When I first started in real estate, placing an ad in a "homes" magazine was a great way to generate leads. Buyers snapped up new editions of these magazines and started calling off the ads. In recent years, buyers are turning more and more to web-based home search tools to begin their search for a home.
In response, the number of web sites offering consumers a peek inside our databases has exploded. Information-hungry consumers have no problem finding any numbers of sites that will give them a wealth of information for free. Realtors have learned to use this thirst for free information as a lead-generation tool. Certain buyer actions on these sites send a lead to the agent. Agents who vigorously follow up and know how to incubate these contacts have seen a previously untapped source of prospects.
Mostly, this explosion of Internet use is good news for Realtors. Buyers are still hiring Realtors to write the sales contract, negotiate for them, and run interference during the contract-to-closing period. Internet-savvy buyers are better educated, better qualified to buy, and spend less time in their agent's care before making their offer.
The bad news: Everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY is doing it. It is increasingly difficult for agents to generate leads simply by offering a free Internet search. There is such a proliferation of sites that, when asked, most consumers are unable to remember WHERE they got the information about a particular property.
When I first started offering web-based searches to my prospects, folks were excited about being able to get such information "by themselves." Recently, I've come across very few buyers who don't already know how to search for homes on the Internet.
So how can we set ourselves apart? How can we offer tools that will satisfy information-hungry consumers? People, how can we snag those leads?
And, once in our pipeline, how can we use the Internet to nurture them until they are ready to make their move?