Real estate and mortgage lead generator HouseValues Inc. is touting the results of a study that found 22 percent of consumers who submitted mortgage loan requests at the company’s Web site took out a mortgage within 12 months.

The study, however, did not attempt to gauge whether the loans were taken out from companies that bought leads from HouseValues, and the company says it does not track its clients’ actual conversion rates.

The study, conducted by consulting firm Real IQ, looked at 100,000 mortgage leads generated between June 2005 to February 2006. The leads constituted a percentage of the loan requests submitted to HouseValues during the time period and were selected at random, said Matt Heinz, HouseValues’ senior director of marketing.

RealIQ took the names and address provided in the lead and checked them against public records at the county level to determine how many of those seeking mortgage loans actually took one out within 12 months. RealIQ, which provides market analysis and consulting services to mortgage and real estate companies, matches leads to public records data for clients with its LeadMetrix service.

HouseValues says that the study’s findings — that more than one in five of those who submitted requests ended up taking out a loan within 12 months — demonstrates that lenders and brokers, who typically have single-digit lead conversion rates, could have more success if they did a better job managing their leads.

Those who “put leads on the backburner after the first 30 days are missing out on a lot of potential business,” HouseValues Chief Executive Officer Ian Morris said in a press release.

Heinz said lead management software tools that HouseValues had previously offered only to real estate professionals are now also available to mortgage lenders. The study was done before those tools were available, he said.

HouseValues provided each of the 100,000 leads studied to four different lenders. But it’s unknown whether the 22 percent who took out loans did their business with HouseValues’ clients or another lender.

Heinz said he could not provide statistics on the actual lead conversion rates of HouseValues’ real estate and mortgage lending clients. HouseValues sells leads on a monthly subscription basis — rather than a fee per lead or through commissions — and doesn’t track lead conversion rates, Heinz said.

Although a 22 percent follow through rate sounds impressive, the U.S. Census Bureau has found that about 7 percent of residents of owner-occupied homes move in a given year and would presumably be seeking a mortgage. And if 22 percent of those making loan requests at HouseValues closed a deal within 12 months, what happened to the 78 percent who did not?

Heinz said some of the consumers who made loan requests through HouseValues were looking to purchase a home, while others were looking for a refinance or home equity loan. Some may not have found an offer on the terms they were looking for, and may still be looking.

“We see on the real estate side, sometimes even a year isn’t long enough to make a decision,” Heinz said. “We hear stories, where (clients tell us) they received a lead two years ago, put them in the (lead management) system, and kept communicating with them, sending them their newsletters, and two years later they call and say ‘I’m ready to list my house, and I want you to list it.’ “

So does that mean that many of the leads used in the study are still good?

“I bet if we look at this data again, we’ll see a higher conversion rate,” Heinz said.

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