Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Newspaper circulation continues to fall

The Newspaper Association of America reported on Monday that U.S. newspaper circulation is continuing its downward trend.

Daily circulation for the six months ended September 30 fell 2.8%; Sunday circulation fell 3.4%. These were the sharpest drops in the last 15 years. The Los Angeles Times suffered an 8% drop during this period, the largest of any newspaper.

It appears that the migration from print to the Internet for consumers is accelerating.

Learning From The Best

Jennifer O'Hanley uses tips from the Online HouseValues MasterMind forum to help her gain the knowledge she needs to be successful with her HouseValues system and leads:

“I am pleased to say that having been a subscriber to HouseValues since the end of February of 2006 I finally have a house under contract. I believe that quick responses are imperative. I had sent the mini CMA and about 5 days later they called to thank me and ask if I could show them homes. They had been waiting for another agent to call them back for days. Needless to say they started working with me and within 3 weeks we had a home under contract. They have decided to try to sell their home on their own first, and if it does not sell they will list with me. We have built a great relationship and they are wonderful people to have in my database. I thank so many of the great agents here on the forum for their sharing of ideas. I come here to learn often. I am hoping to have some great tips of my own to share soon. I look forward to continuing to build my pipeline and hoping for an unbelievable year in 2007! I wish you all much success and if you are optimistic and patient it WILL happen!”

Rising Success in Houston

Diego Jaramillo a Market Leader advocate from Houston, TX shares his success on the HouseValues MasterMind forum:

"All along I've kept up with the forum and have used the great ideas that have funneled from it. I subscribed in February 2006 and have been trying to be proactive with the leads. I received a lead in April that looked very promising. I kept sending her listings and mailed her a relocation packet I created in hopes of establishing good communication. She flew down in July 2006 to preview some of the listings we had marked. She came down with two friends of hers who also wanted to "preview" Houston. My JustListed buyer did not move to Houston, she plans on relocating next year. One of her friends who came with her however chose to move and I quickly set her up on MarketLeader and drip...drip...drip....we closed last Friday ($294,000 with a 2K Builder Bonus). My second scenario was with Housevalues. The prospect received all the information I sent to her but was planning on listing the town home herself in the Houston Museum District. Drip...drip...drip....We listed her town home for $379,000 - beautiful two atrium town home w/ custom pool. Needless to say, it's taken me a few months but I use the Market Leader system as part of my daily work ritual - there's no routine about it!"

Monday, October 30, 2006

Enthusiastic About Internet Leads

Melissa Wilson out of Houston, TX has been a HouseValues subscriber for less than two months and has worked with Internet leads since she started in real estate. Over 90% of her business comes from the Internet and as a result her business remains consistent. She is actively emailing ten JustListed buyer prospects that have a strong interest in working with her. Of these, she has already shown two homes. Melissa figures if she can close two JustListed deals, she will get a sizeable return on her investment. It looks like she’s well on her way!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Establishing Relationships with Internet Leads

Alan Good has been a real estate agent in the Washington D.C. area for two years and a JustListed subscriber for less than a month. He is actively working with two buyer leads that came through his JustListed pipeline.

One of the prospects submitted only a name and email address. Alan used this information to set the prospect up to receiving listings. He soon received an email from the prospect and found out that she couldn’t buy a new home in Washington D.C. until she sold her home in West Virginia.

It turns out that Alan is also licensed in West Virginia and is now talking to her about listing her current home as well as finding her new home!

Part of what makes him so successful in building relationships with prospective home buyers is his quick follow up with all leads and commitment to treating all leads the same.

6 Deals In 1 Month

Team Derek Crager got 6 deals in one month as they shared on the HouseValues MasterMind forum:

"One came through about 1 1/2 months ago. She was so impressed with my follow up, both on the phone, and via email, she decided to work with me. We are closing on her 250k home on Monday. On top of that, I get to sell their 200k home for them. They are fortunate enough to be able to buy before having to sell their home they are living in.

Another came through 3 weeks ago. All I had was name and email address, but a quick Google search turned up she is a doctor that works about 5 minutes from my house. We took her out looking at 500-800k homes last week (the average home price in Indianapolis is only 150k so this is a huge lead). She is ready to buy now when we find the right home. She also has a 220k home we are going to sell for her (another one that can move up without selling current home first). Then I found out she has a vacant piece of commercial land in a high demand area she wants us to sell when this is all done.

Last month I had a guy call me and leave a message. I couldn't even remember who he was. I called my business partner (Derek) to pull up Top Producer to refresh my memory. This was a guy that has been viewing our listings for almost 18 months (only had an email address). He was pre-approved; we closed his home last month (only an 85k home, but still pays for 3-4 months of market leader). Not bad for a $250/month commitment. These are just the most recent ones, have many others from the past 15-18 months as well."

Wasting No Time in Wenatchee

Just a few weeks ago, Blaine and Erin Davidson moved to Wenatchee, WA to start their careers in real estate. Last week, this dynamic duo signed up to receive JustListed buyer leads and they are already working with two active buyers. One of their clients called Erin and they have an appointment scheduled for this upcoming Monday.

Erin says it’s all about good follow up to make the connection with the consumer. Now that’s the spirit!

Visit Blaine and Erin’s Web site at http://www.wenatcheehouses.com/

Thursday, October 26, 2006

E-Post Cards In New Jersey

Last week HouseValues subscriber Amanda Rodriguez of Exit Realty attended the HouseValues seminar Bruce Downs championed in the New Jersey market. Bruce said Amanda had a JustListed closing within her first month with us. She also got 3 of her JustListed leads to show up to an open house because of the E- Postcards she used in her Market Leader account.

Amanda asked Bruce to pass this along to all subscribers, because the system works!

Timing Is Everything

JustListed subscriber Vanessa Crelia’s HouseValues MasterMind forum post is a great example a successful subscriber who enjoys coaching other subscribers on the HouseValues online community of agents:

“I too agree it has to do with timing. I've been a JustListed subscriber since June 2006. I have closed one deal and I have one in escrow right now. The one that I have in escrow through JustListed, the brother-in-law I'm working with as well. So you never know how much will come out of one lead.

