There’s always something to howl about

If You Want to Close Deals, Force Registration

Let me repeat that: If you want to close more deals, force your users to register to view property listings on your website.  I can back this up with hard data.  I can back this up with recent data.  If you allow open registration on your IDX/RETS site, you do not receive better leads than the broker/agent with forced registration.

Anyone who tells you otherwise has no idea what they are talking about. They either have no data, have never analyzed their data, have never tested, or have never sold or been involved in helping agents sell real estate. Let me repeat that: They have no idea what they are talking about.

I have confirmed these findings with:

Each person listed above gets a minimum of 300 visitors per day from qualified sources – SEO, PPC, or social media ads.  Two people listed above have significantly more data that proves this.

If you don’t get at least 100 visitors per day of potential customers to your site, then you have no real data to confirm or deny these findings.

Every person I know who has tested forced vs. open registration who has significant traffic has opted for forced registration, and has seen an explosion in the number of leads, no degradation in lead quality, and as a result, has closed more deals.

Someone please prove me wrong.  With hard data.

If you want to close more deals, force registration.  The only thing open registration will do for you is get you a table with the cool kids at the conferences.


83 Comments so far

  1. Lou Lynch August 23rd, 2009 2:40 pm

    No doubt. Add me to your list. I have had many discussions with many broker/agents on this topic and there just is no denying it . . . you must force registration.

    I do however think there is a good amount of science behind the type of “forced” registration used to best convert leads. Forcing reg too early in the home search process will only FORCE your user to hit the back button and move onto the next site in the results.

    Got to give the user a little sumtin sumtin before springing the reg on them.

  2. Wayne Long August 23rd, 2009 2:41 pm

    Eric – you are absolutely correct. I have tested both ways and if you want more sales then you need forced registration.

    I understand peoples feelings that we will alienate potential clients and that the better leads will register but the truth is that if you want more sales per visitor the key is forced registration. I have never met anyone who has a significant amount of visitors and who has actually tested both ways for any length of time who says otherwise….

    Also, web site providers who have tested this theory also agree on this fact with a good example being Morgan at REW…..and others.

    It is generous of you to share this with other Realtors….

  3. Erion Shehaj August 23rd, 2009 2:47 pm

    Based on our experience, you are absolutely correct. That said I’ve got a couple of questions:

    1. Would you recommend forcing immediate registration or after a certain number of searches and why?
    2. Once registered, what’s the follow up method (or combination) that converts best in your experience?

  4. Jay Thompson August 23rd, 2009 2:50 pm

    Not sure it’s fair to include three people that aren’t agents/brokers in your list, THEY haven’t closed anything. But your point is valid regardless.

    I’ve long been a proponent of no forced registration. Mainly because I don’t like registering on sites, so I have a hard time asking people to register on mine.

    However, I recently changed my “traditional” site over to an REW site that has forced registration. It’s too early to tell if it is resulting in more closed transactions, but there is no question that it is getting plenty of registrations, the bulk of which are legitimate and validated real people. Of course there is no way to know how many leave the site never to return when the registration comes up, but there are more potential customer contacts coming in than we can handle effectively, so if some come and go, oh well.

    In a few months, we’ll have more tangible data, and it will be interesting to compare the traditional site and it’s 200ish visitors a day to the blog and it’s 1500ish visits and see the difference between forced and open search.

  5. Eric Bramlett August 23rd, 2009 2:53 pm

    Hey Erion –

    Post that question up on and talk to a bunch of brokers/agents who’ve tested this extensively. From my experience, I ping them for registration as soon as they want to see the first property detail. Lou likes it the other way.

  6. Eric Bramlett August 23rd, 2009 2:56 pm

    Hey Jay –

    Eric Blackwell manages the web leads for an office of 100+ agents. Morgan Carey manages 100s of real estate websites and only makes money if people are closing deals. Louis sells clicks to agents who will only buy those clicks if they close transactions.

    All three people have a very vested interest in making sure their agents close transactions.

    In my opinion, those are the strongest 3 sources of the sources mentioned in the blog post.

    Talk to us in a few months and you’ll be on the bandwagon. 🙂

  7. Eric Bramlett August 23rd, 2009 2:59 pm

    @Jay – I don’t like registering on sites, either. But I do like making money. Asking for registration doesn’t make you a bad person or make your website bad. Business is business – look at your numbers when you have them. I’ll bet you $100 that PRG will be forced registration in a few months. Start recruiting. 🙂

  8. Jay Thompson August 23rd, 2009 3:00 pm

    Erion –

    In the past, I tried everything from wide open access to providing 3, 5, and 10 full search results before requiring registration, to not showing addresses or mutiple photos without registration.

    On my REW site right now, they can see primary photo, price and basic info (beds and baths). This access is unlimited. Once they want any additional info, they have to register (just name, and email. Phone number is not required, but many leave it).

    I didn’t notice any tangible difference when I provided some “samples” prior to registration.

    There *might* be some market location dependence in this as well.

  9. Eric Bramlett August 23rd, 2009 3:04 pm

    I force registration exactly as Jay described on his new site. I believe it’s the best method. I haven’t tested allowing a few property details before asking for registration because Morgan Carey advised the method described above is the best method.

  10. Jay Thompson August 23rd, 2009 3:08 pm

    Eric – no way I’m going to take that bet…

    “Asking for registration doesn’t make you a bad person or make your website bad. Business is business”

    Exactly. Took me a little while to accept that, but it’s completely true.

  11. Louis Cammarosano August 23rd, 2009 3:25 pm

    The term “forced registration” has a bad connotation.

    I believe this stems from
    1. ignorance on the part of certain realtors who have without any empirical evidence decided what “the consumer” wants or expects.

    2. the ill conceived practice of certain realtors of “forcing registration” and then hounding their registrants incessantly to use their services, or by putting them in a pay no mind siberian drip marketing campaign.

