Whether you are new to the real estate industry or an experienced agent, you would have heard of agent comparison sites and mixed views on whether they are a worthwhile lead generation tool. We weigh in on the debate and discuss the pros and cons of using these sites, to help you decide if they’re right for you.
Agent comparison sites, such as RateMyAgent, OpenAgent, LocalAgentFinder and AgentSelect, act as a lead generation tool for real estate agents. These sites attract people who are searching for an agent to sell their property. Using these sites vendors can find agents in their market area and compare the number of properties sold in the last year, total sales values and client reviews, so they can select the best agent.
Most agent comparison sites already have profiles set up for agents. However, agents must ‘claim’ their profiles so that it can help generate leads. To claim your profile, most sites require agency business owners or principals to purchase a subscription, which can cost varied amounts depending on the respective platform. Some sites, such as RateMyAgent, also allow individual agents to take control of their profile for free until you wish to upgrade your account to gain more features.
Most sites capture vast amounts of information about the property market and real estate agents. In most cases, once an agent advertises the public sale of a property, these sites add the listing to the appropriate agent’s profile and calculate statistics so vendors can compare against other agents in the area. On most sites once agents claim their profile, they can report their own results, request reviews from clients, and include social media so they can schedule reviews, listings and sales to be posted to their chosen digital channels.
Agent comparison sites potentially give you additional leads by sending prospective clients’ details to you. Most sites contact you once vendors identify you as the most qualified agent and request to make an enquiry. The sites claim that these leads are more qualified since they use data and customer reviews to match vendors with agents. Even if you are a new agent, if you claim your profile these sites can potentially help you gain more leads.
If your agency has a subscription to one of these sites, you can claim your profile and use it to establish or boost your personal brand. Claiming your profile allows you to update your details, sales data and reviews, as well as promote this data to current and prospective clients on other digital platforms such as social media. This, in turn, increases your online visibility as your personal brand will show up higher and in more relevant online search results. As a new agent, this is a great starting point for establishing your online presence in your market area.
The more positive reviews you gain, the stronger your agent reputation grows. Since agent comparison sites encourage past vendors to leave reviews, this helps boost your number of testimonials. As a result, whether you are an experienced agent or just starting out, this can effectively build or strengthen your legitimacy as an agent and put you ahead of others who have no online reviews. These sites also allow you to showcase your experience, sales ability and results, which adds further legitimacy to your professional reputation.
With the increasing popularity of online comparison sites, more vendors are using these sites as their first point-of-call when it comes to finding the best agent to sell their property. Research shows that 88% of people put their home on the market within 12 months of visiting these comparison sites. In addition to this, consumers now trust online reviews as much as personal referrals. If your agency does not have a subscription to one or more of these sites, as an agent you may be invisible a large percentage of your market.
As an agent comparison site showcases your reviews that past clients may have left you, it can be seen that you are not afraid for potential clients to see reviews of your work. In turn, it can show that you are being transparent right from the get go. Being transparent with potential new clients means you are able to build trust with them. A big part of the real estate industry is based on customer service and what in the end will win clients over and over again is being known as a trustworthy agent. A good reputation and a strong set of ethics is priceless, especially when word of mouth is one of the best referrals you can get.
Comparison sites for agents who may be working as an independent or in smaller real estate agency is a great marketing platform for agents to get their name out there and have a presence in their chosen market area. It can be hard for an independent agency to complete with large real estate franchise marketing budgets. These sites however allow an even marketing platform when it comes to comparing a small independent to large agencies.
Investing in agent comparison sites can be a costly exercise. In general, on top of a monthly subscription fee most sites charge an additional fee for every lead you successfully list and sell. This fee is a percentage of the commission you earn from the sale, sometimes as much as 1% of the sale price or as much as 20% of your agreed commission. This is quite a significant deduction off your commission considering the hard work you put into the sale.
Some comparison sites stipulate that they own the ‘lead’ for up to two years. This means that if the ‘lead’ buys or sells with you further over this two year period you are committed to paying the commission fees to the comparison site for all sales during this time.
Whilst agent comparison sites claim to provide ‘qualified’ leads, many agents who have used these platforms in the past complain that they only delivered stale leads, leads that had already been listed, leads that were not leads at all, or leads that agents were already doing business with. Other agency business owners also complain that they subscribed to agent comparison sites for many months only to receive no new business at all, leading them to terminate the service.
The authenticity and transparency of agent comparison sites has also come under scrutiny. There have been claims that some sites allow anyone to leave reviews on agent profiles, even if they have never dealt with the agent. This causes harmful reputation damage to agents and agencies, as the overwhelming majority of these ‘fake’ reviews are negative. If you do use one of these sites, implement a communication processes to ensure clients who were satisfied with your service leave their positive reviews on these sites – this will also aid in counteracting any fake reviews.
As you know, real estate is all about relationships. Unfortunately, agent comparison sites offer a faceless service in an industry built on face-to-face relationships. As such, these sites offer little to no return-on-investment since, in the long-term, they do not help you maintain relations and retain clients. In particular, if you are new to the industry, these sites should not be your go-to lead generation tool since they will not help you build genuine relationships with prospectives or clients.
Unfortunately if you are new to the industry and looking to put your name out there, mostly you can only join these comparison sites if your agency is signed up as a whole. This is easy to achieve if you have started your own independent agency, however if you have joined one of the major agency franchises this may be harder to convince your Principal to sign up just to benefit you given the costs.
Whether you are new to the real estate industry or an experienced agent, comparison sites may be an extra source of lead generation for you. Before you or your agency subscribe to any of these comparison sites, we recommend you do your due diligence and read the fine print to ensure you understand exactly the agreement you are entering into. Weigh up the benefits and costs of joining each comparison site and see which is best for you, if any.
Like any digital marketing platform it is important that agent comparison sites should not be solely relied upon for your lead generation. They should be considered as only one part of your marketing and business development strategy. Give it a try, and if you do not see any return on investment, perhaps comparison sites are not right for you or the agency you work for.
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