I have 3 JustListed clients right now that we are working on to find them a place.

Keep up the great work!”

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Prescribed Follow Up Regimen

Bob Ginn a JustListed subscriber out of Duluth, GA gave a great testimonial on the HouseValues MasterMind forum encouraging agents to follow the prescribed follow up regimen, stay positive and be persistent:

"I have been with JustListed for 181 days. I pay for 6 leads a month but JustListed has always exceeded that number. About 4 months ago I received a local lead. I did what I normally do with follow up as I have learned from many members of the forum. Three months went by with no response and then received my first money call from this prospect. We went out looking for several weeks and closed yesterday on a condo. It is her first home. That is always a treat to help someone get into a home for the first time.

I hope this encourages some of the new folks. There is no "silver bullet" for Internet sales. But persistence does pay off."

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Ingredients for Building Relationships from the Start

(1) A dedicated real estate agent
Kathleen Rodriguez with Realty Mart of Texas out of San Antonio, TX has been a HouseValues subscriber for one month and is committed to success.

(2) Commitment to working all leads and consistent follow up
In her first month with HouseValues, Kathleen is already corresponding with three buyer leads from her JustListed pipeline. She is getting ready to meet with her first JustListed client who is pre-qualified and is relocating to the area.

(3) Connect with other agents to learn best practices
Kathleen finds it valuable to listen to the advice of other HouseValues subscribers on how they are successfully building relationships with their clients.

(4) Fresh Baked Cookies
Kathleen is incorporating the best practices of other subscribers who are having success building relationships early on into her follow up strategy. She recently hand-delivered cookies during the initial visit with a listing client. The result? The client loved the cookies and thanked her three times!

Happy Halloween from Yakima

This Friday, the folks in our Yakima office are inviting family members and their children for an afternoon of trick-or-treating and general holiday fun. Tammy Henle, an account executive in Yakima, has been active in getting the building decorated for the kids, including this great HouseValues-themed pumpkin.

Great work Tammy!

From Rookies to Rising Stars in 12 Months

MasterMind Call Notes:
From Rookies to Rising Stars in 12 Months
October 12, 2006

Matt Heinz: All right. I would like to welcome each of you to the International MasterMind Call today sponsored by HouseValues University. I will be your host, Matt Hines and joined by the fantastic Tracie Mason as our producer.

Well, today's MasterMinds of real estate have been in business for just over a year. But, their success clearly shows that they are not running their business with a rookie mentality. This husband and wife team has devised a system for getting the deal and then getting the referral –and oftentimes getting the referrals with over $4.56 million in sales volume and over a $126,000 in gross commissions in their very first year in real estate. Clearly, their system and their strategies are working. You want to listen closely today as these MasterMinds share their secrets for overcoming the first-year challenges that many agents face – in addition to overcoming the special challenges that a husband and wife team often face. From work/life balance to assigning work roles, these two will share their secrets today of how they have become a powerhouse – a real estate team.

Take special note: They are going to talk about the way they work the system from effective response – pulling e-mail templates – to making a personal connection with each of their prospects. They are going to share how they save time, how they are cutting down on unsubscribes, how they are getting high response rates and also how they are getting a ton of referrals from their marketing strategy. Please join me today in thanking them for joining us as we interview our MasterMinds of real estate, Joe and Jeannette Sommons. Joe and Jeannette, thank you so much for joining us today.

Matt Heinz: All right. Well, let's get started. So, you two are relatively new agents. You have been in the business for just over a year and HouseValues' agents for not too much less than that. How has business been for you since you became realtors?

Joe Sommons: Well, it has been very, very good. It did actually take a couple of months for us to get started. We did a lot of deliveries and handshaking and phone calls and began to get started using those leads. We started in May of '05 using HouseValues in the middle of month. We have closed seven HouseValues and JustListed leads for about 1.5 million sales volume this year in addition to the several leads – four or five leads we got referrals and we closed. That’s almost a $1 million of business there. And, so, our total business volume has been about 2.4 million from HouseValues and JustListed, which is about 54% of our sales volumes. So, we have been very pleased with the system. And, we did another $2.5 million as well besides that in other areas; getting quite a lot of business from up time. So, I think it's definitely well worth the investment.

Matt Heinz: Maybe you could take us back to when you decided to get into real estate? How did you get started and how did you set your business up initially?

Joe Sommons: Well, I was licensed in April 2005 and then we started training with my first company in May of ’05. And I was actually taking some brokerage classes down in Philly and there someone had come in who actually was an original subscriber to HouseValues and said, 'Look, this is where it’s at and I get all those leads, et cetera, et cetera.' So, I thought I want to look into this and it just was a fantastic thing. And, so, we hooked up with HouseValues with one each subscription each in middle of May. So, that’s about the time I started. So-- about the same time I started real estate I started with this company.

Jeanette Sommons: And, then, I joined real estate a couple of months later. October of 2005 is when I started. I had been a teacher before and I am also a performing artist. I do operate a musical theater and wasn't able to concentrate on my performing because of my teaching schedule. And, when Joe was having success in real estate, he said, 'Why don’t you come do this with me and it will give you the flexibility to be able to perform and have a private voice studio teaching students just specifically voice instead of all the general things?’' And, so, I came on and now enjoy doing real estate, performing and having a voice studio.

Matt Heinz: So, that’s great. This leads us to an important point. As you start up your real estate business, you are not just starting a business – you are sort of redefining a sort of work/ life balance you are able to keep as a husband and wife team as well. Could you talk about some of the challenges you faced both as new agents and working together as a team and how you sort of resolved it and how you are working through some of those?

