This article was originally published for Realtor Magazine:
Brokers can use online automated valuations as a way to educate clients and attract new business. Here’s how.
Brokers loathe Zestimates and most other online home valuations because they’re riddled with inaccuracies. Our agents end up spending far too much time explaining away bad data and poor pricing information to their clients.
But the online valuation is attractive to consumers, and brokers can use it as an effective teaching tool to attract sellers to their own businesses.
Brokers and agents can sign up for automated valuation tools as standalone websites or have them integrated into their current websites. By driving traffic to these pages, brokers can connect their agents with sellers, educate them, and convert the leads into listings – a valuable prospecting stream in these inventory-scarce times.
How It Works
There is a wide variety of valuation tools available to brokers and agents, but the mousetrap is very similar. It starts with a landing/squeeze page, which tells users: “Get an instant online valuation for your home.” Users are then prompted to input their address. Once a user’s address is captured, the system stores the location of a potential home seller.
The second step asks the home owner for a little bit of information about their home and some contact information so that a full value report can be delivered to them. When that information is entered, a report on comparables and a value range are delivered to the user based on tax data. The user’s contact information and address go to the broker or agent who buys the valuation service.
Of course, you need to get home owners to the website before they can start entering their information. Driving organic traffic to these landing pages can be difficult. If a broker already has a popular site, simply embedding a call to action on the website like, “What’s Your Home Worth Today?” can capture some seller leads from the site’s current traffic. More often, though, direct-targeted traffic is more effective.
Most successful users of these systems are driving traffic from paid advertising campaigns on search engines and social media. Pay-per-click ads on Google and Facebook ads are the most popular, and they must be highly targeted to be financially effective. Each ad should focus on a specific group so that its content will sound as if it has been written for that individual home owner. The broader the audience, the more expensive a campaign will be and the lower its conversion rate.
For example, an ad on Facebook that targeted users who are in a serious relationship, over 35 years old, with a college degree, in ZIP code 98121 would define a very specific segment of home owners (in this case, mostly high-end condo owners in the Belltown neighborhood of Seattle). The ad placed on Facebook would have a picture of a condo, and say, “Condo prices in Belltown are up 8.4% this year. Find out what your home is worth right now!”
Target your ads to the areas where your agents want to list homes – and where they know the market. Some agents may never go outside of one ZIP code. Keep the message short and specific. A picture of a home with local architectural style, and the message, “Home values in X neighborhood are up X% — get your online valuation now!” will always speak directly to the user and the value offering. Run different ad campaigns for different locations and agents so that your ads are always locally targeted.
Getting leads from home owners who are curious about their home’s current value is far more targeted than blanketing every home in a neighborhood with a postcard. A significant percentage of those landing on your valuation tool are wondering whether or not they should sell right now.
Getting a listing appointment, at this point, requires the usual traditional techniques. The follow-up can be a mailer, a phone call, a report dropped on the front porch, or even a door knock. While not all agents are comfortable with the more aggressive techniques like door knocking, such an approach can work in this scenario.
The follow-up to the value report is appointment setting. Here’s a script: Thanks for requesting a home valuation report. It has a lot of your neighbors’ recent sales and an estimated price range for your home. As you know, though, computer-generated valuations aren’t particularly accurate. If I could stop by for ten minutes, you could show me any unique features and upgrades in your home, and I can deliver you a full, professional comparative market analysis to give you a more exact price. Are you available today or tomorrow?
Prospecting for listings with automated valuation systems makes your efforts more targeted and more efficient. While the tools are outstanding for generating leads when a highly specific ad campaign is supporting them, the end results will always rely on good follow-up. A system in which agents quickly contact potential sellers, define their home-selling status, and set an appointment to meet or deliver a more in-depth report can become a significant driver of targeted listings in your local markets.