Editor’s note: There are dozens of online lead services in real estate and brokers and agents are still sorting out what’s what and which works best for their budget and needs. This three-part series examines the nuts and bolts of three major companies in the space, including HouseValues, Move Inc. (formerly Homestore) and HomeGain. (See Part 1 and Part 2.)
Vikki Landes, a Prudential California real estate agent in Northern California, signed up for HomeGain’s lead generation service when the company launched in 1999 and the Realtor has closed 32 transactions through the company since then.
She said HomeGain “has lived up to its promises” over the six years she has used the lead generation service.
As with many real estate lead generation sites, with HomeGain, consumers give up personal information including their names, telephone numbers and other details in exchange for the service. Emeryville, Calif.-based HomeGain forwards some of this information via e-mail to one or more agents in a given area, who then follow up with the prospects.
With slowing market conditions in some parts of the country and the majority of consumers turning to the Internet as the starting point for real estate searches, brokers and agents are sorting out the best ways for them to connect with consumers online. There are dozens of online lead services in real estate, but this three-part series examines the offerings of three major companies in the space.
HomeGain’s online marketing services can be used to target buyers and sellers and include three lead generation programs: AgentEvaluator, BuyerLink and Source4Sellers.
With AgentEvaluator, HomeGain’s find-an-agent service, agents get an average of 30 leads a month for $29.95 plus a referral fee. The referral fee is 30 percent of the gross commission on the side or sides of the transaction the agent is representing, calculated on a minimum of 2 percent gross commission.
Source4Sellers is HomeGain’s home valuation service. With this service, an agent can pay to become the only agent to receive the lead from the consumer looking to get a home estimate from an agent. The company also promotes the agent with name, photo and contact information to homeowners and offers lead management tools to help agents and brokers keep track of leads coming in. Pricing for this service varies.
The third service, BuyerLink, drives traffic to agents’ Web sites. Agents pay on a cost-per-visit basis much like pay-per-click ads on major search engines.
HomeGain offers support and training to help agents convert leads into sales. The company offered no statistics on how many of its leads on average eventually end in a transaction, but said in an e-mail, “We believe our leads are the best available. We are partnered with the four major search engines and over 300 partnerships that help deliver the most qualified, geo-targeted leads at affordable prices.”
Under the Source4Sellers program, agents can purchase exclusive areas, the company said in a e-mail, and the program also includes tools for communicating and developing relationships with agents and brokers so they can build their pipelines to grow business long-term.
In responding to leads, “You can sell yourself based on what area they’re (the potential client) in, but you don’t know much about these people. If it’s about a buyer, you get the information on how many bedrooms and baths and whether they’re pre-approved or not,” Prudential California agent Landes said. “If it’s a seller you get the street, not the address, so you know where the property is.
“And you write a personalized proposal to try and get them to call or e-mail you,” Landes said.
Heidi Mueller, a broker with Prudential California Realty, has closed 43 HomeGain transactions since she first started using the service in 2001.
Mueller said HomeGain was easy for her to set up – “just go through the templates.” The broker said HomeGain is not one of her main sources of leads; personal clients, other Internet lead generation sites, her own Web site, open houses and personal marketing all contribute.
“I’m a normal Realtor. It’s a real mix. When I see an opportunity I go for it,” Mueller said.
HomeGain says the majority of its top-producing agents have been members for years. “All HomeGain products are best utilized as long-term tools/solutions. Most agents see value and benefits immediately; however, the largest growth and success come over time as an agent grows to understand the product, how it works and how to get the most out of it,” officials said in an e-mail.
In 2005, HomeGain was purchased from founder Bradley Inman, publisher of Inman News, by Classified Ventures, a joint venture owned by six major media companies.
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