By Marylyn B. Schwartz
RISMEDIA, Feb. 25, 2008-Broker/owner, entrepreneur, techno-savvy geek (that’s a compliment), and all around great guy, Larry Vecchio, Better Homes Realty, New Jersey, has been ahead of the curve in real estate initiatives and trends for many years. Rather than wait for real estate to catch up with technology, he brought technology full speed ahead into his real estate company long before many others acknowledged that the Internet would revolutionize the industry.
MBS: “Larry, why do you believe that your company outperformed many of the bigger, more established companies in your market places during the toughest times of 2007?”
LV: “We understood that consumers would go to non-real estate websites to shop. We saw the trends that promised to drive more and more traffic to sites such as Yahoo and Trulia. Many sought free and unbiased information devoid of the pressure of being contacted by an agent or having to input personal information. We took our clue from the trends and developed our websites Homesin(your town name here).com. In addition, we created the site: homesofdistinction.com, which further solidified our marketing initiatives and helped us to reach out more effectively to the consumer than had been done prior.”
MBS: “That’s quite an interesting concept. You seemed to foresee a trend that wasn’t quite as clear to others. Where did you come up with the idea for homesin(yourtown).com? I know that you own that domain name in all of New Jersey as well as in other places around the country.”
LV: “I wish I could tell you that it came to me in a burst of genius, but it is far simpler than that. I was setting up a website at the Asbury Press, and I asked the young lady who was assisting me where she would look if she wanted to find a home. She said ‘I would look up homes in my town.’ That was the kernel that grew into the formidable network it is today.”
MBS: “You wanted to generate more leads for your agents, yet we know that leads are often in abundance, whereas quality leads and lead conversion eludes us. What are your thoughts relative to the importance of lead generation?”
LV: “I feel there are three levels of leads; now, someday and never. The question becomes what to do with each group. It goes without saying, ready is ready. For the someday, the effectiveness of the company’s auto e-mail system and drip campaign are key. There is no point in creating web domains everywhere if you don’t have the backup systems to control the leads. Truth is that many companies rely solely on their MLS’s tracking program. While something is better than nothing, I believe that we are responding to an ever more sophisticated consumer who expects state-of-the-art technology. We cannot rest on our laurels nor depend on outside resources to control our profitability.”
MBS: “You recently joined a franchise not known in our area but well established in California, Better Homes Realty. How did that come about?”
LV: “With the re-entrance of the Better Homes and Gardens Realty brand, having a name like Better Homes VRI New Jersey Real Estate was creating a challenge. I did not want to join the BH&G family but had a well-respected name brand to protect. I learned about this franchise in Northern California and picked up the phone and called the owners. I flew out to the west coast and we negotiated a partnership that allowed me to be the sole proprietor of the brand east of the Mississippi. It is our belief that we have a powerful opportunity here and will bring this brand to the forefront over the next couple of years. We’re focused on building an Internet Co-op of brokers in every market who will share opportunities and generate leads.”
MBS: “You have already begun that process, correct?”
LV: “Indeed. Right now, an agent elsewhere in the U.S. can join our Internet Co-op and for a modest monthly fee is able to use the Homes of Distinction web domain name and post unlimited listings. Imagine being able to offer your sellers that banner? It has cache as well as allowing the agent autonomy for creating a marketing plan in consultation with the seller. The agent is not bound by highly restrictive brand protections. We are working on a program for mortgage brokers as well. It is a Mortgage Purchase Leads Internet Co-op. We are on the cutting edge relative to helping the mortgage industry become lead generators for Realtors® rather than it always being the reverse.”
MBS: “What are the immediate challenges you see for the industry?”
LV: “Agent training is crucial. We need more skilled professionals, not just more recruits. There are opportunities for growth in acquisitions. Lots of good producers, frustrated by the flood of unskilled recruits entering the business over the past few years, went off and started their own firms. Once the market cooled, they began looking to merge with or be acquired by a company where excellence and teamwork are benchmarks. They want a company where they benefit from the Internet leads generated while being able to “do his/her own thing.” What they want is mentoring and not managing. It is my belief that if we don’t develop more effective systems to lure the consumer, the so-called “free listings” being offered by the non-real estate, third party companies will cost a fortune in lost revenue down the road. Free now equals profitability decline later.”
MBS: “We look forward to seeing how your innovative initiatives will help us all be more effective and competitive within the industry!”
Marylyn B. Schwartz, CSP, is an expert in real estate and corporate sales training/management and team development. She is president of Teamweavers and a trainer for Leader’s Choice.
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