    Requiring registration is very effective and if presented in a reasonable manner is one that many consumers don’t mind at all.

    Our advice is to explain WHY you are asking the consumers for limited contact details (in order to service them better, help find homes for them, put them on your mailing list, to give them access to the MLS , not just some listings etc.)

    If agents are respectful of their prospects, it works very well for many homegain agents.

    HomeGain does not itself require or “force” registration, we recommend that our customers set up a registration page.

    We know of our thousands of buyerlink customers that if they don’t require registration, very few customers end up contacting the agent.

    On the other hand our customers that require registration get about 10-16% registration (our customers tell us that traffic coming from Google or Yahoo with a required registration converts at 6-10%)

    The web 2.0 crowd has jumped on the “information wants to be free” (because it can be easily disseminated) mindset bandwagon and they dismiss the other part of Stewart Brand’s statement “information wants to be expensive (because it is valuable)

    If there is a benefit to registering, people will do it,(like all those conferences that we go to) they will also PAY for services despite the current fad-thought that free is the new profit machine.

    The examples of companies that make money by giving away stuff for free are but a handful.
    THey are usually ones in monopoly positions like Google (they give away stuff to keep you using their monopoly product-search) or Microsoft (they “bundle” free sutff so they can continue to reap monopoly profits on their paid software)

    Free listings makes for good theoritical discussion, but I am not sure the free crowd (either companies or individual realtors) are making more money than the paid or “forced regsitration” crowd.

  12. Missy Caulk August 23rd, 2009 3:27 pm

    I’ve been saying this for years.It is easy for me to track, out of 4 sites only one has forced registration.
    That is where 44% of my closings came from in 08.

    I have harped on this til I am blue in the face and some agents just don’t want to do it.

    Of course, people on my site, see what they are going to see when they register. They are not signing up at some bland IDX site.

  13. Louis Cammarosano August 23rd, 2009 3:32 pm

    Eric B
    HomeGain offers free landing pages to our buyerlink customer that asks for registration up front before seeing ANY listings. Customers using those pages get decent registration rates.

    We do have some customers, however who have landing pages that allow consumers to see a couple of listings before the request for registration is made. Some of our customers using that system get even higher registration rates.

    From HomeGain’s perspective the forced registration or not is not even debatable when viewed through the lense of the empirical data we have seen.

    HomeGain again has had THOUSANDS, not hundreds of customers on our buyerlink products and without doubt you will get more consumer contacts if you force registration than if you don’t

    How you TREAT those registrants is the real key however to making money.

  14. Eric Blackwell August 23rd, 2009 3:32 pm

    Time for me to throw in on this as well.

    As both Jay and Eric have indicated, I have not closed the leads myself and (like Jay) was a latecomer to this method.

    The reason I finally went that way? Many of my SEO clients were using forced registration with much success.

    My logic on this is pretty straightforward. You don’t get deals unless you close them. Business is business.

    I would add one caveat here. We are talking about GENERIC real estate sites that are attracting a general real estate buyer.

    I have seen other specific niches where no reg outperformed forced reg. That needs IMO to be noted,but that said, for general real estate searches, information has value and most people are more than willing to provide information to get information.

    One other caveat, I see many folks who have a really poor follow up on their registrations and that can have a dramatic effect as well.



  15. Wayne Long August 23rd, 2009 3:37 pm

    I think Louis and Morgan are some of the very best sources for this kind of information ….as they have so much more data across the nation than the rest of us.

    It is true that they don’t actually close sales but that really gives them a more impartial perspective than the rest of us….. don’t you think??

  16. Eric Bramlett August 23rd, 2009 3:42 pm

    @E-Black – I would be really interested to see those niches. From my personal experience running both broad & niche term sites, the forced reg always wins. If you don’t have a non-disclosure signed with the client, would you mind emailing me a couple of examples?

    Follow up is crucial to turning a registration into a sale. Without good follow up, you’re just wasting valuable contact information.

  17. Louis Cammarosano August 23rd, 2009 3:49 pm


    Morgan’s data set I would imaging comes mostly from analyzing consumers who come to agents sites via the natural search results for a variety of key words. This is where REWM agents excel.

    HomeGain’s data set is probably 10X larger and comes from perhaps more targeted key words (from our paid search campaigns) and from our own SEO efforts (which perhaps are more weighted with main key words rather than long tail terms)

    In our own analysis our paid search traffic and trafic that comes to directly converts better than our own SEO traffic

    Either way traffic to Morgan’s REWM sites and to HomeGain’s buyerlink customers convert better when you “force” registration

  18. Drew Hartanov August 23rd, 2009 3:55 pm

    If your site has information of value to the visitor, they will register. I agree with Missy that bland IDX’s all look alike, and they are mostly on sites that have little else. Many times, custom IDX’s have individual property pages that get indexed and the visitor is able to find exactly what they want via long tail searches… hence they want to register as they found the specific house information they were looking for.

    I have also tried registration many different ways. Once we went to allowing to view basic information, sign-in for details and address, our visitor opportunities increased dramatically. And, our business took off. If we could just figure out how to convert 4%-5% to sales…. well, that’s another issue.

    This is a never ending debate. However, most realtors never test the theory as their sites don’t get organically found so they can’t test it unless they spend money for PPC or have another service to get visitors to their site!

  19. sam ingersoll August 23rd, 2009 4:03 pm

    Sure. But which IDX site converts pcc ad visitors to leads better with forced registration?

    Can you guess which companies go with these stats?

    Diverse solutions
    Tiger lead
    Idx broker ppc managed
    Idx broker framed
    Market leader
    Infinity arts

    Percent converting on first visit, Not in correct order:
    Don’t know

    This isn’t totally scientific, but the #1 reason is the design and layout of the page.

