Knowing As Much As Possible About to Your Real Leads Is All Important

Sean O’Toole


Sean after a successful technology career in Silicon Valley, Sean purchased and flipped over 150 residential and commercial properties, nicely exiting the market before the credit bubble burst. Combining his technology and real estate experience.

He also  launched ForeclosureRadar in 2007, well before most realized a foreclosure crisis was coming. The service was quickly recognized as the nation’s best foreclosure information source and helped tens of thousands of real estate professionals succeed in a market which was otherwise devastating. Sean’s mission to help the little guy succeed in the real estate market continues with the launch of PropertyRadar.

Jonathan: Welcome back folks to the Mail-Right Show, this is episode 260. We’ve got a great guest. We’ve got Sean O’Toole with us from Property Radar. He’s going to tell us all about Property Radar, why you should care. It’s a fantastic service and product and we’re just going to have a feast about he’s got extensive experience about technology and the real estate industry is going to…I feel going to be a great show. We had some slight technical problems or I did so we’re recording this a bit later on the Friday, rather than on the Thursday, but everything works out, doesn’t it? So, Sean, do you want to introduce yourself to the listeners and viewers?

Sean: Sure. Sean O’Toole and founder and CEO of and happy to be here. Thanks for having me.

Johnathan: That’s great. And I’ve got my great cohost, Robert. Robert, would you like to introduce yourself to the new listeners and viewers?

Robert: Certainly. My name is Robert Newman. I’m a 13-year veteran of the real estate marketing industry. Part of what I do is I teach and train agents and how to use digital. I do all that for free on my blog, So, you can go and that’s the word inbound, Robert Edward, If you want to learn how to do digital marketing go there.

Jonathan: That’s great. And I’m the founder of Mail-Right. We rely on Facebook to get you quality to seller and buyer leads. We combine it with a suite of tools that keeps you in contact with these possible leads and convert them in to commission checks. So, if that sounds interesting, go over to Mail-Right, book a free demo with me and I’ll show you the power of Mail-Right. So, Sean tell us more about Property Radar, what does it do, how long you’ve been running it and why did you start the business?

Sean: Yeah, well maybe if I can take those a little bit out of order. I was a tech guy in Silicon Valley and had three startups there and after crash, [inaudible 02:27] flipping houses and commercial property and industrial property and all kinds of stuff over 160 transactions. And at the end of 2005, got nervous about the market, but it was tracking every foreclosure in California and started to see a real increase in the number of foreclosures. And we launched a product called foreclosure radar in May of 2007. That was really kind of the right place at the right time. Actually, at that point, it was still a little early, like realtors would look at us and roll, their eyes and go, there’s no foreclosures. And I go, come here type your zip code in and then they go, ah, that can’t be right.

Like nobody realized yet when we first launched, but by early 2008, I was [inaudible 03:11] 60 minutes talking about the foreclosure crisis s at that point it was pretty obvious to everybody. And we had quite a run there. Billions and billions of dollars of properties bought using our platform. And around 2012 saw the end of the foreclosure market coming and we launched Property Radar. So basically, expanded the service that we had for foreclosures to all properties, it’s kind of a property information service. And in about 2014, we realized that a lot of our customers were actually using us to build marketing audiences. So, audiences of home and property owners, residential and commercial, that they wanted to market to try to buy their house from in the case of real estate investors get listings for realtors, solar companies, roofers, et cetera, all looking. And so, we’ve really focused on that and have this amazing list builder and we leverage public records basically to help people with their marketing.

Robert: So, I want to dive a little deeper into that. Like the… because we talked yesterday. So, for those that don’t know, John had some technology issues and then we didn’t get the show off and going, but Sean and I were on the phone having a conversation and I got a chance to know a little bit about him and I kind of cued him up for these types of questions. Like a little deeper on how you would use the tool, why has he done this three different times, like a little bit about him, like about his background and why he’s doing yet another tech company, because trust me, when I tell you, you kind of got to like doing it, it’s not just about money because I’ve started a couple of myself and you got to have something else that drives you. And so, does John. You’re probably more successful than both of us in terms of selling your companies and all that stuff, Sean. but that doesn’t change the drive to do it like one way or the other.

So, having said all that, cued that up that right way. So, talk to me a little bit, because I know how I’d leverage property radar. Like I’d build an audience, I know exactly what you’re talking about, but I don’t think that our listeners necessarily do. So, I’m a real estate agent or broker, how am I going to use your tool to build an audience? Give us an example, like a specific example, maybe one that you know of like a client that you’ve got that did it XYZ. Don’t reveal any of their secret sauce, but in general.

