WASHINGTON – May 19, 2010 – Real estate pros can make quick fixes to instantly attract buyers who are serious about a transaction, according to Errol Samuelson, president of Realtor.com® who spoke at the National Association of Realtors recent Midyear Legislative Meetings & Expo.

Samuelson offered solutions for building a web audience, making contact with leads, developing meaningful communication, cultivating leads and clients, and following up after the transaction.

Here are his top five:

1. Audience: A changing dynamic between the buyer and real estate pro is evident in NAR statistics: In 2001, 48 percent of buyers purchased properties their practitioners found for them. That figure dropped to 36 percent last year.

“You have a larger audience out there of people finding homes themselves and bringing them to their agents,” Samuelson said.

The Problem: Finding content and resources to add to your website that meet the needs of the audience you’re trying to connect with.

The Fix: You can look at real estate sites in three distinct ways. A “type A” site publishes content and news stories. It generates lots of traffic, but visitors tend to read one article of interest and leave the site. “It’s a great way to build brand; a great place to build awareness,” Samuelson said.

The “type B” website offers a lot of market stats and trends. Again, this site will get hits, but visitors may not always be potential buyers.

A “type C” site specializes in searches and listings. These sites tend to keep visitors engaged for longer periods of time – often the visitors are in the early stages of looking for a home.

Samuelson says the key is to know what to expect from these sites and create a blend of all three.

2. Contact: People are twice as likely to phone an agent rather than use e-mail when looking at homes online, Samuelson said. With a mobile app, the potential client is 10 times more likely to call vs. e-mail.

Why is mobile so important? “This is one of the fastest product adoptions ever,” Samuelson said. There were more than 1 billion app downloads in the fourth quarter of 2009 alone.

The Problem: When a potential client does make a call, Samuelson said statistics show agents only answer 30 percent of the time. Furthermore, 45 percent of the calls go to voicemail (over half won’t leave a message), 17 percent ring but voicemail never picks up, and 8 percent get the wrong number.

The Fix: With the shift to mobile devices, answering the phone becomes more important than ever, Samuelson said. If you can’t be there to answer, make sure someone can. And be responsive to voicemails right away.

3. Communication: First-time buyers made up 47 percent of the market last year. Your job is to communicate with relevance to the people who are buying.

The Problem: Call reluctance. The main reasons for call reluctance, Samuelson said, is that practitioners don’t know who they are calling or what to say.

The Fix: Approach communication as a way to help potential clients understand the home buying process. Realtor.com offers a first-time homebuyers’ guide you can find at http://www.realtor.com/freetraining/midyear.

Don’t forget to put your contacts into a database – it’s too hard to do it any other way, Samuelson said. Track who opens your e-mails; list interest signs and personal interests, too. This way you’ll feel more comfortable engaging them on topics they prefer, Samuelson said.

4. Cultivation: To cultivate is to grow.

The Problem: Not tailoring your approach to grow relationships with potential clients in ways that are lasting and meaningful.

The Fix: Samuelson said that mixing up your forms of communication can make a huge impact on interest level. Sure, use regular phone calls and e-mails, but also send quick messages on personal matters. Use market trends as a conversation starter. Meet in person for coffee; introduce the human element.

And don’t forget to ask for feedback on the job you’re doing. The idea of authenticity is important when providing relevant information that’s fact-based.

5. Transaction: The close of a sale is not the end of an agent-client relationship – it’s just another phase.

The Problem: Practitioners get overwhelmed dealing with the transaction or don’t have a system in place to continue their interaction with a client. According to the 2009 NAR Buyers and Sellers Survey, 21 percent of homeowners don’t hear from their agent again. Approximately 43 percent hear from their agent occasionally, 13 percent monthly and 9 percent weekly.

The Fix: Continue your cultivation after the sale, which is becoming easier than ever with social networks and blogs.

Source: Erica Christoffer, Realtor® Magazine

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