I hear that all the time in some form or fashion from agents. Hard working, full-time Realtors are always looking for new clients but most people stop searching beyond their sphere of influence, open houses and telephone duty.
Sure, some work For Sale By Owners and others might work the expired listings. Corporate relocation referrals are always a nice source of "found business" but where else can agents look to identify home owners who might need an agent to help them sell or potential home buyers who need representation in the purchase of a new house?
Well, between December 31, 2009 and December 31, 2010 there appear to be almost 46,000 new places to look. And the actual number of potential leads could be much higher.
According to the National Association of Realtors Membership report, there were 45,987 fewer members heading into 2011 than there were at the start of 2010. (1,112,645 down to 1,066,658)
Now let's be honest, a large portion of those leaving the membership probably never did a single transaction last year but it's difficult to assume that there weren't a few very successful agents in that lot that just decided that it's time to call it quits. There might be some twenty to thirty-year veterans who closed hundred of deals in their careers who have just had enough of this challenging market.
So what happens to those clients who are living comfortably in their homes today that was lucky enough to work with one of those 45,987 people (or, in some cases, unlucky enough)? Who will they call for help? Who can they rely on to provide market updates? Who will be the recipient of their personal referrals for years to come?
Why not you?
If you're an agent who is looking to grow his or her client list, a great place to start is by searching for those "orphaned clients" of agents who no longer have a real estate license. Many of these former agents got in when the market got hot, sold a few homes, closed a few deals and then as the market cooled down, just like that, they're out of the business.
Search your MLS by Agent ID. Ask your branch manager or broker for a list of former agents who have left the business. Take a veteran agent in your office (or company) to lunch and ask them about some of the "old timers" who used to stroll up and down the hallways. Trust me, "there's gold in them thar halls."
You could contact any of those "orphaned clients" and simply introduce yourself. What have you got to lose? Your call might go something like this...
"Hello. I am Sean Carpenter with Coldwell Banker.
"I specialize in the area and while researching your neighborhood, I noticed that the agent who helped you buy your home back in ______ is no longer in the real estate business. Were you aware of that?
"I understand you may not need any real estate services at this point but I would hate to know of any homeowner who didn't have a friendly contact to help with any questions or concerns about their home or local real estate market .
"I'd be honored to be your new point of contact should you have any needs between now and when your plans may call for a housing change."
After making some contact, drop a hand-written note in the mail, include a few business cards and depending on how long they may have lived there, perhaps an updated overview of the market might be in order. By exuding confidence, displaying competence and delivering consistent and relevant information, you might be able to earn their trust and their precious future business and referrals.
Once you've established contact, you can add them to your everyday mailing and contact list. The stats don't lie. Most home buyers, when surveyed by the NAR, state that they "definitely would" (65%) or "probably would" (22%) use the agent who sold them their house again when they go to sell yet the actual number who do use the same agent when they go to sell is a much lower number (23%). Agents leaving the business is a huge reason why this is true. (Poor follow up is another...but that's a whole different blog post).
So what are you waiting for? It's time to put on your detective hat and start seeking out those "orphaned clients." They're going to eventually call someone. They just won't know it's supposed to be you.
Unless you tell them.
Until next time, keep building relationships, solving problems and having fun.