Even with the tech avalanche, real estate business still comes through the door the old-fashioned way.
According to Bellevue-based Imprev, an agent's most valuable leads still come from traditional sources - open houses, past-client referrals, for sale signs, and walk-ins to brokerage offices - significantly outranking online sources.
"A remarkable 97 percent of broker-owners and top executives at brokerage firms surveyed said traditional sources provide the most valuable leads," said Renwick Congdon, CEO of Imprev, of his company's latest Thought Leader Survey of top real estate executives.
Sixty three percent say these leads are of "exceptional value" and 34 percent say these leads provide a "reasonable value."
In comparison, none of the major online lead-generation sources included in the survey received an "exceptional value" rating higher than 3 percent.
"Considering the millions of dollars paid every month to the online lead providers, these results were not what we expected," Congdon said.
Other key findings:
Other top sources: The second-most valuable lead source is the firm's own website: 84 percent of leaders said their brokerage or corporate websites provide leads of "exceptional" (35 percent) or "reasonable" (49 percent) value. Social media (Facebook, etc.) provide the third most valuable source of leads, with 51 percent rating these leads as providing "reasonable" value and 11 percent providing "exceptional" value, they said.
The online lead sources: Among the online firms that were included in the survey that offer lead generation, none ranked higher than 3 percent in providing "exceptional value." Realtor.com ranked highest, with 42 percent of top executives giving it a "reasonable value" rating; Trulia is second, with 32 percent; Zillow is third, with 31 percent.
Craigslist ranked low: More than two in three (68 percent) said leads from Craigslist don't deliver: 34 percent rated Craigslist as providing "not enough value" and 34 percent said it provided a "poor value" as a source of lead generation.
Agent follow-up still a problem: Only one in 10 said they're "very satisfied" with the overall lead follow-up by their agents and nearly 40 percent said they're "not at all satisfied" with overall lead follow-up.
A question of quality: 72 percent said they're "somewhat satisfied" with the quality of the leads they receive, and more than one in five (21 percent) are "not at all satisfied" with lead quality. Only 8 percent said they're "very satisfied" with the quality of their leads.
The cost of acquisition: Half of the leaders surveyed said their firms spend 10 percent to 30 percent of their annual marketing budgets on lead generation. One in 10 spends more than 50 percent, and 14 percent spend 30 percent to 50 percent. About one in four (27 percent) said they spend less than 10 percent of their marketing budget on lead generation.
Imprev inaugurated the Thought Leader Survey in 2012 to provide insight into key business challenges for top executives in order to encourage discussions, ideas and solutions. Respondents included broker-owners and top executives at leading franchises and independent brokerage firms that were responsible for nearly half of all U.S. residential real estate transactions last year.
The survey was conducted in late October, after the announcement of the re-opening of the U.S. government. Nearly one-third of the 260-plus respondents are 61 years old or older; and 38 percent were 51 to 60; 19 are 41-50; and 13 percent are 31 to 40. None of the respondents are under 30.