The Unconditional Blog

The impartial voice of the industry


Archive for the ‘Agent Tips’ Category


Do you really need to subscribe to another property website?

Posted on: November 27th, 2009 | Filed in Agent Tips, Buying / Selling a home, Featured, Online marketing

istock_000007459744xsmallThis opinion piece is written primarily to address a question that I seem to be hearing more and more from within the real estate industry.

It also has relevance to property owners looking to sell your property. That is because I believe many agents when presenting a marketing campaign will boast – “we will feature your property on 5 websites” – with the next agent boasting “well we will place it on 9 websites!”

The reality is the number of websites is completely irrelevant – you could be on a million websites and still be missing the most important website – that is the point – you have to be on the right site – not every site.

Additionally the idea that your house in particular or NZ property in general should be featured on a US or UK sites is a misnomer – people from overseas do not look for NZ property on a UK site or an American site – they are smarter than that and seek out a NZ site.

Lastly the notion of an “International Property” website is at best misleading, and at worst a waste of money – except if you consider Google to be “The International Property Website”.

Given this preamble here is my address to the real estate profession on this topic.

As a real estate professional you clearly have a responsibility to promote your client’s listings to the optimal extent you can. Clearly promotion these days involves the web as the key medium used by property buyers. However, a critical question should be asked as to how many websites you should feature those listing on?

One of the greatest benefits of the web is that it has almost limitless capacity – estimated these days in the region of over 1 trillion web pages! – but clearly within this number are a significant proportion that are never going to be viewed – with a classic 80:20 rule applying – potentially in the case of the web and any specific category on the web more like the 95:5 rule, or even the 99.99:0.01 rule!

It is for this reason that I believe that you should think before offering your listings to be presented on just any website that happens to come along. In my judgement there are a number of questions that you should ask yourself or the prospective website.

  1. A website is meaningless unless it has visitors – you should ask the owner of any website to provide statistics such as Nielsen or Google Analytics. The key metric is unique browsers, this measures unique visitors and should allow you to judge and compare websites based on true audited audiences. Another critical issue is true traffic – not how many visitors they think they will have or how many they had last year – how many last week or last month.
  2. A website is a business – you should ask the owner of any website how they make money to pay to support the site. Are they relying on advertising or are they expecting you to pay. The question you should ask at this stage is “who needs who, the most” – is this website looking to use your listings to attract an audience to then make money from advertising?
  3. A website needs to have a track record and a planned future – you should ask the owner of any website how long they have operated and how they will support the website in the future. You do not want to find that the website closes down in 2 months or worse still is sold to someone else that you have no relationship with.
  4. A website should have a clear policy on copyright – you should get a copy of any websites terms and conditions. Make sure that you retain copyright such that this website cannot “sell” your listings / content onto anyone else for their profit; nor can they alter or change any of the content without your permission.

The expression of “there is no such thing as a free lunch” applies equally to the web as it does to any other form of business; and just as in any other area of business you have to be honest and say to yourself – do you want to waste your time uploading, managing, reviewing and checking your listings on 6 or 10 websites when in reality more than half of them generate very little traffic, no enquiries, but do take up your time?

The consumer in today’s online world is getting smarter – they more and more turn to Google to answer their everyday questions. Google does one thing exceptionally well – it makes sense out of the complexity that is the mass of information available to us these days. It is Google’s stated aim to organise and make accessible the world’s information. That being the case why not let Google help you judge as to which websites to put your content on.

Think about your prospective buyers for your home or one of your listings. Think about the kind of question they would type into Google – now do that yourself. Have a look at the results – these results on the first page should be your guide, these are the websites you should be on.


If you were to be really clinical then there were only a few websites you should place your listings on.

Naturally every listing should be on your own company website as well as major property portals. The reason for this is the fact that people want ease of searching and value comprehensive content that is what a major property portals can offer you.

So don’t be suckered into the first offer that comes by email saying that they have just the site you have always been looking for! – after all if you had been looking for such a site would you not have already found it and be on it!!


The issue with property pricing

Posted on: November 9th, 2009 | Filed in Agent Tips, Money Matters

istock_000005764971xsmallWhilst the last 2 years has been heavily focused on the issue of property prices from the perspective of valuations – have they peaked?…. will they fall?….. will they collapse? or are they rising??

The current trend seems to be clear now with both the recent REINZ and QV stats showing strengthening prices.

The real issue facing the real estate industry is how to appropriately price a house when listing it on the market. If you wanted to sell a 4 year old low mileage European car or a second hand washing machine, all you need to do is let your mouse do the researching and see what similar age / condition items are selling for. Not so when it comes to a house.

