As you may have read in my article, there is always a risk when it comes to referrals.

It’s the risk of becoming an “outcast” as the referee.

The one referring always wants the potential reward weight more than the risk of becoming an “outcast.”

So, practical tips to get organic and rewarded real estate referrals should focus on mitigating or reducing this “outcast” risk.

How can we do that in real estate?

First, we would need to ensure that the basic requirements are met.

It’s the requirements that could make positive word-of-mouth (referrals without rewards) happen.

Based on the psychological factors, we can derive the following tips for getting “organic” real estate referrals:

  • Offer a service with unique features and benefits (working out a great unique selling proposition, or USP, comes in here).

  • Be or become a good problem solver for seller or buyer clients.

  • Provide value as a real estate professional so clients consider your service a “good buy.”

  • Be helpful, friendly, and responsive.

Suppose these basic things are in place (aligned with the study from the Association of Consumer Research).

The next step can be a more strategic and tactical approach to rewarding referrals.

Why not before?

If the conditions for creating positive word-of-mouth are not met, an incentivized referral program may do more harm than good.

Let’s say you had a brokerage with one or two real estate agent colleagues (“bad apples”).

They were not helpful, friendly, and responsive with potential sellers and buyers.

Now you have a referral marketing program in place to incentivize referrals to your brokerage.

The person referring you those leads, although receiving a reward from you, may do it for a while, but in the long run, it will cost her or him socially.

The referred buyer might complain to him afterward.

He complains that one of the agents of this brokerage was not really friendly and didn’t reply to texts.

This might, in turn, even create a negative buzz for the person who has done the referring. The “outcast” is happening again.

Once you meet most of the above conditions, what follows will be additional strategic and tactical questions.


1) How could I make the referral frictionless and easy? What technology could help me with that?

You could use pre-made templates that clients can use to refer you to others.

But there are also already existing solutions, such as referral software.

To name a few that you can use to reduce the friction of rewarded referrals, there are:


2) How can I further reduce the risk of someone referring a client to my business?

To improve your service and make it more unique, you could introduce a “show-ready service.”

This smoothes the hassle of showings interrupting the homeowner’s daily life.

Providing helpful content for your community can also be perceived as an additional service you provide.

You could do this via the website Park Bench or content marketing (blog articles, videos, etc.).

You can also reduce the referral risk by becoming an even better problem solver. You can do this by improving your negotiation and communication skills.

This prepares you for any curve ball before, during, or after a real estate transaction.

What else could you do to increase the value you provide?

You could also have a stream-lined buyer pre-approval system in place.

This can reduce potential time-wasters and tire-kickers for sellers.

Or you could offer after-sales services and have an after-sales follow-up system in place (e.g., market insights).


3) What incentives meeting their needs and wants could I offer to sellers, buyers, and/or other real estate professionals that refer me to clients?

Regarding real estate professionals, the answer is usually straightforward.

The incentive is usually a referral fee (a share of the gross commission), or you could also send them referrals.

For buyers, it could be something related to home decoration and furnishings or a moving truck discount for sellers.

Yet, the more personalized the gift (an incentive) you can offer, the better the effect will be.

I worked this out in my article, “Custom Real Estate Marketing Products that Stand Out.”


4) What events and other unconventional marketing activities could I use to create buzz?

I covered these topics more in my articlesWhat is Experiential Real Estate Marketing After 2020?“ and “How You Can Benefit from Real Estate Guerrilla Marketing.

As part of real estate guerrilla marketing, you could do a combination of an open house and a treasure hunt for kids.

Or you help with yard sales in the community.

Another idea I covered in the above articles is, for example, a potential buyer needing to solve a particular puzzle in a certain amount of time (of course, this needs to be prepared as an event that you can stream on social media for the buzz effect, etc.).

If they do, they receive a reward (e.g., a price reduction for a newly built home, a new refrigerator, etc.).

5) When is the best moment to ask for a referral?

This author opines that you may want to ask for referrals once you make the sale.


Because this is when things are still fresh. The sellers and/or buyers are still most excited about using your services.

According to this source, you may want to use the following rules to find the right moment:

  • The moment when the positive sentiment towards your service is highest.

  • The moment when your clients are most receptive to messages from you.

  • When the chances are highest, they act on a call to action to refer a friend.

This source confirms the rule that you want to ask for a referral right after a successful transaction, ideally by email and/or SMS.

This article has been reviewed by our editorial team. It has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policy.

Tobias Schnellbacher