The Unconditional Blog

The impartial voice of the industry

 

Archive for the ‘Featured’ Category

1

The great tour is done!

Posted on: December 16th, 2010 | Filed in Featured, social media, The lighter side, Website news

Queenstown stopover airport 3

Tuesday the 14th December 2010 may not go down as a historic day is the same manner as the First Moon Landing or the invention of the Guttenberg Press, but in its own way it was a significant day.

It was the day of the Great New Zealand Property Tour – a fun and unique event to showcase the capabilities of the new iPhone app from Realestate.co.nz.

Air New Zealand Bookings - Multistop Search for FlightsWe wanted a means by which we could show off the extensive coverage of the app around NZ. So rather than invest in world leading advertising campaign featuring international TV stars to showcase the extremes of NZ coverage; we in typical kiwi style grabbed a couple of flights to set off around the country and try and get to 6 locations across the North and South Island in a day – only using scheduled flights.

14 hours after we set off from Auckland we returned home having taken 6 flights and seen 5 locations around the country and more importantly demonstrated the app at each location.

Due to the vagaries of the weather we had to unfortunately skip the stop-over in Blenheim. We did however touchdown at Napier, Wellington, Christchurch, Queenstown and Auckland.

Elvis- smallThrough the day we encountered some really great people – Elvis (aka Brian Childs) in Wellington, Louise McLeavy in the Garden City and Mark Martin in Queenstown – all great real estate agents and all passionate about the new app for their clients. It is great to see the way the real estate profession is adopting new technology and demonstrating to their clients the power of open accessible data.

We actively used social media during the day – employing both Twitter and Facebook to engage the growing audience with the fun and appreciation of the app. We created a unique Twitter page which captured 171 followers during the day, this was supported by tweets from key people in our team with their own tweets and also the Realestate.co.nz twitter page. On Facebook we created a special section on the Realestate.co.nz Facebook page to profile the tour and gained over 200 new fans on the day – come and join us and follow us on both now! We also added all the videos we produced on the day tracking our path round the country.

Prizes were flowing thick and fast with vouchers, a Foosball table and 2 iPhones – thanks to the great team at Westpac. These prizes were given away to fast fingered tweeters who decrypted the clues sent out when we landed at each location.Queenstown villas small

We had a chance at each location to launch the app and examine the market and in some cases we chatted to the agents to get them to give us a perspective on the property market. Our time at most locations did not allow us to check out any property with the exception of Queenstown where Mark Martin showed us this amazing Alpine villa property perched magnificently high atop Queenstown Hill. The property was easily found via the app with some awesome photos. We did our own checks on the home, storing images and making notes on bedrooms, bathrooms and gardens.

Credits:

Starring in order of appearance

Brian Childs (aka Elvis) – Professionals Hutt City

Aaron Davis – apologies from 16,000 ft over Blenheim

Louise McLeavey – Harcourts

Mark Martin – Harcourts Queenstown

Original concept – Bullet PR

Screenplay – Nicholas O’Flaherty

Script – done on the fly productions

App design and build: Cactus Lab – Karl, Matt and the team

Prizes :

Mitre 10

Endemicworld.com

Urbis Magazine

Hire a Hubby

Westpac Bank – Adrian McCaffrey : Marketing Manager – Housing

Production:

Video camera operator – Tammy Smith

Video equipment – Flip camera : Barnacle Barnes

All technology used in this production of this blog post and the whole of the NZ Property Tour was courtesy of Apple Computers

Make up – not enough time to apply any!

Facebook pages – Skinny marketing – Andrew & Anthony

Video upload – Skinny Marketing

Catering services – Air New Zealand Koru lounges

Tweeter – @nzpropertytour : Robyn Ellson

Tweeter – @realestateconz : Kerry Kissane

Tweeter – @bulletpr : Alex Erasmus

Tweeter – @alistairnz : Alistair Helm

Ground Transportation – Christchurch : Jackie (Christchurch Blue Star Taxis)

Flight planning co-ordination : Air New Zealand excellent online booking

Flight rescheduling : Adrian – Air New Zealand Koru lounge concierge

All flights – Air New Zealand

Special thanks to Westpac bank for being a great partner in developing and promoting the app

4

Great NZ Property Tour

Posted on: December 13th, 2010 | Filed in Featured, social media

iStock_NZ beach with caravan 000008468379XSmallThe launch of the new iPhone app late last month left us with an interesting dilemma – how to promote the app to an audience who were clearly “in-touch” with technology as users of the latest smart phone technology.