Sean: I’ll talk about it in general then I’ll talk about it…gives some examples. So, in general, most realtors have done farming. Geographic farm, you call your title company and say hey, [inaudible 05:56] the address of everybody in this subdivision. So at a simple level, that’s leveraging public records, which the title companies, all your title history or your title insurance that’s all based on public records data. So, they go out and grab those public records and they hand you this list. So, we do that, but we just take it a couple steps further because there’s a lot of data in public records, a lot of information.

So, you can say, hey, as a realtor, I’m going to focus on this subdivision, and sure, do that geographic farm of that whole subdivision, but not everybody in that subdivision is the same. Some people have lived there for a few months, some people have lived there most of their life, some have a lot of equity in their homes, some have a large mortgage, maybe even are underwater, some have kids, some are retirees. So, one of the things that we do is we help realtors break down that market into separate lists, so it’s a segment…their geographic form into these more specific forms. And why do that? So that you can have a better marketing message so that you can differentiate yourself from the competition. People today see so many messages, that if those messages don’t relate and attract them specifically, it’s not going to land. And when I first started… the first time I kind of used direct mail, the golden rule, you had to send direct mail three times…

Robert: Right.

Sean: And now you’re saying…

Robert: At least.

Sean: At least, right. But now they’re saying that in order to get a deal done, you have to make more on the order of 25 impressions and that’s a lot. And so, the other side besides making this list is how do you do that? So, you need to leverage Facebook and online ads, you need to also do direct mail, also phone call also maybe voicemail drop in. How do you get enough impressions to actually get a deal done, to get that homeowner to think of you instead of just going to Zillow and you relying on Zillow for your business? And that’s really what we do for realtors at the end of the day. I think a lot like what Jonathan does. Help build that direct connection with consumers in their market and better messaging so that you can stand out.

Robert: Got you. So, at the heart of it, if you were a marketer and you wanted targeted information, the way that I’m hearing you, I’m not sure that you feel this way, but the way that I’m hearing you is that your service would be aimed at that particular person. Because if I want a general audience information, I can still probably get some of that off Facebook but if I want to start talking about who’s got X amount of value inside their home, inside a specific subdivision, that’s definitely not something I can find on Facebook and I could, if I’m understanding you correctly, I could find that on Property Radar is that in my top level right? Top level wrong?

Sean: Top level right and then all kinds of other things too. So, besides that geographic farming, which is kind of the long-term thing, there’s also the short term leads of like people who need to sell. So, people that are in foreclosure houses that are vacant, absentee owners, like all these kinds of specialty lists of people that are more likely to sell right now that you would go after for listings. But absolutely right. Rather than just this general targeting of a large area, get very specific in your targeting.

Robert: Right. So, guys, for those of you who are listening and those who don’t know, I’m going to give you three separate tips right now around this tool because that’s kind of what I do. I try to make the stuff that we talk about on the show, actionable to a person trying to market for real estate. That’s my whole… that’s the only reason that John has me on the show that he wouldn’t deal with my ass otherwise. So, here’s the [cross-talk 10:08].

Johnathan: That’s not true.

Robert: The three… Here’s some three ideas. So, number one, you could build an audience using Facebook marketing okay. That’s more John’s bailiwick than mine, but once you have that super targeted information, not only could you drop them direct mail if you wanted to, you could then drop them…you could have an advertisement that follows them around on Facebook using something called remarketing. So, now you’ve got two levels of marketing to the same hyper targeted audience and if you’ve listened to a single show that Jonathan and I do, we’ll tell you the same thing over and over again, leverage video to that same highly focused hyper targeted audience, leverage that on Facebook. So, now they have a video of you following them around, talking about whatever your offer is to that specific subdivision or that specific person. If you’re an investor, you’d use this to find somebody that might be close to selling [cross-talk 11:05]

Johnathan: Yeah, what’s that amazing figure around that? Still amaze me that the majority, when somebody has used an agent, they don’t use the same agent again, do they?

Robert: 80%. That’s the figure.

Jonathan: Still amazing, isn’t it?

Robert: Yeah.