Jeanette Sommons: Absolutely. Some of the special challenges that we have as a husband and wife team is that we work together, then we are home together and everything we do seems to be together. And, there have been several times over the past year that real estate has consumed us because we do it all day and then we go home and we talk about it at dinner and then we try to figure out more things at night and then you really just have absolutely no balance and then everything you are doing is real estate. At times we’ve gotten tired of that because it's like we want something else in our life. And, so, we had to step back and put boundaries. I think that’s not only a pitfall as being a husband and wife team, but also of just starting a new business. There are a lot of start-ups; there is a lot of time that you have put in at the beginning. But, then, there comes a time when you have to put the boundaries out and say, 'Okay. I have done the initial work; I have gotten it up and going. Now, what does it look like? When am I working, when I am not, when is my cell phone off and I am just home?' And, we currently are re-evaluating that as well because in March we will be having our first child and we know that at that point we are going to have to be much more intentional about our schedule because it won't just be us anymore. And, we will want to spend time with our child and we are going want family time and time to go visit our family. And, if we don’t have things scheduled before that, this is when I am working and this is when I am home, then it's just not going to work. Even within the business side of – when I am –- when we are doing business, what does that look like, when am I doing my prospecting? One of the biggest pitfalls that we have fallen into as new agents is when we got busy we stopped prospecting. And, a year later, we have seen the months that we were prospecting a couple of month’s later lots of closings. And, then, the months that we have lots of closings, we weren't doing a lot of prospecting. Couple of months later, we didn’t have a lot of closings and we want to get rid of that, we wanted to be a steady consistent stream and that means not running out every time somebody wants to see a house, it's putting them into your schedule and protecting the time that you need to do your office work and you need to do your prospecting and your calling.

Matt Heinz: I want to first of all say congratulations on your expanding family on behalf of the entire HouseValues family and also on behalf of all the listeners on the call as well. You bring up some really important points about setting some limits and setting some balance. And, I think for any real estate agent that’s a challenge. I mean, almost every real estate agent out there is a small business owner. And when you are spending a lot of time setting your own schedule and working from home, it can be very, very difficult to set the right kind of work/life balance. So doing that in any case is a challenge, but also extremely important you not only staying refreshed and energized but also just being successful.

Can you guys talk a little bit about how you run your team? Like how do you divide the different work that you have, how do you focus on different areas of the business?

Joe Sommons: Well, that’s a very interesting question. I really found that my side of the real estate has been an extreme emphasis on the investor end of things. I have my niche market in Allentown and the investors investing in that area. I know the numbers, I know parts of town are good, parts of town are bad. I am starting to develop an intimate knowledge of every street, what the prices are in every street. So, I really focus almost entirely on the investor side. That doesn't mean I don’t do residential from time-to-time. But, typically, when I get a lead, Jeanette is the residential specialist and she takes people out. I get a lead, I give it her and vice versa. She gets an investor lead; she will give it to me. As far as cold-calling or warm calling of HouseValues and JustListed leads, I will do that. She is not a fan of that. I go from zero to interest. They raise their hand and then I will give them to Jeanette if they are not an investor and then she can develop the relationship further. It's a different kind of relationship in the investor world. It's all about numbers, it's all about condition. There is not a lot of emotionalism if any, especially in larger properties. So, that’s kind of the overarching ideas that we have as far as our defined goals.

Jeanette Sommons: Just to add to what Joe was saying, the investment side is Joe’s passion. It's what he loves to do. And, so, it completely makes sense for him to concentrate on that. And, if I can just encourage everybody out there to find your niche, find your small market that is what you know best, you will do other business in other areas when it comes to you. But, have that one area you know, maybe the four-bedroom, 2,500 sq. ft. Colonial in a certain township or the investment properties in a certain city or whatever because you will get so many more referrals and just love your business if you have something that you really do enjoy and know your strengths. One of the things with being a team is knowing your strengths so that when you add somebody else to your team, you are adding somebody who fills a void. Joe and I are completely opposite in almost everything about us. I am a much more outgoing person; I do really well with just personal relationship building. And, so, the residential side of things is great for me. I can go into a home with a couple and really be excited for them and with them about the parts of the house they love, the parts they don’t like and establish that relationship whereas Joe is so much more the numbers guy and analytical and can explain what's the resale on this going to be and how much are you going to get out of it. And, so, that works really well on the investment side. I walk into an investment property, like there are two apartments, and it's not exciting for me because it is not the emotional connection there. There is not the ‘This is where your family is going to be.’ And, so, that’s part of the reason why we separated that way. Also, within the office, both of us are big idea people. We love to always be pushing the boundaries and what else can we come up with and take somebody's idea and make it ours and make it even more. But, I am the organizational person, I am the person who can get everything organized in the office, paperwork is done on time and in the right file and that’s not Joe. He can work within the systems once we have them in place. But, setting up the systems is not his strength. And so, instead of putting him in charge of something that’s going take him longer to do but is second nature to me, I might as well do that while he does the other. I cannot stand making cold calls or the initial call to a HouseValues or JustListed person. Not that I won’t do it. I will do it if I have to. But, because it's kind of a red light thing for me, it's better for him to do it. It's something he enjoys, it's something that he does well, and he can get more information out of the people. So, evaluate yourself and or the other members of your team and just continue to fine-tune what you do best. And then, when we add somebody else to our team, maybe an assistant or another agent, we are going add somebody who is going to complement the things that we are already doing.

Matt Heinz: That's great advice, Janet – and it sounds like you guys are great real estate team in terms of complementing each other’s strengths and the things that you prefer to do and that you like to do. And I think it’s a great message for every real estate agent that even those that aren’t working on a team to really think about the things that they like to do, think about the things that they are good at, and as a small business owner think about the other things that you need to do in your business and make sure you are finding someone to do that for you, right.

It could be things that you are able to outsource, it could be things you are able to find an assistant to work on, but make sure you are enjoying what you are doing and make sure you are focused on the things that you are good at and that you enjoy and that you’ve got into the business for. And, if you can find a partner to work on some of the other things because they are things they enjoy or if you can find an assistant or someone else or some other resource to get the other parts done, it's going increase your enjoyment and also increase your success in real estate. Let's spend some time talking about the system. You brought up that, sort of the way you guys have divided up work in terms of working the system, talk a little bit about how you work the system and what you do with your HouseValues and JustListed leads?

