Farming Cyberspace: Is It Worth Your Time?

March 1, 1996

You're used to calling on FSBOs whose ads you see in the newspaper. What about the FSBOs in cyberspace? Is anyone calling on them?

Marianne Langer, CIPS, with Realty Executives of Tucson, Ariz., has not only farmed FSBOs on the Internet but has also found new clients by meeting and greeting people in chat rooms. Langer has sent E-mail solicitations to all the Tucson FSBOs she's spotted on the Internet. So far, the response has run from moderate to terrible.

"I got a couple of flames---those are nasty E-mails---saying, 'I get enough phone calls from real estate salespeople. I don't need them on my E-mail, too.'

"I sent back apologies, saying, 'At least I didn't call at night and wake you up!' I tried to make it semi-humorous. Both of those FSBOs have pulled their ads," Langer says.

Her FSBO marketing efforts have also generated another complaint. "There are certain people who have to pay for their E-mail, and I forgot that. One person sent me an E-mail saying, 'I had to pay a dollar for your solicitation,'" she recalls. She sent back the dollar with her card.

"I still use E-mail, but I haven't received a flame in a while. Have I gotten anything out of it? No, not yet. I did go on one appointment," she says.

She gave the FSBO a few pointers on selling his property, but she didn't land the listing. However, she thinks it's possible the seller might call back and sign up for her consulting services to close any offers he receives.

When Langer sends E-mail to a FSBO, she first tries to strike a responsive chord by emphasizing their shared interest in computers.

Then she might say: "I happened to notice you're advertising on the Internet, and if there's anything I can do to assist you in selling your home, or if you sell your home but you need a consultant to help you complete the transaction, I'm for hire."

Although that approach hasn't panned out for Langer yet, she has picked up referrals from another Internet source---on-line discussion groups, where the subject of her occupation usually comes up naturally.

"If you frequent those discussion groups long enough, it's like anything else you do in normal life," Langer says. "If you frequent your church, you're going to pick up business from your church. If you frequent any kind of club, you'll pick up business."

So far, she's received referrals from a real estate lawyers' discussion group, a buyer's brokers discussion group, and even a bicyclists' group.

But don't expect to just hop on-line and start pulling down referrals from every chat room on the Net. "Just as in real life, you have to have a sincere interest in the group," she warns. "You wouldn't go to a church or synagogue you weren't interested in just to pick up business. People, even in cyberspace, know whether you're sincere."

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