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HomeGain Releases AgentView, a RE 2.0 Rifle. Will it Fire True Or Shoot Blanks?

I don’t hide my admiration for Louis Cammarosano.  We “met” first on Active Rain, last winter.  Louis noticed a comment I made about how third-party lead generation companies weren’t inherently evil and invited me to be the inaugural “expert blogger” on the HomeGain Blog.  I thought Louis would transform Home Gain from a Web 1.0 leads aggregator to a Web 2.0 platform, with a suite of online marketing tools for agents.

Louis hasn’t disappointed me.

HomeGain releases it’s “Agent View” service tomorrow morning.  From the press release:

AgentView connects HomeGain visitors with its real estate agent members by showcasing useful real estate content alongside prominently featured local real estate professionals. Visitors can view agent listings, agent profiles, agent blogs and local information. Visitors can also get an instant home valuation estimate from HomeGain’s home valuation tool or use Home Sale Maximizer™ to determine which home improvements will best help increase the resale value of their homes.

In short, Home Gain is allowing its agents to add featured listings to their “blog homes” and providing useful valuation tools for the consumer…that keep the consumer on the agent’s page.  What’s this mean to you, the agent who may be on the far right-hand side of the learning curve?  Probably nothing…for now.

What is DOES mean is that HomeGain is unleashing a RE 2.0 platform to its customers. As some 5000 customers connect with consumers , from the powerful HomeGain site, their listings, blog posts, and profiles will get some legs in the SERPs for their particular keyword search terms.  We’ve seen Trulia, Zillow, et al dominate the SERPs and challenge the individual practitioner’s RE2.0 efforts.  Now, the 800 lb gorilla could be an army of HomeGainers throwing content off of a Google PageRank 7 site.

At $40-$50/month, the tool is affordable enough for the novice to “get engaged” in the interactive web evolution.  Why would anyone pay for a blog when WordPress or ActiveRain gives it away for free?  Results.  HomeGain is, in my opinion, a traffic wholesaler.  Through SEO, SEM, and affiliate marketing they drive a heckuva lot of TARGETED traffic to its site.  The average visitor to HomeGain is NOT a voyeur, like you might see at RE.bots. The average HomeGain visitor is much farther along in the transaction decision.

I love watching HomeGain evolve into a different animal.  Will this new product cannibalize revenues from its original product?  Probably but if that product is in danger of extinction, evolution is mandatory.

As fascinated as I am with HomeGain’s evolution, I care less about their profitability than yours.  The HG crew has a 2.0 platform, that will get a steady stream of targeted traffic.  If they do this right, their agent customers will be firing a rifle rather than a shotgun.  THAT is worthy of a second look.

31 comments

31 Comments so far

  1. Jessica Wynn Horton August 19th, 2008 11:23 pm

    Most excellent! Congrats Louis and thanks for the info Brian.

  2. […] no surprise that the latest offering from HomeGain — AgentView — reflects those smarts. Others have written about what’s good about it already, and as I tend to agree generally, I want to focus on […]

  3. Ravi Shah August 21st, 2008 11:21 am

    I’m one who likes to try new things and am giving this a try out. I am a little disappointed though that the “blog” that comes with it doesn’t allow basic html. It would be nice to at least highlight something in bold font.

  4. Ken Smith, Arlington Heights IL August 21st, 2008 2:00 pm

    You still are renting your presence online and are subject to any of HG’s price increases, rules, and/or whims that may effect what you think is a stable web presence.

    Really no difference then being a renter verse a homeowner. Sure you pay a flat fee and don’t have to worry about the repairs and other issues of owning, but if the landlord decides to not renew your lease or to increase it’s fees you are out of luck. Worse any upgrades you do (content you add) aren’t yours, they stay with the owner when you leave. In this case you are just creating your own competition.

    Brian I agree they are not evil, just unnecessary middlemen.

  5. Brian Brady August 21st, 2008 2:56 pm

    “You still are renting your presence online and are subject to any of HG’s price increases, rules, and/or whims that may effect what you think is a stable web presence.”

    Good point, Ken. What about WordPress and Typepad?

  6. Ken Smith, Arlington Heights IL August 21st, 2008 4:22 pm

    Self hosted wordpress is fine, but no way a subdomain on WP is a professional long term solution. I know nothing about Typepad as I have never heard anything good about them so haven’t bothered to look.

    The key is if you don’t own you never know what is going to happen down the line.

