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Survey: online leads valued far less than organic, so what’s next for Z/T/R?

Online leads and organic leads have long been valued differently, but the Zillow, Trulia, and realtor.com type companies will be narrowing the gap.

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Despite pouring millions into online leads, brokers indicate that they gain little value from those leads compared to organic leads in their agents’ existing address books. In a survey by real estate marketing tech company, Imprev, respondents were asked what value they place on different types of leads, and the results might surprise you.

This year, agents and brokers spent over $33 million with Zillow and Trulia to secure new leads, but Imprev CEO, Renwick Cogdon observes, “A real estate agent’s best lead is organic. It comes directly from his or her sphere of influence, company or personal web site, and through local marketing, such as yard signs, flyers, and open houses.”

Organic leads vs. online leads

Fully 86 percent of respondents opine that those organic leads offer exceptional value, compared to 8.0 percent citing Zillow, 7.0 percent stating realtor.com, 5.0 percent citing Craigslist, and finally, 4.0 percent stating Trulia.

Breaking down organic leads, respondents said an agent’s sphere of influence ranked first, followed by the broker’s website, which was followed by local marketing (signs, open houses, etc.).

“Real estate leaders are telling us their agents already have the gold — they just need to mine it,” Congdon said. “The nurturing of organic leads from capture to transaction is crucial, and an area that I believe is not adequately embraced by the typical real estate agent.”

And the shocker? Social media beats out search portals

It is no surprise that one in three respondents indicate Craigslist offers “no value” as a lead generation source, but it might surprise you to learn that one in five believe their MLS/Association to be void of value.

You might also be surprised that 70 percent cited social media as having “exceptional” or “reasonable” value, compared to 58 percent for Zillow, 49 percent for Trulia, and 46 percent for realtor.com.

What does this mean for Z/T/R?

This year has been one of tremendous change in the online real estate media world, with Zillow on the verge of putting a pretty bow on their acquisition of competitor Trulia, and Move, Inc. (operator of realtor.com) being acquired by News Corp.

Online leads have become a staple of almost every single real estate practitioner in the nation, and these changes with the portals have these brands on their A-game (not much has changed recently, but we suspect some real innovation blossom from the ultra-competitiveness). But what every human can tell you, even Spencer Rascoff and Steve Berkowitz, is that a personal referral will always trump a cold lead, and no one suspects that will change, nor will the web alter that.

That said, the portals can (and we believe will) do a better job of getting consumers closer to the actual transaction and practitioners through big data mining and tech innovations. With Craigslist being more highly valued than Trulia with this particular group of practitioners, the time is now for that improvement, even if that gap may only narrow slightly.

The company surveyed over 270 broker-owners and top executives at leading franchises and independent brokerage firms that were responsible for nearly half of all U.S. residential real estate transactions last year.

Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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