We wanted to leverage our knowledge and experience of social media and at the same time not cross over theBus shelter adverts Nov 2010 (1 page) excellent marketing campaign currently underway by Westpac covering TV and the new outdoor poster campaigns on Bus Shelters.

We wanted to do something to promote the app – something a bit different and something which could have an element of participation, most of all something that could show off the app to our diverse customer base of home buyers and agents around the country.

The off-the-wall idea we came up with is The Great NZ Property Tour, as reflective of the great tours of Europe and Asia, we decided we would challenge ourselves to get to as many places in NZ in one day using scheduled Air New Zealand flights.

Starting from our home base of Auckland we will undertake a frenetic schedule that will see us traverse both islands and take in 6 locations before arriving back in Auckland the same day. Air New Zealand did undertake a roadshow by plane last year involving Opshop playing gigs at 10 locations around the country in a day – they did though have the advantage of a chartered plane – we are sticking to scheduled flights on a variety of planes.

During the somewhat short stopovers at each location we will be meeting local agents, checking out the available properties on the market via the iPhone app and then hopefully seeing a few properties on the market.

To add interest to the tour which is happening on Tuesday 14th December we will broadcast live via social media platforms of Twitter and Facebook. We will be posting updates as well as images and videos – capturing scenes and a hopefully a few off beat events.

We have secured some great prizes which will be given away on the day. All you need to do is follow us on Twitter or Facebook on the day when we will be sharing clues and announcing prizes.

twitter-logo-1facebook_logo

The routing is not disclosed at this time, but I can tell you it covers some of the most beautiful parts of NZ and hopefully with a good weather forecast we can capture some great scenes and some great properties.

So join us and have some fun!

3

Realestate iPhone app proves popular!

Posted on: December 7th, 2010 | Filed in Featured, mobile, Online marketing, Technology

blue bar chart growing - croppedThe first week with the app has been a blast! – we are delighted and so it seems are our audience, which feels great.

Since we launched 10 days ago we have had just over 7,000 downloads.

The usage so far is spectacular. Over the weekend we found that the level of traffic really picked up as expected (and as shared with us by US real estate sites with apps) as people used it to plan, navigate and collate their open home tours!

On Saturday we had the equivalent of 1 in 10 of our website visitors to listings on realestate.co.nz accessing property information via the app. During that period they viewed over 10,000 unique properties – that shows just how compelling the app is with people on the go, who want to be in touch with the property market.

Not only is the usage great, the feedback is awesome – thanks!

iTunes-1The iTunes store provides a platform for rating the app and we are again delighted to have had 20 written reviews and 25 ratings with an aggregate score of 4 out of 5 – plenty of people rate it 5 stars, there are some 4 stars and some 1 stars (its an open rating system!). The review section though does not allow the opportunity to comment back to posters, so here is some answers to questions asked.

FatCat Matt commented “Good app for the crazy ones buying houses like us. But needs to list the auctions date also!”

This is a good point and currently the app only highlights that the property is being sold by auction, tender or by negotiation. We will take this on board for future updates to the app.

ReaderG commented “Looks great but why not iPad too? Look forward to the upgrade”.

A good question and one that has been asked a few times. Firstly the app works well on the iPad – in the 2x mode you get great images (example below) and maps – the images are in the main configured for the iPhone 4 retina display so the quality on the iPad is pretty good.

iPad image example

Secondly we are waiting and reviewing the role of the iPad in real estate search process and are keen to get feedback. The principle of the iPhone app is to have a device which people can use “on the go” – whilst out and about at open homes and at the weekend. The integration of photos captured at properties as part of notes on the property is core to the principle of the app and this cannot be handled on the iPad – at the moment.

What I think this comment shows us is how valuable a search on a map is to the real estate search within the website of realestate.co.nz. We are currently working on this update for the new year on the website.

I can say that an iPad app is part of our plans for the near future as would be an Android app and Windows 7 mobile app.

……………………….

Mazone66 commented “Sadly doesn’t show over 50% of current listings. Disappointing”

The app is currently showing 45,296 listings of properties and building sections for sale as per the screen shot below (great feature this to be able to zoom right out to the whole of NZ).

iPhone addresses 6 Dec 2010On the site currently we have 49,314 homes for sale, 16,743 building sections for sale as well as 11,382 lifestyle properties. That means that the app has 58% of all the current licensed real estate listings we have on the website (we have a subscriber base of over 95% of all licensed real estate offices in NZ).

