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When in doubt ask “WWGD” What would Google do?

Posted on: June 17th, 2010 | Filed in Agent Tips, Real Estate Industry News

What would Google do? - Jeff Jarvis, NZ Real estateThe previous post on the subject of aspiring new real estate publicly proclaim their intention to seek a license, posed the question “There has to be a better solution” than using the old medium of public notices in newspapers. Well the fact is there is a better solution.

That better solution lies in the answer to the smarter question:

What would Google Do?

This is both a smart question, but also the title of a great book written by the excellent commentator and leading light for the future of business – Jeff Jarvis.

The answer as to “what would Google do” in this situation is as follows.

The purpose of the REAA insisting that aspiring real estate agents / salespeople make a public notice of their intention (I am making this assumption and I welcome and encourage input and feedback from the REAA) is to allow anyone who has an objection to raise that objection so that it can be heard and in so doing ensure that the industry solely comprises people with high public standing.

So what I am suggesting is finding a way to make the intentions of aspiring real estate people public. In this way  so  if there are people who have genuine concerns, then those concerns can be heard. So here is my suggested solution.

A website is built onto which all aspiring real estate salespeople register their details. This can also provide them with the opportunity to use the web to link to referral documents and repositories of information which will support their status – specifically profile pages on LinkedIn, their own website or Facebook profile (if that is appropriate).

Having aggregated this database on a single site on the web, the key thing is making it easily found. This requires search engine marketing. The key to successful search engine marketing is the link economy and contextual content. Hosting this website / database as part of would provide both of these requirements straight off. is a highly Google indexed site for all matters concerning NZ real estate, this would provide this service instant visibility in Google search.

In addition the use of keyword marketing using Google Adwords would ensure that peripheral searches around keywords such as “new agents” “agent profiles” “public register” would point back to the database and direct those who want to be know who is seeking appointment a direction to take to find the answer.

Further using the standard tools of the web, would allow anyone to set up email alerts or RSS feeds filtered to locations or names so that should anyone have any reason to be alerted to as to a person’s aspiration, technology can come to the rescue.

Should anyone have any concern around privacy then they should address that to the REAA, after all it is their requirement that people have a obligation to openly disclose their public request for “approval” – if they have nothing to hide they have nothing to fear.

This functionality is very simple, it is more importantly far more effective than using the 19th century mode of public notices in newspapers – surely the real estate industry can be seen to embrace new technology with all its benefits and efficiency.

What I have described is what is needed and is in my judgment the answer to the question “What would Google do”? – the question is now posed to the REAA – would you like us here at to build it?

Here is an open public offer to the industry and the REAA – we will build this system and database and undertake the search engine marketing activity around it. We are an industry owned website and in our judgment this is in the best interests of the industry – those in it today and though keen to enter its ranks – at the very least we can save a significant amount of wasted money propping up dead sections of newspapers.


Announcing the arrival of aspiring new real estate agents

Posted on: June 17th, 2010 | Filed in Agent Tips, Featured, Real Estate Industry

Speaker lndscape expandHave you ever wondered what would happen at a wedding if the celebrant / minister when uttering the words (Does anyone know any just cause..?) actually had someone leap up from the back row screaming “I DO“!!

There is that momentary hesitation which is then quickly exhausted as silence pervades the audience gathered together for the  happy day, and the service resumes as normal.

So what has this to do with real estate? – well let me explain.

Has anyone noticed that the newspapers have suddenly started carrying a large number of adverts in the Public Notices section from aspiring real estate professionals seeking to publicly proclaim their intention to take up a career in real estate. They are proclaiming in effect “Does anyone know just cause … as to why I should not be regarded as suitable to hold the position (license) of a real estate agent / salesperson”?

The key question I am keen to ask is – does anyone read these notices ? The fact is there is a legal requirement under the regulations set out in the Real Estate Agents Act 2008 for any person wishing to enter this profession to place an advert in one of an approved set of newspapers, in fact the requirement is to place 2 adverts.