Houses are not commodity items that are replicable en-masse or even frequently transacted, as the saying goes, every house is unique and every house has a value to someone – more often than not far in excess of what someone else might pay.

With this as a backdrop you can see the challenge this industry faces in judging an appropriate price to market a property. Such difficulty has in some occurrences lead to what I discovered the other day is termed ‘bait pricing’. This system which is well documented by Carl Slade on his Timaru Homes blog is clearly not to be condoned by anyone in the industry as it is clearly misleading or deceptive.

It would have to be the biggest source of emails received by our office from the public using the website and wondering firstly why every property cannot be listed with an asking price and secondly why ‘we’ seem to be deceptive in featuring properties in price range searches where clearly they are not!

The first of these issues is something that I cannot speak for on behalf of the industry. Unlike with consumer goods a recommended retail price is what you pay, but when it comes to property the price paid is always the result of the agreement of a willing buyer and a willing seller; that final agreed price may or may not bear any relevance to the advertised price.

So turning to the second issue of searching by price. We receive data concerning a property listing from individual offices every day – often up to 1,000 listings per day. We cannot and should not alter the data we are given – we do not know anything about the property in question nor do we own that data in terms of accuracy or completeness. This does not imply that we do not take seriously our role to ensure accuracy and completeness, it just recognises how we operate.

When it comes to pricing a listing we insist that each property has a display price or if the agent does not want to display a price then we must have a price range to power the search process of the website. If we receive neither we reject the listing.

The major issue therefore comes down to the appropriateness of a price range for a property. The narrower the range the better it will be for the public searching for property. Whilst I can hear the views of some in this industry who would say the greater the potential audience will be. To this I would say – let the public decide!

The majority of users of this website are smart enough to spend sufficient time to widen their price range to ensure they adequately research the market of potential property. It is very unlikely that a keen buyer will start with a very narrow price range.

Out of curiosity I did some analysis of the residential listings on our website to see how they were priced. The following charts detail these findings:

Residential listings on as at Nov 2009 - 74,000 listings

Of the 74,000 residential listings on the site three quarters are marketed with a fixed price. The balance predominantly are ‘Negotiation’ or ‘Offers’ – just 5% are made up of Auctions and Tenders.

Breaking down those listings which are not displayed with a price, shows that across the range, the majority of listings for residential property on the website fall into a range whereby the maximum price is within 25% of the minimum. That is to say that the range could be from say $400,000 to $500,000 or from $250,000 to $310,000.

Price range on residential listings - Nov 2009

However at the lower end of the pricing spectrum with properties with a minimum price below $250,000; half of all of these properties are listed  with a range of between 25% and 50% – so a range of say from $180,000 to $270,000.

Despite these ranges being the majority; there is no denying the fact that there are still 17% of all non-priced listings (2,100+) that have a maximum price in excess of 50% of the minimum – with the potential of say $420,000 to $630,000 at the very bottom of this range with some as wide as $450,000 to $700,000.


Principles of reciprocity in social media

Posted on: November 6th, 2009 | Filed in Agent Tips, Online marketing

Woman pointingI have been writing this Unconditional blog now for exactly 2 years – I remember a sense of excitement, fear and opportunity in those first few weeks – what to write and then of course would anyone read it?

Two years later I am still writing and still enjoying writing the posts I write and the conversations that commence from a blog post. The content of this blog now comprises 303 individual posts with 2,203 comments posted by contributors. The blog is read by an average of around 700 unique visitors per day. I certainly hope the content is interesting and valuable.

At the outset, one of the objectives I wanted to achieve with this blog was the encouragement of others in this industry to try this new social media and hopefully adopt the opportunity this new media of communication brings to in some way open up and create a greater sense of transparency in this industry.

The word I have often used in the presentations I regularly undertake around the country to groups of real estate professionals is “reciprocity” – the sense of opening up and sharing knowledge. In so doing gaining respect for being open and through that building reputation and in the long term valuable business relationships. I am pleased that to some in this industry those words in the presentations have rung true as they have started up their own blogs many of which are hosted on the Voices platform and now number over 100 active blogs.

