Geo-farming in Real Estate
Want to become the “go to” agent in a neighborhood? It can’t be done overnight, but using a geographic farming strategy (aka geo-farming) it can be done.
With geo farming, you’re blanketing an entire neighborhood with your branding and marketing, winning over mindshare one block at a time! This is done through proactive mail, phone, in-person, and digital outreach along with genuine community involvement.
Overtime as you execute this technique you’ll become that agent that everyone thinks of first when it’s time sell their home. Achieving that status can be a quantum leap for your business.
In this article we’ll peek behind the curtain to see how exactly other agents have successfully made geo-farming work for their business. We’ll cover the following:
What is geo farming in real estate?
If you’re envisioning tractors and fields, hang on to your hats, because this type of farming involves no plows or straw hats.
Geographic farming in real estate is when an agent cultivates relationships in a neighborhood with the intention of doing more real estate business within that area. Yes, it’s similar to how a farmer cultivates crops for harvest.
The main goal is to become the top of mind for residents in this neighborhood when it comes to anything to do with real estate. Achieving this level of brand awareness means that you will have a good shot at winning listings in that area which can be a game changer for an agent.
The tactics for cultivating these relationships can vary quite a bit BUT mailers are almost always a pillar part in any geo-farming strategy. These can be postcards on recent sales, market updates, upcoming listings, Open Houses etc.
Another very common aspect of developing a farm in real estate is in-person interactions such as door knocking or participating/planning community events.
And a reality that agents have repeated time and again during our research is that geo-farming takes time. Brand awareness, developing relationships, earning trust are all their own complex, multi-stage journeys any they require lots of effort…so don’t expect a list of “hacks” or quick fixes as you read on.
So, dust off your overalls and roll up your sleeves because it’s time to start farming!
Pick the Right Farm with Research and Data Analysis
Before beginning this multi-year journey (yes it’s at least 1-2 years to expect results from geo-farming) you need to decide which area to begin “farming”.
In a perfect world you’d just start geo farming your favorite neighborhood right? Well not all neighborhoods are created equally when it comes to maximizing the ROI from geographic farming in real estate.
The amount of benefit there is to being the “top of mind” REALTOR for a market depends on a few different stats and these numbers can vary significantly from neighborhood to neighborhood so you want to make sure you have this information before setting your sites on a specific market.
Here are the main considerations when deciding which area to focus your real estate farming:
1. Proximity to the Neighborhood: Choose a farm area that’s near you (and even if it’s not your immediate neighborhood make sure it is easily accessible to you).
You will likely have a brand awareness head start in these areas AND the closer a neighborhood is, the simpler all the logistics around planning events, hosting Open Houses, and door knocking will be.
2. Competition: Is there a well entrenched agent in this area that may be difficult to displace? If you live in/near the area you’d probably know BUT you can find out by analyzing the distribution of listing activity in the area. If there is 1-2 agents that are dominating the listings, then it could be an uphill battle to take mindshare away from them.
3. Home Count: This is important to understand the approximate time and cost of farming the area.
A good rule of thumb on calculating the cost to maintain a real estate farm is to assume $2 per house per month (and that doesn’t include your time involved to door knock, coordinate events, and host Open Houses (all which can be impacted as your farm includes more homes). Target as many homes as your budget allows.
4. Turnover Rate: Aim for a neighborhood with a turnover rate of 5% or more.
The turnover rate is crucial for gauging sales activity in a potential farm area. To calculate, divide the number of homes sold in the past year by the total number of homes. For instance, 15 sales in an area of 150 homes gives a 10% turnover rate.
So don’t decide your real estate farm merely based on familiarity or convenience. This could result in a much lower return on investment…and there’s significant investment required here. Armed with the above data, you can hopefully shortlist a few neighborhoods with clear expansion plans if things go well.
Print, Mail, and other Offline Marketing
So long Instagram and TikTok. It’s time to hop in a marketing time machine and go back to some of the age-old techniques of print marketing…specifically using mail. Physical mail (yes “snail mail) is a major part of geo-farming. This could include:
- Postcards: Just Sold, Coming Soon, Regular Market Updates, EDDM campaigns
- Flyers: Open House promotions, Local event marketing
- Other Mailers: golden letters, door hangers, and thank you letters
- Actual deliveries like sending out real estate swag
Getting a mailing list for your farm
Above we covered how to select the right geo-graphic farm based on data analysis, BUT before you go out and buy a book of your favorite Disney character stamps, you’ll need to know a few important details about the area. Mainly you’ll need a list of the residents. This must include names and addresses, and ideally would also include their email and/or phone number.
Title companies are a common source for this kind of data, since this information is maintained in title records. Plus title reps are usually pretty willing to help with this type of marketing.
Alternatively platforms like RPR (Realtor’s Property Resource), Remine, IMAPP can also be used for this kind of info.
Note: some mailer services (ex: Every Door Direct) will run an entire mail campaign without you even needing a list of residents. As a one-off campaign, this is fine, but in order to achieve true geo-farming success, you’ll need the list of residents because these are relationships that you’ll need to manage and track various interactions to.
Postcard marketing in a real estate farm
In real estate there’s postcard for every occasion so it’s no surprise that postcard marketing is a BIG part of any geo-farm strategy.
We have a deep dive into Just Sold Postcards here and while “Just Sold” and “Just Listed” milestones are important to broadcast to your farm, there are also some other really creative ideas beyond those – check out this video on postcard marketing from Tom Ferry’s Channel:
And if you’re looking for different services for sending out your post cards here are some options:
- Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM): EDDM campaigns allow businesses to reach every address in a specific geographic area without the need for specific names or addresses, making it an efficient tool for local marketing.
