Real estate leads are as good as gold to a real estate professional – literally. The real estate leads you follow up with today are your clients tomorrow and your paycheck a month from now. Much of your time as a real estate professional is spent generating real estate leads and converting those leads to clients. The advent of the Internet and its emergence into main stream culture brought a new tool to real estate agents in the late 90s: online lead generation services.Nowadays, the majority of people looking to buy or sell a home or do anything real estate wise are going to the internet first. Years ago, people would get ready to buy or sell, and then walk into a local Realty office and get themselves a real estate agents. Now, they can start researching real estate anywhere from 3 months to 5 years before they actually make a move! That means real estate professionals need to come up with new ways to catch these real estate leads early, so they have time to work them and turn them into clients. There are two major ways to do that now: purchasing a lead generation service and paying for real estate leads and creating your own website with contact pages to generate your own real estate leads.Which way is better? Truthfully, if you’re not doing both, you’re not being as successful as you could be. Any real estate professional who wants to be a top producer NEEDS their own personal website with homeowner information, contact forms, a blog, etc. That way real estate leads can FIND you on the web.On the other end, the majority of top producers out there not only have their own website, but they also subscribe to one or more lead generation service, such as HouseValues or GetMyHomesValue. Companies such as these sell real estate leads to agents either at a monthly subscription price, or having the agent pay per lead. These services set up websites offering homeowners free home value information in exchange for their contact information. Basically, a homeowner goes and fills out a simple form about themselves, their contact information and their home and submits it to the company’s website. The company in turn, gives this “lead” to whatever real estate professional they have subscribed in that lead’s area and it is up to the real estate agent themselves to work up the value and follow-up with these real estate leads.Each lead generation company does things a bit differently: for instance, GetMyHomesValue offers exclusive leads – where the lead is given to one and only one agent in the area, whereas other companies out there will sell the same real estate leads to several different agents. HouseValues has extensive e-mail drip campaigns and scripts to make follow-up a bit easier for agents, while GetMyHomesValue has their staff attempt to contact the leads several times for the agent and then leaves the rest of the follow-up to the individual agent.The criticism most of these lead generation companies receive has to do with what actually constitutes real estate leads. Because these “leads” are filling out information online, they can often give fake information to avoid being contacted. This then makes it harder for the agents to follow up with the leads.The successful agent, however, does not give up with confronted with real estate leads that give a property address and e-mail address, but a bad name and number. A great agent will exhaust all options of follow up before scrapping ANY lead, such as using public directories like the White Pages online, tax records of the property, reverse look-ups, etc. They will e-mail the lead on a weekly basis and even stop by the property listed in order to determine who actually submitted the lead.What happens when the owners of the property claim they did not request their home value information, nor are they looking to sell? The no-so-hot agent will be angry at the waste of their time and blame the lead generation company for selling bogus real estate leads. The HOT agent will introduce themselves anyway, offer their services in any way they can and hand out a business card, then lead the home content in the knowledge that although they may not have gotten to the bottom of the lead, they did just add another prospect to their pipeline of real estate leads.Online lead generation tools are a HUGE asset to real estate professionals – when used correctly. To be successful with real estate leads gathered online, you’ve got to be ready to work hard and long. You may not convert the lead for 6 months, a year, even two years, but as long as you’re working your real estate leads and keeping your name in their head, you’ve got a leg up on the competition.