    BTW, this applies to agents and their email addresses also. Every agent I talk to seems to have name@brokerage.com, why? If…when you decided to change brokers you are going to loose emails and business. Most offices shut your email off asap if you leave them and don’t offer a forwarding service. Worse some forward all those emails the floor person and they tell the clients that you are no longer with the company and how can they be of assistance.

    Invest the $20-100 a year needed to register and host your own domain and email.

  7. Louis Cammarosano August 21st, 2008 7:35 pm

    Ravi
    We will be adding an html editor to AgentView next month as well as some additional features.

  8. Tony Sena August 24th, 2008 1:00 pm

    Ken, you can also use google aps which is a free service and you can have your email hosted through google for your name@domain.com. Gotta love Google :)

  9. Louis Cammarosano August 24th, 2008 1:24 pm

    Ken

    I agree, middlemen are unnecessary unless they add value.

    FSBO proponents argue that realtors are unnecessary middlemen.

    Middlemen are unnecessary if someone is willing to do all the work that the middleman does. Usually the doityour selfer can’t do it as well as the professional.

    For example HomeGain is a middleman, that aggregates 300 traffic partners, manages millions of key words,and leverages nine years of brand equity to drive millions of visitors and leads to its agent customers. We also provide conduct educational webinars, provide front end and back end solutions, as well as internet and blogging training.

    Scores of our customers have made hundreds of thousands of dollars using homegain products.

    Scores of our customers have made hundreds of thousands of dollars using homegain products.

    Would you call that an Unnecessary service?

    People who wish to do their own marketing or to try and sell their homes on their own without a realtor are welcome to give it a go.

    I find it amusing that the do it yourselfers love to try to convince everyone to do it their way and not to seek professional help.

    One reason, I suspect the doityourselfers often come out and try and convince others not to use services like Homegain that work, is because they are worried if their competitors use homegain, they might lose business.

  10. Ken Smith, Arlington Heights IL August 24th, 2008 8:08 pm

    Tony even with the regular gmail account you can achieve the name@domain.com using POP access. I like that better as I have to many domains and naturally emails at all of them so accessing everything from one spot is much easier.

    Do have the google apps set up for one domain and there are some neat features, just haven’t explored it enough to know everything. Is there any benefit to using G apps over Gmail for the email in your opinion.

  11. Ken Smith, Arlington Heights IL August 24th, 2008 8:37 pm

    Louis wow you caught me….

    “One reason, I suspect the doityourselfers often come out and try and convince others not to use services like Homegain that work, is because they are worried if their competitors use homegain, they might lose business.”

    LOL. More like I am sick of every Tom, Dick, and Harry looking to get into agents pockets.

    The most successful agents out there don’t bother with services like HG. The reason is they know that they can earn a MUCH higher ROI with their own targeted marketing. They also know that anything they don’t control can be changed in a moments notice which can adversely affect their business.

    When you rely on anyone else for your income they own you. If those supplying your business decide to jump their fees from 20% to 25% then 30% then 35% and that supplies a large chunk of your income you have no choice. If you have built up a powerhouse blog presence on someone else’s domain and they decide to double the fees you have no choice but to pay the increase, double the fee again and you will have to pay yet again.

    What would make me more money is to ignore comments like this and let every agent think it’s a good idea to use HG’s products. They would be wasting so much money they would be out of business even faster. But I know there is more then enough business to go around and would rather see agents succeed then a company who has invested (lost) millions to figure out the best way to take money from real estate agents.

    Louis the real estate world wouldn’t change one bit if HG (or any other similar company) closed it’s doors tomorrow. With that in mind it’s my opinion you add no value and are an unnecessary middleman.

    BTW, Someone who is paid to promote a company should avoid questioning anyones motives when talking about said company.

  12. Louis Cammarosano August 24th, 2008 8:47 pm

    Ken
    “The most successful agents out there don’t bother with services like HG. The reason is they know that they can earn a MUCH higher ROI with their own targeted marketing.”

    Do you have same access to the financial performance of thousands of agent to be able to make that statement?

    You can believe what you like but thousands of Homegain agents are making plenty of money.

    We publish our results for our Agent Evaluator program. Take a look
    http://blog.homegain.com/2007-homegain-top-performers.

    Eric Pakulla, RE/MAX Advantage Realty, MD: $398,142 in gross closed commissions from homegain in 2007 How did you do?

    Ask Mitch Ribak how much he is making this year from HomeGain’s buyer link -he will tell you.

    Will you share how much you are making with your do it yourself methods?

