The Ultimate Guide to Creating a Real Estate Business Plan + Free Template
By Sandra Manzanares
About Agent Basics
Developing a real estate business plan is critical to forming a healthy and sustainable business.
A study of 2,877 business owners found that companies are twice as likely to secure loans and funding if they have a business plan, and 75% more likely to grow:
Since a plan will significantly increase the chances of growing your real estate business, it makes sense to take the time to create one.
But, the big problem with creating a business plan is that agents and brokers often get bogged down in the details. Dragging out a business plan can cost your agency.
Harvard Business Review (HBR) stated that the chances of success rose by 12% for those that spent no longer than 3 months on their plan. With any longer proving futile.
So, how do you write a business plan for your real estate business without getting bogged down in the details?
In this post, we’ll look at actionable steps agents and brokers can take to outline, execute and measure the performance of a business plan.
What is a Real Estate Business Plan?
A business plan is a written document that captures the future of your business. It details what you plan to do, and how you plan to do it.
Specifically, it conveys your business goals, the strategies and tactics you’ll use to achieve them, potential problems you may run into along the way and how to overcome them, roles and responsibilities, SWOT analysis and measurement strategies.
Why Create a Real Estate Business Plan?
Failing to plan is planning to fail.
Your business plan is the GPS for success. Instead of wandering aimlessly, push towards your goals and objectives with clear direction.
The numbers back this up:
A study showed that 64% of companies who created a plan grew their businesses, compared to 43% of companies that hadn’t yet finished a plan.
The business plan will answer critical strategic and operational questions:
Who is your ideal client? How much can you expect to earn? What budget should you set aise for marketing? How many sales will you have to make to cover expenses? What are the biggest threats and opportunities in your market?
The plan should be flexible enough to allow your business to pivot with internal and external forces.
Note: The length of business plans vary, but they generally outline between one and five years. For our purposes, we’ve used a length of three years. Few agents are able to fully develop their business in only a year, while planning five years into the future can be very speculative. For most new agents, three years is a reasonable time frame for achieving a degree of financial success and establishing a viable career in the industry.
Start with a Solid Foundation
Write an Executive Summary that Captures the Vision
Your executive summary is an anchor point you can use to understand the overall goals, cement the parameters of your target market, and make decisions that are aligned with your plan. It’s also a way to get inspired by your original vision.
For real estate, it would include points on:
- Target neighbourhoods and price ranges
- Target clients and brief description of the persona
- Brief marketing plan overview
- Market threats and opportunities
Think of the executive summary as the section of your business plan you would explain to a friend a football game when asked how you plan to make money as an agent or broker in your local town/ city or state.
Note: due to the specific details including in the executive summary, this part of the business is typically one of the last items completed.
Write a Detailed Business Description
There’s a story and context behind your business, and the business description is where that should shine.
Part of the business description — which helps keep the rest on-track — is the mission statement. Many mission statements follow a familiar format, like:
“To be the best, full-service Real Estate company in the Triangle and to enhance our quality of life through active community involvement.”.
In a microstudy of 200 mission statements, it was found that mission statements most often talk about the company’s dedication to customers (85%), shareholders (37%), employees (21%), and society (3%).
As well as a defined mission statement, make sure to include:
- When you were founded
- Where you are located
- Who the leaders are
- Special advantages / partnerships
- Market opportunities
- Legal structure
A very brief real estate business description example is:
“Norris & Company Real Estate is Vero Beach’s premier upscale real estate firm. They specialize in luxury waterfront homes and condominiums, particularly in Vero Beach and Indian River County, FL.”
Perform a SWOT Analysis
A SWOT analysis is a technique used to identify and define several key characteristics that will impact your business: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
Think of it this way:
Strengths and Weaknesses are internal. Threats and Opportunities are external.
An analysis can be as simple as making lists of items under each of these categories.
For example, a strength could be a strong and experienced sales team, while a weakness might be that your business is expensive to run because you haven’t nurtured supplier relations.
It could be as simple as filling 4 sheets of paper with descriptions of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats — collaboratively or alone. To make the answers clearer and the exercise easier, you can use questions like:
- What do our competitors do better than us? Threat.
- What’s our unique selling point? Strength.
- Why have customers churned in the past? Weakness.
- Which markets are underserved in your territory? Opportunities.
List Your #1 SMART Goal
It’s great to be ambitious, but focusing down on one goal makes it easier to stay motivated, track progress, and see the measurable effect of achieving it. Even better if that goal is a SMART Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timed – goal.