So Mazone66 is partly right in that we do not show all listings, but we do have more than 50%. There are 2 reasons for this lack of completeness. Firstly whilst we have close to 100% of all listing sent to us by real estate agents with an address, still a lot of agents request us not to publish the address, secondly address matching to map positioning is not an exact science (for more detailed explanation on these two issue please read my comment to a question on the earlier blog post on the launch of the iPhone app). Rest assured we are working really hard to improve the ratio of listings that are shown on the app – we want to provide the most comprehensive experience.

……………………….

Zoomzoom.mike commented “The only app that has ever asked me to go into general settings to enable location; the rest ask the questions within the app“.

We have double checked with our development team at Cactus Lab and they tell us that the code for the app for the iTunes App store does not have an option to ask for location or not to ask. The experience that has been noted here is not a function of how the app is built but may be a part of the set up of the phone on an individual basis. I am sorry Mike that this was the experience, the iTunes app store and the iPhone platform has many compliance requirements and we have to build to that, we want a seamless experience and we are sorry that you had this experience.

ZoomZoom mike also commented”Needs to have more specific search / filtering to make it truly personalized and useful. For example I only wanted to see 3 bedroom, 2 bathrooms, less than $400k

The “refine” button allows for filtering of bedrooms, price and type of property. It does not provide filtering on bathrooms. We did in reviewing the spec for the app judge that removing the bathroom filter would not be a great loss in the interest of use of space. Clearly we may need to review this.

iPhone refine options Dec 2010

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appUser John commented “This is a great idea, done really well, except for the out of date realestate.co.nz database.

3 out of 4 houses I found with this app were actually no longer on the market. There are other houses around that don’t show up on the app. Also, it crashed 3 times in the 1day I was playing with it

The issue in regard to the houses that are for sale not showing up on the app was answered earlier. In regard to property found on the app no longer being on the market. This is of concern to us. Our database of properties for sale (as well as rental, commercial properties, businesses and farms) is an integrated database with all of the customers of the website (real estate companies and agents).

We have over 1,000 real estate companies and offices sending us data everyday – sometime multiple times per day. In this way our database becomes a mirror of the database of the real estate offices and is very much live and dynamic with listings constantly being added and removed. These companies and offices want to ensure that they only advertise on our website or theirs properties that are truly on the market.

As to the experience of the app crashing, this is very frustrating. Naturally we have extensively tested the app however unlike a PC environment the mobile OS environment is susceptible to the connections with carriers and the nature of the computing platform. We are really keen to be able to investigate such crashes. To help us if you wouldn’t mind if you could go to this website and follow this instruction to log crashes – it does this through a sync feature with iTunes so you don’t need worry about remembering where you were on the app when it crashed!!

13

Are we seeing some signs of improvement in the property market?

Posted on: December 3rd, 2010 | Filed in Buying / Selling a home, Featured, Media commmentary, Website searching

iStock crystal ballRunning the website of realestate.co.nz gives us some valuable insight into the property market – providing us with some hard facts, some interesting statistics and some anecdotal feedback from within the industry.

One thing I am keen not to develop is a reputation as a forecaster of the property market. Firstly; one thing about forecasting is that it is likely that you will be wrong more times than you are right. People then tend to remember the time you got it wrong far more than the time you got it right – I did once make this somewhat optimistic call back in 2008 “NZ property market may well see a brighter outlook sooner” – at least I used the word “may”!

Even economists are skeptical about forecasting the property market, and they make a living from forecasting!

However I am conscious that there has been a series of recent articles that show some general improvement in sentiment. The level of mortgage approvals brought some brighter comments from Interest.co.nz as did some greater competition among the banks with competitive activity around 2 year fixed rates. In addition First National Real Estate were quick to pinpoint some upturn as did Harcourts recently. Barfoot & Thompson have also just released their sales details for the Auckland market showing a considerable pick up from October.

The data I tend keep a close watch on, are unique stats from the web – a rich vein of real time information tracking real people looking at property. The two metrics which for me reflect the level of activity are (i) number of visitors online viewing real estate and (ii) the level of email enquiry to agents, the latter being closer to a lead indicator of future activity.