  13. Louis Cammarosano August 24th, 2008 9:02 pm

    Ken
    Ask mitch how he keep the the people in the photo
    here busy and closes dozens of deals a year:
    http://www.mitchrealty.com

    Just about all of his marketing is through HomeGain
    Do you want to share how many people you employ on the back of your doityourself methods?

  14. Sue August 24th, 2008 9:05 pm

    Tony..I will be checking out google aps as I had a problem using POPS..so much so I abandoned the whole thing.

    Brian, thank you for this very informative post!

    Louis – Congratulations!

    This is an interesting discussion…pros and cons…control…no control. No control scares me.

  15. Louis Cammarosano August 24th, 2008 9:13 pm

    Sue no money should scare you :-)
    I advocate that our customers should use all available marketing means.

    When I attended unchained I advocated all of the social media methods that Greg and brian talked about.

    I also have guest bloggers on the homegain blog that offer tips on how to be successful, often without homegain products.

    I have encouraged our customers to do their own SEO as well.

    Sue, you have control when you manage your many sources of leads, including those from homegain.

    Most of our best customers have other sources of leads.
    Its just foolish to make statements that people don’t make money using homegain.
    Would you rather have total control (as if such a thing existed in our interdependent world) and make no money or work with third parties and make money?

  16. Louis Cammarosano August 24th, 2008 9:17 pm

    Sue
    Think you have control when you use Google products?
    Have you ever spoken to someone who lost their gmail account? Whom at google would you call if that happened?

  17. Wayne Long August 25th, 2008 1:51 am

    @Ken
    Your points about renting vs. buying are well made and very true but sometimes you do have to rent until you can buy. :) You and I agree that building our own web presence on our own platform is by far the best long term solution.

    I would offer out to you that until that presence is built we still have to eat. I started using HG just as I started into Real Estate and had income almost immediately because of that relationship with HG. Sitting around with no leads while I “built my own web presence” would not have been smart IMO.

    We still use HG for additional PPC traffic to smooth out the ups and downs thru their Buyer link program and have an awesome ROI. I don’t have time to manage the PPC myself and choose to use HG – which to me is no different than hiring anyone else to manage it – except they have tons of experience at this. I believe in hiring professionals.

    I understand the side that believes all 3rd parties are evil in this business but I respectfully offer a different side to this argument based on past experience with HG.

  18. Mitch Ribak August 25th, 2008 4:59 am

    Ken – It’s obvious to me you are very against anything that is not organic. However, I can do Google and Yahoo myself. In fact, I have been in expert in doing so for years. So can I do this without Homegain…absolutely. But, I’m a businessman and I am going to use the best tools available to run my business. I just don’t feel like paying double the costs to do Google and Yahoo and I really enjoy my 14%-18% lead capture rate from Homegain versus the 8%-10% capture rate from Google and Yahoo.

    Believe me, I don’t promote a company unless there is a value. Join my eHomes Realty Network and you can see how we are successfully using their products. Our numbers speak for the quality of the product and so does my bottom line! Of course my guess is anyone who is against the BuyerLink program doesn’t understand Lead Conversion which is most likely the real problem.

    Frankly, I don’t understand people like yourself. No matter what you do in marketing you are subject to price increases. Sure, you can do SEO and build your own website and host it on your own servers and capture a lead here and there…and go broke. That is your choice. As I said, I’m a businessman. Could I do it all myself? Sure can! Would I? Not a chance! Why waste the time and money when Homegain does a great job of it. If their prices become unreasonable, then I will deal with that at that time. That’s the beauty of America, we have a choice. I choose to be successful while spending as little as possible. Is it that you just don’t like any vendors (last I looked Google s a vendor)or that you really don’t understand how to use these tools to your benefit.

    Louis – There will always be people like Ken who think they are taking the high ground. These are the same people who spend more time blogging than selling homes. I would love to know their numbers but they tend not to share. I actually wish more people though like Ken because it would allow my members more traffic to purchase through Homegain!

  19. Barry Cunningham August 25th, 2008 5:27 am

    It’s obvious that success is measured in different ways by different people. I am not sure that there seems to be much of a problem with HG in this thread, as much as a perceived threat as a middleman “getting into agent’s pockets” as seems to be the problem here.

    That being said I have a number of people in my pocket…my streaming company…my web host, my landlord…HOWEVER, I consider them a cost of doing business..a necessary expense.

    I could very well buy my own servers, by my own small office building and save on those costs..albeit gaining new costs.