What purpose does this process serve ? – certainly in today’s world of shrinking newspaper readership it is almost impossible for it to be seen as a viable means of allowing the general public to make a challenge to someones application to hold a license. There could be a better argument that the process would be better served by featuring a list of prospective applicants on the Real Estate Agents Authority (REAA) website or on the industry website. At least this approach would be in the knowledge that visitors would have context to the issue. In addition given this context a Google search for the term “Applicants for new real estate license in NZ” could then provide a link to such a list (a detail search on the current results show not one reference to any applicant or newspaper notice).

The sole beneficiary of this approach appears to be the newspapers who in the case of the major metropolitan dailies are charging around $500 for the privilege. This is the potential for a cool extra $1m for the newspapers given a typical flow of new entrants into this industry each year. This on top of the $555.75 levied by the REAA for a new application for a license and the fees for the education standards required to apply for a license (c. $1,000+) certainly has raised the financial barriers to entry into the industry.


Architecturally designed or designed by an architect

Posted on: June 11th, 2010 | Filed in Agent Tips, Architecture & Construction, Featured, Online marketing

Warren_&_Mahoney_House_of_lightIn the world of real estate marketing, as with any form of marketing creating standout is critical so as to generate awareness and interest. When it comes to homes, the design style is so important and this is often what is highlighted by real estate agents in the marketing description.

However as is ever the case with all marketing – accuracy is key and this is why I am happy to post this open letter from the Chief Executive of the NZ Registered Architects Board – Paul Jackman who naturally has a concern to ensure that in describing homes for sale as “architecturally designed” or “designed by an architect”, that they are just that.

I took the time to review some of the over 600 listings on the site today that include the keyword “architect” in the description – the vast majority do reference the name of the architect in question or in some cases use the word in contextual description, ie “bring along your architect” or “sits amongst architectural homes in the area”. That having been said the important note of Paul’s letter which was published recently in the Real Estate Institutes monthly member magazine is key – an architect is a professionally qualified individual who is bound by professional standards and this is at the heart of the professional industry, to have the term “architect” misused is of concern to the profession.

Was the architect an architect?

Every profession lives or dies by its reputation. If the public perceives a profession to be honest, they assume its members can be trusted. This confers huge benefits when doing business. But if a profession is perceived as dishonest, every member of that profession pays a price in lost business.

For a long time now architects have been deeply frustrated by real estate advertisements claiming that properties for sale were designed by a named architect when actually the person named is not an architect at all. These advertisements potentially deceive buyers, given that a house designed by an architect may carry a price premium. Typically puffery is used like, to quote a real case, “Immaculately detailed, the house was designed by renowned Christchurch architect Ray Hawthorne.” Mr Hawthorne may be renowned, but he is not an architect.

Only about 5 per cent of New Zealand’s residential properties are designed by architects. The rest are designed by others, sometimes called architectural designers, who either are trained in drafting or self taught.

In some cases the vendor is deluded about his or her house. The vendor thinks the house must have been designed by an architect because it has some unusual features or looks funky. The real estate agent is told this and blithely places the advertisement. In some other cases the real estate agent may be just trying to talk up the price.

Either way, this will not do. The Real Estate Agents Professional Conduct and Client Care says (6.4) A licensee must not mislead a customer or client, nor provide false information.

Also, under the Registered Architects Act 2005 it is an offence for anyone to claim to be an architect who designs buildings unless he or she is registered. Only architects are entitled to use that title. A person pretending to be an architect can be fined up to $10,000.

Real estate agents need to check before placing advertising claiming that a named person is an architect. This can be done in seconds via the online New Zealand Architects Register at A search facility allows you to enter any name and then find out if that person is registered in New Zealand. There’s also a listing of former architects, incase the person who designed the house is retired or deceased.

Real estate agents should take this seriously. The NZRAB has laid complaints with the Advertising Standards Authority and the Commerce Commission. At the time of writing, the Real Estate Agents Authority was also investigating a breach and further complaints will be laid whenever more breaches are detected.

Architects work hard to gain their professional recognition, and so naturally they get grumpy when others try to cash in on that. Also, they fret when houses of, as they see it, dubious merit are falsely credited to their profession. Architects are asking real estate agents to show the same care as one would expect from any professional group.

