Joel Fletes, a real estate agent with Re/Max Futura in San Francisco, is working to close a lead from conservative radio and TV host Glenn Beck.
Fletes doesn’t know Beck, and Beck doesn’t know the home seller, but Fletes is prepared to pay a 25 percent referral fee to Beck’s firm, Real Estate Agents I Trust, if he turns the lead into a client.
Beck grew an audience as host of a popular TV show on Fox News, which ended in 2011. He now runs his own media empire at TheBlaze.
And last June, he began selling his audience to real estate agents for a referral fee — another way to monetize his rapid audience of conservative believers.
When real estate agents refer clients to a colleague, they typically charge a referral fee, which hovers around 30 percent of the commission that the listing agent (or buyer’s agent) collects.
Agents send referrals to colleagues either because they’re too busy to take the client themselves or because they don’t work in the area where the client is looking to buy or sell.
Referral networks like Beck’s facilitate the introduction of “warm” leads to agents for a cut of the deal.
Beck’s referral network resembles one that’s been around longer, financial guru Dave Ramsey’s. Beck has no particular real estate or financial expertise.
Could other celebrities establish real estate referral networks? Would you pay a referral fee to Taylor Swift?
How it works
Fletes is one of 750 agents nationwide who pay a 25 percent referral fee to Mercury Real Estate Services, which does business as Glenn Beck’s Real Estate Agents I Trust.
Fletes is a fan of Beck, so he willingly paid the $495 startup fee to be an exclusive real estate agent referral partner in parts of the San Francisco Bay Area.
Someone from Beck’s organization contacted Fletes a few months ago about joining the media personality’s real estate referral network.
He’s received one lead so far — a seller in Oakland.
Fletes has yet to meet his seller lead, but he expects to soon. Because they are both conservatives and because they both like Beck, they’ll “likely click and be able to do a deal together,” he said.
That’s the whole idea: introduce buyers and sellers to agents who are part of Beck’s “tribe,” said Robert Shelton, who helps oversee the business with Beck.
Consumers enter their information on a lead form on Glenn Beck’s Real Estate Agents I Trust home page. They give their name, email, phone number, whether they want to buy or sell, and what ZIP code they’re in.
They then get an email that includes a short prompt and the contact info for an agent in the network. Agents have ZIP code exclusivity in the network.
The agent also gets the consumer’s contact info.
I decided to try the service by filling out the lead form for my ZIP code, 94607. In about an hour, I received a call from Fletes.
Someone from Glenn Beck’s Real Estate Agents I Trust also called me later the same day to see if I had any questions or had been contacted by an agent yet.
This personal touch is a key part of the network, Shelton said. “We talk to 90 percent of the customers who come in,” Shelton said. “We stay close.”
Glenn Beck’s Real Estate Agents I Trust has one employee, one managing broker and a handful of contract workers, Shelton said.
Currently, the network is marketed only to consumers on Beck’s TV show and radio program on TheBlaze.com.
The firm reaches out to some agents directly, but the vast majority of the 750 agents on the platform now found out about the network through Beck’s programming and applied, Shelton said.
“We’re just now hitting our stride,” Shelton said. He described the network as another lead-gen source for agents, bringing them consumers who share an affinity with Beck.
“It’s a tribe of people,” Shelton said. The firm vets all agents through a variety of methods, including phone and written interviews, he said.
The vetting is not about ensuring agents share Beck’s politics, but more about making sure they understand his audience’s sensibilities and will be able to service it appropriately, Shelton said.
For quality control, the firm follows up with approximately 60 percent of the leads to make sure agents are doing a good job. “As long as agents are servicing leads correctly, they stay in the network,” Shelton said.
The network has most of the major markets covered, but it’s hunting for agents to cover rural areas.
Not everyone favors these sorts of lead referrals.
Bill Lublin, CEO of Philadelphia-based Century 21 Advantage Gold, thinks that a referral from someone with little to no relationship to the lead shouldn’t earn a referral fee from an agent who closes the deal.
“Beck is merely exploiting his audience and looking to similarly exploit us,” Lublin commented on a post from real estate consultant Rob Hahn on Facebook about the network.
The network left a bad taste in the mouth of Chicago broker Leslie Ebersole for a different reason.
California broker Bob Watson is all for it.
“I’m not in any radio personality’s network at present, but certainly don’t see any downside,” Watson said in a comment on the same public Facebook post.
“As far as ‘celebrity’ goes, this is an effective use of a person’s credibility to send their followers to a “trusted” adviser that they have vetted,” he added.
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