    I don’t have experience in server maintenance and have no idea how streaming works…so I pay someone else.

    The analogy? I have yet to meet many, if any, agents who have the requisite background in marketing, public relations and advertising who can execute ongoing successful ROI based campaigns either offline or online.

    Met many who THINK they can..but I don’t consider bus benches, run of the mill postcards and glamour shots as marketing. As for the online component..I won’t even venture into that nightmare.

    Ken you show up high in the SERPS and obviously have invested the time and effort to reach the top of Google and in that regard you may feel that you don’t have the need for HG.

    Question is what about the other thousands of agents in your area who are NOT showing well in the SERPS in Arlington Heights who need all the help they can get. Is your advice to them don’t buy HG…work hard, do it yourself, build links…seo your page, blog incessantly and in 6 months – 8 – months you MIGHT be in the SERPS in Arlington Heights?

    From a true ROI comparitive summary…if I wanted a presence in Arlington Heights and did not want to invest all that time and effort into building a presence, would not my HG presence which I paid for actually have a much better return? I am sure one’s time and effort has a monetary value doesn’t it?

    How much time and effort AND money did you spend getting a high ranking in the SERPS? C’mon..it’s us here…we know it took some effort.

    Thing is this, if I was one who was not all that computer savvy, nor wanted to spend the time building an online presence (probably a sample group in excess of 90% of the realtors out there) would not a program like HG..a PROVEN program like HG, be of great benefit for me?

  20. Sue August 25th, 2008 5:39 am

    >>Sue no money should scare you

    Louis–money no money was originally my last comment and I deleted it. You may have misunderstood my statement. It was not meant to say that people using homegain didn’t make money. If the numbers are indeed correct..I guess they do.

    I will utilize all the sources available to me as they make sense and fit my needs. I know I owe you a call BTW

  21. Louis Cammarosano August 25th, 2008 6:49 am

    Hi Sue
    Thanks for your response.

    The comment about people not making money using homegain as a foolish one, was not directed at you!

    It was directed at all the people who make pronouncements without any empirical data claim that HomeGain does’nt work.

    I find it highly ironic that the few (and yes there can only be a few) that reach the front page of google (which btw doesn’t even give you a fraction of the available visitors)through years of incessent blogging
    spout that using Homegain is a “waist” (I see that one a lot) of time and cite themselves as proof why Homegain is unnecessary.

  22. Ken Smith, Arlington Heights IL August 25th, 2008 1:15 pm

    Mitch, Barry, and Louis you don’t have a clue how much business I do or the methods that I use to gain my business. We will just say that grossing $400k doesn’t impress me. I really don’t feel there is any need to talk about incomes…then again Louis are you interested in sharing how much you get paid to promote HG?

    Now Wayne offered something of value to the conversation.

    The point that agents need to earn an income when they start in the business is VERY valid. Sadly brokers seem to fall very short in helping new agents succeed. So maybe it makes sense for an agent to sign up for a service for some immediate business, but that service isn’t likely a blog. Would rather see the agent invest some money into their own business then someone else’s, but if you must then give it a try. Just remember to then take some of that income and start your own marketing campaign.

    We are already off topic so Louis how many agents are on your AgentEvaluator service?

    This post is about paying to have a blog on HG’s website. As normal the entire conversation has moved way off topic (my fault for taking the bait). So back on point.

    My original point is that long run you are better off owning your own blog presence and I stand by that. It will take some WORK to do well, but if you follow some simple tactics more then just Google will be sending you traffic. Actually the search engines will not even matter to you. Jeff Brown has given a pretty good outline of how any agent can own their local market with a hyper local blog, but it takes more then just blogging. There are other examples out there and lets just say that after 12 months you will not be relying on anyone for your business.

    So as I said before, own your content and your web presence. Very simply that means you need to own the domain that you are investing your time and efforts into.

    BTW, There are currently over 1000 residential listings in Arlington Heights, just one small city we work. That is more then enough business to keep a lot of agents busy and is the reason I have no problem sharing what I feel works while getting nothing in return. So please don’t question my motives for my comments as I don’t have any. I gain nothing and in a market as large as mine there is no fear of other agents succeeding. Heck I wouldn’t want all of the business in the areas we serve, my business just provides an income stream so I can enjoy life.

  23. Mitch Ribak August 25th, 2008 1:24 pm

    Ken – In the end all that really matters is that you are happy. I don’t care if you do 10 sales or 100 sales per year. For the same reasons you prefer not to use a company like Homegain, I choose to use them. They provide me enough traffic to provide an income stream so I can enjoy life!

