A vacation rental business will need rental leads throughout its whole lifetime. After all, you’ll only generate revenue if you have properties to manage and clients to work with.
Cold calling and advertising are one method. But there's a better way to generate vacation rental leads. It's building relationships with real estate brokers. This is a super technique for scaling your Airbnb business. Ten years ago, house flipping took off. Thousands of people become entrepreneurs and started their own businesses. Many ended up failing. Those who didn't, like Randy Zimnoch, cite their relationships with real estate brokers as a leading driver of success.
Now short-term rentals are seeing the same cycle. Every day, new Airbnb entrepreneurs show up ready to rock the industry.
Building Relationships Generates Vacation Rental Leads
Brokerage office connecting sellers and buyers are everywhere. Payments and structures may differ, but it's always one person intermediating transactions.
Relationships with agents and brokers are a gold mine if you’re looking to expand your business. These are the people who have direct access to property owners, which is the segment you’re going after. This can be a great avenue to generate leads.
Be a Giver, Not a Taker
The single best way to build a relationship with someone is to give value first. This is easy. You only need to educate real estate agents and brokers about short-term rentals. There’s often a gap between what agents actually know about the industry and what they should know. It’s up to you, as the short-term rental property manager, to bridge that gap. Giving is how you will create more vacation rental leads.
When speaking to these agents, don’t assume that they know what you know. Some might know the specifics of your business, but the majority won’t. Be sure to always speak in general terms and avoid jargon.
Here are three things you could do:
Teach them the industry buzzwords they need to know
Show them the revenue projections of short-term vs. long-term rental rents
Educate them on the potential of the vacation rental industry, including relevant trends and forecasts
Ideally, you want to teach them the simple things that you know that you believe they should know.
If you ever get stuck thinking about what to give them, you can ask yourself:
“If I were an agent, what would I want to know about the short-term rental industry if I was completely new to it?”
Your answer to that question is what you want to focus on and educate them about.
Real estate agents and brokers will love information they can immediately use. (i.e. You can give them a 3-4 page revenue projection report on a given property using tools like AirDnA* or Mashvisor*). Or provide comps of properties in that area. This can help them project how much a unit can generate in short-term rental revenue over time.
Don't forget to brand your company on the reports. Brokers will often take them directly to the seller. That way, the homeowner has options: traditional marketing or targeting people who want to use the house as a vacation rental.
A seller won't usually think about a short-term rental as an option. But bringing it up can help real estate agents and brokers stand out.
Imagine this: a seller hears how much they could make in short-term rental revenue. Agents can also show potential buyers your revenue projection reports. They're blinded by dollar signs. Then, agents land the client to list their homes. Everyone's happy.
Because most agents don’t even think about the short-term rental industry, those who do stand out. You're helping them close more listing appointments. This helps get them more clients and puts you in a favorable light.
How to Start Building Relationships for More Rental Leads
Giving value is crucial in building relationships. But it’s only going to work if you know where to find these real estate agents and brokers.
Go to Open Houses
Open houses are the perfect place to start. Because agents hold open houses, there’s always going to be someone you can talk with. Open houses are a great place to practice your script and how you’re going to approach them with your value-add.
Short-term rentals are a “sexy” topic. Agents will probably listen as long as you communicate the benefits clearly. This will be especially true if the open house isn’t that busy. If they have time, they’ll talk to you about creating rental leads.
When talking to these agents, you want to be upfront and them exactly what you do. It’s not a good idea to pretend to be a buyer because then you’ll be wasting both the agent’s and your time. Nobody likes to be deceived.
You also want to be mindful of your surroundings when you’re there. An agent’s main goal is to get leads. If you see potential buyers walk in, stop your conversation, step away, and let them do their job. You can come back when it’s slow again and re-engage them.
If you try to talk with them when they’re trying to get a client, they'll think you're annoying. Simple as that. Your conversation will work against you. Agents won’t see you as having value at first because you’re not a traditional buyer and they don’t understand the short-term rental industry.
Reach Out to Brokers for Rental Leads
Once you get the script down, start reaching out to brokers and the owners of brokerages. Brokerages hire agents to go out and sell properties and work with sellers and buyers. So, if you can connect with the brokerages, you’ll often have access to agents. s
But before you reach out to brokers, you want to do some research. Start off reaching out to the smaller brokerages. Smaller brokerages are more likely to be eager to work with you and bring you to their team meetings (where they meet with their agents).
Make sure you have your script practiced. If you can connect with the brokerage manager, you may be able to get an invite to speak at their team meetings. There, you can educate them about the short-term rental industry and how you can help them.
Another way to help each other can be through cross-promotions. For example, maybe a broker recommends you to a client. You end up doing short-term rental management for this client. You can leave the broker's card at the property. Mention that any guests who stay at that property find a similar property via this broker. You may reach guests who are curious about Airbnb and want to give the short-term rental business a try.
If this process works, brokerages will start referring more and more clients to you. This works because people are more likely to buy a property when they’ve visited it. For instance, people who travel to exotic locations may want to buy a vacation home and rent it out on Airbnb when they’re not there. Fortunately, you’ve already supplied them with information on how to find a property and manage it.
How to Maintain Relationships
If you bring real estate agents and brokers leads and help them get paid, they won’t forget you. However, you should still try to nurture that relationship because they’ll forget you if you don’t reach out every once in a while.
To go the extra mile, you can also send these brokerages a gift basket if they send you a lead (whether that lead converted or not). You always want to over-deliver on this relationship.
Other Lead Generation Strategies
Building relationships with real estate agents and brokers is a great lead generation strategy. But it's not the only one.
You can host a 2-3 hour live case study event at one of your properties. Invite friends, neighbors, and other interested parties. You maximize your chances of getting leads from this event because you have no idea who could use your services. Your clients can be almost anyone.
Like with the real estate agents and brokers, you want to teach your attendees how short-term rentals work.
- How you found the property (great opportunity to refer people to a brokerage),
- The best way to determine revenue projections, and
- Ways you’ve helped the current property owner create something that’s now generating amazing reviews.
You can go after the investment community (i.e. house flippers) or even build your own local real estate club that focuses on short-term rentals. This puts you on the map and helps build your reputation and authority, especially if you’re getting started.
At the end of the day, everything is relationship-based. If you give value, people will come to you, even if there are other competitors around. You want to find and serve the people who relate to you because building a relationship is especially easy if you share common interests. Don’t forget… when meeting new people, one of the most common questions is: “What do you do for work?” That’s a great opportunity to share what you do and screen for potential leads.