Examples of SMART goals you might set for your growing real estate business is:
- Build a new real estate website in the next 3 months
- Hire and onboard 3 new SDRs in the next 6 months
- Increase monthly leads by 50% by next year
- Sell 10 houses in the Dallas metro area in the next 30 days
Pick one at a time and focus on it! Sticking to an achievable goal with a time limit makes it more likely it’ll actually come to fruition. And, even just writing it down makes you 42% more likely to attain it.
Creating a Strategic Real Estate Business Plan
How you create your real estate agent business plan varies based on your needs, but there are core issues every real estate business plan should address. We’ve broken these into four areas:
- Defining Your Marketing Strategy
- Creating a Financial Plan
- Implementing Action Plans
- Evaluating and Revising Your Plan
For each area, we will outline specific tasks you should perform, and provide tools to help you along the way.
Defining Your Marketing Strategy
Identifying Your Market Niche
Before setting out your facts and figures, it’s important to put a spotlight on your target market and how you’ll serve this niche. This helps you decide what’s realistic and feasible to achieve in your business plan.
Determining your market niche is a fancier way of saying: Who, specifically, are your services best suited to? While honing in on a narrow target seems a little exclusionary, niche marketing can save you time, effort, and money on marketing.
One tool to help you define your market is a buyer persona. A persona is a fictional typification of your ideal customer, with information that helps you steer your sales and marketing in the right direction.
Here’s a simple example:
To get started creating your persona, ask yourself a set of simple questions like:
- What is the demographic of your ideal buyer? (Age, location, gender, etc.)
- What is it that makes or breaks a deal with this buyer?
- Which nearby amenities matter to this buyer?
- What is the ‘brand’ of the neighbourhoods this buyer skews towards?
- What is this buyer’s job and household income?
- How does this buyer like to be contacted? (Twitter, email, SMS, phone call?)
To make this easier, you can use a simple template like this.
At the end of this step you should be able to answer:
- Who is your target customer? Use our customer persona guide to find your target customer.
- What are the defining characteristics of your target customer?
- What service is your target customer seeking?
- How will you attract, nurture, and service this target customer?
Assess the Viability of Your Niche Market
It’s important to assess your niche and make sure it is consistent with the market in your area.
For example, if you’ve decided to focus on first-time buyers, do some research to look at relevant stats and figures:
- What percentage of sales in your market were to first-time buyers in the last 12–14 months?
- What was the average sales price to first-time buyers?
Also, assess how competitive this market is:
- Are you the only agent catering to the young first-timer?
- Are you competing with heavy hitters who are well-known?
A competitive SEO audit can be a useful starting point in finding your competitors in the online space, which is where almost all leads will turn to at some point in the buying process.
Above, you can see Ahrefs returning the top competitors for a particular real estate website (most of the competitors are in their local area, too).
You can learn a lot from your competitors’ properties, branding, content, and other information online — all useful information to help inform your market analysis.
Also worth monitoring is which channels your competitors use predominantly for marketing and sales, so you can test the methods and replicate their success. Are they very prominent on business listing sites, or in Facebook groups, for example?
Use this area of your real estate business plan to iron out the details of your market and how your target customers are already served within it.
Build a Digital Home Base
Pre-internet, the way someone in your target market bought a house was to drive down to a trusted local realtor do the whole buying process through that contact.
Times have changed.
The modern home buyer starts their journey online (44%), and 95% use the internet at some point throughout the process.
This means you need to be present on review sites, social media, and — most importantly — search:
Make sure to check out our articles on real estate SEO and real estate keywords for a jump-start that’ll help you build a strategy, complete with a list of keywords you can use to attract potential buyers/sellers to your site
Identify Your Core Lead Gen Channels
Whether you’re in real estate or enterprise software, lead gen channels are often similar. That’s because customer research and the sales process is so online-centric these days. That makes search a big factor no matter what.
Other than search, you might generate leads with paid social ads, client referrals, outdoor advertising, or local events.
The first step is to figure out what’s working for competitors. Thankfully, there’s loads of tools to find this out.
First of all, check out a competitor in SimilarWeb to see a breakdown of their top online lead gen channels:
SimilarWeb gathers data on the domains that send the most referral traffic to a site, so you can see which partners will be important to make connections with, and uncover a competitor’s sphere of influence and financial interests:
You can also use a tool like BuiltWith to see which technology competitors are using to run, and drive online traffic to their websites:
BuitlWith will show you the specific advertising strategies and channels a site is using:
With this insight on your competitors, you can draw up an initial set of lead generation channels to leverage.
Creating a Financial Plan
Having a sound financial plan for your business is essential. To assist you, we’ve created spreadsheets you can use to estimate goals, income, and expenses.