Joe Sommons: Well, we follow pretty much the standard operating procedure for when you get a HouseValues lead and what they teach you. We have been doing that since the beginning. We send out the prelisting e-mail and then we’ll set them up on our local MLS as our local MLS does not function with EMLS. So, we put them on auto-prospecting, where they get listings as they come into market, and so they are in that database. So, then we send out the post e-mail or – this obviously works with the CMA side as well, the pre, we do the CMA, put them into the system. We set up the campaign, typically however we do a little differently than HouseValues suggests. If they say six months or earlier as far as when they are going to move, we typically view that as a short-term system, and so we put them on a short-term campaign, anything 12 months will do a long-term campaign. We also then put the leads into Top Producer as our database management contact system and we set them up both on an e-mail campaign and on to a letter campaign if we have an address and then the system schedules the calls and various things. This is important to really get what’s called mindshare in those clients where you want to be the #1 or #2 agent. When it's time for them to do whatever they are going to do, the obvious example is like soda or soft drinks, there is Coke and Pepsi, where you want to be Coke or Pepsi, and you want to be #1 or #2 in their mind, in their mindshare of real estate marketing. So, we just are very aggressive, we do letters and e-mails at the same time eight weeks in a row and then we set them up on a call. After that where they are constantly getting something over the next year; they are constantly getting barraged in different areas with our information. So, their like well, we know these people are they are constantly doing mail. We send a just listed card, a just sold card or whatever just to keep them updated as to what we are doing and show them we are active agents and we are doing the business and we deserve their business. Then of course we do deliveries typically around dinner time. Once the baby comes, we may reevaluate that and go to Saturday mornings like Don Love does, so we’re just working through that.

Jeanette Sommons: You know, I just wanted to add to that take – one of the things that we are trying to do is take a lead from the comments that we are getting from our clients. For quite a while, when people would actually raise their hand and we get a live contact via e-mail or they would just call us, I love the calls. “Hi, you have been sending me listings” like “Okay; this is one of my JustListed people.” But the usually response from them was “Well, this isn’t exactly what I am looking for” or “This is the first time that it really was what I was looking for.” And so, one of the things that we do is we have added a template into that initial e-mail that goes out with those initial listings, asking them more specific questions, and the template is going to be up on the MasterMind Forum, so go take a look at it, see if it works for you if you can modify it to what you want. There are only so many questions that HouseValues asks, like we want three bedrooms, two baths, 1,500 square feet. Well that’s fine, but do you need a ranch home because you need just one-level living for some reason. Or what is the family situation, do you have to have a backyard because we have three dogs. And so, we ask questions like “Did you like these homes? If not, would you prefer a different style home? Is semi-detached okay or do you only want detached homes?” Or “Is the age of the home okay?” Really trying to probe and get more out of them and we have seen a tremendous amount of more live contacts where people will e-mail back and say “You know what, I really enjoyed the listings, but I am really looking specifically for this kind of home because this is where I work and this is how many people I have in my family.” And we just start getting all sorts of information about these people, because the questions allow them to then write us an email and give us a synopsis of where they are. And, we used to try to write an email to each of them specific to what we thought we were gleaning from the information that they put in, that was taking too much time. So, now we’ve come with the template that’s the same every time asking everybody those same questions and we usually get a good response. We also ask for the referral in that and we put our website on there, because if the people are coming through JustListed or HouseValues, they are already internet-savvy and we have our local (MLS) attached to our Web site. And so, on more than one occasion when we have gone out to deliver a packet to somebody, they are on the computer at the time searching our Web site for homes because we have told them in that Email template if you don't see what you like in what we sent you, get on to our Web site, search a specific neighborhood if you want to. And then, they are out there doing the work what they are doing it on our Web site.

Matt Heinz: That’s fantastic. It sounds like some of the things you are doing in your marketing strategy are very customer-centric. Even though you guys are doing a fairly aggressive follow-up campaign, the way you follow up and the question you are asking are very much focused on what the consumer needs. And I think the more you are able to do that, the more the customer feels like you are looking after their best interests and the better responses you are going to get. I do want to talk a little bit about responses and sort of customer reaction to your campaigns, because it sounds like you are actually executing a very aggressive follow-up strategy, right? You are doing a lot of follow-up, a lot of different touch points, some Email, some phone, some actual US postage mail. Have unsubscribes been a problem for you or what kind of reaction do you get typically from your prospects?

Joe Sommons: Well, typically we don't really get a lot of unsubscribes. And just because they unsubscribed before does not mean they are not going to submit again and the beauty of that of course, it comes to you because there is Email tracking. So, typically I don’t let it bother me when that happens, because I know that three times or four times out of ten they are going to resubmit anyway, because if they really want information they are going to go online,

Jeanette Sommons: I was slightly concerned when we added a second Email campaign as well as a letter campaign that we were going to get more unsubscribes because people were going to say “Oh, I am just sick of getting mails from these people.” Well, what we have found is that we don't get that response. If they are going to unsubscribe, they usually do it fairly quickly, early on and it is not because we had a lot out there. Whoever checks the mail is not always the person who checks the Email or even in the same day. And so, by putting more out there, there is a better chance that people are going to actually read or see our name and picture, because one day they may just delete things and the next day they are going to go through the mail. And, everybody has their things that they like to do better, somebody will actually love opening the mail and when they actually get a real envelope and they will read through that, but they will delete the Email. And so, we really haven’t seen an extra amount of people unsubscribe. We have actually just seen more people respond to us.

Matt Heinz: That’s great, that’s great. And I know that like a good part of your business, especially from your HouseValues leads in your HouseValues system is not just coming from those initial HouseValues and JustListed leads, but it's coming from some of the referrals you are getting from those leads as well. I think you mentioned earlier in the call that you had like $4.6 million in transaction volume in your first year and I believe a little over 2.5 million of that was from HouseValues leads and from the referrals you got from those leads. What are some of the things that you are doing to get some of those referrals from your initial leads?