Usage levels on real estate websites

The chart below tracks the indexed web traffic to a basket of real estate websites monitored by Nielsen. The data is domestic traffic only and covers all of the top 10 real estate sites online. The blue line shows the performance of 2010 measured on a 4 week moving average, with the prior years of 2008 in black and 2009 in red.

Traffic_online_to_Nov_2010

The use of an index in the chart, rather than actual traffic, effectively removes the factor of the ever growing usage of the web – more people using the web, more of the time.

The conclusion I draw from this chart is that, as we have been aware, the past 12 months has been subdued. In many ways, very much like the depressed market of 2008 at the time of the Global Financial Crisis. By contrast the activity in the market during 2009 is very evident from the chart, showing heightened activity as buyer initially pounced on distress sales as prices fell, and then with limited stock, we saw some scarcity demand factors. This heightened activity did begin to seriously tail off towards the end of the year.

What we are seeing now though, is some relative sustained activity in searches during November, whereas this time last year the activity was really tailing off. The next few weeks through Christmas will naturally see a slowing down of viewing, but come that first and second week of January the level of activity online skyrockets!

Serious enquiry to agents

On a daily basis we are sending hundreds of emails to agents from interested prospective purchasers of property – these are warm leads and the tracking of this activity provides an insight into the market. As with the stats on website visitors, this chart below which shows weekly email activity is indexed to provide a more accurate view year-on-year as traffic and usage of the site keeps growing.

Realestate.co.nz_email_enquiry_to_Nov_2010

The blue line for 2010 clearly reflects the extent of the lackluster property market this year, with much lower levels of email enquiries. Whilst showing a tailing off in the past few weeks (which is only to be expected from a seasonal perspective), the tracking of 2010 does show a certain degree of relative strength, especially through that key period of late October through to mid November. The traditional lead time from email enquiry to property transaction would based on these strong periods, give sufficient time to complete transactions pre-Christmas. This might bode well for the sale figures for  November and December, this then ties back into the recent rise in mortgage approvals.

Classically we will have to wait to see if what we are seeing is a true trend or just a short term blip. What is certain is that we are seeing some key indicators begin to point to a brighter outlook. I am certainly not going to call it a resurgent market quite yet!

2

NZ Property Report – November 2010

Posted on: December 1st, 2010 | Filed in Featured, NZ Property Report

blue pen and small houseThe November 2010 NZ Property Report published by Realestate.co.nz provides an insight into the state of the New Zealand property market as measured by the supply side of the property market over the month of November. The key measures of the market analysed in the report are the number of new listings, the asking price expectation for those new listings and the level of inventory of unsold houses on the market at this time. The report is compiled from data captured by the website and represents close to 95% of all property movements in the NZ market as managed by licensed real estate agents.

The November 2010 report shows a late but by no means insignificant rise in activity in the market. The volume of new listings grew indicating a sense of confidence on the part of sellers. This was matched with a slight drop in asking price expectation. The constant factor in the market is the scale of the inventory of unsold houses which in absolute number continues to creep up, but when judged against the rate of sale of property, which is lackluster, the inventory in number of weeks of sales now reaches significant levels.

Realestate_DownloadNowA full print version of the NZ Property Report – November 2010 is published below and is available for download (1.3MB) and distribution.

Summary of the market – November 2010

Cover_image_of_NZ_Property_Report_Nov_2010The comment from the October NZ Property Report was that “spring had past the property market by!” clearly the November market activity shows that “the best was saved ‘til last!” The month saw a significant (and unseasonal lift) in new listings, in some ways making up for the somewhat quieter first 3 months of spring.

The monthly sales though have as yet failed to show any appreciable lift with October reported at 4,323 3,903, the lowest recorded total for October since record show back to 1992. This low rate of sale (currently averaging 4,340 4,171 per month) is driving the inventory levels to highs not seen for over 2½ years with the equivalent of over a full year’s worth of sales on the market. In some regions that total now exceeds 2 years (Central Otago & Wairarapa) and even over 3 years (Coromandel & Northland). The November sales data is yet to be released but there does appear to be some significant pockets of activity which are driving sectors of the property market especially at the high end of price bands.

These latest statistics in this report, which have been consistent for a number of months now, in regard to trends, all continue to point to a confident market, albeit a sluggish one. Asking price expectation whilst showing some weakness this month, does not appear to be under excessive pressure, however price would seem to be the only factor able to bust the log jam of unsold inventory of houses on the market.

