More than 6 in 10 agents have their own IDX websites featuring listings feeds from their multiple listing service (MLS), but only one in four pay for advertisements on national, third-party listing sites, according to a survey of 2,000 real estate agents by ActiveRain, a social media and blogging site for real estate professionals.

Agents are also investing heavily in marketing applications and tools that help them create comparative market analyses (CMAs) for clients, and in customer relationship management (CRM) software that helps them manage leads.

Websites featuring Internet Data Exchange (IDX) listings were the most utilized real estate technology and software expenditure, with 63 percent of those surveyed saying they employed them. A similar proportion of agents — 62 percent — said they use CMA tools, while just over half (51 percent) use CRM tools.

Despite the investment in technology, the survey showed direct mail still plays a role in many agents’ marketing strategies. Among those surveyed, 40 percent said they relied on direct mail — nearly as many who said they employed search engine optimization (SEO), blogging and social media (45 percent).

Software/technology tool Average usage (percent) Average spend (Dollars per month)
IDX website 63% $75
Comparative market analysis 62% $73
Contact management/CRM 51% $73
Email marketing 47% $40
Listing syndication 41% $48
Virtual tour software 37% $49

Source: ActiveRain. For complete data, see the release here.

Among those employing IDX websites, the expenditure averaged $75 per month for respondents, compared to $73 a month for CRM applications and $46 in monthly expenditures on CMAs.

Spending on search engine optimization (SEO), blogging and social media — categorized as one item in the survey — averaged $47 per month for those employing such strategies.

Marketing strategy Average usage (percent) Average spend (Dollars per month)
SEO/blogging/social media 45% $78
Direct mail 40% $108
Lead generation 32% $155
Advertising on national real estate websites 26% $128
Marketing personnel costs 17% $183
Pay-per-click, search engine marketing 16% $140
Paid training or coaching 16% $78

Source: ActiveRain. For complete data, see the release here.

Roughly a third of respondents (32 percent) paid for online leads — $155 per month on average. Higher-income agents — those with yearly incomes above $100,000 — spent much more on traditional platforms like radio ($216 per month), TV ($173 per month) and newspapers ($149 per month) than their lower-income colleagues (those earning less than $35,000 a year) who spent $123, $93 and $48 on those outlets, respectively.

Higher-income agents also invested more heavily in certain software and technology compared to lower-income agents, according to the survey. The spending differences were most pronounced on IDX sites, CRM software, virtual home tour programs and team management software.

According to the National Association of Realtors’ most recent member survey, Realtors saw their business expenses climb by nearly 6 percent from 2010 to 2011, to a median of $4,520. The increase was driven in part by 5 percent growth in vehicle expenses, to $1,770.

But NAR’s member survey showed administrative expenses falling 22 percent in 2011 to $560, expenses associated with marketing of services falling 7 percent, to $510, and business promotion expenses down 3.4 percent, to $560. Spending on technology products and services held steady at a median of $630.

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