    I’m on cell, but will discuss later. Happy to share in private what I know about these and 82 other providers. Most are terrible.

    Any one know conversion rate for REW sites off a broad range of high traffic ppc keywords?

  20. Erion Shehaj August 23rd, 2009 4:09 pm

    There seems to be a consensus here that good follow up is vital to conversion rates. Mind discussing what makes for effective follow up based on your experience?

  21. Eric Bramlett August 23rd, 2009 4:15 pm

    @Erion –

    Follow up involves phone calls and emails until you talk to the customer. From there, property searches or a listing presentation until you have a client. From there, sell a house! I’ll put together a more detailed post in the future b/c conversion discussion is always a fantastic way to get new ideas and increase your bottom $$$.

  22. Louis Cammarosano August 23rd, 2009 4:16 pm

    The best follow up is to do exactly what you say you are going to do in the invitation to register.(help them find a home, send them alerts and listings, check in with them from time to time, provide complete MLS listings etc)

    Also don’t do what you say you won’t do(sell their information, spam them)

  23. Ryan Ward August 23rd, 2009 4:25 pm

    Hi All,

    I haven’t chimed in much lately as I have had my head down working leads/building a team and teaching them how to convert our forced registration. It’s a lot of work teaching new agents how to convert and I’m learning that some are just more cut out for it than others. I’m also learning very quickly that immediate response and courteous follow up are required to be successful.

    I would have responded earlier except that I was actually out writing 2 offers for 2 different “internet leads” that were “forced” to register to view details as were 2 of my agents today. I require at the first look at a full details page that consumers register.

    I came to this conclusion slowly and the hard way. I was already well over 300 visitors a day almost 2 years ago without registration and was getting very little in the way of closings from my website. Wayne Long from the list in the original post convinced me to give it a try and I have never looked back.

    If anyone ever wants to call and ask me, I’m happy to share…

  24. Jeff Brown August 23rd, 2009 4:25 pm

    Very interesting, especially for someone in a ‘niche’ (investors) who hasn’t done business in his hometown since 2003. I’m back now, as prices have become at least ‘B List’ credible. Would a site with IDX forcing registration be the way to go?

  25. Benjamin Dona August 23rd, 2009 4:26 pm

    No doubt you are right about this Eric. I start registration from the get go as I’d rather just be up front about it right away. Letting them have access to a couple of listings and then forcing registration seems kind of like bait and switch to me. Just my opinion though. I don’t think it is necessarily a bad thing.

    @Erion – As soon as possible by either an email or a phone call. Using both is actually even better. Having a good drip campaign and keeping your promises to provide prompt responses to their needs/questions is also imperative.

  26. sam ingersoll August 23rd, 2009 4:29 pm

    #1. Immediate phone call. Very few idx systems provide live tracking when visitor is on site so you know when to call them – but this is key.

    #2. Auto-email listings through system or mls. Some systems allow them to choose alerts based on price drops. Also key.

    #3. Auto-responders are ok, but should be limited to a few sentances with two links – one at top and other at bottom. Personal is in “hey john, hoe are you?” Is beter than informational. If informational, send 2x one after the other w slightly diff headline. Click ratr goes up. — lots of tricks like this from internet marketing world.

    #4. Best _nknown Tool. Power dialer that can leave prerecorded vmail messages for every occassion in your voice and send parallel email automatically.

  27. Eric Bramlett August 23rd, 2009 4:31 pm

    @Jeff – yes, force registration.

    @Sam – I do agree with you that design & choice of IDX are both crucial. Please let us know which IDX has a 28% conversion on PPC ads, and please let us know which PPC terms they’re targeting, as well as the size of their data set. As 28% is half again more than their nearest competitor, I would like to know who it is, and am a little skeptical of the figure, which is why I would like to know the additional info.

  28. Jeff Brown August 23rd, 2009 4:36 pm

    Thanks Eric. I’m also thinking of limiting the searches to investment props only — 1-4 units only. Anyone or everyone care to voice an opinion on that one? Thanks

  29. Eric Bramlett August 23rd, 2009 4:38 pm

    @Jeff – the only thing I limit is the price range, as I don’t want to work with buyers who look below a certain price point. As of now, my niche sites only display listings in that niche, but this is because I want those sites’ listings to rank higher than other sites. In the future, I will actually display all listings on the niche sites, but only allow a certain set of listings to be crawled by Google (a feature that I’ve yet to design, but will.)

  30. Jeff Brown August 23rd, 2009 4:41 pm

    The reason I don’t wanna let ’em search the whole MLS is I look at traditional home buyers as boils on my butt, to be avoided at all costs. They’re the reason I converted to investments so long ago. 🙂

  31. Ryan Ward August 23rd, 2009 4:44 pm


    It really sounds like you want a niche site – fine for limited search results….

    If you’re site is more broad, you will need to have more types of property. Where you may run into trouble is how an MLS classifies property – may make it difficult to only have those types of listings – would be MLS dependent.

  32. Wayne Long August 23rd, 2009 4:49 pm

    I have to say 28% registration is very high. In fact I have never heard of 28% conversion of visitors to leads but I am open to learning more.

    I usually hear something in the range of 10 – 15% on targeted PPC and 5 – 10% registration using organic search. These conversions would come from a pretty good IDX system as I agree some of the plain jane IDX solutions will not convert like a more robust IDX system.

  33. Jeff Brown August 23rd, 2009 4:51 pm

    Ryan — absolutely. The 2-4 unit props are investment by definition. It’s the homes, condos, townhomes that will present MLS problem for sure. Don’t know the answer to that one.

  34. Eric Bramlett August 23rd, 2009 5:04 pm

    @Jeff – just make sure you target the right KWs in your SEO & PPC campaigns. You will still get some boils in your butt, but you can sell those boils to another agent for 25-30% referral. Branding the site properly should help, as well.