Asking Price

Asking price new listings chart Nov 2010The truncated mean asking price for all new listings in November fell from the peak of $420,451 in October to $417,660. On a seasonally adjusted basis the fall was less than 1% indicating that the confidence in sellers demonstrated by the volume of new listings is also reflected in asking price.

The current asking price continues to drift down below the peak of Oct 2007, currently off 2.7%.

New Listings

New listings chart Nov 2010A strong rise in new listings coming onto the market in November was higher than seasonally expected at 12,932 it was 7.3% up on a seasonally adjusted basis. Having seen slower levels of listings in the early spring season there was a sense of a “catch-up”.

On a moving annual basis the past 12 months have seen 140,214 new listings compared to 134,438 in the prior year an increase of 4.3%.

Inventory

Inventory of unsold houses Nov 2010The level of unsold houses on the market at the end of November rose again to 54,365 from 52,043 in October. This represented the equivalent of 53.2 weeks of equivalent sales, as assessed on a seasonally adjusted basis.

The key driver of this rising inventory is more a reflection of somewhat lackluster sales than excessive new listings. The absolute level though at over a year of equivalent sales will continue to impact the market and maintain the “buyers-market” perspective.

Regional Summary – Asking price expectations

Asking price regional map Nov 2010Whilst the national asking price expectation remained steady with just a small fall from prior month and a small increase over the recent 3 month average, the regional analysis shows some significant variances.

Amongst the 19 regions almost half showed a rise whilst the remained showed a fall. The three east coast regions of Gisborne, Hawkes Bay and Wairarapa all saw significant increases of more than 5%. The single largest fall in asking price expectation was seen in the Coromandel region which when combined with the rise in new listings may well reflect some significant re-pricing of existing listings which may be required to clear the inventory which now amounts to 262 weeks of equivalent sales.

All three of the major metro regions showed steady increase in asking price expectation.Regional

Regional Summary – Listings

New listings regional map Nov 2010The property market as judged from the perspective of the number of new listings coming onto the market from around the country, shows all the indications of a seller’s market as new listing numbers were well down on the prior year. The regional map shows a predominant blue colour for 11 of the 19 regions.

Some regions in particular are showing wild variations in new listings. The Central North Island for example had 208 new listings in October up 42% on prior year, whereas in November just 135 new listings came onto the market down 50% on prior year. Equally the Waikato went from listings in October down 25% to this month 890 new listings, up 6%.

The Coromandel region already challenged by a very high level of inventory saw a total of 349 new listings in the month up 35% of the prior year.

Regional Summary – Inventory

Inventory of unsold houses regional map Nov 2010Whereas the trend in new listings across the country would indicate a move to a seller’s market, the extent of the level of inventory of unsold houses continues to point very clearly to a buyer’s market.

Again as seen in October just two regions display a degree of balance in relation to inventory and rate of sale, these being the West Coast and Gisborne, both small regions.

Within the 19 regions four recorded record high levels of inventory – Hawkes Bay / Northland / Taranaki & Waikato. Overall the provincial market continues to fair worse than the main metro markets. The total equivalent inventory for the 16 non-metro areas reached a high of 72.6 weeks in November. This compares to just 38.8 weeks for the total of the 3 main metro areas.

The Canterbury region has seen a steady built of inventory since the September earthquake, currently at 45.7 weeks, though still less than the peak of inventory in June 2008 at 49.9 weeks for that region.

Lifestyle

Lifestyle new listings chart Nov 2010Lifestyle property listings shot up in November recording an 8.4% seasonally adjusted increase, the current moving annual total is 6.2% ahead of last year with 12,273 new lifestyle listings over the 12 months. Strong growth was seen in the Bay of Plenty region up 49% and Wellington and Central Otago both more than double the new listings of a year ago. Canterbury region was also particularly strong with 139 new listings up 14% on November last year.

The truncated mean asking price remains strong at $558,371 which is up 0.4% against the recent 3 month moving average.

Apartments

Apartment new listings chart Nov 2010New listings of apartments did show a rise in November after what had been a steady decline in new listings since Feb. At 594 new listing it was still down 7.6% compared to November last year, but up a strong 13.5% on a seasonally adjusted basis from October indicating the true strength of the rise. Auckland as ever dominates the apartment market with 60% of all new listings. On a seasonally adjusted basis Auckland new listings were up 10%. The Canterbury market also fared well with 44 new listings, up 29% on a seasonally adjusted basis.