    BTW I totally agree that most Brokers fail their Agents by not offering good training or really any help. That was the purpose of starting The eHomes Realty Network.

    Good luck!

  24. Barry Cunningham August 25th, 2008 1:32 pm

    Ken..I don’t care what business YOU have, the point of the post and my comment is that I am sure, that there are a lot..A LOT..of agents who DON’T have your success who CAN’T duplicate your success without the :

    a. effort and time to make it happen; or

    b. Pay a company like HG or some other similar company.

  25. Brian Brady August 25th, 2008 2:12 pm

    Thanks to all for keeping it on topic and not getting personal. Ken, while I agree with your assessment that technology is best owned by the practitioner, for many, that is impractical. Home Gain appears to be, in my opinion, the most effective (in terms of ROI) of all the vendors to date.

  26. Ken Smith, Arlington Heights IL August 25th, 2008 2:30 pm

    Mitch I know many agents that have no interest in growing to my level, yet they could make so much more money by doing so. They like the low stress and easy lifestyle they currently have. So I agree that you should do as much business as needed to make you happy.

    My one question to you is what if HG decided to raise their fees by 50% because their investors decided that they want to see an ROI bigger then what has been provided. Would you still be enjoying life? It wouldn’t be the first time they have increase

    Would be interested in finding out more about your network, shoot me an email. (ken @ domain in my signature)

    Barry my systems are very easy to duplicate and any agent could have success with them. Sure it requires work, but in the end an agent would have a real business.

    Brian I didn’t say own the technology, just the domain. Big difference IMO.

    BTW, what type of ROI are those using HG products seeing? Would love some examples. Naturally we can’t see anything from the blog service as it’s new so this might wander a little off topic if Brian is ok with it.

  27. Mitch Ribak August 25th, 2008 2:47 pm

    Ken – I personally couldn’t do any business on a small level, I do everything big…maybe its because I’m short! I can tell you that I spend $6k a month on HG Buyerlink right now and I net about $20k-$40k any given month. I’ll do that all day…and night long! My other office buys a little less and nets around $20k per month. I’ll drop you an email tomorrow when I get back from my presentation to 80 Brokers in Orlando. Fun stuff!

  28. Brian Brady August 25th, 2008 7:05 pm

    “Brian I didn’t say own the technology, just the domain. Big difference IMO.”

    Gotchya.

    “BTW, what type of ROI are those using HG products seeing?”

    I’m hearing about $150-$250 cost per transaction, which is cheap.

    “this might wander a little off topic if Brian is ok with it.”

    It’s good with me; great question

  29. Ken Smith, Arlington Heights IL August 26th, 2008 8:19 am

    Brian when you say “$150-$250 cost per transaction” what product is that for?

  30. Brian Brady August 26th, 2008 8:50 am

    BuyerLink. Hopefully, Mitch will come back and explain his acquisition cost.

    As I understand it, serial Buyerlink users are spending X each month on Buyerlink and getting Y closings.

    X/Y = acquisition cost

  31. Mitch Ribak August 26th, 2008 9:40 am

    Brian – Currently our leads are costing us around $6 – $8 per lead and sometimes as low as $5. With an average close rate of 1 out of 24, gives us a cost per sale of (using $7 as an average)$168. I would $168 for a sale every day of the week! :)

    On another note, I just spent the morning presenting The eHomes Realty Network to 60 or so Brokers in Orlando. It went very well…with the exception not to many laughed at my stupid jokes! There was a guy there who is a big reader of this blog and Active Rain. He didn’t see the value of what I do, but of course didn’t answer me when I asked him his numbers. It was interesting to me to see the attitude though which was a little condescending (sp). He was so sold on Blogging that I don’t think he could see past it.

    One thing I think everyone on here needs to understand, and I’m sure I have said this before, is that what I do, and what BuyerLink offers, is the ability to predict your business. I would never tell anyone not to blog or do other things to generate business, but the pay per click, lead capture model that I use is predictable. Wouldn’t you want that in your business? I just think that you need to create a business model that will help you build your business. Blogging is great for Real Estate and helps set aside you and your competitors as experts in the field. However, most Agents I have talked to in this arena are not getting many if any sales from blogging. I am out there with more traffic to my sites than most any Brokerage I know, and in the past two years I can only attribute one sale to blogging. It was a good sale, but I need more predictability in my business.