Since I work in the real estate technology industry, my friends often come to me with real estate-related questions. A lot of them are at the stage when they are starting to think about buying their own place. Many still confuse me for a real estate agent, so they usually call with excitement, asking the “is it a good time to buy?” question, only to be completely let down by my undetailed, non-agent response.
To cheer them up though - and save what’s left of our friendship - I offer to help them with their search! I recently met up with my friend Sarah and helped her begin her home-hunt, beginning with an online search. This is in keeping with the most widespread habits: research indicates that 99% of millennials look for homes online.
After more than a few hours of searching, I was thrilled and relieved when she finally found two condominiums that she really liked and was interested in visiting. “GREAT! Contact them now” I said.
The first condo was represented by a brokerage that offered two contact options, calling them or filling out an online form. Sarah looked a bit disappointed about having to settle for the phone call. She hadn’t done that in a while (millennials...), but she knew that filling out that 1980’s- looking form would not get her anywhere. After she mustered up the courage and called, she was met with another disappointment: no one was there to answer.
While on the second brokerage's website, however, a chat widget popped up asking us if we needed any help! Ecstatic to be able to get in contact with so little effort, Sarah went ahead and sent a visit request right then and there. She didn’t get any response, however, since it was after working hours. Determined to find the ultimate home, she shrugged it off and continued her search.
It was this experience that got me thinking about how hard it must be for those brokerages to capture a lead without the necessary tools. I had a lot of questions.
Why didn’t the first brokerage have an online chat option?
Why was it so hard to reach someone at the brokerage?
How many brokerages have the option for customers to contact them while they are on their website, in real-time?
Since many buyers look for houses after work hours and on weekends, how are those leads getting captured when there is no contact available at the brokerages?
I went back to work the next day and mentioned what had happened to the team at Roof Ai. We then decided to find the answers to all those questions.
I wanted to see how well-equipped the top real estate brokerages were to capture those leads and help their agents grow their businesses. Using a "secret shopper", we set out to contact the top 50 real estate brokerages to measure a few things:
A- What methods of communication did they offer beyond phone calls?
B- How many replies did we receive?
C- How fast did the brokerages reply?
Here’s what we found:
Only a handful of real estate brokerages have the right tools to capture online leads.
Brokerages take too long to respond to a lead, if they do at all.
None used tools that automate lead capture and response.
Let's begin with some general statistics.
In the graph above, we can see that only 38% of brokerages replied to Facebook leads; 62% never replied. And 60% replied to their website leads.
- Only six out of the fifty brokerages replied within 5 minutes to the website lead. Only one replied to the Facebook lead within that time frame.
- Two brokerages replied within the 10 minute window, on website. Again, only one on Facebook.
- The majority took between 1 hour to a day to reply on both website and Facebook.
- A staggering 20 out of 50 of brokerages (40%) never replied to the website lead. While thirty one (62%) of the brokerages never replied to the Facebook lead.
Why did we primarily look for messaging platforms? Studies show that 9 out of 10 people expect to use messaging to communicate with a business.
Email nurturing campaigns, email opt-in content and static lead forms are a thing of the past. Consumers are looking for instant communication with the companies they’re considering engaging with.
The best time to convert a visitor into a lead is when they are live on your website. Not after they have browsed, filled out a static form and left.
In a world where 99% of millennials search for houses online, how can brokerage firms still totally ignore it’s online leads?
This is why at Roof Ai, we used our research as the jumping-off point to develop a system that agents and brokerages can use to take advantage of those live leads--a system that relies on artificial intelligence and automation.
Below you can see the fastest response times of the brokerages we contacted:
What did the brokerages with fastest response time have in common? The ability for visitors to get in contact with them through messaging.
Having thousands of leads contact you through messaging can be tricky though, especially when you don't have the resources in place to reply back to those inquiries.
The scalable solution to this problem would be the use chatbots. Not only can chatbots instantly engage with leads on your website, they can also engage with leads coming from social media and messaging platforms, such as Facebook or SMS - lead sources that are unfortunately neglected as our study indicates.
Don’t Lose Your Live Leads
The graph below shows you the importance of fast response and it's effect on your conversion rate.
The results above show that the optimal time to respond to a lead is within a window of only five minutes. Five minutes is too fast for one human being to act on those online inquiries when a brokerage receives multiple inquiries at once, with varying circumstances and needs . Yet that’s what it takes to succeed when dealing with leads.
Sure, you might convert some leads after more than five minutes, but to get the biggest ROI on your marketing efforts, five minutes is the time within which you need to act.
The difference between you converting that visitor and your competitor getting the conversion is how fast is your response time is.
We have mentioned in a previous blog post that, according to Zillow’s 2016 Consumer Report, response time one of the top factors buyers and sellers look for in an agent/brokerage.
So how can you respond within a window of five minutes, 24/7?
Only a computer can reply to your leads instantly and at scale. Chatbots can help you respond and qualify leads 24/7 within less than the optimal five minute window.
That is exactly what Roof Ai’s chatbot does. Real estate agencies and agents are using it to automate lead qualification while they focus on closing the leads that matter. Its conversational style and instant response greatly increase engagement rate, and in turn, visitor-to-lead conversion rate.
The chatbot can be integrated on the three messaging channels we have covered in this post, Facebook Messenger, chat widget on the website and SMS.
Automated tools take care of converting leads that are live on your website or Facebook page so you don’t need to worry about it.
When created well, chatbots are your friends, not your foes. They aren’t here to replace the real work of an agent; they simply catch your leads for you and make them available to your brokerage before they move on to a competitor. Leverage their capabilities to your advantages.
These two simple changes--automation and quick response time--will make you far more relevant, accessible, and appealing to today’s consumers, without fundamentally changing the way you do business.
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