The truncated mean asking price for apartments was up 2.9% as against the recent 3 month average at $369,303. In the Auckland market the asking price for apartments is currently $307,101 down 3.5%.

Property Price Index

Comparing the sale price of properties across the country to the asking price expectation is not a perfect comparison, however the trends tend to align. The benefit is that the data for asking price is of the market today, whilst the selling price is reflective of the market active between 4 and 6 weeks ago. The latest comparison is highlighted below:

Index_comparison_sale_prices_to_asking_prices_Nov_2010

Realestate.co.nz data is compiled from asking prices of new residential listings as they come onto the market via subscribers to the realestate.co.nz website. The Realestate.co.nz website currently has over 94% of all licensed real estate offices subscribing and providing all of their listings onto the website. The asking price is presented as a truncated mean price at a 10% interval.

REINZ: data is compiled from reported unconditional residential sales from all members of the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand representing all licensed real estate offices. The sale price is published as a stratified median house price and is developed in association with the Reserve Bank of NZ.

Notes:

Truncated mean

The monthly asking price for new listings presented in this report utilises the measure of ‘truncated mean’. This measure is judged to be a more accurate measure of the market price than average price as it statistically removes the extremes that exist within any property market that can so easily introduce a skew to traditional average price figures.

The truncated mean used in this report removes the upper 10% and the lower 10% of listings in each data set. An average or mean of the balance of listings is then calculated.

Methodology

With the largest database of properties for sale in NZ, realestate.co.nz is uniquely placed to immediately identify any changes in the marketplace. The realestate.co.nz NZ Property Report is compiled from new listings coming onto the market from the more than 1,050 licensed real estate offices across NZ, representing more than 95% of all offices.

With an average monthly level of over 10,000 new listings, the realestate.co.nz NZ Property Report provides the largest monthly sample report on the residential property market, as well as a more timely view of the property market than any other property report. The data is collated and analysed at the close of each month, and the Report is compiled for the 1st day of the following month. This provides a feedback mechanism as to the immediate state of the market, well in advance of sales statistics which by the very nature of the selling process can reflect activity with a lag of between 2 and 4 months.

In analysing the details of the 12,932 new listings in the month of October a total of 184 listings have been excluded due to anomalies. The categorisation of Lifestyle property is defined by the land area of the property. The criterion is a property having in excess of 0.3 hectares and being situated outside metropolitan areas.

Background to Realestate.co.nz

Realestate.co.nz is the official website company of the real estate industry of New Zealand, it is an industry owned web business providing online marketing services to the real estate industry. The shareholders in the business comprise the REINZ (50%) and six of the largest real estate companies (50%).

The business operates a portfolio of websites all focused to specialist sectors of the real estate market:

Realestate.co.nz is the heart of the business and is focused to the residential property market. It features the most comprehensive selection of property for sale and rent across NZ. The website attracts a significant monthly audience of over 400,000 unique browsers, with over 110,000 of those visiting from countries outside of NZ.

nzFarms is a specialist website presenting the most comprehensive selection of farms and agricultural businesses on the market across NZ. At this time it features around 5,000 listings for all types of farms and agricultural land as well as over 11,000 lifestyle properties.

Prime Commercial is a specialist website presenting the most comprehensive selection of commercial property for purchase or lease on the market across NZ. At this time it features over 27,000 listings for all types of properties – retail, commercial, industrial and investment properties.

Prime Business is a specialist website presenting the most comprehensive selection of businesses for sale on the market across NZ. At this time it features over 4,300 listings for all types of businesses – retail, tourism, wholesale as well as franchise opportunities.

Zoodle is a specialist property information website providing very detailed data on all residential properties in NZ. The database comprises over 1.5m properties with detailed specifications, map and local amenities. The site provides online reports for free and for purchase covering valuation and legal information to greatly assist the needs of property buyers and sellers.

The web business of Realestate.co.nz site is the most comprehensive real estate web operation in NZ, currently hosting over 122,000 listings, covering this portfolio of residential property for sale and rent, commercial property for sale and lease, rural properties and farms, as well as businesses for sale. With a subscriber base of over 1,050 offices, the company represents over 95% of all listings from licensed real estate agents in NZ.

