As any seasoned real estate agent or broker will tell you, breaking into the business is easier said than done. Indeed, a well-known and often-cited statistic from the National Association of REALTORS® suggests that as many as 87 percent of agents fail within the first five years.
One of the main reasons that new agents struggle is the high cost of establishing a real estate brand. In addition to commission splits, training, and other operating expenses, agents are often expected to cover some or all of the technology costs associated with building their personal brand.
Luckily, there are a number of free brand-building tools out there to help new or established real estate agents find that extra edge as they get started. Here are some of our favorites.
1. GSuite: Word processing and spreadsheets
No matter how sophisticated marketing technology becomes, just about every marketing strategy and piece of collateral starts out as a simple document, spreadsheet, or presentation. Traditionally, Microsoft has had this market cornered with their Office products—but these tools have always come at a high price. Currently, Microsoft’s subscription-based “Office 365” offering retails as high as $150 a year.
Instead, check out GSuite, Google’s collection of business and productivity apps. GSuite offers alternatives to just about every product in the Microsoft Office lineup, including Docs (Word), Sheets (Excel), and Slides (PowerPoint).Google’s GSuite apps have just about everything you need, with more features being added every day.
Even if you already have an older version of Microsoft Office, you should consider switching GSuite for one simple reason: the cloud. Instead of living on your hard drive, every document you create using GSuite (along with the apps themselves) is stored on the web, which means you can access and edit it from everywhere—including your phone.
2. Trello: Project management
As they work to build their brands, real estate agents are constantly juggling multiple clients, listings, and tasks in different stages of development. Instead of relying on your paper to-do list or hiring an assistant to keep track of it all, consider using a project management tool like Trello.
Trello lets users create “boards” to help them organize and prioritize all the projects they’re working on. One REALTOR® told us how she uses Trello to manage her day-to-day:
“I have a running to-do list and a list of long-term projects. And then I have lists for active clients, buyer prospects, and listing prospects. Within all those, I have cards based on a checklist template for paperwork, and also the steps to take once I get them under contract. Every time I add a prospect, I copy the template card and add the information.”
Trello’s free version offers a ton of features, including unlimited boards, lists, cards, members, checklists, and attachments. Paid plans add integrations with other tools like GSuite and Evernote, as well as some administrative tools for collaborating with your team.
3. Placester: Real Estate Website
Your personal real estate website probably won’t be the first place that real estate consumers encounter your brand on the web—but it may be the last place they visit before they contact you.
While a homebuyer or seller may find you on Zillow or Realtor.com initially, he or she will likely Google you to learn more about your business, which will lead them straight to your real estate website.
If that website is outdated, unprofessional, or lacking the features they expect from a property search experience, they might just change their mind about picking up the phone.
Some agents rely on their broker’s website to promote their brands online. But as one agent explains, it’s hard to stand out this way:
“My firm’s site is all about listings, and it has all the different brokers in the office. I liked the idea of having a destination page that was only branded for me and adds additional value to visitors.”
Between hosting fees, custom design work, and content creation, the costs of building and maintaining a real estate website can add up quickly. Fortunately, Placester’s free NAR Edition websites enable REALTORS® to create a beautiful real estate website with all the basics, including mobile-friendly design, MLS listing search, lead capture forms, and a featured area page to highlight your community.
Once you’ve built a foundation with a free Placester site, you can use our Agent Pro subscription to enhance your branding with a range of advanced features, including a custom blog, additional page templates, and personalized logos and colors.
4. Relola: Local content for social and website sharing
Local expertise is your greatest power as a real estate agent. While your real estate website and social media advertising can be effective tools for promoting that expertise, your audience may also appreciate something a bit more interactive.
Relola is a free app that helps Realtors create interactive, curated “Group Maps” maps for their listings that can be personalized with your favorite local restaurants, parks, schools, and attractions. Relola also allows your audience to contribute their own content to your map, providing social proof and validation of your local expertise.
Once you’ve created a Relola map, you can share it on your Facebook business page, your website, and anywhere else you connect with consumers.
5. Mailchimp: Email newsletters
Email marketing remains a crucial part of any real estate agent’s toolset. It can also be painfully time consuming if you’re not using the right tools. Drip email marketing platforms like MailChimp can help you easily build and send various kinds of emails to your leads and clients, helping you stay in touch automatically without wasting precious time.
Mailchimp offers a range simple and attractive email templates that can be customized via a drag-and-drop interface. When you’re ready to hit send, you can easily upload your database of contacts and automatically send either a one-time email, or a series of emails at regular intervals.
While many similar email marketing services only have paid plans or trials, Mailchimp offers a free-for-life subscription that gives you access to most features while limiting you to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 email sends per month—more than enough capacity for a new agent building up their network of contacts.
6. Evite: Events and open houses
Whether it’s a happy hour at a local bar, a dog-walking meetup, or an open house for your latest listing, hosting events in your local community is one of the best ways to grow your contact list and raise awareness of your new real estate business.
Whatever event you’re hosting, you need a way to easily invite your connections, and Evite has you covered.
Evite offers a wide range of free design templates for a variety of event types, as well as a “Design Your Own” option that allows you to customize an invitation to suit your brand and event.
Once you’ve created your digital invitation, you can easily upload your contacts, send via text or email, and track both views and RSVPs. Evite even offers a mobile app to help you manage your events on the go.
7. Canva: Print and digital flyers
From ad banners, to website images, to flyers, creating marketing collateral for your business is no simple task, especially when you lack the graphic design tools and experience. A mediocre flyer or ad will not only fail to drive business—it may actually harm your real estate brand.
Thankfully, there are some free, user-friendly tools out there to help you easily create beautiful marketing collateral. Canva offers over 50,000 templates for everything from logos, to slide presentations, to newsletters. Each template can be customized with your own text and images using Canva’s simple software.
In addition, Canva has added printing services to its offerings, allowing users to design, print, and ship a variety of collateral, including business cards, posters, brochures, and more.
8. Instagram: Social sharing and local content
Whether it’s a former client, a lead, a vendor, or a fellow agent, the majority of contacts in your sphere are using social media—and Instagram is one of the best apps available to help you connect with them.
With Instagram, you can build your real estate brand by sharing photos and videos of not only your latest listings, but also client testimonials, homeowner tips, and other content real estate consumers will enjoy.
Remember, building a great real estate brand is about showing consumers why they should work with you, and your personality and style are part of that effort. So be authentic. Instead of solely posting photos of your latest properties, incorporate images of you and your team during your day-to-day activities. Take the opportunity to humanize your business, and consumers will be more likely to respond.