In describing the value of the time spent blogging (as I see it more as having a conversation) I have used many descriptors, however today I came across a great one whilst reading the latest book by Chris Anderson (the author of “The Long Tail“) – his new book is simply called Free. In it he talks about the new economies which the web has created and especially the economies of attention and reputation which are key motivators of social media. He very simply, yet so effectively describes the value of blogging and the link economy:

Today when you link to someone on your blog, you are effectively granting them some of your own reputation. In a sense, you are saying to your own audience: “Leave me. Go to this other place. I think you’ll like it, and if you do, perhaps you’ll think more of me for having recommended it. And if you think more of me, perhaps you’ll come back to my site more often.


The power of social media – working for real estate

Posted on: May 4th, 2009 | Filed in Agent Tips, Online marketing

blogNearly 2 years ago at a international conference a delegate shared her experience of social media with the audience. She was new to real estate and had been operating in the Reno, Nevada market for just 18 months. Then back in 2006/7 she had had an excellent year with over US$200,000 commission; what was most interesting though was that 80% of her business came  from her blog.

At the time my knowledge of blogs was limited to being a casual reader – however in those few days of the conference I became a convert to the power of blogs and the applicability to the real estate industry. The logic I saw was that blogs were clearly an effective tools in search engine marketing and optimisation, but more importantly real estate was a topic of conversation that would have very broad appeal.

Over the next few months working with the development team we transformed the approach of the site to launch the blogs which over the past 18 months have been powering our website to ever growing heights of awareness and relevance. Compared to that period back in late 2007 the website has grown in traffic by a staggering 47% – from around 250,000 unique browsers per month to the current level of 365,000 as evidenced by the latest monthly traffic report by Nielsen Online.

A growing driver of this traffic has been the Unconditional blog and the Voices blogging platform which has enabled NZ real estate agents to create their own blog and in so doing demonstrate their openness and ability to show their local expertise and subject expertise. From humble beginnings the blogs have now reached a reasonably significant scale as demonstrated from the data below. social media traffic to Apr 09Collective traffic on a monthly basis has now surpassed 20,000 unique browsers and continues to grow with the Voices platform now exceeding the traffic to Unconditional. As a point of note the “blip” in traffic in July last year on Unconditional was due to the referral link from a dutch blog which was amused at the translation of their own blog post regarding what they saw as cheaper cost of buying property in NZ.

Powering this growth in the Voices platform is a passionate and active circle of real estate professionals who have established a loyal audience within their local markets as they demonstrate an openness and capability to be that much needed “go-to” person when it comes to real estate in the local market. Running through the country uncovers some active bloggers from among the family of over 100 bloggers who have started writing blosg over the past 16 months on the Voices platform.

From the South Island we have Margaret Wilson with her perspective on Ashburton, Michael Tierney with his commentary on the beautiful Arrowtown, speaking of beautiful how could I ignore Sunny Nelson brought to you by David Leggott.

Crossing the Strait we find in the northern suburbs of Wellington our blogger of the month David Garratt, up to Levin is to be found the very frank Mason Parker with his “No added fluff” blog. Up the beautiful east coast we find the lifestyle focussed but very successful Gisborne expert in Neil Walker. Crossing into the Waikato the activity heats up with Greig’s Hamilton brought to you by Greig Metcalfe. North of the Bombay’s finds a rich collection of blogs – Ross Brader’s take on his favourite area of Pt Chevalier, Dane’s Doorway from Dane Brown on the North Shore and Ariel Levin’s take on the city and eastern suburbs.

Whilst the majority of real estate bloggers are focused on local markets and communities we do have a couple of sector specialists – Sharon James who focusses on the Business Broking sector and Kathie Shepard with her views on the Commercial motel sector.

This small snapshot provides a sense of the value and local knowledge of local bloggers – have a read of their perspective and share a comment, that is the value of blogs – reciprocity. Thanks for reading!


Twitter – a personal perspective

Posted on: March 23rd, 2009 | Filed in Agent Tips, Cool sites, The lighter side

istock_000000969383xsmallThe decision by NZ Post to cease collections over the weekend is yet another reminder of how our wired (or wireless) world continues to dominate our lives. Whilst the advent of the web has actually delivered benefits to mail delivery services around the world as a function of online ordering, the reality is less of us actually put anything in an envelope and walk down to the local post box.

More and more of us find the immediacy of email, blogs and now the fast emerging experience of Twitter is the most efficient and rewarding experience to keep in touch with friends, colleagues and connectors.

Twitter seems to have come from nowhere in the space of barely 3 months to be the thing almost everyone I know is talking about. I recall that I first heard about it at a conference in the states 18 months ago and at the time I said to myself a combination of:

  • “Tweet” ??”
  • “Why does anyone want to know what I am doing”
  • “I don’t want people following me”

Subsequently I have come to appreciate the merits of Twitter. For me the most compelling statement made about it came from a well respected online commentator who said in one of his frequent podcast episodes “the most frequent comment I hear from advocates of Twitter is that they all at some stage or other have said – I don’t get it!” – I can relate to that, I didn’t get it until 4 months ago when I started to get it and I started to use it!