Sean: Well, it’s about that follow-up. So, creating that customer list and continuing to follow them around and show them ads, even though you’ve already done a deal is pretty inexpensive, like that’s another great use. And one of the interesting things too about public records is so even take something like your current list of customers, you can kind of watch your current customers or your past customers let’s say in the case of realtors, and watch them for life events. Like, oh they’ve now got kids that are getting to be high school age, oh, they’ve got these other things happening in their life maybe they just took out a loan, maybe even they bought a second home or something like that. You can see these life event things going on and go oh, this is a good time to reach back out to them and restart a conversation. So, there’s a lot of ways, I mean, definitely public records for creating an audience is one of our primary use cases but there’s lots of also doing due diligence on deals, monitoring the properties you’re interested in, going and finding off market properties for a client that has maybe particular needs. So, lots of ways to leverage up for sure.

Robert: Yeah. This would be so again for the audience and we don’t necessarily cater to this audience, but I know that we have them that listen to the show occasionally because some of my original followers are all hyper luxury. And so, for that market guys, for those of you who even know what this term is in Southern California, the Beverly Hills flats, which most people don’t even understand what that is, but it references a very small basin inside the Beverly Hills area. These homes don’t come up often at all, oftentimes homes and properties in Beverly Hills, you’re talking maybe 50 to 75 transactions a year. It is a remarkably small place that gets a lot of attention. In something like this, Property Radar would be an absolute go to tool if I was understanding that I wanted to know who’s holding onto those properties, how long have they been holding onto them? I don’t know what the marketing message would be because I don’t know what the specific circumstances are, but I do know that the first step to creating a marketing message is having the information.

And if you do have a market where it’s worth your time to really granularly look at it and say, I want to talk to each person about ready to list before they list, which is absolutely worth it here, like in Beverly Hills. Absolutely, then you would definitely want to use a tool like this. Maybe combined, you could also use as a redundancy tool, another tool called Spokio, but either way you’d want to get as much data as was publicly available for which you could leverage this and then hyper-focused that, that audience. The second tip guys, because I only got one out before John jumped in, is the second tip is you want to use Robley. So, if any of you decide that you’re going to leverage email, Robley does in many ways. It’s a brilliant email marketing system that does AI generated sending so that you are literally sending your message at the exact time the person you’re sending to typically opens their email, okay.

They are really, really, really good at getting open rates. They’ve doubled or tripled my own open rate so I’ve used them and proven that they work. So Robley, R O B L Y, for those who still send email out, if you do create a hyper-targeted list like we’re talking about right now, the next task that you have is getting in front of that list. Now Facebook is certainly a good way to go. I personally am a bigger fan of email; I still think it’s very effective. And so, you could also leverage email is what I’m saying using Property Radar. So, Sean, that’s [cross-talk 15:39].

Sean: I think it’s all good, like I think Facebook super important, I think email’s super important, but direct mail still works too. Like people, even if they only pick that up and take it from their mailbox to their trashcan, that’s probably a longer impression, then you get most other places on the way to the trashcan. So, it’s… but they’re all good. and I think that the really interesting thing to do today is to combine them, and tools like Jonathan has for Facebook are great, and you combine that I think that that’s really the interesting thing.

Johnathan: I totally agree with you, we’re going to go for our break, we will be back in a few moments. We’re going to have a feast about technology and getting quality leads using technology. We’ll back in a few moments’ folks.

We’re coming back. It’s been a great discussion so far. So, can you give maybe some, Sean, some… are there any of your users that come to mind recently that have got some great results using your platform that you can share with us?

Sean: Yeah. Well, one example, that’s not a great result, but it still shows the power of public records is. So, I have a friend who was going after commercial real estate in the Tahoe, North Tahoe region and was really putting together a lot of pieces office, like marketing materials, all of this stuff. And there’s basically two other commercial folks and he really felt like he could do a better job than either of them and was making a big investment there. And I said, how many… what’s the potential market here? And so, we went and we just used public records to go say, how many commercial transactions happen a year here? What’s the total transaction volume? So that figures out your total potential commissions.

Robert: Right.

Sean: And he’s like, oh my gosh, even if I got like 50% market share, I can’t make a living. And one of the things that really is interesting to me is how many realtors go, oh, I’m the subdivision specialist, I’m the specialist in this area and they don’t know what the total transaction volume is in that area. I’m going to be the horse property specialist. That can be awesome if you have a unique position to bring to that market. And there’s a lot of horse properties, but if there’s a hundred horse properties and to sell a year, you’re starving. So, that that’s one I thought was particular interesting.