Paul Jackman

CE New Zealand Registered Architects Board


Blogging tips – PRAISE yourself

Posted on: May 19th, 2010 | Filed in Agent Tips, Online marketing

Photo at SMJ May 2010I was invited to be a panelist at this week’s Social Media Junction conference. The topic required the panelists of bloggers to provide a brief perspective of 5 top tips to manage the content challenge of blogs – how to keep them compelling and relevant.

My answer was to reach for an acronym – “Praise” – not 5 tips, I know, but I thought stretching to 6 might not be out of order. I have posted the summary slide to Slideshare and presented it here below, I did however become acutely aware that I needed to add more clarity around the acronym.

Social media junction - Alistair Helm blogging tips

P is for Predictable

I firmly believe that an appeal of a blog lies in the consistency and frequency of posting. To have a post every couple of weeks is not really a blog – its more of a personal notice board. I feel that if you believe your business can benefit from the value of search engine optimisation and open communication of a direct dialogue with your audience of customers or consumers then you need to be active in blogging, and see it as an active part of marketing. There are those that blog numerous times a day – that is a challenge for anyone who is trying to run a business, in my view and again my perspective is I try and post around 3 articles a week.

R is for Real

This is about content and context. My view is write (talk) about real things that concern your business. I am fortunate that the real estate industry of which I write, is rich in content topics from NZ and around the world. There are regular statistics and reports which provide ample fodder for views, commentary and opinions.

I have a lasting memory of my induction into blogging and serious social media back in 2007. A US Realtor shared her experience of a year of blogging in which she had earned over US$100k of which close to 80% came from referral leads as a direct result of her blog – no need for door knocking or leaflet drops. When asked the question from a delegate as to dealing with the inevitable “dry spot” – that is when she ran out of things to write about; she shared this valuable observation which in my judgment applies to any industry, and is a principle I apply myself. She said when she has a dry post, she just reflects on the past day and recounts the questions she has been asked – they all were asked by someone who needed assistance or advice and she was able to provide it; surely there will be others out there who equally will be interested to hear the answer so writing a blog post on the subject is bound to be of value – logical!

A is for Analytical

A blog in my perspective is a business tool, it provides valuable SEO (search engine optimisation) for the website of and therefore tracking the analytics of a blog is key. The tools are numerous and in the main free – WordPress has a plug-in of “Shortstats” that provide insight into the inbound links and driving referral domains which helps to see what is attracting people to your blog and where your blog is being referred to by other bloggers and websites.

Google Analytics coded to your blog can equally provide a richer data set to see what articles are attracting most attention as well as measures of engagement and repeat audience usage. Another key strategy of analytics is to do keyword tracking to ascertain the search terms that people are interested in that comprise your business. This should be used as a guide to influence content. It is important to keep content honest and relevant and avoid the tactic of writing for keyword search. Remember that a blog is for people not just for Google tracking. Having said that I was amused by Bernard Hickey’s comments at the conference

“There is only one deity online, it is Google, he/she knows everything, he/she is all powerful, and on the whole he/she is all good … particularly once they got the hell outta China!”

I is for Image rich

I love adding images to blog posts, they add warmth and break up the mass of words (I tend to write a lot). Images can add a visual reference to anchor the post. Images also help when presenting facts – charts are always more interesting than tables of data, colour warmer than black and white.

S is for Single Voice

A blog in my view has to have a single voice, a personality that provides consistency and authenticity, that goes for writing a post and to responding to comments. As I shared with the audience, in the nervous anticipation of starting Unconditional in November 2007 I discussed with our then PR consultant the idea of having them writing or at least edit my articles. The idea lasted one post – ever since then and after more than 350 posts I have never thought about the idea again. I write all my own posts and enjoy it. Blogs are a dynamic and often spontaneous tool. They have a degree of a life all to themselves and as such they need to be seen as human, complete with human foibles. The odd spelling mistake or grammatical error in some ways makes them more authentic and honest. Having said that it is better to spell check and proof read before hitting the publish button.