  35. Jeff Brown August 23rd, 2009 5:23 pm

    Much thanks, Eric.

  36. sam ingersoll August 23rd, 2009 5:48 pm

    Let me say first I have NO business relationship with any of these companies.

    That said…the 28% is very high, and it is a wildcard. It’s a low profile, family run outfit out of San Diego called “Infinity Arts.”

    The keys that are different than most IDX companies:

    (a) They advertise on and seo on a limited number “foreclosure” related keywords. And, I do think they pick-up normal/first-time buyers looking for deals.

    *We’re about to run a test with every PPC ad including the world “foreclosures.”

    (b) Their Search and Registration form. It is friendly, it is focused, the colors are those that lead to highest conversions. It presents a Foreclosure and REO Search and MLS checkbox.

    *With 6 of the other most popular IDX companies I pleaded with them to, “Look at the research” and “change your damn registration form” to no avail.

    I’d say who they are but that would be calling them, “F’ing Idiots” in public.

    If I had to buy one existing system, I’d buy Tiger Lead. It’s by far the most expensive but has a lot of the follow-up systems I described, and I am sure has the next best lead capture rate.

    Disclaimer: 4 years ago, I helped design the GUI and lead capture process that they still use today, along with my brother Joe (one of the founders of the top programmer). We had a fight – over usability – and our company fell apart before we could challenge HomeGain and JustListed.

    Now, I suppose, I’m a competitor since I’m working on using the ListingPress plugin to create IDX WordPress sites that can have many landing pages and many designs.

    …sigh…it’s a long story.

    It’s about Content as well as design…

    I did a brief stint with a Coldwell Banker brokerage 3 years ago, and was getting a 30-40% registration rate at the time (it’s harder now), by saying in a slideshow, “Hi I’m Sam. My wife and I love to look at homes online but we hated the ads, agent glamour shots, and getting hassled by agents so we built our own…” etc….

    This was on high traffic keywords like “{name of town} homes” and “{name of town} real estate”, and my follow-up pitch via phone call was converting at $50 for clicks to 1 client.

    Then I got in a fight with their stupid “Mid-level Marketing Managers”…..I don’t suffer fools lightly and there was the end of that $40,000 contract + 15% of anything commissions generated off the leads with them spending up to $10,000 per month on leads. F’ed that up didn’t I!

    So what will work even better…

    I think it has to do with a Landing Page forced registration, with a click off redirect into a site that has a limited amount of call to action buttons like “Save Me!” (not hidden tiny links but BIG Orange buttons), and a variety of social networking functions like, “Link to Your Facebook Account.”

    Oh, and the key design element for consumers – BIG Home Photos and Street View. BH seems to get this but most IDX cos do not.

    I’m new here, so no one knows me, but I’m not kidding, and not promoting shit since Glen whacked me.

    I could care less about money, and really just want to design a site that converts at 30% so I can say, “I told you so,” to my brothers at next years’ family reunion.

    yeah, i’ve got issues, but that probably qualifies me to be a “contributor” here.

  37. Mitch Ribak August 23rd, 2009 5:53 pm

    As most of you know, I have been doing forced registration for 7 years now. It’s the reason I am still in business and growing my business each year since the market crashed a few years ago in my area.

    We average about a 15% lead capture rate (fluctuates between 12% and 18%) and we are closing at a rate of 3.5% – 4% this year. Last year we closed 1 sale for every 24 leads.

    I have seen a ton of people talk about capturing leads and how crucial it is to the success of their business. However, I would venture to say that most Agents/Brokers spend more time and money trying to capture leads versus trying to learn and understand how to convert these leads to sales. Most Agents/Brokers I talk to don’t have any system in place. They simply give their Agents leads and hope they do something with them.

    The only way you can really maximize your Internet program is to maximize your lead conversion. We use our 100MPH Marketing System and our 100MPH Lead Conversion Software to generate sales. The key, if you truly want to be successful, is to develop a solid conversion program which is heavy on the follow up, and is long term. Our stats this year have told us that the average Internet lead is 180.5 days for a transaction.

    On top of your lead conversion, you have to understand how to develop and maximize your database. The larger your database, the more sales you will receive and the more opportunities you can obtain. We are in the process of building relationships with companies that would like access to our database and we exchange our IDX search engine for them to put on their site. We also hold webinars to our database and continue to educate our leads on an ongoing basis.

    Those of you who know me know I could go on for hours about this stuff, but I’m on a weekend vacation and can’t really write anymore! In the end, you need to capture as many leads you can through many different avenues. Our biggest capture is our IDX pages…all 90 or so of them. On top of that we do well with our market analysis, foreclosures lists, and dream home finders. All of those help us with our conversion rates.

    Capture leads, develop a system to convert leads and maximize your database and you will start seeing your business explode. If you don’t have systems in place, you will be leaving a ton of money on the doorstep. If you need help with this stuff, feel free to contact me, I’m always willing to help.

  38. sam ingersoll August 23rd, 2009 6:15 pm


    Good Lord Man! You have a great track record. Closing 1 sale per $25-$50 bucks is pretty awesome. How come you don’t just buy more ads? (At that rate, I’d spend $1,000 a day.)

    Imagine what you could do if you DIDN’T use that so-so IDX search.

    That IDX company (for a friend of mine) registered at around 10% when they were controlling the Ad Spend – and tacking on a hefty admin fee of course, and a 2-5% when he switched to the framed version.

    Your high conversion rate must be due to the nice looking folks you have on the home page.

    Congrats! Looks like you have a nice training program too, and I’d recommend your’s or any other one that focuses on “Follow-up.”

