Monday, May 22, 2006

HomePages recognized by Money Magazine

The positive press for just continues to roll in. In recent weeks, has been written up by USA Today, Business Week, Associated Press, Women's World and The Wall Street Journal, among others.

This month’s issue of Money Magazine adds to that list, where was chosen as one of the magazine’s “Best Addresses”. The magazine, which has a circulation of nearly two million readers, cites as “The Best Bird’s Eye View of a Neighborhood” available on the Internet today. Click here to see a copy of the article.

Gas Prices and Home Buying

Earlier today we released research indicating that rising gas prices have become a major factor for consumers when searching for a new home. According to the survey on, 70 percent of home buyers now consider gas prices an important factor when choosing where to live. A full 45 percent of respondents called gas prices a "very important" factor.

We also asked consumers to reiterate what factors are most important overall when choosing where to live. These questions were first asked last summer by Kelton Research. As of last August, 74 percent of consumers said that neighborhood was more important than the house itself, and nine percent of home buyers said that short commutes to work were also imporant.

As of last week, it looks like short commutes mean a whole lot more. Based on our new survey, 40 percent of home buyers consider a short work commute very important. Thirty-nine percent said that proximity to good schools was important, and 24 percent said proximity to parks, water and other recreation was important.

Friday, May 19, 2006

HomePages at the Races

Last weekend several HouseValues employees participated in the Kirkland Half-Marathon and 5K, just down the road from our corporate headquarters in Kirkland, Washington.

One of the highlights of the morning came from James O'Connor, husband of HouseValues employee Elizabeth O'Connor, who finished second in the half-marathon. Here's a of James running and finishing the half-marathon, in his new running shirt.

You'll see these shirts at several more races this spring and summer around the Seattle area, including this weekend's Beat the Bridge race on the University of Washington campus.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

On the road with our agents

We've been all over the country the past few weeks - New York, Kansas City, Detroit, Chicago, Denver, San Diego, Philadelphia - conducting new seminars with our subscribers. We're sharing with them our secrets to being more successful as a real estate agent, and they're sharing with us their success stories as well.

A woman at the New York seminar had been with us for six years, and shared that the system works and over the years has always more than paid for itself.

Ray Porter, a recently relocated agent from Atlanta who moved to Chicago, shared how he sold his 250-person customer database in Atlanta for $10,000. The purchasing agent has since left the business and Ray shared how he has now received five referral fees from his Atlanta database. In addition, he shared how only by subscribing to JustListed he has been able to close three transactions in Chicago after only three months in the market.

Kathy Hawkins, our speaker in Denver, told the class just to do everything we tell them to do. She said she doesn’t do anything special, just follows the steps to success, treats all leads the same and follows-up. Her unassuming manner and success from consistent follow-up made a huge impact on the agents in the seminar. When we went around the room at the end of the day to ask what will you differently after today to help grow your business, most of the agents mentioned follow-up.

Many of the speakers are telling stories of how HomePages is assisting them in not only obtaining and marketing their listings, but also in capturing prospects from the traffic being sent to them via the advertising program.

Back on the road next week!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Are those coconuts?

We recently completed a shoot for a new video promoting and our Showcase Marketing Package for real estate agents. Look for that to debut in the coming weeks. In the meantime, to whet your appetite, here's a still shot from the shoot last week, featuring our very own Claudia Wicks and Bruce Downs.

What's going to be superimposed on that green backdrop? And what do aloha shirts and tropical drinks have to do with HomePages?

Check back in a couple weeks to find out!

Monday, May 15, 2006

A brutally honest story about HouseValues

This post from the HouseValues Mastermind Forum (our subscriber-only online discussion forum) demonstrates that being successful with online marketing means not just having the right leads and the right marketing partner in your corner. It also means having the right mindset, and in some cases changing the way you think about your business. As Jim Tomlinson from Orlando, FL indicates below, the results can be truly impressive!

In Jim's words, from the Mastermind Forum:

I am going to share my HouseValues story with you. If you are thinking about, (or reconsidering), the value vs. cost of HouseValues and the Market Leader systems. Read on. I'm sure others have better numbers than me. But, the idea is that you need to track your numbers and dollars to see how well you are doing.

I started with HouseValues in June of 2005 and I was horrible at working the Market Leader system. I ranted about the quality of the leads. But honestly, I was just plain horrible at working the system. I only made about $2,500 in commissions. My closed business ratio at the end of 2005 was 65 leads to 1 closed sale.