Here is my take on Twitter:

  • It is a mico blog – and just with blogging it can mean various things to various people
  • It does not really matter who follows you – let them; it is there life and if they are fascinated to read my tweets then great, if they “unsubscribe” to my tweets then fine, my life does not revolve around them
  • I follow people I know and Tweeters who provide valuable insight and information – these are more often than not businesses rather than people who provide a steady stream of insightful comment in the form of content links not unlike an RSS feed, but far more organic
  • I tweet on a combination of subjects – my thoughts on and insight on the real estate market, things that I observe in my everyday life, events and things I discover.

When people follow me and this is brought to my attention I undertake two quick checks – firstly do I know this person? –  if so, I may follow them (they are part of my circle of friends / influence). If they are not someone I know I look to see what they post, if they are mainly posting a combination of answers to questions from others or they post about the minutia of their lives I just don’t follow them . What I am looking for in my twitter stream is interesting news and insight.

Happy tweeting ! – you can follow me at alistairnz – but don’t be offended if I don’t follow you – you will now know why. As to the relevance to real estate  well I recall writing a piece on just this subject back in August last year – have a read “Does Twitter have a place in real estate“.


Panic in the market – must get that mortagee property listed!

Posted on: February 9th, 2009 | Filed in Agent Tips, The lighter side

istock_000005291546xsmallNo, I have not made a fatal spelling mistake in the title of this blog post – it is meant to be spelled “mortagee” rather than the correct spelling of “mortgagee”.

Unless I am very much mistaken there is no such word as mortagee – Google clarifies this for me by directing my interest by observing “did you mean mortgagee?” – however I was fairly staggered to discover that on a weekly basis we are finding that around 30 searches are made each week by people typing in the word mortagee. Over the past 9 months we have had over 1,400 such searches.

Having discovered that we have people (one or many) who are searching for mortagee, image (oops) imagine my surprise when I discovered that we actually have listings on the site for Mortagee Properties! – 4 of them today.

So clearly there must be a new category of mortgagee property, or could it be a factor of a blind panic to get a listing of a mortgagee property on the market and onto our website resulting in a little less checking or spelling checking than might be necessary!


You wanted transparency in real estate?

Posted on: August 20th, 2008 | Filed in Agent Tips

Barely 7 months ago we launched a platform for individual real estate agents to test out their feathers in this new world of blogging. The intention was to create a community of like minded individuals and provide them with a ready-designed platform to get started. Well 7 months down the track the Voices blog platform on is welcoming an average of 4 new bloggers every week – we seem to reaching a tipping point!

With over 50 bloggers now actively contributing their insight and observations of their specific world, their corner of the real estate marketplace that they choose to specialise in, we are seeing a great diversity of topics and skills. What I am delighted about is the openness and authenticity of comments and opinions being articulately shared with the wider world of the web.

However just when you have a sense of the “typical” NZ real estate blogger something comes flying from left field and hits you – that happened today when I read a post by Pearse Kinchella. Now Pearse works for Harcourts in Wanganui – he has 38 listings to manage at this time, so I would have thought that would make him a busy man; however there is a side to Pearse that became clear today when I read his blog post “Dinosaurs..and we KNOW the comet is coming!“.

I may be going out on a limb here but this blog post in my view is, as a commentary from someone within this industry, the most honest, insightful and steely accurate wake-up call to this industry that I have ever read.

  • If you are an agent read it and learn – what Pearse says will happen / is happening
  • If you are a buyer or seller – be encouraged, for whilst the media may portray the industry as a lower class of professional service, here is someone (and I am confident he is not alone) who understands how this industry needs to change – not just externally as governed by laws, but far more importantly as driven internally by attention to service of the customer.

I am excited and motivated by this blog post and as Pearse says in his post – stay tuned for more …. I for one certainly am!


Open Home Signs – visual pollution?

Posted on: June 3rd, 2008 | Filed in Agent Tips, Real Estate Industry

I commend Ross Brader for tackling this subject on his blog today – his question “Real estate signs & direction arrows – Visual pollution or necessity?”

Here is a real estate agent open minded enough to challenge with good facts and information one of the bastions of this industry.

My view as I have commented on his blog is clear, they provide no value and merely clutter up neighbourhoods. That’s just my view though!