E is for Engagement

Engagement is such a core component of a blog – the interchange of comments that speak to the principle of it being a conversation. Certainly you need to moderate the blog with approvals for first time posters (to keep out unwanted spam and link parasites), but you do not want to over filter. In my experience it is always more valuable to allow all comments as long as they are relevant and contributory. A number of times accepting criticism and responding, adds so much to the subject and leaves a valuable trail that builds credibility and authenticity for future readers to follow. I favour acknowledging almost all comments – this shows an actively monitored blog and a sense of personal and passionate oversight by the owner of the blog.


Social media – powerhouse marketing for real estate

Posted on: May 19th, 2010 | Filed in Agent Tips, Online marketing

Social mediaThis week I have attended two significant conferences, the annual Harcourts conference in Christchurch and the Social Media Junction conference organised by Bullet PR in Auckland.

Both conferences featured guest speakers from the US and Australia and both provided rich and compelling content for their respective audiences and in my view were spot on for relevancy and value. I am not about to compare the two from a perspective of which might have been better, but just wanted to share some observations in the context of social media as the new platform for marketing; as both conferences embraced this paradigm at their core.

The Social Media Junction event was impressive as a representation of the eagerness of so many NZ companies to better understand the role of social media in business as well as the deployment of key tactics of social media. A common theme I heard from the participants, was the feeling that there was so much opportunity, but so much they felt they needed to learn.

The two keynote speakers Julien Smith and Andy Beal that I wanted to showcase (not to the exclusion of the others) provided respectively a rich sense of the landscape of social interaction and marketing from Julien, matched to the real practical advice session from Andy. I was unfortunately not able to attend the 2nd day workshop which provided valuable hands-on sessions to provide that valuable advice, but from all accounts it was as exactly as anticipated. I reflected on the first day session with these assessments:

  • We have some great examples of social media practitioners in NZ – Air New Zealand certainly comes to mind as does Bernard Hickey at, with equally Fairfax embracing it more actively in recent months with Greer McDonald at Stuff managing social media. Additionally many of our telco operators are very customer-centric online, through platforms such as Twitter.
  • We have a keen marketing community who are keen to learn. Witness the more than 200 attendees who with consent of their companies, or as small business owners or entrepreneurs  took 2 days out of their schedule to focus on this opportunity.
  • We are in my subjective judgement very well skilled on a comparable basis to other leading countries – our use and development of the main platforms of Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In and blogging platforms is extensive and actively used.
  • An interesting observation I made (via a tweet on the day) was the greater representation of women in the audience, to which someone smartly observed that women are much better at communications!
  • As a rule I would judge that we are open and transparent in our online interactions, blogs in the main are completely open for comments and feedback with good moderation and contribution. This I believe is a function of cultural heritage.

Turning to the Harcourts conference held in Christchurch this week; an eager audience of some 700 real estate agents listened intently to Matthew Ferrara in his keynote address. His focus was to the usage and comprehension of social media. This I see as a clear demonstration that Harcourts are aligning themselves squarely with social media as a key platform of their marketing, and in so doing encouraging their agents to follow.

Whilst my initial reaction was to question the appropriateness of such a detailed focus on social media usage within such a diverse audience for the opening keynote session of the conference. However my apprehension was quickly dissipated as Matthew gave an excellent presentation not so much focused on the tools of social media – more to the criticality of the adoption of social media.

In an excellent presentation he smartly used the metaphor of Star Trek to guide the audience of mostly baby boomer generation real estate agents through the behaviour and expectations of Gen X and Gen Y as representing the growing majority of home buyer’s and sellers, and their adoption of social interaction online as a key part of the digital-natives generation.

The examples he showed of the technology and behaviour of the then very young Captain James T. Kirk mirrored the attitude of the younger generation to the baby boomer generation. In a wonderful example he painted the picture of Captain Kirk being advised of the risks and danger of “boldly going where no one had gone before” from wiser superiors to whom he should have been more respectful, and yet he challenged authority and blasted out into unknown territory. The message to the audience was clear, accept that the younger generation feel in control; they will seek to challenge and they want to use technology for communication that is at the core of their lives – social interaction, not social intrusion.

I was very amused (and I am not sure at this time if I was the only one) when Mathew coined the phrase in this presentation of “WWCKD” – the acronym for “What Would Captain Kirk Do?” – which I saw as a play on the excellent and in my view benchmark work on the new online world, the book by Jeff Jarvis “WWGD” – What Would Google Do?”

