Here at Harris Coaching, you’ve heard Tim and Julie say time and again that your best real estate leads are your own hard earned real estate leads. What do they mean by “earned real estate leads?” Leads that you generate with your own time and sweat.
On the other hand, paying for real estate leads can sound enticing. No racking your brain to create and develop your own contact list or “sphere of influence,” no wasting your time knocking on doors in pursuit of clients, no time and effort spent on marketing or social media. All you have to do is simply pay some online site that “guarantees” high quality leads by ZIP code and you’ll have all the clients you’ll need. Then you can spend all your time and effort working with those clients to buy and sell real estate, right?
Not so fast. Just this January 3, 2018, a former employee of Move, Inc., the parent company of realtor.com and owned by the National Association of REALTORS, filed a lawsuit against Move, Inc. for “…allegedly defrauding real estate agents by charging them for services they never ordered or received and then for billing their credit cards without their authorization.”
Brian Bobik, the former Move, Inc. employee, was hired as an account executive to sell real estate agents distinct and discrete leads for individual ZIP codes. Bobik filed an 8-count amended complaint alleging wrongful termination for refusing to participate in what he believed to be wrong unlawful conduct.
Bobik’s job was to sell lead packages by ZIP code to agents who paid to advertise their services on the website realtor.com. Bobik alleges that one half of the leads promised turn out to be ‘bogus,’ that the same leads are sold to multiple agents, that the leads are for sales and not rentals or time shares and that the company will ‘makeup’ for bad leads. He also alleges that if/when real estate agents cancel their contract to buy leads that the vice president of sales told sales executives to simply charge another credit card that the agent had on file without the agent’s authorization.
These allegations are similar to those directed to the online site, sitejabber.com. Of the some 430 reviews on that site, two thirds of the reviews are one star reviews and many of those one stars complain of low quality leads. Several site users say that the sitejabber.com program is a “scam.”
Another third party listing portal, Zillow, had a lawsuit filed by a former employee who alleged fraud. That sales consultant alleged that Zillow had helped lenders violate federal anti-kickback laws by allowing Zillow to pay more than their fair share of an agent’s advertising costs. Neither the federal investigating authority, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or Zillow has announced any findings in that 2014 case.
We’ll see how this latest case filed by Bobik against Move, Inc. for alleged fraud against real estate agents turns out. In the meantime, Janice McDill, the spokesperson for the National Association of REALTORS, owner of realtor.com and its subsidiary Move, Inc. but not the operational supervisor of Move, said, “The allegations are without merit and we will defend the case vigorously. Beyond that, as a matter of policy on legal matters, we have no further comment.”
Earning your own leads rather than paying some third party for leads may be more time and effort but your own time and effort, as well as your own ethics, are known quantities to you. No having to look over your shoulder.