Covid… everything comes back to Covid. It’s changed our lives forever, revolutionising how we live and work in ways that could never have been imagined. Nowhere, perhaps, has this been more apparent than in property. As agents struggled to cope with lockdown restrictions last March, innovative proptech firms saw ways to fill the gaps caused by the ban on viewings and valuations. Others saw ways to adapt or add to their existing platforms. In the vanguard of those innovations are lead conversion tools, offering the ability to interact online instantly with potential clients.
However, during a period when both sales and lettings have gone off the scale in terms of activity, those same tools have given agents a very effective way of screening out the tyre-kickers – leaving them more time to focus on productive clients.
Perhaps the newest development is Agent Response, launched by Shropshire estate agency Nock Deighton as a direct response to the impact Covid had on its business.
Because all the tyrekickers have been dealt with automatically, all the people who are really serious will happily answer a few more questions. Mike Nettleton, Founder Agent Response.
“Lettings has always been overrun with enquiries but it was only when we had furloughed a large chunk of the front-line lettings team, and had senior members of staff dealing with enquiries, that we actually started looking at it a bit differently,” admits company vice-chairman Mike Nettleton.
Agent Response is integrated with Rightmove, Zoopla, OnTheMarket and OneDome, and sits between portals and the agent’s CRM and automatically pre-qualifies your leads for you. There are different approaches for sales and lettings, but the underlying principle is the same.
Enquiries made via the portals are sent to Agent Response, which emails the lead asking them to answer some simple questions. Only those that complete the form are passed on to the agent. There is also a phone-intercept service that works on similar lines.
“By automating it and asking a few more questions, because all the tyre-kickers have been dealt with automatically, all the people who are really serious will happily answer a few more questions and get fantastic customer service because we can get back to them straight away,” says Nettleton.
On the sales side, when a lead comes into the agent’s CRM there is a follow-up question that says, “Would you like to be on our priority list?”. Here they are asked a set of questions not only geared to prequalify them, but also to see if they need extra services such as conveyancing or mortgages.
Pricing starts at £19.99 a month for a basic email package that allows you to send up to 500 responses a month, while a combined phone and email plan starts at £129 per month.
By fortuitous timing, Homehere came to market just as Covid was starting to grab the headlines last year.
Co-founder Lou Quinn agrees with Nettleton that lead generation is all about quality, not quantity. Homehere performs a similar function, screening sales enquiries and asking clients to answer some simple questions.
“If you are giving them the opportunity to take the next step themselves, if they are not willing to do that, perhaps the question is how interested they really are in that property,” says Quinn. There is even a ‘hot property’ feature that flags up if more than four people are interested in a particular house or flat, generating extra interest.
If you are giving them the opportunity to take the next step themselves, if they are not willing to do that, perhaps the question is how interested they really are in that property. Lou Quinn, Co-founder, Homehere.
The advantage of Homehere, he stresses, is that rather than emails clogging up your inbox, an agent simply logs into the website and will see a list of screened enquiries that have come into the system. If an agent needs to send the same message to a number of leads – perhaps a property has just gone under offer – an email can be sent simultaneously to everyone who is interested, saving agents’ time.
It allows you to compare the performance of leads from different portals and also allows you to identify your top negotiators in terms of lead activity and conversions. It is fully integrated with Rightmove, Zoopla and OnTheMarket, and the team is also adding CRM integration, with Reapit already up and running, and Alto soon to be added.
Pricing starts at £99 a month per branch.
LeadPro is a powerful suite of tools aimed at helping agents convert leads into new instructions. There are four different products: an instant online valuation tool – formerly ProVal, which was acquired earlier this year; a lead responder that jumps in after a valuation request with texts and emails; an autocaller tool that can take an email or valuation request and turn it into a call; and a dashboard for managing all your leads.
Some agents like to mix and match, converting all leads to calls during the normal working day, or emails outside office hours. If you are using Reapit 12 as your CRM, it will even book viewing requests straight into your calendar.
CEO and co-founder Sam Zawadzki says the call tool is one of LeadPro’s standout features. “When agents buy valuation leads from Rightmove or Zoopla, those leads are being sent to five agents in the same area,” he explains. “As the vendor, the first agent you speak to is the one you are most likely to go with. So that call tool, which gets the negotiator on the phone to the vendor straight away, has had massive results on increasing conversion of Rightmove local valuation alerts, because it puts the agent using it to the front of the queue.”
That call tool, which gets the negotiator on the phone to the vendor straight away, has had massive results on increasing conversion of Rightmove local valuation alerts. Sam Zawadzki, CEO and Founder, Leadpro.
The LeadPro dashboard also allows for more efficient working, as it scores each branch in terms both of volume of enquiries and lead conversions. “One firm who started using it moved a bunch of staff between branches because for the first time ever they could see which branches were really busy and which were quiet,” says Zawadzki.
For another client, it revealed their worst performing source of conversions was Zoopla, at 17 per cent – but the volume was so huge it was still their biggest supplier of instructions.
Pricing starts at £39 per month for the lead responder, rising to £49 for the instant valuation tool and £82.50 for Autocaller. There is also a small per-lead charge once the inclusive bundle volume has been exceeded.