- ClubFlyers: Renowned for its vibrant designs and top-tier printing, ClubFlyers is lauded for producing postcards that captivate recipients.
- Handwrytten: Standing out with its novel concept, Handwrytten offers handwritten notes on customizable postcards, adding a personal touch that resonates with potential clients. For those aiming to establish an authentic connection, Handwrytten offers a memorable (albeit more pricey) touch.
- Corefact: A trusted name in real estate print marketing, Corefact provides a wide array of services for agents. Not only do they support a variety of print marketing formats, but they’ll also handle delivery making them a top choice for agents.
- 9centprinting.com: Prioritizing affordability and space, 9centprinting.com enables users to print larger 8×10 newsletters or postcards without a hefty price tag.
- Minuteman Press: A holistic solution for agents, Minuteman Press offers comprehensive Direct Mail postcard campaign services. They not only assist in design and print but also offer promotional products, presenting a suite of marketing tools tailored for real estate professionals.
Also go beyond postcards entirely with these mailer ideas that are perfect for geo-farming:
- Door Hangers: door hangers don’t work very well for many businesses, but for real estate, it’s a highly targeted marketing opportunity that works on multiple levels
- Golden Letters: This is a tactic where an agent sends a targeted letter to homeowners, typically expressing interest from home buyers
So don’t be afraid to let your marketing do the time-warp back to the wonder years before everything became digital. Even though Columbia House may not be sending “free” CDs via mail, it doesn’t mean real estate marketing via mail isn’t relevant. After all, the association works perfectly: you’re putting your brand on the actual item you have expertise in. Someone’s home.
Community Events in Geo-farming
Community Engagement & Involvement is an excellent way to strengthen personal connections within your real estate farm.
Participating in (or even better planning/sponsoring) events plugs you into the neighborhood in a more genuine way.
Picture this: a cozy summer evening, twinkle lights casting their sparkly glow, laughter filling the air and wine glasses clinking against the enchanting backdrop of a block party.
But there are TONS of events to participate in. Here’s a list of community events for real estate agents to engage their geographic farm:
- Throw a house-warming (or bar-stocking) party
- Host a viewing party for a big game
- Movie night at a park or collaborate with a theater
- Block parties, BBQs, and picnics
- Sponsor intramural and school sports events
- Neighborhood walking tours
- Shredding events (after Tax Day this is a big hit)
- Trash can cleaning
- Holiday photoshoots (ex: photos with Santa)
- Charity drive (ex: winter coat drive)
- Community Garage Sale
And you don’t need to be the solo-planner for these events. You can collaborate with local businesses (or the area’s local business association), HOAs schools, churches, non-profits, as well as your lender and title partners. Plus explore sponsoring existing neighborhood events.
So go out and create some community spirit, and you’ll soon be the neighborhood’s favorite agent…and your brand will become subconsciously associated with all the goodness & fun from your event!
Digital Presence & Modern Geo-farming Strategies
Alrighty let’s hit the gas on our DeLorean and get to the modern digital age. While geo farming in real estate has typically been a physical mail operation, online marketing is playing a growing role (albeit as a supporting actor).
The idea here is that you want to be the “digital mayor” of your farm and also combine the benefits of digital marketing with the more conventional geographic farming tactics…for example:
- Make sure your business is highly rated on local review sites like Yelp, Google Business, and Nextdoor
- Try and build an email list comprised of the same residents that you’re sending mailers to. Then engage them with emails that repeat/support the same type of content that you’re sending via mail
- Connect with your farm on social media, and post content promoting local events and news relevant to your farm
- Use digital follow-up for a near-instant response to any positive interactions with contacts in your farm (you can do this AND still send thank you cards via mail)
- Regularly call your farm (attempt 100 calls/week)
So don’t limit yourself to just traditional methods. The “glory days” of knocking on doors and leaving pamphlets are far from over, but they shouldn’t be the entire focus of your geo-farming efforts. Digital farming is a real thing (and we don’t just mean FarmVille ok?).
Consistency & Persistence in geo farming
Just like real farming, don’t expect overnight results with geo-farming. However this goes both ways. Once you’ve established your brand and cultivated relationships in the neighborhood, your business has momentum that can drive results for years.
Here’s a YouTube video showcasing a candid conversation between two seasoned agents who attribute much of their success to geographic farming.
In our research we found that it takes approximately 6 to 12 “touches” to gain real brand awareness among homeowners in a farm. That alone could take a year…and that doesn’t guarantee you’ll be the defacto agent for the area.
Plus it’s not an inexpensive endeavor so you’ll need to set aside a long term budget if you plan to start this journey. Agents that have had proven success with a geographic farm have said it costs $2/house/month.
So go into this strategy with eyes open and a reasonable, multi-year budget available!
Geo-farming in real estate has been a part of many agents success across multi-decade careers. No doubt it requires dedication over a long time horizon…but the results are truly game changing.
By meticulously researching potential areas and employing data insights, agents can pick the right “farm” with maximum ROI potential. And then using old-school “snail mail”, events, and digital tactics agents can wiggle their way into a neighborhood’s subconscious as the “go to” REALTOR…just like an unforgettable commercial jingle.
That kind of awareness can become a gold mine of listings and referrals which agents can harvest for decades. So, are you ready to be the “Costanza” in your market?