Reflecting now on these two conferences I am drawn to the confident belief that traditional media in the form of communications and advertising as key platforms of traditional marketing are finally taking their dying breathes. The far more open, transparent and interactive conversations between real people in the many and varied forms of social media are very much alive and thriving in NZ.

Clearly though, whilst being optimistic about social media’s growth and relevance I am also acutely aware that this has yet to become mainstream and universally adopted, although it is approaching that level. I for one am very grateful for the opportunity afforded me in my role to be an active and passionate advocate and participant in this new marketing order of social interaction.

Whilst on the subject of social media for real estate professionals, I would also like to plant a flag in the sand to say that we are currently organising a conference for the real estate industry to be hosted later in the year with a key leaning to social media in the delivery of real estate marketing. More news will follow shortly.

The Social Media Junction conference has spawned some great online reviews and content, a few examples are showcased below – not an exhaustive list but I hope of value:


Raising your social media skills

Posted on: May 13th, 2010 | Filed in Agent Tips, Online marketing

The successful agreementDeveloping social media expertise is all about “doing” as far as I am concerned. For as much as I have read some great books on the subject, there is no better learning than to practice social media.

Whether that is writing a blog or just commenting on others with link-backs to your profile page, nothing substitutes for the interchange that is social media.

Having made that grand statement though, there is value in listening to a “few good war stories” from a conference or social gathering. I can recall back in 2007 attending the Inman Connect Conference and being totally overwhelmed by the rise in the use of social media within the US community of realtors (real estate agents). It was at that conference that I picked up tips that are still valuable to this day. Like the recommendation of when you go through one of those “dry spells” when you can’t think of a single thing to write about. The best solution is to reflect on a question asked of you in the last day or so by someone – that question (especially in the context of real estate) is very likely to be the kind of thing that others want to know about so why not write the question as a blog post together with the answer.

About | Social Media JunctionAnyway this is a long drawn out way to get to the point that in Auckland next week there is a pretty special conference being held on just this subject. The Social Media Junction is a 2 day conference at the Sky City Convention Centre. It promises to be a great 2 days with excellent speakers and panel discussions. You can even see me participate in a Bloggers Panel with such illustrious company as Bernard Hickey, Russell Brown, Mauricio Freitas and Greer McDonald.

Now as a disclosure of interest the conference is being run with the assistance of our own PR agency – Bullet PR and out of the kindness of their heart they have given me a FREE pass for the whole of the 2 days. That has a value of over $1,300. To get your hands on this free pass all you need to do is be the first to post a comment below – telling me the home country of the conference speaker Julien Smith.

(Just as a note this free pass does not include any travel or accommodation, food or gratuities, but it might include an autograph or two from some of the attendees / speakers – if you can suitably convince them – ideally by following them on Twitter!)

Oh and by the way in terms of books that I would recommend I have just finished listening (you have got to use Audible!) to Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith (who just so happens to be speaking at the conference). I found the book a great reinforcement of guiding principles for social media in its broadest sense. The book includes a great example which I have used in recent presentations comparing the viral spread of jokes as compared to YouTube videos – the sense of word of mouth jokes disappearing into the ether, whilst great content online is anchored firmly to the author who constantly receives kudos and credibility.


Technology is the key to the future of real estate

Posted on: February 5th, 2010 | Filed in Agent Tips, Other interesting reads:, Technology

Real Estate Connect New York City 2010 | Real Estate and Technology News for Agents, Brokers and Investors | Inman NewsI have taken a week or so following my attendance at the Inman Connect Conference in New York earlier last month. In this time I have collated my thoughts around the conference to share these here now.

As has become traditional with Inman Connect conferences of the past couple of years there is usually a single takeaway that I carry with me as I return to NZ from attending these events.

In 2007 at my first conference the takeaway was social media and the emergence of blogs; 2008 was the rise of Facebook and Twitter as platforms for real estate conversations; 2009 was all about data and a growing transparency for the real estate industry – agents embracing the concept of consumer review and critique of the performance metrics of the industry.

For 2010 the takeaway was mobile – mobile as in real time, location based, real estate data, accessible on portable devices.