How to choose a real estate agent?

Posted on: May 24th, 2008 | Filed in Agent Tips, Website searching

Who do you turn to when you need a plumber? or whose advice would you seek when looking for a lawyer? Naturally you would in the main ask the advice of a friend or colleague at work.

How to choose a real estate agentWhen it comes to real estate agents though, it may (or may not) surprise you that the vast majority of us do not ask friends or colleagues. For in the main we select an agent using our eyes and our ears – we see who has the most sign boards and who sounds good at an open homes we visit, or at least we used to; because with the ascendancy of the web we can better assess the most appropriate real estate agent by using web search.

Type in any real estate agent’s name into Google and the likelihood is you will find out about that individual – as you will for most of the population of the western world!

With a real estate agent you will find content related to what they sell and possibly even a profile hosted on their office website or maybe even their own. This profile is their selling message to you. As prospective clients – they will speak of their experience, their current clients, maybe some referrals from past clients, very much what you would expect; however is some ways not quite enough information.

The reality is the selection process and appointment of a real estate agent should be looked at rather in the same way as an interview for a job. You are selecting an individual. That individual needs to demonstrate to you their experience and competencies that make them the best real estate agent to sell your property. The company they work for can provide a degree of confidence but at the end of the day it is that individual you will trust to get you the best price within the timescale you expect.

So in perusing the results of the Google search the single feature that I judge will provide you with the most valuable information to assess a real estate agent now and in the future – a blog.

Whilst listings are interesting; nothing can beat the authenticity of a blog. At this time in NZ there are probably less than 100 real estate agents’ personal blogs, by comparison to other countries, we are ahead of Australia, but way behind the US. Conservatively there are upwards of 100,000 realtor blogs in the US – on a base of 1.5 million realtors that would mean that on a pro-rata basis we could have over 1,000 blogs here in NZ within a year. That would provide a good coverage of most of the country.

Blogs expose the true skills and capabilities of a real estate agent. If you are looking to buy or sell in an area, you want to find the person most in touch with the local market, someone who knows the market, what is going on, what the trends are in property and what the local news of the community. They are the type of people who want to engage in an open dialogue with readers. Such people are open to questions and will openly share knowledge and advice, they are far more likely to have an an open and engaging manner.

Voices - NZ real estate agent blogsIn an effort to encourage a greater adoption by this industry of blogs we have launched a free service for all real estate agents of this site to set up their own blog. Called Voices this blog platform is hosted by so we can provide you under one roof a selection of real estate bloggers from around the country. To provide you a sense of the diversity of content and interest of these real estate bloggers we have posted various recent posts from these blogs on the home page of the website to share the thoughts and skills of these individuals.

Naturally whilst we offer advice and some degree of coaching for these real estate bloggers, it is up to them to create a dialogue with you and demonstrate value. Since we launched this service in January we have had over 30 blogs start – a small but passionate group who believe that your choice of real estate professional in the future will be judged more by the quality and professionalism of an the online dialogue than some arbitrary 5 star rating on a “rate an agent website” or by judging who has the most for-sale signs in the neighbourhood. So hopefully in time you can appoint your professional agent confident in the knowledge that their reputation will be further enhanced through acting for you.


First National offers home presentation audit

Posted on: May 23rd, 2008 | Filed in Agent Tips, Buying / Selling a home

First National home presentation offerWith close to 90,000 properties for sale at this time and sales languishing at an expected level of 75,000 for the year both real estate agents and sellers clearly need to look to innovative ideas to get the market moving.

First National have launched what they see as an offer of sound advice to help sellers optimise the presentation of their property – a free assessment to evaluate how best the property could be presented to attract buyers. Probably focusing on the elements, some of which were shared in the blog posts “Thinking of putting your house on the market – don’t be afraid of being a tall poppy!” and “The 3 P’s for selling your property” of a few weeks ago.

Their free home inspection and evaluation is they say, based on research last year showing that 82% of vendors did not receive any kind of presentation help from their real estate agent. As a sweetener First National are offering 25 Fly Buys points just for taking this free offer, and crossing your threshold, just for the months of May and June!

The market is soft and real estate agents need sales to maintain their income, this offer certainly offers them the opportunity to generate new leads, although the last thing that most agents want today is new listings; there is a well known truism that a seller is more than likely to be a buyer so this can fulfil that requirement to find buyers pretty effectively. For the seller the chance to be able to make that house really stand out has to be worth the effort, but at the end of the day the question will still come down to price and if the seller is prepared to meet the market.

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