Joe Sommons: Well, I think that there are three things we’ve put on every piece of mail or Email, whatever, and that is our tag information, our Web site as I talked about before, and then a small sentence or two stating that we are always looking for business, if you know anybody, please keep us in mind, refer us. I contact past clients, especially in the investor world because they are going to give you leads like crazy, because they know other people who want to invest. We do have follow-up campaigns as far as letter and Email that we used in top producer and with Market Leader. However, I tend to get on the phone and reestablish that relationship over and over again, right after the close. And especially a couple weeks after closing, you really want to still be in contact with them, because otherwise you have a good chance of losing them. There’s a NAR stat that something like 85% of all buyers are satisfied with their agent, but then down the line a small percentage of them don’t even know the name. So, you’ve got to stand in front of them. When you are going on a trip somewhere even around town, whatever, get out your little past client books, dial the phone and stay in contact, keep the relationship. It's like anything in life, keeping relationship going, constant communication. I mean, don’t overwhelm them, obviously, once a month will do, but it's just reestablishing the relationship over and over again.

Jeanette Sommons: And even before they have even become your client, like in all of our Emails to our JustListed leads and people will see in our template, we ask for the referral and on more than one occasion we have had somebody be pleased with the fact that we have sent them the listings they wanted to see and we followed up with them. And so, they refer us business that ends up closing before they do or they don’t end up actually doing anything, but their friends do because they referred because they were happy with what we were able to give them when they were thinking about buying something.

Matt Heinz: Yeah, it's such an important point. Joe, you referenced some statistics that we were talking about earlier. I think the National Association of Realtors did a study with home buyers and sellers a couple years ago found that even though 85% of consumers said they were satisfied and happy with the relationship they had with their agent and the performance they had when they sold their home, six months later only 24% of those consumers could remember their agent’s name. And it all has to do with follow-up, especially given that you have that good relationship and good transaction, you know, literally just six months before. So, getting your name out in front of people, reminding them who you are, they may not be buying or selling a home for several years again but they are going to have friends, they are going to have family, they are going to have people that they are seeing at the supermarket, at church, at school, on the sidelines of the kids soccer game, you want to be the agent that they are remembering. And whether you do those phone calls like you have been doing or if at a minimum you are just using the past client campaign in Market Leader, make sure you are doing something to keep in touch with all those great customers and that great pipeline you have been building. Beyond the referral business you are receiving and some of the other things you are doing, do you have a story maybe you could share of a lead or something that came through HouseValues and turned into something really big?

Joe Sommons: Well, currently we are working with a HouseValues lead that came through to us,

I think it was the last fall, and she wanted an evaluation of her home because they were thinking about moving. And, it turns out that she wants to move to Australia of all places, because that’s where she is originally from. And it came across as three acres in the middle of the city in Bethlehem and I’m like “Well, that does not exist.” So, I look up in past records and sure enough, there it is. So, we lost touch with her after we did initial evaluations. She said she would contact us when she was ready. We heard from her this past June kind of out of the blue, and so we are getting ready now. And to make a long story short, we are not going to put them on the market, we’ve built an investment group and we are purchasing the property and we are going to develop it in the 30 town homes with a profit over $1 million. So, you never know what you are going to get. So, that’s why you got to pull up every lead every time. And, it’s just, you know, we will obviously be indebted to HouseValues like forever for that.

Matt Heinz: And, you never know, right? Jeanette, I love the story you gave earlier as well about some leads that you get in, where that person may not be ready to buy or sell home right away, but are so impressed with your attitude and with the service that you provided, that they start telling all their friends and family about you and you can get business off of those, just as well as you can with the direct HouseValues leads. So, you just never know what any one of those leads is going to turn into. I want to just say, we’ve got so many people on the call today that have been listening to what you guys have to say and you’ve offered such great advice and have such a great perspective and a strategy for your business. If people took one thing away from this call, that they want to implement their business, what would you want that to be?

Jeanette Sommons: Sure. I really think that you have to see your business as a small business, and everything that you put out there is your reputation, is your professional appearance. And so, if it’s the quality of the materials that you put out there, black and white versus color, if it’s the timing that you get back to your clients, if you put in the template that you are going to call them or you are going to stop by their home in a couple of days, then do that. If you follow through with the thing that you say you are going to do, then people are going to know that you are a person of integrity and the person of your word and if you don’t do that and you are just kind of lackadaisical about things, then that’s what they are going to think of you and your business. So, really making sure that everything you do — be it in your office or when you are out with clients — or just every aspect is to the professional level that you want to be known for, what do you want your name on?

Joe Sommons: The other thing I would say is concentrate on appointments. Appointments are key to doing business. Without appointments, you don’t do business. And, I also wanted to recommend a book to you — the Millionaire Real Estate Agent, it’s by Gary Keller. It is just a fabulous book of compilation of the study of mass high-end producers over the United States and kind of summed up all of their techniques that work for them. And, we read that book and that’s how we learned a lot about various touches over time. And, what numbers we can expect to get from them and then trying to get appointments through those contacts. So, I would highly recommend that book, the Millionaire Real Estate Agent by Gary Keller.

Matt Heinz: I am curious of the other people in your office, those that you are working with that are either like other Rookie Agents people knew in the business or those that have been around a while. What other things have you been able to learn from them and what other things have you been able to even gather from others in the HouseValues Community either on the MasterMind Forum or from seminars, from your coaches, kind of talk about, you know, where else you are learning yourself from?

Joe Sommons: Well, we have used the HouseValues resources quite a bit, JustListed and HouseValues packet. We downloaded that from the university and we have obviously modified that to our personality and our niches here in the Valley. We have used the MasterMind Forum countless times to glean information. We use some other top producer templates in addition to what’s already there we subscribed or purchased e-mails, campaigns and letter campaigns.