Mobile computing came of age in 2009.

YouTube - Trulia iPhone App UpdateWith more than 75 million iPhones sold and a growing collection of alternative smart phones, most significant of which is undoubtedly Google’s new entrance through the Android mobile operating system and now the Nexus One, it is very clear to see that we are on the fast accelerating adoption curve where we will see many hundreds of millions of new generation smart phones purchased in the coming months and years. All of these devices are in fact far more mobile computers that just happen to provide voice communication rather than phones in the sense of what we have been using for two decades to make mobile calls.

The future as Brad Inman (the conference host and owner of Inman News) said in summing up the conference; the future is very clear and bright (and profitable) for those agents who understand and leverage the technology revolution in this industry that began at the start of this last decade and in some ways is now really hitting its stride. The great quote I often use in many presentations I do is from an Australian real estate conference of a couple of years ago “Agents will not be replaced by technology – they will be replaced by agents with technology” it just keeps on resonating as so relevant, so true.

The Connect conference is structured to provide a rich mix of technology and real estate business discussions and debates. The origin of the name came from the concept of the place where real estate and technology “connected”. It is featured packed, somewhat frenetic in nature and very much a smorgasbord of discussion groups and break out sessions as well as short – but pithy keynote presentations as well as lots of valuable takeaway ideas and initiatives.

Here then is a smorgasbord of takeaways, which caught my attention during the conference:

  • More and more agents are confidently stating that print advertising has lost all relevance and now all of their focus is on the web, this even lead in one session to the heated quote from a prominent New York agent “print never sold properties”. The move online is not just for advertising properties but also for profiling agents as part of marketing themselves – their brand.
  • The appeal of the iPhone and the development of the apps store replete with real estate apps has developed a culture and unique behaviour particularly on a Saturday as witnessed by massive spikes in traffic to these apps when “soccer mums” seek out local open homes to check out after the kids sports event – this behaviour has now become a phenomenon which is contributing to a noticeable rise in open home visits driven by the real time location based data.
  • Google was a much talked about subject and the conference provided a platform for the company’s real estate representative to share the company’s plans. Needless to say not a lot was shared except to recognise the value that Google saw in liberating real estate data. They refused to be drawn as to any potential acquisition to enhance their already released map based search. As ever with Google they are undoubtedly the smartest guys in the room. They have very clear views and plans and they have massive resources. They will roll out new functionality to enhance basic search, it will be disruptive, it will provide opportunities for them to sell more advertising and more and more of these adverts will be bought by real estate companies and agents. Google are here to stay, and real estate for them is a key agenda item.
  • Video as a complement to image based property presentation always represents a component of these conferences. Whilst the technology is improving in leaps and bounds the limitation and appeal is as ever down to the capability and professionalism behind the camera. The percentage of all listings with a video is increasing; but in reality it still represents a small percentage and always will. Buyers are looking for speed and efficiency at the early stage of search – video is just not conducive as a medium to this process.
  • There were a couple of sessions during the conference titled and focused on challenges to reinvent the real estate brokerage model. This included a panel of key leaders in the industry. Having sat in the breakout sessions and the main panel, I have to confess I was particularly unimpressed by the level of innovation. There was a sense of the same model with just a new set of clothes. There were plenty of good words – such as accountability, transparency, ethics, and personal service. Lots of plans to leverage social media and engage with clients, but through it all; it was the same model – advertise and farm for vendor (and buyer) leads, advertise everywhere, manage leads and negotiate sale for a % of the selling price. The question in the back of my mind was:
    * Is the current model broken” – answer “No!” (Or at least not significantly broken)
    * Is their scope for innovation and significant differentiation in business model – answer “Surely must be!”
  • An excellent session was a “start-up alley” of new technology companies offering services to the real estate industry. This was the chance for these new companies to share with the attendees their pitch for their company and for the audience to vote for the concept most likely to succeed – which they would most likely invest in. These were all companies, which were largely operating, and at this time many of which were self financed
  • I was impressed at the diversity and innovation; they covered the range from agent business applications to online media sales to neighbourhood social – the winner being in the latter category NabeWise aiming to create social commentary around neighbourhoods.
  • As ever the conference has the usual heated debates and literal stand-offs, a classic of the last day was the ubiquitous debate around the structure, value, longevity and relevance of the USA’s unique MLS structure (that is the central Multiple Listing Service) – central is actually the wrong word as there are over 800 MLS’s covering the country and all are largely built as proprietary fiefdoms who to my naive and non-US eyes and ears exemplify the analogy of the buggy maker at the turn of the century as the motor car drove into town.

