How Your Real Estate Agent May Be Vetting You
May 10th, 2009 —Newport Beach, CA.
So, you’ve decided to go house-hunting, and you’re checking out a real estate agent to decide whether you want to work with him or her.
The agent could very well be checking you out, too, at the same moment and for the same reason. You might be surprised at how much that agent knew about you from nearly the first moment.
Today, your personal financial information is literally a few keystrokes away. While you are sitting across that agent’s desk, wistfully explaining your desire to buy, say, a condo in Rogers Park or a vintage cottage in La Grange, the agent may be glancing at a computer screen filled with information about you — how much equity you have in your current home, your probable income, and lots more. The agent may even have a “score” that predicts how likely you are to actually buy.
That’s not an everyday event in the real estate business yet, but Drew Warmington hopes it soon will be. His Newport Beach, Calif., firm, iLeads.com , recently rolled out an online service for the real estate business that promises a complete property and “financial capabilities” report on individuals, using only the prospective client’s name and address. The topper: It churns it out in five seconds or less.
“It’s designed to run live so that an agent can be doing their homework with one eye on the screen and conducting a normal sales conversation without skipping a beat,” Warmington says.
He developed the product, called RealTAG, in partnership with real estate data firm First American CoreLogic, after brokers and home builders explained their frustration at time spent with clients who turned out to be unqualified to buy — or at least only qualified for something far different than they had thought.
“Buyers are liars,” said Warmington, repeating a real estate maxim. He doesn’t mean that unkindly, he said. He just means that only 3 percent of all prospective buyers — maybe less — turn into real customers, in his estimate.
“Real estate agents are business people,” he said. “They have to pay their bills every day and make the best use of their time, and we’re just trying to give them an idea of who they should concentrate on, who’s a serious customer.”
Enter a name and address, and RealTAG quickly scans public records on 141 million properties to churn up information on such matters as an individual’s home-ownership status, when he bought and how much he paid, how much home-equity and mortgage debt he carries, and whether he has any foreclosure actions pending. It offers details on his home’s square footage and its likely current value. It knows whether there are foreclosures on your block.
RealTAG also uses its own statistical models to estimate the prospect’s income.
“It’s like a FICO score,” Warmington said. “FICO calculates your habits in regard to debt, whether you’re likely to pay your debts on time.
“Our model does the same thing with your income,” he said. “It looks at your neighborhood, transactions, loan data and many proprietary data bases. It’s designed to give a thumbnail of who this person is.”
I asked him if others had viewed the concept as a little scary, as I had.
Warmington said that he didn’t regard the tool as invasive — that it uses only publicly available information and merely gathers, in the blink of an eye, what a professional would learn throughout the course of a transaction, anyway, only more laboriously.
“I don’t think it’s scary, no,” he said. “It just gives them the opportunity to do a better job for you. “It’s just about trying to figure out who’s a good, solid prospect in a tough economic time,” he said. “You don’t want to waste your time.”
iLeads.com has been the leading innovator of online financial lead-generation and lead intelligence products since 1996. Through its network of 185 websites and over 600 domains, iLeads.com has attracted, validated, and qualified more than five million leads for the mortgage and insurance industries. Thousands of industry professionals count on iLeads.com to deliver a steady stream of convertible leads every month. Since 2000, iLeads.com has been a partner of The First American Financial Corporation (NYSE: FAF). More information about iLeads.com can be found at www.ileads.com, and RealTAG™ at www.realtag.com.