Sean: Another one that we had and this is what I talk about all the time. And I got a call the other day from one of our customers, and so you’re driving down the street, with clients in the car on your way to a listing and they see a house and they go, oh my gosh, if that house was available for sale, I would buy it today. I love that house. And the realtor goes, yeah, it’s not listed, sorry and they keep driving to their listing.

Robert: Right. Right.

Sean: What have you pulled over right there? Brought up your phone and you clicked on the house, there was the owner’s phone number, you click on the phone number and you say, hi, Jill, I’m a realtor. I’m just happened to be driving by and my client is super interested in your house and I just wanted to make sure you weren’t planning to sell anytime soon.

Robert: Right.

Sean: Because what always happens is it’s not listed, you drive on the person, buys the house five doors down and then three weeks later that house is listed for sale and they’re kicking themselves.

Robert: Right.

Sean: There’s no reason for that to happen, right while you’re out front, click, talk to the owner, find out what’s going on. And so, we had a client… I’ve been saying this for years and sometimes you wonder if anybody listens, and so, I had a client the other day and they said, I just closed a $2.3 million deal because I stopped and called. And not only did I talk to the person, but they were in the house, they showed us the house right then and we kind of negotiated and got the deal done, …

Robert: Wow.

Sean: Driving down the street.

Robert: I think that’s a brilliant use for Property Radar. I think that for those of you listening, you should… this is the kind of service and there’s a few of them out there that you would keep in your phone or keep bookmarked somehow for a lot of people, if we’re honest about it, most of the people that listen to the show, John and I are trying to coach them into being great marketers. But if we start saying, hey, do proper market research on your area and find out what the total audience and the total transactions are, we right now at that moment have lost 80% of the people that are on the journey with us because there’s so much, they feel like that is such a big idea that they don’t tackle it. So, but say there’s a way that you can get a deal if you just have this app or URL on your phone and you’re driving along and somebody says, I wonder if that property is available or wonder if we can get the phone number for the person who owns the property, even though you’re just driving by house and an address, yeah, that’s a, that’s an excellent use for the service. And yes, there’s a cost that goes along with it and do you mind if I share what the cost is Sean?

Sean: No, that’s fine.

Robert: The standard… there’s a monthly for 59 a month and $79 a month, is there a way for like… if somebody was driving around and they were going to sign up just to get a phone number for a particular property, what would the cost of that be?

Sean: So, right now we only have the subscription service. So, there are services like you mentioned, like Spokio and others that kind of do the one-off thing. We are like a larger platform that has a lot of different functions [inaudible 22:30] and so, we don’t offer that one-off service, so we’re not a consumer service. Like we have a… it’s all public… it’s mostly public record data. We do enhance it with phones and emails and some other stuff but it’s not something we want to put into everybody’s hands. This is for professionals; this is for people that are in the business who have a legitimate use.

Robert: I got you.

Sean: Be respectful of people’s privacy, nobody wants to feel targeted. So, targeting is the best thing ever for marketers because it allows me to get the right message to the right people and in that sense as a consumer, I want to be spoken to, I want to be heard, I want to have a message that meets my needs, but I also don’t want to hear that you targeted me. So, there’s a nuanced thing there where for marketers, targeting’s really good, but it’s this powerful tool that you have to be very, very careful about how you use.

Johnathan: In some ways it’s a little bit outdated, isn’t it? Most people, they probably ask their friend at work is Kathy single or is she in a long? … But if you told Kathy that you’ve been asking questions about her and trying to suss out your possibilities, with Kathy, that isn’t really going to go down that well, is it?

Sean: It’s going to creep her out, yeah.

Johnathan: Creep her out, isn’t it? So, it’s the same with the consumer, isn’t it?

Sean: Yeah. And I think consumers are getting really tired of people targeting them in these kinds of evil, et cetera ways. So, we’re always on our folks, look, we sell to local businesses to help you better serve your local market. And if you do that spirit, nobody’s going to have a hard time with the fact that okay, out of the 50,000 people in your market, you were more efficient and sent to these 2000 who are most likely to buy your… they’re not going to be grudge you trying to run an efficient business so long as you’re not nasty about it, you do it in a good way.

Johnathan: Can we go back and clarify the cost thing? So, am I correct in what Robert just said, you got two kind of levels, $50 a month and 70 is that correct? And what’s the difference between that you get in those two levels.

