The backers of Qazzoo.com recently put out a press release with a catchy headline: “Technology to blame for fewer home sales.”
The premise — that “explosive growth of real estate websites and online homebuying tools” has led to a decrease in the number of homes sold because “potential homebuyers become overwhelmed by all the information they collect online and the process ends there” — got short shrift on Inman News.
A “Wire” post appearing on the section of the Inman.com website that’s devoted to brief summaries of news stories and press releases questioned whether Qazzoo — which claims that it “improves the house-hunting and homebuying experience by connecting interested homebuyers and Realtors in their area” — was much different than other portals such as Zillow, Trulia and realtor.com.
Qazzoo CEO Michael Urbanski took note, contacting Inman News to make his case that Qazzoo “represents a significant game changer to the online lead gen/advertising ecosystem.”
Founded by executives of Heavy Hammer — a developer of patented software for geographically focused network advertising — Qazzoo operates an interesting website. Instead of allowing homebuyers to search for homes, it allows agents to search for homebuyers, who are invited to fill out profiles on the site.
Qazzoo also gets homebuyer leads from other, undisclosed search sites, and was built “to eventually become a clearinghouse for sites that are not able to monetize all of their leads,” Urbanski says.
For Inman News readers who want to know more about how Qazzoo convinces consumers to provide their personal information, how it “qualifies” leads, and how real estate brokers and agents get their hands on them, below is an edited version of an email Q-and-A with Urbanski.
Urbanski: We have always been self-funded and we are located in Annapolis, Md. Qazzoo.com was launched at the 2012 National Association of Realtors convention (where it) was named one of five “must see booths” … because of the novel approach Qazzoo takes in allowing real estate agents and loan officers to select the clients they believe they can serve without advertising. We have taken years to develop the platform and have several patents on it, illustrating that it is in fact new and innovative. (In most) major markets we are well represented as we maintain (approximately) 1 million homebuyer profiles on Qazzoo at any given time and currently have several thousand paying clients.
Q. How do you generate homebuyer leads? You say you’ve got 1 million. What percentage of those were obtained by people filling out the consumer profile on your site? Where do the rest come from?
Urbanski: There are several ways that we generate leads. We have multiple landing pages that we advertise on search engines. Secondly, we have a network of real estate websites that we have made arrangements with that send us leads that they cannot monetize. As an example, we have more sites that want to send us leads than we have the need for at this time. The current percentage is roughly 50-50. We built Qazzoo to eventually become a clearinghouse for sites that are not able to monetize all of their leads.
Q. How do you make sure the leads are qualified?
Urbanski: The information that the buyer submits is what we present online. We provide a 100 percent guarantee on the leads themselves. If the contact information is wrong for any reason the professional is able to “flag” the lead and get a new lead to replace the flagged lead. We also have a series of filters that removes obvious bogus leads in advance. Regarding qualifying the leads themselves, we don’t do that. We qualify that the leads that enter our system are true and legitimate, but we do not qualify them for creditworthiness or any other facet of finance.
Q. Can you provide a little more info on how you qualify leads? It sounds like you screen for email addresses that are obviously bogus (and also) rely on the agents to flag problems with leads. Even though you will give them another lead, that can be time consuming for them.
Urbanski: We have multiple filters for emails, phone numbers and names. If the profile is flagged internally, we will spot-check it immediately and clear them or drop them from the system. The system then ranks the profiles based on the information provided by the consumer so that a consumer that provides more/higher-valued information and may be slightly further away geographically may show up higher in a search than the newest consumer profile in the exact area searched.
Flagging leads is pretty simple, and the savings of money not spent advertising blindly in the hopes of generating a lead is what we were trying to overcome. Here is part of the equation we used to determine value:
- The average click on search engines last year was $1.24 per click.
- The average real estate agent has an online conversion rate of less than 1 percent.
- This means an agent/loan officer generating a lead using a search engine spends about $124 per lead.
- Advertising on geotargeting real estate sites runs on average of $200 per month per ZIP code, which generates about eight blind, non-exclusive leads for $25 per lead.
Q. You will provide leads to up to four agents. Do sites that provide you with leads provide them to you exclusively? In other words, are leads you obtain from other real estate sites also being sold to other agents, in addition to the four that you will sell them to?
Urbanski: No we don’t allow that to happen.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about how you get consumers to provide their information to Qazzoo? If you have 1 million leads, and you have collected 500,000 yourself, that’s quite a feat! What are some of your landing pages, and what kind of ads do you run on search engines? This has some bearing on the quality of the leads you provide.
Urbanski: The marketing department focuses on “real estate agent”- and “loan officer”-type of search terms. Instead of “real estate” or “mortgage” search terms.
We believe that consumers often experience the same issues regarding locating a good agent/lender fit as the professional. With this we decided to reverse the advertising process completely and allow consumers to be selected by professionals who can read about the consumer and determine if they want to serve them. Many agents are contacted by people that don’t fit their preferred consumer profile. This is frustrating for all parties.
Q. Can you share with our readers the names of some of the real estate sites that are providing you leads? This will also have some bearing on the quality of the leads you provide.
Urbanski: We have (nondisclosure agreements) signed with the sites that provide leads now, and we are approached by additional sites quite frequently. As a company, we are always trying to create a balance between providing enough leads for the professionals without generating so many that we are not providing a service to the consumer. This is a balance that we are constantly tweaking.
Q. You have “several thousand paying clients.” Are those primarily agents, or do you provide leads to any brokers or franchisors? Can you give us a ballpark figure of how many leads a year you sell?
Urbanski: This is sort of embarrassing, but we didn’t know how to sell Qazzoo until this past spring. We started offering Qazzoo by going door to door and had a 90 percent closing ratio, but the legwork was intense and we could not cover the country nearly as well as using the old-fashioned telephone. The embarrassing part was how long it took us to figure this out. The short answer is that the average number of profiles claimed a day is approximately 2,500 during the week and it drops off pretty sharply on the weekend.
Q. Do you provide leads to agents on an exclusive basis, or will a single lead be sold to many agents?
Urbanski: Each lead is able to be unlocked or claimed up to four times and then it is removed from the search engine. They are also removed from the site after 120 days. The consumer can re-upload their own profile if they desire.
Q. What criteria can agents select when buying leads — can they pick according to the geographic area the buyer is interested in? The buyers income/desired home price? I see you collect that info from buyers who fill out your profile, but I am assuming you have leads from other sources.
Urbanski: Qazzoo is a search engine so we are constantly adding new search terms. There are search tips below the search window (after first search) as well as other nuanced search terms that we are including every week. Search tip is in green here. If you keep refreshing the page you will see some of the different types of searches that can be performed.
What most agents gravitate to regarding Qazzoo is that:
- There are no geographic restrictions compared to geographic online advertising where the advertiser is relegated to a particular ZIP code or area.
- The leads are guaranteed to have 100 percent accurate contact information.
- The leads are hand-selected by the real estate agent based on whom they want to work with.
Q. How are leads priced? Do you provide volume discounts? How do the price of your leads compare to those from other sources?
Urbanski: Our current pricing structure is $149 for the ability to unlock (claim) up to 60 leads a month or $199 dollars for up to 90 leads a month.
We have created higher packages for companies that start with one of the above packages and request access to more profiles, but our focus is primarily on the local agent and loan officer.
Our research indicated that sites like LendingTree sell their lowest-cost lead for $9, which is sent to the professional using geographic parameters only.
Because there are no duplicate services at this time it is difficult to draw an exact comparison.