What did I do different this year? I made a concerted effort to work Market Leader. I personally delivered my CMAs, I also regularly mailed and called the leads. I followed the call back scripts. I read the Mastermind Forum - GREAT STUFF IS POSTED HERE!. I also customized my email messages, (thanks Steve Davis). And, I generally adopted a better attitude towards "making it happen."

As you can see from the numbers below, my lead to closed business ratio has improved. Year to date, I have closed almost $19,000 in business with HouseValues. Now, those earnings are not much to sniff at...But, steady progress and a better $ return on my leads is really what it is about. I will get better as I continue to add more prospecting leads to Market Leader as well as join the mortgage affiliate program (which I just signed up for.)

2006 YTD:
I have a total of 141 seller leads and 58 buyer leads. All but 3 of these leads are from HouseValues. I have 6 past clients (all HouseValues) in Market Leader. So, that is a 33 lead to 1 closed deal ratio. This ratio is in line with a "Have Met" style database. Meaning, a database consisting of people you have met and consistently market to.

Cold callers all know that door knocking or telemarketing generally takes 125 contacts,(not leads) to 1 sale ratio. Yes, cold calling doesn't cost a lot of money, or does it? It surely costs your time and sanity which you cannot recover. I am currently getting a $4 return for every $1 I spend on Housevalues. This will get better. My goal is to get a $5 return by the end of this year.

More importantly, I have learned more about myself in this journey...particularly about being honest with myself and what it takes to make it happen. I am enjoying the improvements I am making with HouseValues and that are happening in my business and within me personally.

I wish all of my fellow HV'ers a prosperous last half of 2006.

Jim Tomlinson
Keller Williams Classic Realty

Friday, May 12, 2006

Improving Lead Quality at Ellie Mae

We announced this morning a significant partnership with Ellie Mae, a giant in the mortgage industry. Ellie Mae provides desktop productivity and loan processing software to more than 130,000 loan officers and mortgage brokers nationwide, so this opens up significant new channels for HouseValues to accelerate sales of our mortgage products.

In talking with Ellie Mae about this partnership, we learned some interesting things about current mortgage industry perception of online leads. According to a survey commissioned by Ellie Mae, of the 50 percent of mortgage brokers who buy online leads, less than half of them are happy with what they currently receive. In fact, 60 percent of brokers surveyed were unhappy with the quality of their online mortgage leads.

This, according to Richard Fienberg from Ellie Mae, is a big reason why they chose to partner with HouseValues.

"Through this partnership with HouseValues, we’re providing brokers a better option for online leads,” he said in this morning's press release.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Role, Value of Internet Marketing Expands for Realtors

The National Association of Realtors Center for Realtor Technology released its 2006 Realtor Technology Survey today, with some interesting findings. It's worth scanning through the full report (it's just 40 pages), but here were some highlights that stuck out to us:

* 56% of respondents spend more than $1,000 a year on technology
* The Internet was the highest-ranked source of leads for respondents behind referrals and repeat business
* In just the past year, the percent of respondents who generate leads from the Internet has grown from 30% to 42%. BUT, only 21% of those agents are happy with the volume of Internet leads they currently receive
* 50% of respondents report that they respond to their leads in two hours or less
* Only 24% of respondents keep in touch with past clients on a monthly basis
* More respondents had heard of HouseValues than any other real estate Web site except

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Newspaper circulations continue decline

Interesting news reported this week by the Audit Breau of Circulations on the continued decline of newspaper circulations nationwide, with significant implications on how and where real estate agents focus their marketing dollars.

The spring report shows that paid circulations for daily newspapers fell in the six-month period ending in March 2006 by 2.5% - one of the industry's largest drops. The result was similar for the six-month period ending September 2005, when daily circulation dropped by 2.6% nationwide.

These drops, of course, come at the same time that Web traffic continues its steep increase, especially among home buyers and sellers. According to NAR, 79% of consumers now use the Internet to search for homes, up from 37% in 1999. The National Association of Realtors' latest Home Buyer & Seller survey indicates a widening gap between the growing number of people using the Internet for research (finding homes and agents) vs. using traditional marketing channels (including print publications and newspapers).

Smart real estate agents are building their business by marketing themselves and their listings where the consumers are, and the trends indicated above don't show any indication of reversing anytime soon.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Exceeding Expectations

Earnings for the first quarter of 2006 were announced this afternoon.

Our first quarter results were well ahead of expectations in all respects and reflect strong progress against our key business initiatives. These results were driven by strong consumer and customer demand for our real estate services along with growing traction in our newly acquired mortgage business.

The launch of HomePages demonstrates our ability to expand beyond lead generation into the broader marketing services category by providing advertising services to our agent customers. With 79 percent of consumers now using the Internet to search for a home, up from just 37 percent in 1999, we believe that it is inevitable that the billions spent on marketing by agents will follow these consumers online.

