Portal ads and online leads are now an everyday part of residential real estate, but some brokerages have churned them out better than others.

Sitting down for a panel talk at Inman Connect San Francisco, four successful real estate professionals shared how they approach online lead sources such as Realtor.com, Trulia and Zillow.

  • Several successful real estate professionals shared how they approach online lead sources such as realtor.com, Trulia and Zillow during a panel talk at Inman Connect San Francisco.
  • An online lead means nothing if it's sent to an agent that won't handle it accordingly.
  • By using a response team to pre-screen potential buyers for approval and follow up with phone calls, one broker can supply his agents with legitimate starting points.

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Portal ads and online leads are now an everyday part of residential real estate, but some brokerages have churned them out better than others.

Sitting down for a panel talk at Inman Connect San Francisco, several successful real estate professionals shared how they approach online lead sources such as realtor.com, Trulia and Zillow.

Keith Dunham, HomeCity Real Estate (Austin)

Dunham, who says he works with about 110 agents, expects nearly $250 million from online leads this year. But he says using an online lead means nothing if he sends it to an agent that won’t handle it accordingly.

“You can go across the industry, whether it’s the car industry or whatever, and you tell them they’re going to get a pre-screened lead, and they’ll hug you,” he said. “With agents, they’re like, ‘Well it’s not as good as my mother’s friend,’ or somethings like that.”

“It’s not a skill thing. It’s a will thing,” he said.

Dunham believes that with a good marketing campaign, agents should be getting anywhere from nine to 12 referral each year.

Kevin Markarian, Marker Real Estate (San Francisco)

Markarian says he gets around 500 online leads per month, most of which comes via realtor.com. The website accounts for around 54 percent of his business, he says, with agents’ success largely dependent on how fast they follow up.

By using a response team to pre-screen potential buyers for approval and follow up with phone calls, Markarian can supply his agents with legitimate starting points — but only if they deserve it.

“The leads, for us, help bridge the gap from starting at ground level and getting them [the agents] to where they need to be,” he said. “It’s not about being fair, it’s about who can convert the best.”

Jeff Weissman, BHG Mason-McDuffie Real Estate

Weissman invests heavily in Zillow’s online lead portal and even uses its concierge service to prescreen customers instead of his own team — something he says is free if you spend an extra $500 per month in advertising.

“If the ROI is $8 for every $1, why wouldn’t you do it?” he said. “One of the mistakes is being hesitant to invest some money. It’ll pay off for you if you pick up the phone. You have to be responsive.”

Weissman believes that scheduling the first meeting at a house instead of the office can better showcase an agent’s talent while keeping the customer engaged.

“Seeing a house allows you to better demonstrate your expertise, which you can’t do in the office,” he said. “And they get what they want: They get to see the house.”

Email Thomas Mitchell

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