Jeanette Sommons: We go to conferences when we can. We’ve gone to a couple of the HouseValues conferences, and I just encourage anybody, especially when things are local, I understand that it’s more of a sacrifice when you need to travel outside of your general area. But, especially if there is conferences in your area free or if you need to pay for them just go, because there is something that you can always pick up at every conference, even if it’s just one thing. And then, I think the biggest thing there is and even from today’s call is, there is something that we are doing that somebody out there says, “Wow, I really like that, that’s a great idea.” How many of us have always gone to conferences, come away from it on fire “oh, you know, that’s great, I want to add that to my business” and yet we never we do. Don’t pick several things that you want to change and you want to do, pick one thing, one thing that you say I am going to implement that either today or tomorrow. And don’t let it get past tomorrow, because if you let it get past tomorrow then you’re not going to do it. And then two weeks from now, a month from now, you’re going to hear the same thing again from somebody else who said “get back to the basics and do what you are supposed to and go “oh, yeah that’s I want to do.” So the question then really just becomes when are you are going to go from, that’s a great idea, okay that’s a part of my business plan.

Matt Heinz: That is so important, Jeanette. I’ve been guilty of going to conferences and writing pages of notes and coming back and being a little intimidated by how many ideas that I have. But yeah, you pick those one or two things, really the most valuable, maybe sometimes the fastest to try. And I would say, even off of this MasterMind call today, I’d encourage every agent listening to do that. There were so many great things that Joe and Jeanette try to do. I would say first of all make sure you get down everything that they’ve talked about. Make sure you somehow record, in a way somewhere all the things that you’d like to try to do in your business, but then pick one. Pick one that this afternoon you’re going to try to start doing in your business. And one thing that you commit to do, make it something that you know, you can do, you’re going to have time to do and you commit to do that will start to improve your business. So that’s really the easiest way to start to make the incremental changes that can grow your business.

You know, Joe and Jeanette — I know you guys have a good relationship with the mortgage broker in terms of using that just help you get yourself some additional business. When you talk a little bit about that as well and how you’ve been able to use the mortgage side to not only help give your customers a better experience, but help you guys increase the business coming to you as well.

Joe Sommons: Recently we’ve partnered with our mortgage broker and I have had given him access to the leads. We actually download or export the lists of weekly leads to an Excel file or CSV file, and then he is able to import them into his own contact manager system. And then he actually, as well as e-mails, phone calls and letters, he also goes after those clients. So between the two of us we cross-sell each other and then we, maybe someone will be more open to what I have to talk or what he has to talk about. We always cross-sell each other. So it's like a dual-prong approach and so we just started that so I don’t know how much success we’re going to be having, but we’re looking forward to that end.

Matt Heinz: We were talking earlier about some different resources that you can use to gather additional information. Obviously there is a ton available for you directly, through HouseValues. The MasterMind Forum is an incredible resource and I think often times it's easy to focus on what’s on that front page of the MasterMind Forum. But there is literally seven years of content on the forum that was available to you on best practices, great scripts, templates for doing your follow-up campaigns and your drive-bys, and hand-deliveries lots of great stuff there. Make sure you are also using your HouseValues coach. We are here ready to have one-on-one conversation with everyone of you to give you advise on ways that you can not only work the system better, but just advice from other agents that are doing some great things in the sales and marketing world to become more successful.

There was an additional resource I wanted to offer the small business owners on the call, it's a website called ducttapemarketing. Not duck but duct, ducttapemarketing.com. It is a fantastic website that offers great guerilla marketing advice for small businesses, not specifically written for real estate agents, but for small businesses that are looking for great proven effective marketing strategies that aren’t going to take a lot of money. And as a marketer myself, I find it as a valuable resource to just find ideas and to get creative and oftentimes are things there that either I’ll be able to find myself or that will spark additional ideas to make more sense for my business to the things I am doing. That website again is ducttapemarketing.com give it a shot.

Joe and Jeanette, I want to ask you another question for you about sort of your long-term plan and your long-term goals for your business. What are you thinking about now that you are a year-and-a-half in you are seeing great success, what does business look like for you in three or five years, sort of what’s your longer-term strategy?

Joe Sommons: Well we really got into this business, into sales, to learn the real estate industry and then start investing ourselves for a lot of residual income from investments. So, we’d like to establish and build a team more than just ourselves, maybe a couple buyer agents. Just have a business running and have that path of income running just from real estate business and on of course with our investments as well. And with that huge opportunity of the three acres, a huge opportunity is going to be instrumental in providing the capital to move forward into investing just locally here and of course the larger markets as well on the country. So, we’re looking forward to that area. We are looking forward to being a family with a child. So we are always looking for a lot of stability with income on both the marketing the sales part of the real estate business and the investment side of things.

Matt Heinz: Will you also look to kind of expanding the team, I think you had mentioned earlier potentially bringing on an assistant. How would you look to sort of expand the infrastructure and the team that you have to be able to support that increase business?

Jeanette Sommons: I think that one of the first things that we will do is add an administrative assistant to just do some of the background work, while we continue to go out and do the actual appointments and the real estate. But our eventual goal is to gradually add agents to our team, so that we then will step back and only do personal referrals and mostly for Joe we will be doing some of his larger investors, but that we then will step back and be more in a managing role, so that we can then spend that time that we would have been out in the field developing not only real estate investment business, but other businesses as well or some of the personal goals that we have. Real estate is one of the few careers that if you set your goals high and you know what your goals are, and you’re willing to work towards them, you can double, triple your income in a year unlike almost any other business that we know of. And because that ability is there it allows you to not just say “oh some day I want to retire early or I want to be able to volunteer or whatever your personal passions are”. But if you are really committed to those, like some of our personal goals, you set up the real estate sales business to allow you to do those things later on. And I think the biggest thing is just building the team. If you have more people doing the work, you will have a higher volume and you will also have more time yourself.