  39. Malok August 23rd, 2009 6:30 pm

    For persons that have doubts, its fairly easy to test. Try it both ways and see what shakes out. Most persons find that registration works (assuming all things are equal i.e. same rankings in search engines, same PPC efforts, etc).

  40. Mike August 23rd, 2009 7:44 pm

    I get way over 300 people a day. I am with you on this eric. I have it forced on all my sites

  41. Greg Swann August 23rd, 2009 7:50 pm

    I’m not going to come back to debate this because I am too frolicking busy to defend my own posts, much less this counter to Eric’s entry.

    But: We don’t ask visitors to register for IDX search. We are having our second best year ever, and we should finish the year — having started with five months of near-drought — in the top 1% of income-earners — “the rich.” I have zero data to support my position, because I haven’t collected any, but I believe that much of our recent success owes to the FlexMLS IDX system and our deployment of it. But, even so, we have never insisted upon registration and we never will, for the simple reason that I am not going to treat guests in my home as prey, not now, not ever. Your mileage may vary, and I don’t care, but everything in our lives is philosophy first, and we do not change the way we behave until we have become convinced that our past position was morally wrong. That will not happen in this circumstance.

    I would have to go and do the math on self-selected Flex registrants (we register a lot of people who come to us by other means on the site — emails, form responses or phone calls, etc.), but my guess is that we’re skinning cats with one out of three, perhaps more than that. The people we work with tend to repeat, to refer or to become full-blown sneezers, so we know that our overall approach to the people we work with is effective. In any case, I have zero desire to have 24 phone conversations to unearth the one motivated buyer or seller in a double-dozen “leads.” I expect I could do better making random phone calls or handing out business cards at the Circle-K.

    I spoke about this at the first BloodhoundBlog Unchained. Everything we do for marketing is devised to get our ideal clients to firmly self-select for us before they ever do anything to make contact. I had a relo form like that today. The form came in at 6:18 am — the prospect is in the midwest. I had a walk-through with an investor, so I didn’t call him until noon. He had found us and stopped shopping. He hadn’t talked to anyone else in the six hours I left available to him. And he thanked me several times, first, for not insisting upon registration, and, second, for not dumbing the IDX system down. In fact, we configured our installation of MLS search to be much more robust than ordinary real estate sites, but we love it — and our clients love it — because we can make it so much more rigorous than ordinary IDX sites.

    We target-market for high-Ds and high-Cs — thoughtful, prosperous people who don’t intend to be jerked around. Not jerking them around seems to be a very effective marketing strategy. When we finally add a high-C of our own to our team, we can start to make a stats-based argument. But it won’t make any difference to me. We do business the way we do because we believe it is the right way to do business — in every detail. We have never betrayed our principles for money, and we never will.

  42. Tim August 23rd, 2009 8:04 pm

    Force me, as a potential customer, to register to see your properties or anything YOU ARE SELLING and I’m gone. There are plenty of RE agents out there. But you just keep on THINKING you know best. Registering means you are harvesting e-mail addresses and spam comes next.

  43. Louis Cammarosano August 23rd, 2009 8:38 pm

    HomeGain’s buyerlink does not provide an entire marketing system like Tiger leads. Buyerlink provides only the traffic component and some training.
    HomeGain’s traffic is touted by many users to be far better than other sources of traffic.
    Putting HomeGain traffic into a system like Mitch’s 100MOH system is a winning formula because his software does not costs thousands

    Asking for registration to my mind is not treating your visitors as prey any more than asking people to register for Unchained or any other conference.

    The request for registration is based upon an exchange between the realtor and the customer. If the exchange is fair and the agent follow up is exactly as he/she states in the request for registration then registration is 100% defensible.

    However, one should always do business in the manner which one feels comfortable. If you feel that registration is some sort of predation, then by all means forgo it.

    @Tim-your point of view is a valid one. HOWEVER making marketing decisions based on what YOU would do is a major error when the data shows that 10-15% of people WILL register and eventually transact.

    A savvy realtor will pass on your potential business to get at those 10-15%

  44. Greg Swann August 23rd, 2009 9:12 pm

    > any more than asking people to register for Unchained or any other conference.

    Specious analogy. Coordinating an event requires communication. Trading contact information is a sine qua non step in the process of organizing the event.

  45. Eric Bramlett August 23rd, 2009 8:40 pm

    Isn’t the point of BHB to talk about what actually works based on evidence?

    @Greg – to suggest that forced/open registration is a moral issue is laughable at best. Perhaps the next BHB Unchained will be free & open to the public?

    Keep right at what you assume is the best way to structure your site. Based on tons of empirical data, I can tell you that you are dead wrong. The quality of leads does not go up with open registration. If you require registration, you will get the same # of quality leads, and you will also get a huge additional number of less quality leads that can be turned into a sale. Again, this is from empirical data, and I’ve seen it again and again.

    Congratulations on your stellar year. I’m having one, as well. I would go so far to say that you could sell twice your numbers if you would switch to forced registration and work the leads properly.

    Proponents of open registration are making the worst kind of assumption – they assume that everyone thinks and behaves the way they do.

  46. Greg Swann August 23rd, 2009 9:01 pm

    > to suggest that forced/open registration is a moral issue is laughable at best

    Every aspect of human behavior is a moral issue.

    > Based on tons of empirical data, I can tell you that you are dead wrong.

    Dead wrong about morality? You could not have picked a battle you are more likely to lose.

    Again: I do not care about your empirical claims. I’m not alive to eat, sleep and shit. I’m alive in order to love my life — a very difficult moral standard to live by. I won’t do things I think are morally wrong for any reason. You would do well to address your argument to people who agree with you or are in doubt. I only responded to point out that there are other ways of thinking of these issues.

  47. Jeff Brown August 23rd, 2009 8:44 pm

    This thread is priceless in the best way possible.