Sean: Yeah. They’re really kind of designed for different folks. For most folks that are marketers, you’re going to want the $80 a month package and in the, in the $60 a month, we do have a lot of folks still use this for like property research, how many sales happen, how many foreclosures happen, they’re doing more research. They don’t need phone numbers, they don’t need email addresses, they’re not building audience lists, that’s what that less expensive packages for. So, just figure it’s 80 bucks.

Johnathan: Right, for the whole thing. Well, that’s fantastic. So, what’s been your experience? What kind of agents have been signing up to use the full package and where do you think the sweet spot? Because that’s something else me and Robert talk about. Me and Robert have two separate companies, but I feel we targeted… there is overlap, but we targeted that two different… and I have people like yourself, come on the show and they’ve got services products, but I try and point out it’s a big market and there’s different services aimed at different type of agents or brokers. So, what do you see as the sweet point of the kind of agent broker that you’re trying to attract?

Sean: I think the big difference is you have the data-driven folk in the relationship, [inaudible 26:35] driven folks. Most real estate folks are relationship driven. Now, that’s been forced a little bit and changed a bit with COVID where the social networking events that you used to do to go get new clients have kind of stopped and at the same time, I know in our local area, we’ve got way more buyers than we have sellers. So, you start to have to be a little bit more data-driven right now where you can’t [inaudible 27:03] can’t go out and find those connections and find those listings in the same way because the social fabric’s kind of broken down here. But more data-driven folks. And then the other thing is, is that, listen, it’s overwhelming how many different just SEO, Facebook, public records, there’s three of us right here with… and they’re all good things and things that everybody should be doing but it’s overwhelming.

And so, we really kind of don’t even target the individual realtor and basically say teams, public records and this kind of programmatic farming, if you’re a team and you’ve got to feed a whole team and you need that 10, 20, 50, hundreds of deals a year, this has to be part of your mix. And a team usually has a dedicated person that’s focused on marketing, that’s focused on list building, can focus on those things. So, most of our customers, our teams or high volume, probably 20 deals plus a year they’re dealing with, they’re really leveraging this. Unfortunately, with realtors, it’s kind of squirrel. They go, oh, you got to be doing social media, oh, you got to be doing video, oh you’ve got to be doing SEO, oh you got to be doing [inaudible 28:33] and they jump in and they do it for like a couple of weeks, but not long enough for it to actually have results and then they go, oh, this isn’t working in the next squirrel get them and they go off in this next direction and they never do anything consistent enough long enough to really get the results. And so, I think it’s still valuable for those folks if they would stick to it but this is something you need to do day in, day out for…

Johnathan: I have a plan of action, [cross-talk 29:05].

Sean: Facebook and SEO and the rest.

Johnathan: You got to have a plan of action and a consistent usage of it. I think we come to the end of the podcast part, the show, hopefully Sean, you can stay on for another 10, 15 minutes and I like to discuss with you how you see the real estate industry in the next year, 18 months and in technology, because you’ve got a lot of experience around technology. So, we’re going wrap up the podcast part of the show, the bonus content that we’re going to have folks, you can see and listen to that on the Mail-Right YouTube channel, the whole interview plus the bonus content. So, all you have to do is basically go to YouTube, put in Mail-Right and you’ll see the channel and subscribe to it and you’ll be able to listen to the bonus content. So, Sean, what’s the best way for people to find out more about you and your company and what you’re up to?

Sean: is where we’re at and both the company and myself are on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. And my email Super easy, S E A N and yeah, happy to connect with anyone.

 Johnathan: That’s great. And Robert, what’s the best way for people to find out more about you and what you’re up to?

Robert: Please go to I worked so hard on that site. Right now, I’m working on a post that ranks the top 12 real estate lead generation companies in order of proficiency. In other words, if you want to use PPC who’s best, you want to use Facebook who’s best. I’ve decided to do this huge… it’s going to be 6,000 words, but what I just produced is a how to do a digital marketing plan and that is equally an impressive piece of content that me and my entire team worked on. And it has got an hour-long tutorial along with four or 5,000 words that explain item by item, how you might go around working in digital marketing plan, which by the way I’m working that in on purpose guys. Because as part of that digital marketing plan, you might very well back up and use Property Radar to identify a good persona inside a hyperlocal targeted area that….

 Johnathan: I do hope you’re mentioning Mail-Right as well, but we never know, do we? You might be doing us a favor. We’ll see you next week where, hopefully it’s going to be a great internal discussion to train me and Robert, or we have enough of fabulous guest like Sean. We’ll see you soon, folks. Bye.


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