Sometimes taking a backwards approach to a topic can be instructive. So in this post, I’ll share five common ideas for growing an email list that I recommend not doing, as well as 5 recommended approaches.

Why grow a real estate list, anyway?

It’s no big secret that growing your relationship with your newsletter list is the lifeblood of your future real estate business.

If you plant, nurture, and grow it right, your list will feed you for many years to come. Without a list, you must hunt for your business every morning from scratch.

Like any good crop, the strength of your contact seedlings, the quality of your relationship soil, and your marketing cultivation methods will yield better or worse results, depending.

For instance, if you’ve got a high quality list of 500 contacts, and you nurture them well, you could convert them at a rate of .75% to 1.5%, yielding 3 to 7 leads per year. Not bad.

Even a poor quality list will yield some leads, though the conversion rate is more like .1% to .25%. In that case, you’d need to plant a lot more contacts…at least 1,000 to generate 1 to 2 leads per year.

You might be tempted to say, “Well, if it’s just a numbers game, then I need to grow my list to 5,000 contacts as fast as possible. I’m OK with .1% to .25%, because that gives me 5 to 12 leads per year! Woo-hoo!” And so you use the techniques described below to start fattening up your list.

I’m not saying you can’t do that. But I am saying that if you pay better attention to the strength of your contact seedlings, you can get a much higher yield. That means putting better quality contacts onto your list in the first place. If you can grow that list to 5,000 high quality contacts, then why not? A list of 5,000 high-quality contacts could give you a cool 37 to 75 leads per year!

All this begs the question, What are high vs. low-quality contacts, and how do I more quickly build a high-quality list? To answer that question, let’s look at five approaches you should not take to growing your contact list.

5 Fast Ways to NOT Grow Your Real Estate Mailing List

Warning: When you take the wrong approaches to quickly growing your list, it’s likely you’ll add people who don’t want to be there. If that happens, you’ll be reported as SPAM. Your list might be blacklisted. You could even lose your access to your email marketing platform if they lock you out.

You also have to pay to send mail to those contacts. Clearly that costs many thousands of dollars if you’re snail mailing them. But even email costs per contact. There’s no sense in paying to send email to possibly thousands of leads who don’t care.

But if you’re bound and determined to grow your email list as fast as humanly possible, there here are five ways to do it:

  1. Buy your list. The very best fast and sneaky approach to growing your email list is to buy it. There are plenty of email list brokers out there. For a few hundreds bucks, you can buy a perfectly legitimate email list of 5,000 contacts, with very low bounce rates. Maybe by emailing them repeatedly, they’ll come to see you as a friend and won’t report you as SPAM. Anything’s possible.
  2. Spy on strangers’ Twitter accounts. Do a Twitter search for anyone who’s ever mentioned REAL ESTATE and YOUR CITY in a post. Then send them weird private messages inviting them to see a property in the area, download your free report, get a hot sheet of listings, etc. When they actually bite, make sure to add them to your email list. Job done!
  3. Lurk in Facebook groups (and local social media apps like NextDoor are fair game, too). Pick a neighborhood and look up Facebook contacts who’ve joined any interest groups related to that neighborhood. The Talmadge School Cleanup Group? The Talmadge Block Party from four years ago? The Talmadge mommies group? Spam the heck out of them, inviting them to email you as the neighborhood specialist. Once they’ve emailed you…you guessed it, add them to your list!
  4. Add everyone who’s ever given you their email address to your list. Family, friends, that nurse who helped you donate blood last week. If they were breathing and they gave you their email address, then for sure they wanted to be on your list! For that matter, if anyone (who’s not a Realtor themselves) ever sent you a message, why not go ahead and add them to your email list, too? They’ll surely come to see you as a trusted expert if you send them enough stuff.
  5. Open house and other lead sources. This is a no-brainer, right? If anyone signs your open house registry, or asks for a market analysis, or asks about a house you have listed, or you meet while door knocking, then for sure they want to be on your mailing list for absolutely ever! They’ll really appreciate it, especially after they finish working with another agent who took time to build a relationship with them.

Grow Your Real Estate Newsletter List the Boring (Right) Way

Enough of that snarky tone! The point, of course, is that the right way to avoid SPAM and increase referrals and repeat business is to grow a quality contact list.

A quality contact list consists of people who would know and like you if you called them right now to chat. It consists of people who are not going to tag you as SPAM. It consists of people who will appreciate your newsletters.

To grow your list of quality contacts as fast as possible, take these x approaches:

  1. Attend weekly networking events: At least weekly, attend networking events and have in-depth conversations with people who are committed to an exchange of ideas and interests. Then invite just one or two people to join your mailing list from each event. Explain what you’ll send them, and why you want to add them to your list (to continue the relationship). Then invest in them outside of your list. Can you give them referrals? An exchange of ideas? Any other contributions?
  2. Run social media ads. Create Facebook (and other) ads that target specific categories you can serve well. Identify neighborhood groups (Talmadge Park Mommies), real estate investor groups (Fixer Buyers), and local interest groups (St Dunstan’s Episcopal Church San Diego). If you’ve done a good job with your ad, people will reach out if they’re interested, then you have the beginnings of a conversation. Put them on a special mailing list, one that specifically sends targeted content for exactly the kind of person who responded to your ad. Don’t add them to your monthly client newsletter list until you’ve built a personal relationship with them.
  3. Add past clients and SOI to your list. Wait, didn’t I just say not to do this? Yes and no. You should not add people willy-nilly to your list. Instead, even if you know them well, you should invite people to be on your mailing list. Explain that you want them to enjoy it, and hope they’ll see it and remember to refer you. Here at Fast Newsletters, we’ve learned that simply going the extra step and asking people if they want to be on your list dramatically increases your future open and referral rates!
  4. Prospect and engage. Open houses, door knocking, workshop attendees, ad calls, etc. will generate contacts. But rather than just adding everyone to your mailing list equally, have a conversation with each one to determine what direction to go. Hot leads should get a hot-lead mailing campaign and regular calls. But if it’s a cool lead, you should invite them to join your list, again explaining what you’ll be sending and why. If they say no, don’t add them. But don’t simply add someone to your mailing list because they gave you their email.
  5. Join venture. This is an advanced technique that can quickly grow your list. To correctly joint venture, find a local business owner who serves the same people you do. Then offer to exchange business offers. Build a campaign to “sell” the other service to your list. For instance, if you partner with a carpet cleaner, then offer your list a carpet cleaning special. If they take up the offer, then it’s up to the carpet cleaner to invite them to join his list. Likewise, the carpet cleaner offers something from you to his list, like a free credit report, a buyer rebate, a free hot list, etc. Then, as with any other contact, you have to build the relationship and invite the person to your list.

White Hat vs. Black Hat Real Estate Email List Building

I think you get it… The right way to build an email list is by using “white hat” approaches, such as asking permission, providing a rationale, and then sending relevant emails.

Just sticking people on your email list because you got their email address through some means gives you almost no advantages, unless you’re satisfied with building a list of thousands and getting a routinely low return rate on your mailings.

Properly nurturing a real estate newsletter list allows you to leverage yourself across hundreds (or maybe thousands) of names, and results in a higher return rate with much better quality leads. Ultimately, the better, stronger, longer-lasting business is the one that manages to keep a personal connection alive across email.

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Linda Schneider
Linda Schneider

Linda Schneider, a real estate marketer, author, and former agent for 30 years. She thrives on helping agents make money using creative and affordable prospecting tools and real estate newsletters. Get her latest book, Door to Door Real Estate Prospecting on