You will find specific instructions in the spreadsheets, but here are some guidelines for creating a financial plan:
To create your plan, determine what your expenses will be.
Here are three main areas your expenses may fall into:
- Licensing: These expenses will include training, state exam fees, etc.
- Personal: This can include your wardrobe, technology fees (like computer and phone), and car fees.
- Business: Business expenses will include items like your broker fees, website and MLS fees, marketing and advertising, etc.
Our template divides these expenses into startup and yearly expenses, to help you discern which payments will recur and which are one-time-only. Here’s an example of what your startup expenses might look like:
Yearly expenses might include recurring costs like the office rent, electricity bills, and annual license fee:
Estimating income is the biggest concern for most new agents.
To do this, you will need to decide how much money you need to make in your first year, and how much you would like that figure to grow. You will also need to research some basic figures for your market, like the average sale price for homes.
Use our business plan template to help calculate these numbers:
Transactions and Leads
To meet your income goals and cover expenses, you’ll need to conduct a certain number of transactions. And, to complete a certain number of transactions you’ll need to work a set number of leads.
There’s no need to work this figure out by hand:
Our template will automatically calculate the number of transactions and leads you will probably need to meet your goals, but you will have to assess these figures to decide whether they are reasonable.
For example, if you are planning to work part-time as an agent in your first year, but need to close 20 transactions to meet your goals, you are unlikely to have enough time.
Breaking your goals into action steps makes them more tangible and ensures you’re making strides to fulfill them. Here are some keys ways you can convert your real estate business plan into actual business practices.
Creating a Marketing Plan
Marketing is how you get your services and listings in front of the right customers.
You can take on inbound strategies, like content marketing, which allows you to build trust, nurture leads by capturing their contact info, and convert interested buyers online without putting in constant effort with a sustained-effort tactic like cold calling.
Take inspiration from agencies like MaxRealEstateExposure, which has a huge following from its marketing efforts, all of which lead back to a home base with optimized property listings:
When thinking about inbound strategies, consider creating content and ads for buyers at each stage of the funnel, ranging from purchase-driven buyers to information-seekers:
While inbound marketing is powerful, it’s still only part of the puzzle. While your content brings in leads on autopilot, you can work on tuning up your cold-calling processes, or direct mail.
When considering your marketing potential, you want to plan for the following:
- Product: Product for real estate agents is both your listings and your brand. A decision to work with you is as much based on your expertise and sales style as the listings you represent. Determine what distinguishes you in the market and constitutes your personal brand.
- Price: While you can’t necessarily control the price of every listing or commission, you can use average sale prices to hone in on your target buyer and the amount you’re willing to spend on your marketing to get a sale. This will save you money in the long run, so you can make sure the buyers exposed to your marketing can likely afford the properties in your area. Knowing your average commission helps you deduce the amount of money you can invest on marketing. Learn how to set your ad budget with our advertising budget guide and then use our handy PPC ROI Calculator to set your bids.
- Place: Once you’ve established a strong idea of your target market, you’re able to understand where and when to interact with them. Is your target demographic social and constantly on their smartphones, or are they less tech savvy and more likely to enjoy print materials? How and when you showcase your services to the right leads determines a large part of your marketing success.
- Promotion: Determine the exact channels where you’ll promote, how often, and the language you’ll use to communicate your goals and branding message to your target audience.
Making Your Goals Tangible
When developing action plans, get as literal and specific as possible. Take the goals you outlined earlier in your financial business plan and expand on each of those in the area, strategy, and specific actions you’ll take to fulfill that strategy. Here’s an example:
Goal: To generate 500 leads in my first year
Area: I want to generate leads through Facebook
Strategy: I will post content consistently and advertise on the platform
Specific Activities Involved:
- Developing my blog so I have content to share
- Signing up for social media scheduling technology that will help me post around the clock
- Researching Facebook advertising campaigns and setting up weekly ads campaigns to target quality leads
- Assess success rate of my inbound and outbound campaigns and develop strategies to tweak based on the leads generated
Do similar activity plans for each goal you identified in your financial plan.
Forming a Lead Nurturing Strategy
Next is determining how you’ll help move leads through the sales funnel. This is known as lead nurturing, and is the process of making your ideal buyer aware of why you’re the best option for them.
According to Forrester research, companies that perform well at lead nurturing generate 50% more qualified leads for 33% less cost — and make 47% larger purchases.
More qualified leads is the #1 marketing challenge, and an effective nurturing strategy can help fix that:
Nurturing leads involves communicating with them regularly on the channels they use. For example, a series of emails or a targeted direct mail piece with a special offer based on prior interest. This can be automated at scale with real estate CRM automation tools.
