A new Internet real estate lead conversion service, LeadQual, formally launched this week, offering to connect real estate and mortgage companies with qualified consumer leads.

LeadQual aims to increase conversion rates on Web leads, which tend to be high in volume and not followed up with in a timely manner. Many Internet consumer inquiries never receive a broker or agent response, surveys have shown.

“This creates a struggle for real estate companies trying to grow their Internet presence,” said co-founder Andrew Coleman. “In order to close the leads, the agent needs to be the first to respond, and that must happen within minutes. The problem is that the huge volume of online leads makes it very difficult for agents to respond quickly.”

Coleman, along with Glenn Houck, founded the company after serving as executives at online lead generation company HomeGain. Inman News publisher Bradley Inman founded HomeGain, and sold the company to Classified Venture in July 2005.

According to LeadQual’s real estate study done earlier this year, 48 percent of all Internet inquiries are never responded to. Sirius Decisions, a sales and marketing analyst firm, has the number of Internet leads that “fall through the cracks” as high as 90 percent, and most experts agree that it ranges from 40 percent to 80 percent nationally.

First responders most often win the business of consumers who inquire, industry studies have shown. Sixty-eight percent of Internet buyers interview only one agent before doing business with them, while traditional buyers interview three agents before choosing one, according to a study from the California Association of Realtors.

LeadQual is instantly notified when a prospective customer visits a real estate Web site and completes an inquiry form with a telephone number. The company immediately calls the prospective client on the real estate company’s behalf and determines whether the lead is worth passing on to a local sales associate. While talking to the prospect, LeadQual searches for available agents by phone or by instant messaging.

Without ever placing the lead on hold, the appropriate agent is brought into a three-way call with the consumer. All lead data is available to the agent, team leader and LeadQual’s client in a password-protected control center, available 24/7. The data includes time stamps of every consumer interaction so LeadQual’s clients can view and monitor LeadQual’s exact response times, contact rate and transfer rates. Clients can also use the system to track lead-to-close conversion rates.

LeadQual, which began offering its services to real estate and mortgage companies in July 2006, has offices in Norwalk, Conn., and Emeryville, Calif.

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