  48. sam ingersoll August 23rd, 2009 8:57 pm


    1. Larger font sizes make website text easier to read. Every bit of usability research backs this up.

    2. If website text is easier to read then the content is communicated more thoroughly to the reader.

    3. Assuming the content is good, then it is more convincing.

    4. If the content is convincing, then the agent gets more leads.

    Every bit of research by anyone with an knowledge of Usability backs this up, so why would any tech savvy agent use a small font like this one.

    Sorry, font size and style is one of my pet peeves, and another reason why DESIGN DETAILS make a big difference.

    I’ll bet if you are using 10 pt font on your site and you increase it to 16 pt Georgia, your first time visitor time on site will increase by 50%, and your registration/lead capture, or whatever will also substantially increase.

    Hah hah. This IS fun.

  49. Eric Bramlett August 23rd, 2009 9:12 pm

    Every aspect of human behavior is a moral issue.

    Really? Whether I take a dump now or in 10 minutes has moral implications?

    Let’s assume that forced/open registration is a moral issue. Where do you draw the line? When is it morally acceptable to ask someone to register for information? Conferences? White paper downloads?

    I would go so far as to say that it’s all about choice. If someone wants to bounce when they see a registration request, they’re free to do so.

    You would do well to address your argument to people who agree with you or are in doubt.

    “Don’t argue with me because you’re not going to change my mind?” Fine. You pointed out that you can look at this as a moral issue, and you also pointed out (with no evidence) that you get higher quality leads than you would with forced registration. My point is that I disagree with you regarding the immorality of forced registration, and pointed out that your assumption that you get higher quality leads because of your decision is incorrect.

  50. Greg Swann August 23rd, 2009 9:44 pm

    > “Don’t argue with me because you’re not going to change my mind?”

    It was the very first thing I said in my reply to your post.

    I think the empirical claims you and others are making are bogus: You cannot measure the results you might have achieved with the people you chased away. But strictly as a practical matter, my goal is to close around $750,000 a week, call it $22,500 in GCI. We’re doing less than that now, but that goal is within foreseeable striking distance. That would yield around $1,000,000 a year, net-net before taxes and salaries, a reasonable earnings target for a team of two or three people. To do that business, I need maybe eight investment homes, three $250Ks, two $375Ks or one $750K closing every week. In fact, our mix is all over the price range right now, but we’re handling everything with just the two of us. How many new people do I want to talk to in a week? Two or three is a lot, one a day is almost too many. I want to talk to people who are already interested in doing business with us, and I want for my conversations with them to be so rich and so fruitful that they would never (ever) think of doing business with anyone else.

    This is about salesmanship, not about being a flytrap. And salesmanship is very definitely a moral issue.

    And: This is about ROI, not just skinning as many cats as you can capture.

    The less time I spend dealing with people who can’t tell a hawk from a handsaw — or a Bloodhound from a Bichon Frise — the more time I get to spend being a Bloodhound for my clients.

  51. Louis Cammarosano August 23rd, 2009 9:29 pm

    @ Sam
    Thanks for the analysis on design details
    add to that
    -content details-does the page specifically address the customers search

    -the source of the traffic
    -the follow up
    Its not about any one aspect-all stages must be best of breed and constantly refined

  52. Louis Cammarosano August 23rd, 2009 9:41 pm


    One can argue that its amoral to charge people (and gasp ask them to register) to go to unchained.

    Since morality is a personal choice, one can make that argument, just like you make the argument that registering users is amoral

    You can justify charging and registering unchained conference goers, but you may not be able convince everyone that such registration and payment charges pass moral muster.

    Similarly, Eric B won’t be able to convince you that registering people on a web site is without moral concerns.

    Either way we all do businss as we chose.

  53. Greg Swann August 23rd, 2009 9:49 pm

    Louis, this is a really weak argument you are making, and I know the brothers taught you well enough to know that, so I’m not going to waste my time taking it apart.

    > Either way we all do businss as we chose.

    Precisely. I want for Realtors who have nothing of value to offer their clients — no implication about the disputants here — to demand registration. They’re chasing the clients I want right into my arms. That’s capitalism at its finest!

  54. Louis Cammarosano August 23rd, 2009 9:51 pm

    “You cannot measure the results you might have achieved with the people you chased away.”

    You are correct. You can only measure the business that you actually gain as a result of your efforts, not the business you lost.

    However Eric can do and has done an A/B test
    When he did register when he did not
    When he did not register, he got less business than when he did.

    There is a logical assumption that since he did not gain as much business when he did not require registration that when he switched to registration that he did no chase away much because when he did not require registration he wasn’t getting much business anyway!

  55. Greg Swann August 23rd, 2009 10:00 pm

    > When he did not register, he got less business than when he did.

    C. Says nothing about the ROI on that business. There is surely a point at which the marginal cost of each new lead is higher than its conversion value.

    B. Has nothing to do with my business, which is all about delivering a premium product to a premium client.

    A. Leaves the moral issue entirely unaddressed.

    I truly don’t care about your supposed empirical claims. We do business the way we do because this is the way we do business. There are a lot of ways I could make more money by doing things I disapprove of. So what? I don’t intend to do those things, so the point is moot.

    But: For inlookers: If you want to build a business that will not just enrich you but make you proud for having built it, stop looking for magic bullets — and stop pretending that your clients are stupid. If you devote your attention to delivering a quality product — and if you market to people looking for a quality product — you’ll do better in the long run and you will be deservedly satisfied with the values you have brought to the real estate marketplace.

  56. sam ingersoll August 23rd, 2009 9:58 pm

    @Greg, but how many people might have hired you – and been much better off for it – if you had a better “registration” or “flytrap” or “gimmick”?

    Instead, hundreds of poor bastards in the early stages of their search, clicked off your site, forgot the URL, and were sucked in by some jerks “flytrap”. Now they are in foreclosure.