Determine if online communication and content distribution is your style, or if you’re more comfortable meeting in person consistently and answering questions on the spot. Make note of the materials that you’ll invest in to nurture leads, like handouts or online resources, and create an ideal sales timeline.
You can also follow the steps outlined in our lead nurturing process article:
1. Clean up your database
2. Label your leads
3. Prioritize your prospects
4. Add leads to campaigns
5. Monitor lead engagement with campaigns
6. Contact engaged leads
Check out the full post for more information.
Setting Business Best Practices
Write out your ideal practices for how you’ll deal with qualified leads versus unqualified leads, how quickly you’ll follow up with interested parties, your practices for helping a lead throughout the final steps of the sales process, and how you’ll stay in touch with customers after papers have been signed.
Write down your business best practices in a place where you can see them daily so you’ll stick to them, or use a process management tool to create internal playbooks for each situation.
For example — how do you qualify leads?
WIthout a solid process, or at least a set of guidelines for what constitutes a qualified lead, you can’t be sure you’re being consistent with the quality of lead you let into your pipeline. This could cause wasted sales time or missed opportunities.
With Placester’s CRM, you get an in-depth look at lead profiles complete with their engagement, communication, and enriched data like household income. With this, you can assign a score to leads so you know which to prioritize.
Building a Team
Do you need a team to carry out tasks and ensure success? Determine if you’ll be hiring or working closely with a team of associated agents to reach your goals. If you don’t have a team, take the time here to write out any connections that will help you execute your tasks on a regular basis, like a printing vendor, brokerage team, legal aid, marketing intern, etc.
Evaluating and Revising Your Plan
Just like a New Year’s resolution, a business plan can’t be effective if you don’t actually put in the time to work on the goals you’ve outlined. Use these tips to stay on track and get the most out of your real estate business plan.
Constantly reassess the market.
The housing market is constantly changing, and that can cause you to reassess your current real estate business plan. Stay on top of market changes:
- Read real estate industry news and tips. Industry news, mergers, and new statistical data emerge throughout the year that can impact the values of the properties you sell, the pool of leads, or the types of customers you sell to. Use these reports and articles to fuel your knowledge so you can be proactive about your strategies (and work them into your business plan).
- Attend conferences. Much of what will inform your marketing and business tactics will be industry advice you gain from successful real estate agents. Real estate conferences will help you repurpose strategies to strengthen your own business plan.
- Implement feedback from clients. Clients will give you an honest picture of your business. While you can try to figure out what worked, it’s often good practice to provide a questionnaire after closing, or ask for reviews or testimonials from former clients who were happy with your services so you can grow your business in that area.
- Hire a real estate coach. If you’re fairly new to the business, there’s no better way to shorten the learning curve than by getting guidance from a real estate coach, who can advise you on both your business plan template and how to become a successful real estate agent.
Staying on Track and Measuring Success
Outline standards for measuring success and check in on the business plan regularly to make sure you’re hitting all the steps leading to your goals and projections.
For example, if you’re hoping to close 10 transactions by the end of the year, and spring is an active sales time in your area, outline how many transactions you’ll need closed at the end of the first and second quarters.
Looking at these early in the year will help you determine if you need to reframe your business plan and add more efforts in a specific area.
Reassess Your Real Estate Business Plan Annually
Look over your business plan each year and set new goals and projections based on data from the previous year. This will ensure your market analysis, expenses, and tactics are up-to-date.
Important: Tailor the Real Estate Plan With Your Growth Stage
A business plan for a new real estate agency will be wildly different to one created for a well-established agency. Each company has different scope, goals, and finances.
For example: It doesn’t make sense to do a large-scale marketing campaign if you don’t have the budget or resources to handle the leads.
If you’re just starting out, focus on getting 10 leads and closing 3-5 deals. Focus initial marketing effort on activities that don’t necessarily scale – tap your network, ask for referrals, send mailers, host a local meetup and run open houses.
Ready. Set. Plan
Whether you’ve got a ready-to-execute business plan or it’s still being drafted, the most important thing is to start now — and fast.
Having a business plan puts you on a clear track that makes your business 75% more likely to grow.
Make sure you download our free real estate business plan template below:
Have questions? Let us know in the comments below.
Published on February 7, 2019
Written by Sandra Manzanares
Writer, editor, and marketing manager with a passion for helping brands enhance their content marketing strategy. I'm a firm believer that creative storytelling is an essential part of the way we communicate. Constantly striving to fill my head with as much creative and analytical information as possible.