A new online service aims to add more transparency to the process of matching consumers with real estate agents via the Internet and address problems identified by agents who have used first-generation lead services.

The service, AgentMatch, is in beta and currently available for parts of California. The site takes a new approach to lead generation and referrals by allowing consumers to decide for themselves which agent they will contact and when they will initiate contact.

The site aims to put transactional data in front of consumers, which the creators hope will enable agents to better explain their value and commission rates. Some of the data consumers will be able to see includes number of homes sold, average list-to-sale prices, average days on market for a particular agent’s listings, percentage of transactions that were listings versus buyer representations, and bios and profiles of agents.

Consumers can also track an agent’s previous listings and sales on a map.

“The idea that consumers enjoy going to a Web site then having five or however many agents contacting them with blind proposals just doesn’t work,” said Michael Davin, co-founder of Los Angeles-based brokerage company CataList Homes and advisor to AgentMatch, referring to methods used by many existing lead services for real estate.

Many Web-based lead-generation services typically entice consumers with home valuations, listings information, rebates or other incentives in exchange for their contact information. The information in many instances is then sold to one or more agents, who follow up with the consumer, whether or not they were looking to speak with an agent.

AgentMatch veers from the pay-per-lead and monthly subscription models and instead charges agents a 20 percent referral fee only if the transaction closes, Davin said.

“I think I can speak for most brokers in the industry when I say the current lead-generation firms don’t work for Realtors,” he said. “Paying thousands of dollars per month upfront for cold leads is a waste of money. Most of these leads convert at a very low rate with the agent taking on all of the lead risk.”

Online lead-generation services receive mixed feedback from agents who use them. While some say they’ve had a lot of success converting these consumer leads into closed transactions, others say the majority of leads they’ve received are not serious about buying or selling and end up wasting their time and money.

Davin believes that many current lead businesses don’t work well for consumers because consumers don’t know their information is being sold — they may just want to research listings or home values on a Web site that requires them to register first.

No registration is required for basic searches at AgentMatch, Davin said, but consumers who do register their contact information will also be able to see commission rates.

Davin said he hopes the transparency of the transactional histories will help agents who’ve long struggled to articulate their value to consumers. Along with past sales data, agents can include detailed marketing plans within their profiles to show consumers exactly what they will do to market their home if they are signed as the listing agent, he said.

Davin believes that top-producing agents will end up grabbing most of the leads at AgentMatch because their transactional histories will prove more attractive to consumers. With that in mind, he said, the service likely won’t work as well for new or part-time agents.

Working much like a traditional referral system, agents will only be able to join AgentMatch by invitation from other agents already participating, according to Robert Teplitsky, president of AgentMatch. The team plans to build out a vendor referral system, too, in which agents can invite escrow officers, title agents, mortgage brokers and others they would recommend for business.

And while consumers will be able to see transactional histories of agents, agents using the service will be able to see how many times their profile was viewed, how many consumers have saved their profiles for future use, and feedback from consumers when available. For instance, Davin said, AgentMatch will ask consumers why they chose one agent over another.

“If (agents) lose a listing to someone else, we can tell them who they lost it to and why they lost it,” Davin said, adding that this information could be helpful in adjusting agent business plans.

Davin noted that the site is in earliest beta mode, so the database of agents is still very small and building slowly. A sample search to show how the site works can be done by performing an agent search for selling in the “90277” ZIP code and entering $1 million (“1000000”) for the home value range.

Editor’s note: Inman News readers who want to test the service can send an e-mail to support@agentmatch.com and mention Inman News to receive an invitation. Disclaimer: Inman News does not endorse nor profit from this service in any way.

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