Matt Heinz: And I think what’s important about what you just said is you not only have a goal, but you have a plan to get there. And that’s very, very important to not only understand where you want to go, but to get a sense for how you’re going to get there, what strategies you are going to use. What niches you’re going to go after or just what resources you need to have for yourself to get you to the goal you have. Whether that’s a goal of being able to earn more money or maybe in your case earning more money and having a larger business while also being able to enjoy a growing family. These are all very important goals; you need to have a plan for getting there. I would say for any agent who is listening to the call who wants to also sort of work on some planning for even the rest of this year, 2007 long-term, again talk to your HouseValues couch, they can certainly help walk you through the planning process. We do have a series of very simple to fill out business plans; we can help you plan what you need to do in your business and how you need to grow your business. And what you need to do as you conduct business to get to whatever goals you have, you know, whether it is for the rest of 2006, for 2007 and even beyond

Matt Heinz: All right. Well, Joe and Jeanette, I know you guys are super busy not only with your business, but also with your growing family. So, I really appreciate you taking the time to be with us today and I know that all the other agents on the call would echo that. This is really some fantastic advice and I love hearing just the approach you guys have in terms of working the system and the approach you have with your consumers and it’s no surprise to anyone listening, why are you guys have been so successful. All right, we are going to take some Q&A. We’ve got a lot of agents that will want to ask you lot of questions.

Upcoming HouseValues Seminars

10/18/2006 West Palm Beach, FL
10/19/2006 Miami, FL
10/24/2006 Houston, TX
10/25/2006 Austin, TX
10/26/2006 Dallas, TX
10/31/2006 Sacramento, CA
10/31/2006 Jacksonville, FL

11/01/2006 Berkeley, CA

11/01/2006 Tampa

11/02/2006 Orlando

11/02/2006 San Francisco

11/14/2006 Chicago

11/15/2006 Detroit

11/16/2006 Minneapolis

Question & Answer

Question: Hi, my name is Dorothy and I am from San Diego. I may have misunderstood you, you said to contact once a month but yet you use the US mail, you use e-mail and you also call, is that each thing once a month and are you using only top producer, are you are using HouseValues automatic, you know, letters going out?

Joe Sommons: Well, we use MarketLeader for them, whatever campaign is prudent for them, whether short term or long term, buyer or seller. We also use top producer. We do eight week campaign in the beginning, 8 to 12 or even 18 months sometimes every week or every five days, and then after that we will contact them, put them on a 33 touch campaign which is 33 touches in the next year. So, the initial setup we do, we just have the MarketLeader do its thing and then we will have e-mail, a very aggressive e-mail campaign in the beginning for somewhere between 8 to 12 - 18 weeks and same with the mail, that same amount of time like Jeanette said, every week and then we will go to 33 touches over the next year, that’s postcards, e-mails, just listed cards, just sold cards. You know marketing stuff, like magnates and that kind of thing.

Jeanette Sommons: So initially we do all three, an e-mail out of top producer, an e-mail campaign out of MarketLeader, and if we have an address, a mail campaign all at the same time.

Question: Yes, my name is Pam Ray; I am from Keller, Texas. And you had mentioned that you do some sort of deliveries and you said you do deliveries around noon and we’re going to, may change that when the baby comes and just wonder what were you talking about when you were saying, we do deliveries, what type of deliveries were you talking about.

Joe Sommons: Well, we deliver a packet of listings, if it’s a JustListed client or HouseValues we do a CMA and take them up, we buy the HouseValues and JustListed folders, you can find them on the university. And, so, we pick that out around dinner time or Saturday mornings from 9 to 12. So, we will take out a physical packet of information. The university has various documents like “Welcome to HouseValues,” “You are in good hands with an agent.” There are different colors Orange, Green, Purple, you know, look for those documents. And that’s what the kind of stuff we put in those packets.

Question: Hi, this is Bob Andrews from Provo, Utah. My question is, what was your initial HouseValues volume that you purchase to get the leads, in other words which so many a month had…?

Joe Sommons: We had six HouseValues leads in the beginning and 10 JustListed. We then added another 10 JustListed and another HouseValues in October of last year. And then we added another 10 of buyers and sometime in the spring, though that was kind of on the outset of a geographical area, and so we have since relinquished those.

Matt Heinz: And one quick follow-up question on that, have you found the buyer leads tend to be mostly buyers or have you found that people coming in, they’re sort of doing one, doing both or not necessarily doing what you thought they were going to do. What's your kind of experience been on the leads?

Joe Sommons: Well, you can have a fantastic opportunity, actually with both to get both sides of the transaction as far as, you’re going to list people that are going to buy and vice versa.

Jeanette Sommons: I would say that every lead is completely different, so don't try to put them in a box because we’ll get buyer leads, I can’t tell you how many buyer’s leads that we get that are either zero to 50,000 or 50 to a 100,000 is the price range that they put in. And then when they actually raise their hand, they are investors. And then other times they come in as a buyer, but they really needed to sell a house or they come in as a seller but it’s just different. And so, I just would say to everybody, give them the information that they want at the time, but if you have your own website or if you have a home page or whatever, show them where they can get the rest of their real estate needs on the internet that stands by you.

Matt Heinz: Great advice. If you are a agent and you don't yet have a website, remember you do you have a free Web site through HouseValues, you can set that up through MarketLeader, your couch or some one in customer service can help you get that set up as well and you can use that website as a place that is totally 100% branded as you that can give them access to all the information they need and keep them as customers of yours. Even in between your e-mail and your marketing campaigns.

Question: Hi. This is J.J (Linenger) and I’m in Hawaii. We frequently get people that are investors and residential buyers combined. So they are buying a vacation home, or they are going to retire there some day that has to be perfect but yet it has to be an investment. Do you have any suggestions?

Joe Sommons: I will just keep on them, your face in front of them; put them on long-term marketing. Just stay in front of them.