As a fellow conference attendee shared his thoughts with me during the conference – this is such a valuable engagement with like-minded people, a sense of reinforcement, substantiation and affirmation that in spite of the fact that we may operate in a market of just 4 million people – a tiny fraction of the business scale of Europe and the US we can share, learn, contribute and gain so much to ensure we are constantly challenges to deliver unique and valuable service

Returning to the key takeaway again of mobile as the technological catalyst most likely to impact this industry, it is interesting to speculate as to the landscape of real estate a year or two from now. Whilst the adoption and integration of mobile enabled capabilities within the agent community is uncertain, sitting as I do running a consumer website to assist buyer find their dream home I can very clearly see the future for property seekers as they become mobile enabled with real estate data. More data, more accessible, helping buyers and sellers to make better-informed decisions.


Some genuine home truths about home buying

Real Estate_ Everyone_s an expert | there is one thing more certain in NZ these days than the latest political scandal or sporting event, it is the view people have to real estate and the purchase of a property.

It is so true that everyone has an opinion and every opinion is the polar opposite of everybody else’s!

It was with this in mind that my eye was caught by a great blog post by Jane Yee, who writes on Jane is a classic Gen X / Gen Y and her life is played out through her regular blog entitled the “Girls Guide”. Now there are two really important things to reflect on at this stage (i) Jane is of the age that most people start to buy property, and (ii) Jane writes from a woman’s perspective which is as is well known very much the influential voice in real estate transactions in the case of couples.

Her most recent post “Real Estate, Everyone’s and expert” is one of the clearest perspectives I have read on the consumer psyche of buying or searching for property I have ever read. It should be mandatory reading for anyone in the real estate industry. Added to Jane’s excellent prose is over 60 comments from “people like her” that further add to the richness. I really urge everyone to read and comment.

By way of dissection, below I have distilled what I consider to be the key takeaways I see as pivotal to the process – valuable sources of focus for ambitious operators in this industry.

  1. Buying a home despite what many believe it to be is not always a rental investment property. Many people just want to satisfy their emotional desire to own a home – it is also a great form of forced savings
  2. The process of house hunting is time consuming, enormously time consuming involving – daily review of listings (I clearly need to introduce Jane to as well as Trade Me, after all does feature a more complete view of whats on the market), as well as weekend open homes
  3. The activity is very much a self managed exercise.
  4. Everyone has an opinion / piece of advice. At the end of the day the collective wisdom as represented by the comments is that you have to make that decision yourself and accept the implications.
  5. Your key partner in the process seem to be the mortgage broker rather than the real estate agent
  6. Unfortunately real estate agents tend to be seen (and demonstrate the behaviour) of being seen as purveyors of other people’s listings
  7. There are huge emotions involved in real estate process – the heartache of missing out, matched to the desire to find just the right place
  8. Home buying has a benefit in a sense of control, something that can not be attained through renting and therefore financial comparisons are not always relevant

To what extent does price marketing effect property appeal?

Posted on: January 17th, 2010 | Filed in Agent Tips, Buying / Selling a home, Online marketing

There have been regular articles and commentary throughout 2009 related to the merits or shortcomings of advertising property with a price or not; whether to market as an an auction, or to display no price “and let the market decide”!

Many views and opinions lie behind these approaches. I decided (as I often do) to dig into the numbers and see what the facts say. Is there more evidence that displaying a price increases viewings and what is the predominant method of price marketing for property?

Judged purely on consumer feedback I would have been drawn to say that putting a price on a property would be the best approach as we regularly receive emails from users of the site, advocating the full and transparent displaying of a price on every property. breakdown of listings by price marketing 2009Firstly the fact is that the most popular method of marketing a property on the web as judged through all property listings in 2009 was a fixed price – 63% of all properties featured on the site were marketed with a clear price.

