What Internet revolution? Realtors still prefer cold calls, direct mail over Internet ads

Real estate agents are still using old-fashioned marketing techniques to reach customers

Seattle area companies such as Estately, Findwell, Redfin and Zillow are looking to upend the traditional real estate industry, using technology and new business models. But based on a new survey out this week from online real estate social network ActiveRain many of these newcomers still have a long way to go to transform the way people buy and sell homes.

Consider this: Of the 1,758 real estate agents surveyed, the preferred advertising method remains direct mail with more than 60 percent of respondents using the method to reach consumers.  (Not sure about you, but those marketing flyers that arrive on my doorstep each day typically make a quick exit to the recycling bin).

Even more interesting, real estate agents still are relying good-old-fashioned cold calls and knocking on doors over Internet advertising. (See chart above).

“Perhaps people still open the mail and hire their real estate agent based on the refrigerator magnet,” ActiveRain writes in the report. “More poor real estate agents report using direct mail than have an IDX site. In 2011 how is this possible? Either direct mail continues to be HIGHLY effective or we, as the real estate industry have been slow to change behavior. Hard to tell from the survey, but we at ActiveRain have our suspicions.”

Now, this could be a good news-bad news sort of survey for the likes of Trulia and Zillow as it shows just how much room there is available to expand their offerings and increase share as more agents utilize technology.

In fact, he study also took a close look at how “rich agents” — described as those who make more than $100,000 — and “poor agents” — those who earn under $35,000 — use technology in their businesses.

The report found a wide gulf in those two groups in things such as email newsletters and CRM/lead management systems. And the results of the survey showed that Trulia has a slight edge over Zillow when it comes to online marketing usage, though Craigslist remains the number one site for real estate agents.


Meanwhile, here’s an infographic that ActiveRain put together highlighting some of the results.

Data provided by ActiveRain.com. Join 215,590 Real Estate Agents on the world’s largest Real Estate Social Network.

  • John Nelson

    This just shows what a bunch of luddites agents are…

    • http://twitter.com/manifeststefany Manifest Stefany

      As an agent and a nerd, you are correct. Working with agents who are resistant to leaving the early 90′s makes the job that much harder.

  • Guest

    These data are biased in favour of older homebuyers, which is natural. After all, your average 20-something doesn’t have the means to put 20% down on a condo nor the credit rating to borrow six figures. As the existing homebuyer market greys and dies, though, we’ll see a tremendous increase in the importance of technology in the homebuying market. Today’s young person doesn’t need an agent to hold his hand through complicated processes when he has a smartphone and a tablet to provide support in the rare case when it’s needed. (For those young people, consider an “agent” to be a database query engine and a livery driver; a Realtor doesn’t play any significant role in actually signing the paperwork to close a deal.)

    A 60-year-old person can teach us many things, but he shouldn’t teach us to pay $24,000 to sell a $400,000 piece of property. That way of thinking is dead. Mourn its passing.

  • Guest

    These data are biased in favour of older homebuyers, which is natural. After all, your average 20-something doesn’t have the means to put 20% down on a condo nor the credit rating to borrow six figures. As the existing homebuyer market greys and dies, though, we’ll see a tremendous increase in the importance of technology in the homebuying market. Today’s young person doesn’t need an agent to hold his hand through complicated processes when he has a smartphone and a tablet to provide support in the rare case when it’s needed. (For those young people, consider an “agent” to be a database query engine and a livery driver; a Realtor doesn’t play any significant role in actually signing the paperwork to close a deal.)

    A 60-year-old person can teach us many things, but he shouldn’t teach us to pay $24,000 to sell a $400,000 piece of property. That way of thinking is dead. Mourn its passing.

  • http://www.360Digest.com Marlow

    It’s no surprise that direct mail, door-knocking and calling is often the preferred method of marketing a home for sale.  This is still the best way to target the neighbors of a new listing.  An agent wants to invite the neighbors to an open house, as often those neighbors will know of someone wanting to move into the area.  If there was a more efficient way to contact these few hundred people, agents would use it.  Most brokers are not Luddites.  I assure you, 100% have computers, 100% have smart phones, 100% have email addresses and 100% put their listings online and search for real estate online. But for any given listing, they may just want to contact the neighbors within a 2-3 block radius.  The internet throws a world-wide net.  While you want everyone and anyone to find the home for sale online, often it’s the buyer right around the corner who will purchase the home.  Real estate is, and will remain, local.

    • Guest

      For an example of micro-marketing on the Internet, launch the Google+ app on your phone and swipe over to the “Nearby” page. You’ll see lots of information going on right in your neighborhood. This is a key target for advertisers. Much like we want to know what our neighbours are doing, we want to know what homes are for sale nearby.

      Push-based geocoded marketing, in short, is the new door-knocking. Most of us already have “phones” that are useless for voice communication, so going textual is the only way to turn.

  • Ryan Hartman

    Way way off all around on this one. 

    1. the direct mail you speak of is usually just the “just listed” card everybody else is sending. The top agents just think more like entrepreneurs and send more of them, and reap the rewards

    2. Real estate agents are far from being behind when it comes to tech. Rich or poor, They’re constantly inundated with stuff like this, http://perfectcraigslistad.com and they know they need to market online, and they do. 

    3. It’ll just take a few years for the new breed of tech savvy direct response “retechulous” type marketers to overtake the heavy hitters who have been entrenched and dominating with Mike Ferry’s used-to-be-effective but as of late tiring methods… but it’ll happen.