    How are you as a tech savvy, honest, experienced, and ethical agent – doing the right thing, by leaving the sheep to the wolves?

    “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility”

    In all seriousness. “Registration” isn’t necessarily about “fly-trapping” people. It can be about making sure they remember your website and return to it. It’s about getting a first crack at calling them, before some asshole screws them over.

    I applaud any good agent that does this…and they better…because plenty of bad agents are doing it.

  57. Louis Cammarosano August 23rd, 2009 10:01 pm

    “Precisely. I want for Realtors who have nothing of value to offer their clients — no implication about the disputants here — to demand registration. They’re chasing the clients I want right into my arms. That’s capitalism at its finest!”
    This statement highlights a point I love to make-the market is vast, the market segmented.
    There are plenty of consumers who won’t register. They are a market for you. You can win them over.

    Eric’s argument is that there is indeed a market for those consumers who WILL register and he can prove they exist and can be turned into business..

    You are arguing that there are consumers who wont and you can turn those into business AND feel good about doing so.

  58. Tony Sena August 23rd, 2009 10:01 pm

    “Anyone who tells you otherwise has no idea what they are talking about.”

    I would like to say I know what I am doing but since I disagree with you, I might not???

    Well, like I said, I have to disagree with you on this one Eric, regardless of who you listed above that can back your theory or data. I have had my website up since 2001 and had “forced registration” in place until 2005. I made the change for a few reasons but the main reason was the lack of quality leads compared with the amount of leads generated.

    Just because you and the handful you listed above have had success with forced registration doesn’t mean those that don’t use forced registration aren’t having success or don’t know what they are doing. Heck, my site easily generates over 300 unique visitors a day and we are the #1 producing team at our office with over 90% of our business coming from my websites.

    My decision was based on data and facts and what was best for my business, not someone elses.

  59. Louis Cammarosano August 23rd, 2009 10:14 pm

    Interestingly enough there are consumers who go for forced registration and that is what our buyerlink agents target.

    Other consumers want to look at listings, read agents blogs, get an instant home value, view agent profiles, use our home sale maximizer tool -Our AgentView product is aimed at agents who want to reach those consumers and to build their web precense and use HomeGain’s page rank to suppor their own web sites.

    Another one of our product is aimed at consumers who want to compare agents side by side-something an individual agent cant set up. Our Agent Evaluator product sets up an apples to apples comparison of agents

    As greg says there is more than one way to skin a cat, and recognizing that we offer products to reach the different consumer market segments.
    However if you are going to PAY to get visitors via homegain’s buyerlink I would recommend registration.

    If you have HomeGain’s Agent view there is not need to force registration

  60. Eric Bramlett August 23rd, 2009 10:29 pm

    @Tony –

    You are the first person I have spoken with who went to forced registration and then back to open registration. What other changes happened with the site from 2005 to present? I know your rankings have improved since then – what was your traffic like in 2005 vs. now?

  61. Louis Cammarosano August 23rd, 2009 10:30 pm

    I wonder what your results would be if you went to “forced registration”
    Perhaps they would improve…

  62. Eric Bramlett August 23rd, 2009 10:31 pm

    And Tony, the handful I mentioned is only a small % of the brokers/agents I could have listed. Morgan alone represents hundreds of sites. Read through the long list of comments for confirmation.

  63. Louis Cammarosano August 23rd, 2009 10:33 pm

    @Tony and @Eric
    And HomeGain represents THOUSANDS

  64. Eric Bramlett August 23rd, 2009 10:43 pm

    Questions for Greg:
    Are Lexis Nexis, SEOMoz, Costar, and any other site that requires registration and payment for data immoral? Do they assume that their customers are stupid? Or do they consider their information valuable?

    Regardless, I didn’t really intend to discuss the morality of the issue, as I don’t consider it a moral issue. What I purport is the effectiveness of forced is higher than that of open registration.

    Greg, if you don’t want to make 2 dozen phone calls to pick up a good buyer lead, then there are plenty of agents who will. Maybe you should hire one.

    They’re chasing the clients I want right into my arms. That’s capitalism at its finest!

    Really? So you’ve methodically polled your past clients and found that the vast majority refuses to register on any real estate site for information?

  65. Drew Hartanov August 23rd, 2009 10:47 pm

    Tony, we had the opposite experience. We went to forced registration several years ago and it propelled our business so we became the #1 transaction team in our office and among the top 10-15 out of 2500 agents. IMO, a big part of being a top “internet” team may have to do with what you do with the leads you get, not whether they register or not. We find many times they simply call us for information rather than sign-in, so that may be an upside to requiring forced registration.

  66. Joe August 23rd, 2009 10:52 pm

    Raises hand for forced registration. 😉 Additionally, call EVERY ONE who registers. We do. Kinda sucks, but we are into making sure the client is taken care of and questions are answered.

  67. Wayne Long August 23rd, 2009 10:56 pm

    > If potential clients do not register you have no one to follow up with.
    > If potential clients do not register you cannot show them the tools that they need to find a home like the dream home finder, school info, etc.
    > I don’t really understand the moral issue thing….It is my website so I can make the rules about who uses the tools I provide. If they would like to use the tools I offer then they can register – if not they can click off and leave. That is totally up to the user.
    >If the client does choose to use my tools and registers then I make it worth their while by providing the most comprehensive search and mapping system in the area along with a great team of well trained quality agents to help them find their home.
    > After they register – they can unsubscribe at any time if they find that we are not providing what was promised.
    > @Tim – our website clearly indicates that we are Realtors and the we ARE selling. This is our job to sell homes. Our job is not to provide free info to Tim because he will be upset if we don’t.
    > @Tony – I have tremendous respect for you and the business you built but I have to say that things have changed since 2005 and you may want to run a test again. It is awesome that you are doing well as you are but it may be possible to produce even more …… maybe a lot more……….