The full NZ Property Report for November 2010 can be downloaded here (1.3MB pdf document). Additionally the raw data is accessible here as an Excel spreadsheet enabling anyone to analyse the raw data and establish any trends or observations.

Usage rights are governed under attribution to the source of the data being Realestate.co.nz. The next NZ Property Report for December 2010 will be published on this website on Saturday 1st January 2011 at 10am.

12

Realestate comes to the iPhone

Posted on: November 26th, 2010 | Filed in Featured, Technology, Website news

Apple - iPhone 4 - Video calls, multitasking, HD video, and moreIf you are one of the 200,000 odd people in NZ (or in fact one of the 74 million around the world) that own an iPhone then you can now discover NZ real estate on your smart phone.

Realestate.coIphone home page - cropped.nz has been since its launch 4 years ago a leader in online real estate marketing; through social media, rich property and community information as well as innovation through the adoption of Google maps. That is why we are pleased to bring NZ real estate to the iPhone. This is the first dedicated iPhone app for the whole NZ property market. It is also the most comprehensive app for discovering property for sale.

We built the app after extensive research from around the world. We wanted to build an app that was not just a website on a mobile platform – that is not what buyers want.

We reviewed the top apps from the US (Zillow, Trulia and Redfin) and from the UK (Rightmove), we also looked at specific real estate company apps (Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate). We wanted to bring the best experience we could to make sure we offered a great experience – something that people would love to use and love to share.

In some ways the app needs no description – it is designed without a user manual. It is intuitive. However here’s 10 great reasons why this app is a must for any house hunter or real estate enthusiast:

  1. It is a discovery device Download the app and first off it shows you a property that is for sale near you! Hit the “near you” button and you are instantly shown what is for sale within a 1km radius (actually depends where in the country you are – in a remote location means it will search a wider radius).iphone near me
  2. Open Homes We have highlighted open homes with a flag to allow you easily see what you could pop around to view today or this weekend. Great when you have a quiet afternoon.
  3. Refine your search From the map you can refine your search – fancy property over $500k but less than $700k with 3 bedrooms, no problem. Fancy spreading the net wider than just your current location – zoom out on map to see a broader range. Keep zooming out a far as you like to see the whole country if you like!
  4. Zooming! You will notice that as you zoom out we have clustered the pins into blue dot which are numbered – this is the aggregate of listings in this area.iphone clustering
  5. Check out all the photos Found that interesting property along the road? Just tap to see the full listing details and all the photos. Flick the iPhone round to see them in landscape mode. Like the property but want to know more? – just call the agent or send an email – all from the iPhone.
  6. Virtual open home notebook When reviewing any property (especially open homes) you can make notes on all aspects of the property. Hit the inspection button and you can rate, make notes and add photos (or video) for any section of the property – the living area, the kitchen, bedrooms, outside etc. Also check out the Tips for things to look for and checkout when inspecting a property. All these notes then become part of the stored “My Property” section of the app housing you favourites. At this stage we have not, given this is version 1 synchronsied these with your “My Property” section on the website, that will come later.iPhone taking notes at open home
  7. Search by location Find out about property for sale anywhere in NZ. Given the comprehensive content of Realesate.co.nz why not go check to see what is for sale in your dream location. Use the “Search” function on the home page and either select by region, district and suburb or else type in the name of the town or street in the search box at the top – whichever way you choose you instantly see what’s for sale there.
  8. What you see is what you get Seem simple but this app only shows properties on the map where we have an address supplied by the agent. If you want to check to see if there are other properties for sale then hit the “list view” button on the map result page to see all the properties for sale in the area.
  9. Favourites Your favourites you have saved as well as open homes and also the most recently viewed properties are all stored in the “My Property” section – we want you to easily find that great property you were just checking out.
  10. The Mortgage So you have found that perfect home – but can you afford it? We have partnered with our good friends at Westpac to bring you an affordability calculator for each property. Check it out to see what the fortnightly or monthly repayments might be for different terms and different deposits. Then check out the local Westpac branch near you – right on the app for the contact details of a mobile mortgage manager to assist you. Oh and by the way the maps also feature locations for all of the Westpac ATM’s so there is no excuse for being short of some cash!iPhone westpac

So as you can see we are excited by this new app, so please let us know what you think, go to iTunes and download the app or visit our download page for the iPhone and leave feedback or on iTunes.