That is a core reason why we created HomePages. To more directly target the dollars that agents spend on offline vehicles such as newspapers, homes magazines, postcards, and flyers. HomePages is a vehicle by which we plan to create services that help agents address these needs in a more targeted, more accountable, and far more efficient way than was ever possible offline.

At a broader level, we see the launch of HomePages as the latest demonstration of our ability to leverage our valuable sales channel to successfully create and monetize new offerings. The creation and sale of new services to our customers is a strategy that we utilized first with JustListed, now with HomePages, and one that we plan to again deploy successfully in the quarters to come.

The opportunity in the mortgage lead generation space is a big one. By leveraging our real estate agent customers and network of real estate sites, we believe that HouseValues can become a leader in the mortgage space, and potentially the leader in monetizing consumer traffic across both the real estate and mortgage categories.

We significantly exceeded our financial expectations for the quarter and more importantly made strong progress against our key business initiatives. As a result of this progress, we are confident that we will achieve our 2006 goals, all while setting ourselves up for an even stronger 2007.

The Loan Page featured in Inman News

HouseValues' mortgage arm was featured in Inman News today, as part of a three-party series on leading technology trends in the mortgage industry. HouseValues leads the story, including comments from Kevin Akeroyd (pictured at right) on the shrinking mortgage market and need for technology solutions by mortgage brokers nationwide:

"As the market is shrinking, transaction volumes are going down, commissions are getting squeezed. It's a tougher market if you are a mortgage broker," Kevin said. "That has made people get more creative and aggressive on how they are going to acquire new customers. We have seen this translate into a much larger adoption of the Internet lead category, both in the real estate side and the mortgage side."

You can read more about Kevin, HouseValues and the rest of the online mortgage lead generation story here.

Monday, May 08, 2006

HomePages featured in Business Week

This week's edition of Business Week includes a story highlighting five exciting new technologies on the market, including The story highlights the site's innovative strategy for showcasing homes for sale in the context of detailed neighborhood information and aerial photography.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Using a real estate agent saves time AND money

Why do people decide to sell their home on their own? The majority of FSBOs (53%, in fact) are done because the seller does not want to pay a commission fee to an agent or broker.

But based on that same research, FSBO sellers actually LOSE money by selling their home on their own, even after the agent's hard-earned commission has been paid.

According to NAR's most recent Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, the median selling price of a home sold with the help of an agent was $230,000. That's 16% higher than the median price of a FSBO sale, which was $198,200. According to the data, there are no measurable differences in these figures based on different types of homes or region.

Now, let's assume there was a 6% commission paid on that $230,000 home. That's still just $13,800. If the difference between a seller-assisted sale and a FSBO sale is $31,800, then the FSBO seller LOST $18,000 on the sale.

That's a new car. A ski boat. A year or two of your kid's college expenses. Not to mention eliminating heartache, hard work and countless hours FSBO sellers go through trying to price the home right, market it themselves, wade through the paperwork and disclosures, etc.

Further proof that working with a real estate agent pays off in the end.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Meet the Agent: Pam Nibblett

Long-time HouseValues subscriber Pam Nibblett was in the office today for the latest installment of our "Meet the Agent" series, braving the two-hour drive from Puyallup to speak to gathered employees and offer several new ideas for making all of our customers more successful.

Pam is a true agent success story. A trained flutist in the Air Force Band, then a teacher for eight years, Pam started in real estate three years ago to pursue her "life-long passion." Her broker, already a HouseValues subscriber, recommended HouseValues immediately.

"In my first year alone I had 13 listings from HouseValues," she told employees today. "Since then I've listed 69 homes, and at least 60 of those were either from HouseValues leads or came as a result of meeting people through HouseValues."

Pam spends time with many agents in her office who have also joined HouseValues, taking several under her wing and helping them understand how to work with Internet consumers.

"HouseValues helps me organize myself and free up time. I don't have to worry about how my business is doing when I'm not in the office. I know that I'm getting new leads even when I'm busy doing something else," she said.

Pam has 16 deals so far this year, with more than $100,000 in commissions as a result, and is working with more than 900 prospects in her Market Leader database. She projects an income of more than $250,000 in 2006.

"I'm having the time of my life," Pam said. "Being a real estate agent is like shopping with other people's money. I love what I do."

Two subscribers featured in Inman News

The folks at Inman News are profiling some of the industry's leading marketing partners for real estate professionals, leading off today with a profile of HouseValues.