  68. Eric Bramlett August 23rd, 2009 11:03 pm

    @Tony – I went to your site, ran a search, attempted to view the property address, and it pinged me for registration in order to see it. Am I missing something?

  69. Tony Sena August 23rd, 2009 11:06 pm


    My rankings for major competitive phrases are pretty much the same but I do have a significant amount of increased traffic today vs. 2005 which can be attributed to more long tail search phrases, referring sites and the addition of an on site blog in 2008.

    It would be interesting to view current data on how consumers view forced registration today as opposed to 2005. I could test this with my site but I just can’t fathom making changes to something that isn’t broken, especially if there is a chance it could hurt my business.


    If I was paying for a product like HomeGain or even PPC, in theory, you would think I would use forced registration since I am providing a service that is costing me money. But I wouldn’t, it’s just like paying for advertising in a magazine. When they get to my ad, it needs to create a reason for them to contact me or I am just wasting my money. If I am paying to get traffic to my website, I better make sure I can get them to stay and provide me their information or again it’s a waste of my money. By forcing them to register immediately, lessens my chances to get them to stay on the site and ultimately turn them into a client.

    I am guessing your bounce rate on forced registration sites are kinda high???

  70. Wayne Long August 23rd, 2009 11:12 pm

    @ Tony – I was required to register on your site at the 3rd property detail viewing. I didn’t register because I wasn’t sure if it was morally OK to do so 🙂

  71. Eric Bramlett August 23rd, 2009 11:13 pm

    I am guessing your bounce rate on forced registration sites are kinda high???

    I think the bounce rate on my search page went up 3-4% when I switched to forced reg. I can’t recall the exact amount, but it’s not as significant as you would think.

    Did you see my question above about registration on your site?

  72. Tony Sena August 23rd, 2009 11:15 pm


    Maybe I misunderstood your post. When you stated forced registration, I took it as forcing someone to register immediately before they could conduct any type of home search on the site. That is how I used to have my site set up and I changed it in 2005 so they could search for homes but as soon as they wanted more information, they had to give me some information in return.

    I guess I should have asked you to clarify before I disagreed, lol.

  73. Eric Bramlett August 23rd, 2009 11:15 pm

    If I am paying to get traffic to my website, I better make sure I can get them to stay and provide me their information or again it’s a waste of my money.

    You do pay for your traffic – the time you spend working on your website & SEO has value. You should try to maximize all traffic, regardless of source.

  74. Wayne Long August 23rd, 2009 11:15 pm

    @ Tony – I was required to register on your site at the 3rd property detail viewing. I didn’t register because I wasn’t sure if it was morally OK to do so 🙂

    As to your comment above – we don’t require visitors to register immediately – only to view property details. It looks like your site has the same requirements.

  75. Tony Sena August 23rd, 2009 11:18 pm

    So now that I jumped in and stirred the pot for no apparent reason, I think I will bow out quietly and go to bed 🙂

  76. Wayne Long August 23rd, 2009 11:18 pm

    @Tony – it looks like I was typing my last comment while you were clarifying. Apparently we agree after all and that is probably why you are doing so well.

  77. […] issue of whether or not to require registration to gain access to MLS search came up at, our national real estate industry weblog. This is a topic about which reasonable people can differ, but we have very strong moral reasons […]

  78. Greg Swann August 24th, 2009 12:25 am

    I’m with Chris Johnson and the Bawldguy on the subject of salesmanship. But I’m a child of the Riccelli generation, too, and I know that passive marketing tools are invaluable for instigating sales. I’m grateful to Eric for posting this thread — and I love the huge participation — because it led directly to a marketing opportunity for me.

    How’s that? I posted my first comment from this thread to, along with some supplemental remarks. Here’s the coda:

    When you search the MLS on our site, you are using exactly the same tools we are using, from exactly the same database. We give you the most robust search we can, because if a central vacuum system or a heated pool matter to you, then they matter.

    But if you want to search the MLS here and then work with another Realtor, feel free. We know we deliver better value to our clients, but we also know that that value proposition only appeals to people who are actively seeking better value. If any old Realtor will do, in your view, then we’re probably not the Realtors for you. The world runs by itself.

    But if you have not yet played with our MLS search, dig in. In forthcoming posts, I’ll talk about how to use the logic of the system to pull out some amazing results. But the FlexMLS software is amazing right out of the box. If you take the time to play with it, you’ll never search anywhere else — no matter who your Realtor is.

    And if you should start to wonder why other Realtors provide a clunky, dumbed-down MLS search — and have the nerve to ask you to register for the privilege of slogging through it — give us a call. We do everything better, not just MLS search.

    “Play for blood? That’s just my game.” Sell what you want sold.

  79. Tim Scott September 1st, 2009 11:11 am

    What happened to the site and all the posts that were on this article? Does anyone have the ability to replace the comments – there were nearly 400 responses to this article – some truly exceptional information, and now I see there are fewer than 100.

    Any ideas?

  80. Eric Bramlett September 1st, 2009 12:58 pm

    I found a cache of it on yahoo. I posted it here:

    Greg, let me know if you’d prefer to host it – It’s your content/images.

  81. Sam Chapman September 1st, 2009 1:11 pm

    This has been a good thread to follow. If you require registration, you better have an excellent IDX search. If you don’t provide a really good value, people just won’t come back. A certain % of repeat visits will convert eventually.

  82. […] keep this conversation to an analysis of the #’s.  There are plenty of opinion formats –  and  to rant and rave…we hope this […]

  83. James Boyer September 5th, 2009 10:56 am

    I have been holding back on this for a long time, but am thinking of taking the plung and going to a registration system, thinking of going to the teaser registration but not sure yet.