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2008-04-16 16:43:00

Agent Increases Income $200K Harnessing the Internet

Priscilla AllenPriscilla Allen is a RE/MAX broker in San Antonio, TX. In 2006, she and her husband, along with a long time associate, were the 25th ranked team in San Antonio; in 2007, they were the 10th. RE/MAX singled this little team out as the # 2 commissioned team in San Antonio in (www.allenrealtygroup.com). (If by some chance you haven’t noticed, 2007 was a year when many good agents and brokers suffered huge losses in business and income. How did she manage to increase both when other good people were hurting?)

Priscilla has long been Internet-oriented: she sold eight clients from the Internet in 1998(!), and she has been emphasizing online marketing ever since. If it is Internet oriented, chances are Priscilla has tried it. She embraced virtual tours and sold one of the first homes sold from one. She has had her own web site since1999 and she has been a REALTOR® since1974 but didn’t really start working full time as one until 1996, after having run her Dad’s business in the health area for years.

When we called her to pick her brain about Internet marketing, Priscilla was quick to offer details on how she has succeeded as an Internet REALTOR® and was eager to help others succeed in this hugely promising area of real estate.

“I do not do newspaper ads. I do not do open houses,” she began our conversation. “Referrals and the Internet provide almost all of my buyers.”  In the 29th largest market in the nation, that is an amazing statistic.  Who would think that a successful agent or broker could make it in such a place without newspaper advertising? “Our group sold $16,000,000 worth of property in 2006, “Priscilla told me, “and we sold $26,000,000 in property in 2007 —a  bad year by most anyone’s measure. It is the Internet that has enabled us to do this, and it is our CompassSearch subscription that has brought us much of that $10 million increase!”

“We regularly field inquiries from service people stationed in Iraq,” she explained. “As their tour ends, or if they are to receive major medical attention, many of them are routed to San Antonio. Before they get here, they have shopped online and dreamed online of coming home. With the military facilities in and around Bexar (pronounced “Bear”) County, we are fortunate to do business with many service people. I have an appointment next week with the Head of Pediatrics for the U.S. Naval Hospital in Naples, Italy, who is transferring to University Hospital here starting July. She and her husband called me on February 2 and we talked. They were concerned about the best schools for their children, but they could not afford the $8,000 to fly the four of them home to look around for a home. My local knowledge enabled me to set her fears at rest and to help her select a comfortable and safe neighborhood near the place she will be working, all online. The Doctor is flying here to meet with me and to buy a $300-400,000 home mid-April. We’ll be looking at the field of available properties we narrowed down to three and she will choose one of those. I have them pre-qualified and I am looking forward to meeting her after all this e-mailing and excitement!”

Priscilla Allen’s 8 Relocation Questions

“One of the things I do to make people I meet online comfortable with me is to ask them a list of questions about their needs. I’ve done this so often that I know people are very comfortable sharing this information and I believe it helps bond them with me as their real estate professional. I explain some of the questions in advance, like why I ask about children, for example. I also explain to them (should they send me a house they found online) if I think they should not buy that house, and why.” Here are Priscilla’s questions:

  1. Approximate time of relocation
  2. One or two story preferred?
  3. One or two living and dining areas?
  4. Age preference in the home?
  5. Job location?
  6. School age children?
  7. Square footage preference?
  8. Price range?

I noticed that price came last, and asked why. “People aren’t offended if you spend time with them and seek to answer their questions, then try to narrow down their price range, but I have found that opening with that line can offend people and send the wrong message that I am only interested in a sale. You see, I am really interested in my client, and I feel every one of them is a part of my extended family.” From delivering some personal items to a spouse, or helping a friend get home from the airport, Priscilla makes it her business to make her business with her clients more personal. “I don’t want to sell them a home that I wouldn’t want back to sell again,” she explained. If I wouldn’t be proud to list the home, I surely don’t want one of my clients buying it! If you haven’t been able to tell yet, I am very motherly. I treat these kids as my own and anyone under 50 is a kid to me!”

How Priscilla Succeeds Online

“In recent months, most of my leads come from my web site. We added two new associates at the end of 2007 to help handle the leads (We’re up to five selling agents and one administrator, now!). We are closing about 90% of these leads (defined as where the prospect contacts Priscilla through her web site). We also use the WebReporterTool to show listing prospects our Internet savvy and success; they are extremely impressed when I show them how much we sell through the Internet, and what people online do to find their listing on my site. When I show them the data, often they are just floored by what a difference a strong web presence makes. I also spent the money to have a professional virtual assistant work with my site and make it more consumer friendly (Kathleen Allardyce www.buildrealestateresults.com) . With Kathleen handling the consumer-friendly part, and CompassSearch handling the REAL SEO-friendly part, I feel confident that my success will continue.  My CompassSearch subscription put another $200,000 in my personal take home pay last year; not a bad return on $240 dollars a month cost! It’s pretty black and white as to where that increase came from!”

What about RE/MAX Web Site?

“It is not very effective. I get 4 to 6 “leads” (that’s what they call them, anyway) every day. I do not have ONE sale from a RE/MAX lead. Most “leads” from the RE/MAX site are just some poor soul who wanted to browse that site for homes in private and suddenly they are stuck with a REALTOR® calling them. I don’t call that a lead.”

Advice to Agents Wanting to Succeed Online

“Join Point2 agent, call Kathleen to help them do their web site, and hook up with CompassSearch. That’s all it took me and I cannot tell you how happy I am with the results. I like learning something new every day, talking to people from all over the world, giving house tours online, understanding what makes my site work and being number one on the major search engines when people come looking in San Antonio. I have the confidence that we will do even better this year and so far, we already have! I can tell you that no kind of lead is as good as the ones I get from my own web site except a personal referral. I strongly advise everyone to cut back on newspapers, spend a part of that money on your web site, and be free from the doom and gloom that pervades the media about housing today. People are still buying and selling homes. It’s just that they are doing it online, now. You need to be found online by Internet buyers!”

Thanks to Priscilla Allen for being so forthcoming. If you have a client relocating to San Antonio, you will find Priscilla a pleasure to work with and a real asset for your client.

(Mike Parker is a principal at the Blackwater Consulting Group, Inc., and specializes in online marketing for real estate professionals. You can reach him by e-mail at mparker@theblackwatercg.com. To ask for a free copy of his booklet "SEO Secrets for Real Estate Professionals" by writing to realestate@theblackwatercg.com. It will be sent to you free and no one will call you. To request a free review of your web site to determine if it can be found by Internet buyers and if it is search engine friendly, click here and it will be evaluated free.)

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