September 16, 2020

How to ask for a referral in real estate (and actually get one)

Ashley Walsh
Ashley Walsh

Most real estate agents are natural salespeople. They succeed at the job because they love people.

You’re in all probability a fabulous, delightful person to work with, so don’t take this personally: you aren’t your best salesperson. In fact, your best salesperson isn’t even on your payroll.  The ultimate salesperson is a client who will refer others in their network to your business.

The million-dollar question is, how do you activate your client base and turn them into a referral generation flywheel?

The answer, mastering the art of the ask.

Why asking for real estate referrals is so important

The keyword here is “ask”. Providing great service and successful outcomes isn't enough to earn a client’s referral most of the time.

Think about social media and review sites. So many people are quick to share their bad experiences, but fewer people think to share the great experiences they have.  Some people just aren’t comfortable with making recommendations, many have good intentions and just forget, others feel that their business and the commission they paid is thanks enough.

So how do you convince them to sing your praises?

The easiest option is to just ask.

1. Timing is everything

Okay, so there is a bit more that goes into landing a referral than just asking. It’s important to develop the right relationship with your client and consider the right approach before making your move.

Start by thinking about your client’s home buying or selling journey.

Ideally, you would wait until you’ve successfully completed a transaction for your client before you ask them for a referral, but that’s not always the case.  It's not uncommon for people who are moving to know others in the same season of life.

Here are some ideal times to consider:

  • After a successful open house, a busy showing week or offer: The excitement of momentum on a listing is a positive moment to capitalize on and likely the first moment you’ve proven your value to market your clients’ home.
  • After a busy day of looking at homes or making an offer: Touring homes can be really fun for buyers and if you’ve had a fun day consider this: “This has been super fun. Do you have any friends or family considering a move? I’d love to work with more friendly buyers like you.
  • After the transaction: 5 days after closing is probably a little too soon. Moving is stressful, and the average person surrounded by unpacked boxes is not going to be in a giving mood. Figure out how long it usually takes for your customer to feel settled in a new home and utilize your CRM to trigger a check-in reminder.
  • On a home anniversary - It’s always nice to be reminded of your home's anniversary and a great opportunity to pop in and say hello.

2. Make it easy

One of your largest barriers to getting a real estate referral is time, so it’s important to make the process as easy and painless as possible. If providing a referral seems like a chore, the likelihood of it happening decreases. Make sure your request is accompanied by a message that lets clients know how fast and simple it is to fulfill.

For instance, request that clients post a photo of their new home on social media and tag you in the post. Even better, draft a simple post for them to copy and paste.

3. Make it worth their time

While some clients are naturally inclined to talk about their experiences with friends or on social media, others don’t think about it and may need some motivation.

In some cases, you may need to offer your clients something in return for the time spent and for leveraging their social capital. The key to adding value is to determine what’s most valuable to your clients and what is most likely to get them to take action.  

Here are some common motivators and ways to positively impact your clients by finding the right motivation.‍


Money talks, that will never change. One common approach is to offer a referral bonus. Depending on the market you are in, and the commission you make, you may have the flexibility to make this a significant amount. Gift cards to common stores like Amazon, or popular local restaurants are a great way to say thank you.‍

Are they motivated by being helpful?

Not everyone is motivated by money. In many cases, a $20 or even $100 gift card is not a significant amount for a high-end home buyer. However, many people are simply motivated by helping others.  Is there a benefit you could pass along to your clients’ referrals that will make them feel good about themselves? Letting your client know that their referral will be treated like a VIP is a great way to put them at ease - whether that’s taking them to lunch in between showings or perhaps offering a special commission rate.‍


VIP services and packages are a creative way to keep your clients motivated to refer you. Perhaps a spot in your annual golf outing or girl’s night out for your client and a few friends is the most effective way to get your client talking.

4. Make it personal

Chances are, you’ve already laid the foundation for a good relationship during all the time you spent working together, which means that you know enough about your client to personalize your message. By referencing experiences that you had and obstacles that you overcame together you can remind them of their positive experience working with you.

For example:

“Wow, I can’t believe it’s been a year since we were trudging through 6 inches of snow to see every home in (insert neighborhood) :). It’s days like those and families like yours that keep my job fun and challenging. As winter comes to a close, I’m gearing up for another listing season….”

5. Follow up to say thanks

A little gratitude can go an extremely long way. While your clients probably know you appreciate their referrals, it’s important to acknowledge it and follow up. That can come in the form of a card, email, text, or phone call but should be personal.

“I just wanted to say thanks again for referring (Name) to my office. We just closed on their home today. They were a joy to work with! I'm not surprised considering they are friends of yours :)

6. Don’t be pushy

This probably goes without saying but it's important to avoid being pushy. Asking too often or too aggressively can be a major turn-off and may come across as desperate. No one wants a real estate experience that reminds them of what it was like to shop for a mattress and no one wants to refer their friends to someone is a nuisance.

Rev up your real estate business with referrals

Don’t forget, your customers have the potential to be your most valuable sales reps and drive exponential growth for your business. Make the most of them and enjoy the ripple effect.

More from our blog