The Ultimate Guide to Real Estate Farming

How to get more home listings with multi-touch direct mail 

More home listings.  Every real estate agent wants them.  How to get them? Well, that’s an open question.

There are so many options today to find soon-to-be home-sellers.  Many of those options are online via Google and Facebook.  But the competition is fierce and increasingly expensive.

Why not take a look at what has worked in the past – the so-called “farming” approach to real estate sales?

You may be surprised by how simple and effective it is.

What exactly is farming?

Farming is largely a direct mail marketing strategy used by real estate agents to build name recognition and generate new listing leads.

Instead of targeting a larger audience with one-off mailings, the farming strategy targets a much smaller, more focused audience with frequent mailings. 

Farming campaigns may involve a target audience of less than 1,000 homeowners – often as few as 500.  Once identified, these prospects would then receive direct mail on a weekly or every-other-week basis.’

These multiple direct mail “touches” allow you to build your name recognition with this target audience, while at the same time, generate leads from those who are getting ready to sell.

Farming campaigns are not confined to direct mail though.  They can also include local advertising (online and offline), email, phone and participation in community events.

Why real estate farming works

When you think of direct mail, most people think of solo campaigns to a target audience.  In most cases, the success (or failure) of the campaign is based on the response – how many leads the single mailing produced.

Direct mail farming takes a longer view.  It doesn’t measure results by the response from an individual mailing.  It measures results by your sales over a period of time.

It looks at your total farming area and acknowledges that a certain percentage of those home are likely to sell during the course of a year.

By focusing your attention of your farm area, you are highly likely to acquire your share (and maybe more than your share) of the listings that come up during that year. 

Let’s look at some numbers

Real estate home sales fluctuate over time and vary by location.  A turnover rate of 5% per year is about average.

If you run a farming campaign to 500 selected homeowners, 5% would equal 25 home listings during the year. 

Competition varies but if you focus your marketing on those 500 homeowners, you should be able to acquire a fair share of those 25 listings.  Even 20% of those listings would be five new home-sellers.

Now, think about what your average commission is for each sale you make through these new listings.

But direct mail seems so old-school

Indeed it does – and many real estate sales agents have moved away from direct mail to the latest digital marketing strategies.

They moved away from direct mail, not because it didn’t work, but because there was something new on the horizon and they wanted to be part of it.

Digital marketing is a wonderful new development for marketing and sales.  We use it all the time ourselves.

But we also understand that marketing is about results – and when you find something that works you stick with it.

The good news is we can integrate direct mail with many of the new online technologies to give you even greater response and accountability.

What if we combined direct mail with online (digital) marketing?

Yes, that would give you the best of both worlds.

Think about the impact.  You’re reaching the homeowners you want to reach on a consistent basis, but now you are getting your message to them in other ways – on the platforms they use every day.

We’ve developed a farming program that uses a series of postcard mailers and integrates those mailings with dedicated landing pages, Google Ads, Facebook Ads and lead nurturing email sequences.

More than anything else, Google and Facebook serve to reinforce the direct mail message – and the lead nurturing email sequences allow you to continue your messaging over many weeks, months, even years.

Who should we target?

Direct mail farming campaigns most often target specific neighborhoods – a section of the community which is familiar to the sales agent.

In this case, the target audience is selected largely by geography.

But you are not limited to neighborhood farming.

You can apply the same farming strategy by targeting homeowners by their demographics:

  • Home value
  • Income
  • Age
  • Time in home
  • Life events

In recent years, we have seen the introduction of predictive analysis to identify homeowners who are likely to be selling their homes.   Predictive analysis uses multiple points of data to identify homeowners who may soon be sellers.  There are many vendors doing this type of modeling – each using their own proprietary algorithms.  If you are interested in using this technology, we recommend testing this approach against a more traditional list selection approach.

What type of mailers should we use?

For real estate agents, postcards are the best mailers.  Large postcards that get noticed and remembered.  Postcards with plenty of photos, straightforward headlines and text, and clear, compelling calls-to-action.

We love letters too, but for brand-awareness, postcards have one very important advantage over letters – the pass-along effect.

When a letter gets delivered to a home, common courtesy says only the addressed person is allowed to open the envelope.  But if a postcard gets delivered, anyone in the household has permission to read it.  This pass-along effect promises to give you much more exposure.

You can also use self-mailers which are folded postcards that open to a larger message.

There are also gimmicky postcards – like magnet postcards or scratch-off postcards.

So, you have many choices, but we believe in the postcard for real estate.

How often should we mail?

Direct mail farming campaigns generally come in two parts –

  • An intensive multi-touch campaign that may include eight (8) or more direct mail “touches” over a two or four-month period
  • A monthly stay-in-touch campaign

The intensive multi-touch campaign is designed to get the attention of the homeowner.  A single mailing doesn’t do that.  Even a couple of mailings does little to build audience awareness.

There’s no magic formula to the frequency or scheduling of your mailers.  Ideally, you’d like to mail every week for a couple of months, or if you want to spread it out, mail every other week over the course of four months.

How many different cards should we create?

Once again, there is no magic formula here. 

Can you mail the same piece over and over again?  Of course you can. 

And it should have an impact, although your target audience may get tired of seeing the same message week after week.

We believe the ideal approach is to create four postcards for an 8-week program.  This means you will only have to repeat the sequence once over the two months.

As for the monthly mailings, you could mail the same card every month because there’s enough time in between mailings.  But we expect you may want to mix up those cards as well – maybe around different seasons or holidays.

Getting Started

If any of this interest you, let’s set up a time to chat.

I’d be happy to go over the program in more detail and share our pricing.

Just use the Schedule a Call image above to schedule a call on my calendar.

There’s no obligation involved..

At the end of our conversation, if you want to move forward, I will put together a more detailed proposal of our working arrangement.

If you just have a quick question, call me at 508-473-8643 or send me an email (

I look forward to hearing from you.

Bob McCarthy

Real Estate Services

  • Residential Sales
  • Commercial Sales
  • Leasing
  • Real Estate Investments
  • Real Estate Financial Advisors
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