Jeanette Sommons: I think the other thing of it is, it’s greater that you know that that’s what people are looking for in your market. And so customize your template, customize the e-mails and the letters that are going to those clients, to show your knowledge of that. Maybe you need to do a search of that geographic area and what's the appreciation for that neighborhood, if they are specific to a neighborhood or a town or even just the whole island. Since you already realized that that is what people are looking for, make it a part of your marketing materials. So then, they don’t have to ask for that information, they just already know that you are on top of that and then you are the expert.

Matt Heinz: I want to thank everyone for being on the call today and especially thank our speakers Joe and Jeanette Sommons for sharing their expertise.

© 2006 HouseValues

Monday, October 23, 2006

Maggie & Dave Downloads

HouseValues Subscribers:

Here are downloads from recent training calls with Maggie Mouscardy and Dave Lewis:

Maggie Mouscardy
Maggie's logo
"Our Long Beach" sticker
Open House Sign
Buyer Postcard
Car Photo #1
Car Photo #2
Car Photo #3
Car Photo #4

Dave Lewis
JustListed Intro Email Template
October Email Template

Success in 60 Days

We want to thank Ozzie Ramirez with Amerimex Properties, L.L.C. out of Pasadena, TX for sharing with us the success he is having as a HouseValues subscriber.

Ozzie has been with HouseValues for two months and closed his first deal last week for $225,000, earning $6,750 in commissions!

When it comes to listings, Ozzie recently won a listing on a $125,000 home, which is getting lots of attention. He also has two listing appointments in the works.

We look forward to hearing more about Ozzie’s future success. Thanks for sharing!

Just Follow the Instructions

Olga Obear signed up for HouseValues and JustListed in June 2006. It hasn’t taken her long to realize how easy it is to be successful with her HouseValues system and leads. Check out her great post on the HouseValues MasterMind Forum:

"Well, well, it actually works! Just follow the instructions. My mother used to say, "The first sign of intelligence is the ability to follow a simple instruction." I did, and it happened. The commission will pay for my first year's subscription. That's good."

Friday, October 20, 2006

Success in the Windy City

Jason Bacza a HouseValues and JustListed subscriber in the Chicago market received a HouseValues lead on Tuesday midday. By Tuesday evening he had an appointment to meet with the prospect and by Wednesday morning, he had the prospects home on the market. “Just because the system sets you up for future success doesn’t mean it can’t happen right away. MarketLeader is like a box of chocolates, you never know what is going to be inside.”

Lofty Goals

HouseValues subscriber, Steven Johnston out of Ogden, UT just got a HouseValues lead for a $500,000 home. The consumer who submitted the lead and his sister are both buying houses in the $400,000 range AND they have a friend who was frustrated with her agent so they sent her to Steve. That’s 3 deals from one lead. Steve’s goal is to have 5 listings per week from his HouseValues system and he says he’s well on his way!!!

Successful Follow-Up Strategies for Internet Seller Leads

The approach real estate agent Sam H. Sahba out of Beaverton, OR takes to close more business is rather simple. As a HouseValues subscriber, he applies two basic strategies when it comes to following up with Internet seller leads. He has become successful converting leads into transactions by (1) Aggressively responding to all leads and (2) Keeping his name in front of prospects by staying in touch with them on a consistent basis.

This approach seems to be working very well for Sam. He has closed 5 deals in 12 months…way to go Sam!

Turning Leads Into Transactions

It is encouragement to all of us to hear about the success Sally Hoffman with Real Estate Consultants out of Omaha, NE is having as a HouseValues subscriber.

Just nine months ago, Sally came onboard and started receiving JustListed buyer leads. So far from these leads, she has closed six transactions with two more coming in next month. That’s a total of eight JustListed transactions in ten months!

Congratulations Sally on your ongoing success!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Top Of The Class

Bruce Downs just called in from a HosueValues seminar in sunny West Palm Beach, FL and had a couple of fantastic stories from his class.

Brad Meyers was among the group of seminar attendees. He shared his two year experience with the HouseValues system and leads with a total of 15 closed transactions! However Brad was not the only successful agent in the crowd. The dynamic duo Eli and Amy Givoni also attended the seminar sharing with the crowd that they currently make $150,000 in commissions per year from their HouseValues leads.

Thank you Brad, Amy and Eli for sharing your success in West Palm Beach, FL!!

The Spirit of Success

Pamela White, a new HouseValues subscriber has a fantastic post on the HouesValues MastMind forum sharing her perspective and success with her system and leads:

“This is my first time on the forum and am intrigued to say the least. I read each and every entry and I am simply amazed. Since most of the responses have been negative I wanted to share some thoughts with everyone as well as my experience. I am relatively new to House Values and Just Listed. I joined in June of 2006. I have been licensed for 3 short years and started my own company in my first year of real estate. No one said it was going to be easy - I did it so I could live life on my terms. I do what I love and love what I do. I signed up for this program because from a business standpoint it would be crazy to pass up the opportunity! Here is why: based on the numbers I would have to close 4 deals a year and it would pay for itself. Anything above and beyond is a very nice bonus! But even more importantly I looked at it as a marketing expense. Even if I never closed a deal that was okay with me. Why? It's called TARGETED MARKETING! It puts me in front of 30 new prospects every month. For those of you who don't know, we are in the business of marketing! Have they all used me - no! Do they know I'm in real estate? YES! Have I experienced some of the same things as all of you? Yes, absolutely! Do I care if they are using me - no! As a consumer I want free things too! Do I buy from every salesperson I come in contact with? No. I buy from the one that consistently and repetitively gives freely of their knowledge and in the end asks for the sale. I guess what I am trying to say is when you put the customer first the money will follow. I have done nothing with the HouseValues and JustlListed leads - but assign email campaigns. I don't call, I don't visit, I provide them with what they need. When they unsubscribe I put them on a direct mail campaign. Your sphere of influence and referrals should be your main source of income. Lead generation programs should be supplemental income. I have closed 2 buyers - $5600 - and 2 pending buyers are set to close next month. I love HouseValues and Just Listed! I'm doing what I love."