How Can We Stay Above the Crowd?

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Ryan Taylor Homes

When I first started in real estate, placing an ad in a "homes" magazine was a great way to generate leads. Buyers snapped up new editions of these magazines and started calling off the ads. In recent years, buyers are turning more and more to web-based home search tools to begin their search for a home.

In response, the number of web sites offering consumers a peek inside our databases has exploded. Information-hungry consumers have no problem finding any numbers of sites that will give them a wealth of information for free. Realtors have learned to use this thirst for free information as a lead-generation tool. Certain buyer actions on these sites send a lead to the agent. Agents who vigorously follow up and know how to incubate these contacts have seen a previously untapped source of prospects.

Mostly, this explosion of Internet use is good news for Realtors. Buyers are still hiring Realtors to write the sales contract, negotiate for them, and run interference during the contract-to-closing period. Internet-savvy buyers are better educated, better qualified to buy, and spend less time in their agent's care before making their offer.

The bad news: Everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY is doing it. It is increasingly difficult for agents to generate leads simply by offering a free Internet search. There is such a proliferation of sites that, when asked, most consumers are unable to remember WHERE they got the information about a particular property.

When I first started offering web-based searches to my prospects, folks were excited about being able to get such information "by themselves." Recently, I've come across very few buyers who don't already know how to search for homes on the Internet.

So how can we set ourselves apart? How can we offer tools that will satisfy information-hungry consumers? People, how can we snag those leads?

And, once in our pipeline, how can we use the Internet to nurture them until they are ready to make their move?


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Chris Hendricks
Walnut Creek, CA

You've asked the magic question that everybody in a 'me too' sales environment eventually has to ask themselves:  how do I differentiate what I do so I can stand out apart from the 'me too' crowd? 

What do you know about the timing of people visiting the web to search for homes?  One thing we know is that they are on the web searching for 'maybes' far earlier today than they ever would have been in your office looking through the book 25 years ago.  As such, their 'readiness' for actions on your part is different.  Understand and accept where they are, emotionally as well as otherwise, when they first visit your website.  And deliver them tangible reasons to find value from you, your site, and the budding relationship you're trying to cultivate.  Offer them access to knowledge: special financing tools that might help them afford what they see but think they cannot have.  Offer them insight into behaviors that 'punish' buyers in some way-- like a white paper on selecting inspection professionals and using the information they deliver to help you assess the true value of a home.  Help them understand how you will become allied with them to find the 'best fit' instead of the best 'commissionable fit' so they begin to perceive you and your site as a resource rather than as a sales location.  Ask them, directly on your site and in whatever e-mail you might respond to them with, to bookmark your site and return to it-- no strings attached-- for anything they think they need or find valuable and ask them to send you an e-mail with anything they think they might find valuable but don't find on your site!  Just because they ask for it doesn't mean you'll make it available-- but at least you'll have the chance to decide.  Doing things like this will help you establish an online 'relationship' that can be slowly nurtured until they move farther along toward the more active buying phase of this online cycle.  Be patient!

Jan 10, 2007 01:39 PM #1
Tricia Jumonville
Bradfield Properties - Georgetown, TX
Texas REALTOR , Agent With Horse Sense

Absolutely!  Patience is the key today, I think.  I've had people contact me and I set them up with an automatic search and made sure to drop them a line regularly just to make sure the search is still appropriate (and I keep an eye on it to make sure they're visiting it regularly) and just when I'd decided they were not going to do anything, they call me up and are ready to make a move.

Fortunately, in spite of my naturally impatient nature, winemaking and horse breeding taught me that some things can't be hurried.  A buyer is one of them, and if you try to hurry them, you'll lose them.  Asking for help by asking for suggestions to improve your website is just another way of establishing a relationship that will be viewed as mutually beneficial and, thus, comfortable for them, too, because they won't feel that they are viewed as either supplicants for your vast knowledge or just buyers to be preyed upon (attitudes that I've seen expressed in one way or another by potential buyers over time).


Jan 12, 2007 04:01 AM #2
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