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Commentary by Fred Doleac

RISMEDIA, January 9, 2009-The Internet is not the future of real estate; it’s the present. The true future of the real estate industry lies in learning how to use the Web to more effectively engage with customers.

A website alone will not sell a property or create a buyer lead. It still comes down to qualified agents helping their clients. In a recent survey by the NAR, 81% of respondents consider real estate agents a valuable source of information in the home buying process.

Realtors must start using the Internet and other technologies to continuously generate and nurture qualified leads- i.e., consumers who will buy within the first six months, usually do not have an agent, and wish to speak with an agent.

Unfortunately, simply filling out a Web form is not the most reliable indicator of a person’s readiness to buy or sell. A study of 17641 leads generated by Virtual Homes, Inc., an online CRM and lead generation service for the real estate industry, showed that only 10% were qualified leads.

And once those leads are qualified, Realtors need to follow up-and quickly. Studies by the NAR have shown that an immediate response to a buyer inquiry is essential for converting Internet leads. In fact, most buyers visit multiple websites, so first responders have the best chance for success. Another study by Virtual Homes, Inc. showed that Realtors were most successful in contacting a qualified lead (a 71% success rate) if they responded within 3 minutes of an online registration.

Most real estate companies do not have the expertise, time or investment capital to internally develop the website lead generation, notification, and follow-up processes necessary to convert Internet business. So it is crucial to partner with a qualified vendor that offers engaging content on their website, and a real estate-specific CRM application to manage and develop long-term business opportunities.

Furthermore, Internet communication technologies such as Webinars, text messaging and micro-blogging sites such as Twitter can also maximize the reach of the Realtor by providing constant, up-to-the-minute accessibility.

The future of real estate will be centered on how effectively companies and agents can leverage the Internet as a tool to communicate with their clients from initial contact through closing. The future will not accommodate a middle ground. Companies that can’t-or won’t-adapt to these new processes will be forced out of business. For those companies that can adapt to these changes, the future of real estate looks brighter than ever.

Fred Doleac is Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Country Properties & RE/MAX Innovations. To reach him, e-mail or call 603-673-9747.