In the following interview, Keith Dunham of HomeCity Real Estate in Austin, Texas, discusses recruiting, retention, capturing online leads and more.
Years in real estate: 10
Number of offices: 2
Number of agents: 120
You have expanded quickly and have a large stake in online advertising. We noticed you doubled down on realtor.com®. How did this start, and what prompted you to take it further? As a firm that’s been around for 15 years, not only do we have our own proprietary CRM, we’ve been using pay-per-click Internet ads since the beginning. However, as Google kept getting more extensive over the years, we made the decision to test out realtor.com®. Our in-house customer service team that’s responsible for pre-screening each and every lead (a model that’s been in place since 2002) in conjunction with realtor.com® has proven to be beneficial. Since joining forces, our ROI has become two times what we’re spending.
When did you begin to notice that your ROI on realtor.com® was sufficient enough to invest more? Things really started ramping up about a year ago, specifically in terms of the amount of leads we saw coming in. We’ve gone from getting about 300 leads a month to averaging anywhere between 1,800 – 2,000 leads a month. When it comes to sales volume, in 2014, we closed $ 4 million with realtor.com®, a number that increased to $ 50 million in 2015. We already have $ 67 million booked with realtor.com® today (at press time).
What is different about the customers you encounter on realtor.com® versus those on other sites you have utilized in the past? As far as the leads we’re receiving from realtor.com®, they’re further down the funnel than leads we’ve gotten from other lead-generating sources. While the leads generated through our pay-per-click endeavors over the years were typically in the beginning stages of the house hunting process, those from realtor.com® are more invested. By the time they get to us, a vast majority of these leads are enquiring about specific properties.
One of realtor.com®’s major selling points is their accurate data. Does the fact that the homes prospective buyers find are actually on the market and available help start the conversation off on the right foot? In comparing and contrasting realtor.com® to a company such as Zillow, I can say that we do less chasing of properties that are off the market. In terms of data accuracy, I can’t say I’ve noticed a difference. In the end, data accuracy means a lot to the consumer, but less to us as a brokerage.
Responding to online leads quickly takes skill and discipline. How do you train and coach your agents so that all inquiries that come in are followed up with in a timely manner? Unlike a lot of brokerages where one person is responsible for trying to get everything done, we operate via a team approach. Having spent 16 years with MCI/Verizon where I was responsible for running a call center that employed 1,000 people, I took the same approach when establishing the behind-the-scenes processes at HomeCity Real Estate. The process begins with the customer service team getting leads right away, as long as they’re actively thinking about buying within the next 12 months. Once the lead is pre-screened, it’s routed to the agent. Since we have two developers on staff—in addition to our in-house CRM—we’re able to tweak and modify any and all processes in order to respond to clients quickly and get their needs taken care of.
Have you used realtor.com® and the leads you get within your recruiting efforts? Realtor.com® plays a large part in our recruiting efforts, however, it’s not the only piece of the puzzle. When it comes to leads, there are three main pillars that real estate professionals need to focus on: marketing, selling and admin. The fact that all of our leads are pre-screened and vetted by the time they reach our agents is a key piece of our recruiting strategy. It’s also important to note that we don’t hire new agents at our brokerage. We only bring in those who have been in the business for at least two years and have handled $ 2 million in product over the last 12 months. This ensures that we’re always providing the right client experience.
Did you get good support from the folks at realtor.com® to get things up and running? The support we’ve received from the team at realtor.com® has been above and beyond since the beginning. From day one, my account manager has made himself available whenever necessary. Since we piecemealed various parts of the program together over time, I was on the phone with my account manager upwards of five times a week during certain parts of the process in order to establish the correct framework. Not only are the folks at realtor.com® always available, they treat our relationship as a true partnership.
For more information, visit www.realtor.com.