MyVal is another instant valuation tool, but packs a punch at a very competitive price. As well as average, minimum and maximum valuations, it will also show vendors pricing on recently sold properties in the area. That’s handy for buyers, too, while the council tax and EPC finder, Stamp Duty calculator and local amenities map all enrich the user experience.
Agents are fed the customer’s details and can respond with a call or email. There is also a live chat option, allowing negotiators to respond to queries. A new feature that came as a response to COVID is the virtual valuation tool, which gives agents the chance to carry out a valuation without leaving their office.
Vendors are asked to identify their home on Google Street View, can upload photos, and are asked a series of questions about the property – as well as the reason for moving, so the agent gets as full a briefing as possible.
A lot of people were and still are nervous about letting strangers into their home – this is a way agents can still do valuations and still build that rapport with someone. Charlotte Gowers, Account Manager, MyVal.
“When the pandemic hit a lot of agents contacted us asking what we could do to help them continue working, because at first they weren’t allowed to visit properties,” explains account manager Charlotte Gowers. Even though restrictions have eased, it still has value. “A lot of people were and still are nervous about letting strangers into their home – this is a way agents can still do valuations and still build that rapport with someone,” she adds.
Pricing starts at just £20 per branch for one to two branches. There is a set-up fee of £40, but nothing further is payable for 90 days. Live chat is £10 per month per user, and virtual valuations are £5 per lead.
The Zeus App
Nick Christoforou launched The Zeus App in January 2020 just as fears over the new coronavirus in China were growing, and his first funding round closed just before the UK lockdown. It was a double-edged sword because it meant he didn’t get all the funding he wanted up front, but for a start-up offering virtual viewings the lockdown environment was perfect.
“When agents closed down, users still wanted to understand the value of their property, though agents weren’t engaging. When lockdown ended we had a really good uptake from agents as well,” says Christoforou. “Once we had all the funding we had the capacity to scale and it’s now 10 times what it was last year in terms of downloads, user base, property uploads. We probably have close to 1,000 properties now on our platform.”
It’s now 10 times what it was last year in terms of downloads, user base, property uploads. We probably have close to 1,000 properties now on our platform. Nick Christoforou, Founder, The Zeus App.
The system is aimed more at vendors, encouraging owners to submit details of the property, complete with photos, which are then sent to a selection of local agents. They can then respond with a valuation and pricing information.
When it comes to pricing there is a sign-up fee of £99 per branch, plus a small percentage of the agent’s commission for a successful sale.
InspectRealEstate is a powerful offering from an Australian company that dominates much of the market down-under. The product works for both sales and lettings, providing an immediate response to a portal query that pre-qualifies the lead and then books it straight into the agent’s calendar.
The system even has the ability calculate travel time from the office or another viewing, and can include factors such as who has the keys, and whether there is a tenant in place.
“If you can allow someone to book into your calendar, by the time you get into the office in the morning you’ve already got that person booked into an appointment, while all the other agents are still hitting the phones.”
If you can allow someone to book into your calendar, by the time you get into the office in the morning you’ve already got that person booked into an appointment. Milton Jannusch, InspectRealEstate.
InspectRealEstate integrates with many of the mainstream CRM packages, including Reapit, Dezrez and Rentman. Pricing is £195 per branch per month and includes all functions.
Yomdel is a live-chat solution focused on generating leads for agents, 24/7. In an age where 75 per cent of people are browsing property on mobile devices, founder Andy Soloman says his aim is to “seduce the seducibles” online.
“The shift to digital is so important,” he stresses. “Agents need to get their head around the idea that it’s not about the value of the services they offer, it’s about customer behaviour – where are the people?”
He says pre-Covid, conversions from intercept to a fully actionable business opportunity were running at about 35 per cent – now the needle has moved to 50 per cent. “Irrespective of your business model, your customers are all interacting online at point of first contact, so as an agent you need to make sure you can support them and answer their questions at a time that is convenient to them.”
The shift to digital is so important. Agents need to get their head around the idea that it’s not about the value of the services they offer, it’s about customer behaviour. Andy Soloman, Founder, Yomdel.
Yomdel runs a white-label service and employs its own staff to handle the live chat 24/7. All the lead’s details are captured and sent to the agent within 15 minutes. The chat handler will also check whether the individual is also looking to buy and whether finance is needed. “Probably about 30 per cent of buyers are carrying something that has further value attached to it,” says Soloman.
Yomdel is integrated with most of the major CRMs together with Google Analytics.
Pricing starts at roughly £200 per month per branch, but is based on the number of unique visitors coming through the agent’s website.
There are two key takeaways from this survey. The first is that intercepting leads online will put you one step ahead of the competition and give a dramatically higher conversion rate.
The second is that the discovery process can reveal additional commission opportunities for agents, be it mortgages for vendors or conveyancing for buyers.
As Mike Nettleton of Agent Response and Nock Deighton says, “We have set ourselves a target of 10-15 per cent of our revenue to come from referrals. We include questions such as have you got your mortgage lined up, have you instructed your solicitor and we have doubled our referrals target for this year because everybody gives us the answers before we even start.”