It's great to see such a nice review of our services, but we're particularly proud of the two subscribers featured in the story - Linda Harper and Catherine Gortner. These two Agent CEOs do a fantastic job of demonstrating how the Agent CEO philosophy, and a focus on Internet marketing, can lead to significant success in real estate.

Great job, ladies!

Consistent home price growth since 1950

Because we're a business operating within the real estate industry, we get a lot of questions about whether or not there's a housing bubble.

To help see into the future, we can take a good look at the past. According to sources including Freddie Mac, home prices have appreciated every year since 1950. The average annual appreciation during that time is 4.8%. That time period spans eight recessions, and still home prices have increased every year. The lowest annual appreciation during that time was a little more than 1%, back in 1964.

Other helpful factors indicating a continued healthy market:

Growing national homeownership rates (69% in 2005 vs. 64% in 2001)

An expected increase in US households of more than 13 million over the next 10 years (more than 12% growth from the current 108 million, according to a Harvard University study)

Homes are still more affordable today than twenty years ago, according to the National Association of Realtors Housing Affordability Index (affordability index of 123 in 2005, up from 95 in 1985)

HomePages, Quicken Loans featured in Bank Technology News

The May issue of Bank Technology News does a great job profiling how Quicken Loans is accelerating its access to online home buyers and sellers through a partnership with, and sponsorship of the site's Mortgage Center.

The article credits Quicken Loans for their progressive marketing strategy, and features analyst quotes that reaffirm the high consumer demand for comprehensive home buying & selling research tools, especially in a changing market.

Check out the full article here.

Monday, May 01, 2006

HouseValues in Realtor Magazine

HouseValues is featured in several places in this month's Realtor Magazine cover story on the Power of Internet Marketing. Our favorite part is the following anecdote about Doug Lofstrom's success with a combined online and offline prospect cultivation strategy:

"In what may be the ultimate marriage of high and low tech, Doug Lofstrom, an associate with Windermere Real Estate in Edmonds, Wash., follows up an e-mail with a personal visit. He drives to the home within 24 hours of e-mailing the CMA a prospect has requested on the HouseValues site and knocks on the door. Although some prospects are initially taken aback, “it takes about 30 seconds to break down the barriers,” says Lofstrom. This technique allowed him to convert about 5 percent of the 114 leads he got last year. Now he gets about 60 leads a month and has hired an assistant. "

You can read the full story here.

A $115,000 Payday

Staci Dancey is a broker with Century 21 Masters in Orange, California, a friend and an extremely talented Agent CEO. Even in a slower Southern California market, her gross commissions through the end of April are nearly $250,000 dollars! And all of her business comes from HouseValues and the Internet.

But her biggest sale recently came as a result of a Department of Justice inquiry almost a year ago. She received a call from a DOJ attorney, looking for an agent who could represent a foreclosure property in Newport Beach valued at more than $2 million dollars. Staci was selected out of five possible agents based on her responsiveness and online marketing expertise, and today is closing the home for $2.3 million dollars. Her commission for listing the home & finding a buyer? A mere $115,000.

How did the DOJ attorney find her? Staci credits it to her participation a couple years ago in a HouseValues promotion to put a value on the White House.

Staci will be the featured speaker on our May 25 Mastermind Call, and will surely have more stories to tell about this one!

Update: Staci's incredible story was written about in Realty Times today! Congratulations, Staci!

Where do home buyers want to live?

So where are home buyers looking this busy spring home-buying season? In the Puget Sound, it's increasingly the South Sound area, without a doubt.

According to consumers requesting information from on homes for sale in the first quarter of this year, three of the top four cities in the Puget Sound in terms of largest growth in home buyer requests were Olympia (#1), Lacey (#2) and Tumwater (#4). The full top ten is listed to the right.

The Olympia area (adjacent cities include Lacey and Tumwater) features less traffic and a bit more bang for the proverbial buck versus Seattle - and it looks like home buyers are taking notice.

Wonder where the hot buyer markets are in your area? Email us and we'd be happy to crunch the numbers for you.

Three HouseValues Sites featured on HGTV

In advance of this year's International Homebuilders Show, HGTV produced a program featuring the year's hottest home-building, buying and owernship trends. Three of our consumer Web sites were featured this year - including, and

Watch a clip of the show here. It's been airing on HGTV and several other Scripps Network channels for the past few weeks.

Feature YOUR home on

Are you selling your home? Want to make sure it's featured on the nation's most innovative real estate site?

It's easy, it's fast and it's FREE. Just fill out this form and let your real estate agent know you want your home listed on In many cases, your home may ALREADY be on HomePages. But your agent can let you know for sure, and can get your home listed quickly if it's not.

Get your home on HomePages and sold fast today!