As property price ranges rise there is a move towards other forms of price marketing. In the sub $200k range a fixed price represents a majority 68% of all listings, whereas for property over a $1m it falls to just 37%. Between $200k and $500k it is 67% and between $500k and $1m it is 54%. So agents seem to favour less specific price indications as property values rise. breakdown of listings by price marketing 2009 - property priced over $1mIn the $1m plus category of the property market the most popular pricing method was “Negotiation” representing 38% of all listings just ahead of the fixed price at 37%. Third place comes Auctions with 14%.

Auctions are more significantly favoured interestingly for high price properties. Between $500k and $1m is the peak of Auction pricing with 15% of all listings in this category being marketed as an auction, over $1m it is 14% and in the below $200k category the level is 11% and interestingly between $200k and $500k it is only 7% being marketed as an auction.

Tenders are one of the least popular means of marketing properties representing just 1% of all listings, although in the higher price category of between $500k and $1m and over $1m it represented close to 2%.

Having outlined the make up of listings by pricing method the big question was, is there any appreciable difference in viewing performance between the differing pricing methods – do property with a clear price receive proportionality any more viewing??

The bottom line is no! – properties without a price are not ignored by viewers!

In terms of viewing properties there is interestingly very little difference in the relative viewing between properties with a price and properties without a displayed price. This did come as somewhat of a surprise as some of the extreme comments of emails we receive state that these people completely ignore properties without a price. breakdown of listings by price marketing 2009 - Viewing by price marketingOverall if anything Auctions actually generated more viewings than listings in general by around 11%. This could be because auctions are marketed for a shorter period of time and tend to focus attention and generate repeat viewings online prior to the auction. breakdown of listings by price marketing 2009 - Viewings by priceThe other very noticeable fact is that higher priced properties are viewed more than lower price properties – this could be around aspiration from prospective or casual viewers of the site, or could be that simply higher priced properties are just more attractive!!

Note: This analysis is based on all properties featured on the website of during 2009 – a total of 87,500 listings. The price range segments quoted are reflective of the displayed price, or the indicative range, which is provided by the agent to us to use to power the search result, whilst not being displayed on the site. For these properties with a price range we used the mid point average as a price guide.

Out of date information on web listings damages agent reputation

Posted on: January 11th, 2010 | Filed in Agent Tips, Online marketing, Other interesting reads:

iStock_000006985948Small lndscapeThe Christmas and New Year period is a time of year to relax and unwind. For the real estate industry it is the calm before the storm as January tends to be a hectic time of house hunting – certainly judging by traffic to real estate website which sees the highest level of visitors over the next few weeks.

With this backdrop it does surprise me and to be honest frustrate me that some in this industry omit to update information of their listings on the web over this critical period. Let me explain my frustration.

Just yesterday my wife and I decided that we were keen to explore the idea of a new house for this new year. Scanning the web we found some interesting properties – we narrowed it down to 2 properties. One property contained within the details on the fact that the property had an open home 1pm to 1.45pm Saturday and Sunday. So eager to enjoy a beautiful day to view a prospective property we drove round to find a deserted house – no open home, no real estate agent!

Now I know exactly why this situation arose. The house in question was listed at the end of November and on the for sale board in the street it actually said “Deadline for offers – 17 December”. So there was clearly no intention for the property to be an open home on the 10th January. But why had the website not been updated !!

But image for a minute that I was not involved in this industry – maybe I am moving to Auckland or NZ and am in the city and want to find a house – I rely on the web (why shouldn’t I, it is the most comprehensive source of property information). To me this house should have been open for viewing yesterday – or else the details on the listing should have been amended.

I should not have to rely on calling an agent or picking up a paper – the web should be and must be the most complete, accurate and up to date source of information of properties for sale – not a forgotten archive of what was listed day, weeks or months ago. Real estate is a service business and the service this agent left me experiencing was one that would not encourage me to use them in the future or to recommend them.

So a New Year wish from me to the real estate industry – please look at the web this year and from now on, as the live picture of your listings – update them, review them and in so doing help people like me who want to buy a property to use it to make my life easy.

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