around trying to find new business, spend some time concentrating on the connections you’ve already made. By keeping up with clients after the sale, you’ll demonstrate that you are the kind of agent who cares. All clients want to find the kind of agents who put their clients’ needs ahead of their own.

You can be that agent. Just continue building the relationships you have with your clients and show them that they still matter to you even after you’ve received your commission check. Remember, in the real estate business, people talk, and your success will often be determined by what they have to say about you.

Have you worked hard to retain your clients? Share your tips and experiences in the comments below.

Rachel Burris

Rachel Burris is a writer covering topics of interest to present and future homeowners, as well as industry insiders. Prior to joining Rocket Companies, she worked as an English teacher for the New York City Department of Education and a licensed real estate agent for Brown Harris Stevens. She holds a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Bucknell University, a postbaccalaureate certificate in psychology from Columbia University and a master's degree in English education from Teachers College, Columbia University.