Predictive analytics: Thinking about selling your home? An agent may already know

At a time when it is hard to find homes for sale, what would it be worth to predict who is likely to put their homes on the market?

Realtors at Homesale Services Group in Lancaster County are finding out.

They use a technology called predictive analytics to comb social media in search of likely home sellers, said Rod Messick, COO of Homesale Realty Services Group Inc., which includes Berkshire Hathaway Real Estate, Homesale Mortgage, Homesale Title & Settlement, Homesale P&C Insurance and American Heritage Property Management.

He said the software used by Homesale Services Group taps into Facebook and Instagram algorithms.

“We know certain lifestyle changes such as change in family size, marital status, employment or a promotion at work are going to drive homeownership changes. We’ve been using predictive analytics for decades, we just haven’t called it that. What makes the difference today is the use of software; it provides a more targeted approach to reach the right individuals,” he said.

Messick said at its most basic level the software can provide information about couples who have just married and who live in a specific zip code; the information can be gleaned by analyzing a change in Facebook status from single to married.

Additional sources of information can include public records including tax and mortgage records. Those can be used to determine how much equity a homeowner may have in their property and be an indicator if they are in a position to move up, he said.

“We have a pretty tight market right now with regard to inventory of homes for sale. These tools can help pinpoint people who may be interested in selling,” he said.

Shane Kuhns, a real estate agent on the Jim Pappas team at Homesale’s East Hempfield Township office, has been using a predictive analytics platform known as SmartZip for two years to generate sales leads. He learned about the program via an online ad for sales lead generation. He said it can provide information on homeowners who have been in their homes for five years or more in a specific area, and those homeowners will receive a letter, postcard or social media post offering a free comparative analysis of their home’s value. The data that’s collected is then forwarded to Kuhns.

“It’s a good tool. I can choose the leads to follow-up on. It’s a more efficient use of my time than just sending a blanket marketing piece to all the homeowners in a specific area,” he said.

Mark Rebert, an agent at Homesale’s Manheim Township office, has used a predictive analytics product called Offers.com for about a year-and-a-half. He said he uses the web-based product to target potential home sellers in the 17538 zip code around Landisville.

Rebert said the product ranks every owner-occupied property in the zip code based on the likelihood that the owners will sell. It makes its calculations based on the ages of homeowners, the length of time they’ve been in their homes, and financial data such as mortgage balance and calculated home equity.

“I’ve found that it’s remarkably accurate in predicting the homeowners who are likely to list a home within six months,” he said, “It helps pinpoint leads, but it’s still up to the real estate agent to follow-up and reach-out to those leads. In the ‘old days’ we targeted a zip code and sent mailers to an area or cold-called, and that was known as ‘farming’. Now, I follow-up on the leads generated by the program. It’s reinvented the idea of farming, and frees up my time and reduces cost.”

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