We are conscious that this is version 1.0 – we will continue to develop and improve the app, so tell us what you would like to see and how we can improve it. We can learn best when we listen.

2

Insight into online real estate marketing

Posted on: November 24th, 2010 | Filed in Featured, Online marketing, social media

marketing words croppedI was recently asked to do an online interview (they asked questions and I wrote a response!) for Property AdGuru on the subject of online real estate marketing. Whilst the focus of my response was addressed to the customers of realestate.co.nz – real estate agents and companies, I was conscious that the responses might well resonate with buyers, sellers and those who have a general interest in real estate.

Here are the full written responses.

What are the top three things you think agents need to include in their listing to get it noticed?

1. Photos

Magnificent Mission Bay - Realestate.co.nzSeems so simple, but in NZ as in so many countries the art of taking / commissioning photos of a property seems to be forgotten at best and completely ignored at worst. I still to my horror, see listings with no photos or photos of the bathroom or the couch as the first photo. So little time taken to make such a major impact. It really frustrates me to see the abdication of responsibility. I often see better and more insightful photos taken for a $20 item on e-bay than I see for a $300,000 property.

Having said all of that we do see the average number of photos per listing growing all the time, back in 2006 it was less than 4, by 2008 it was just under 10 and today it is over 16. Many are taking advantage of our policy of no restrictions and we have many listings with in excess of 80 photos for a single listing.

Not only that, the property and thereby the agent’s client is being poorly represented, but the agent is doing themselves such a disservice – a smart vendor checking out the capabilities of prospective agents will make fast work out of eliminating agents that fail at this very first huddle. The sad truth is these agents get away with it because they will spend proportionally more time composing, reviewing and proofing a single half page advert in the newspaper – an advert potentially seen by a fraction of the audience of the online advert.

2. Address

It’s a property they are trying to sell! – so why not share the most basic of information!

Only 60% of all listings on realestate.co.nz show the address on the website – often this omission by 4 out of 10 listings is not because the respective agents don’t want to display it, but rather as we found out the other day there are still offices and companies that have a policy that the default for upload of listing data is to not display the address (even though in the data file we have the address).

The history of this tactic has been shared with me, as I am sure all in this industry will know, in that no address is thought to encourage the prospective buyer to contact the agent to find out the details. Well the world has moved on, and the consumers of today have a higher threshold expectation of transparency and so feel that the address should be there. Just as in the case of the photos, a prospective buyer not seeing an address will undertake to identify the address using whatever online tools they can – mostly Google maps and StreetView; if they through this super sleuthing find the address – the question will be – how will that reflect on their estimation of the agent?? – not that good!

3. Community information

Agents are flush with a wealth of information and knowledge. They are by the very nature of this industry, local experts. Their niche is the very small geographical boundaries that define their business area. They know so much about the houses, the schools, the transportation, the shops, the cafes (they are certainly experts there!) and the local amenities. This information is so vital for prospective buyers. It is valued and respected if the agents can get it across in a compelling and transparent manner.

The best advice is for agents to include snippets of this info in listings as sound bites and morsels that attract buyers to check out richer information curated on a personal blog. With websites allowing embedded html in listing details for blog links, this opportunity is a gold mine for agents that is seldom utilised.

What is the biggest mistake agents tend to make when listing a property?

Simply put; ignoring these key three points above!

- its a bathroomTo be more specific the critical importance of the first photo for a listing cannot be underestimated. It is the hero shot and has to work hard to really sell the appeal of the listing. As with poor quality photos, insufficient photos or no photos, choosing the wrong photo for the 1st place can be, and is often the case is the criminal mistake agents all too often make.

I have seen some horrible examples – photos of toilets, kitchens, untidy bedroom, couches – you name it we have seen it. Even the use of an image of the landscape view from the property can be poor choice. The mindset of the searching buyers is typified in having a brain hardwired to be evaluating property design types and looks. To throw in a view from a property is confusing.

Some agents tell me that this disruption to the regular type of photo is very successful in getting people to be inquisitive and get them to check out more photos. I cannot deny the logic of their argument, but as a marketeer I disagree as intrusive, out-of-context images tend to allow the viewer to eliminate; as that is the core task of a search / refine process – people need to eliminate to refine down to a meaningful number of properties to evaluate in detail.

image coming soonAnother appalling error (which I am glad to see declining in incidence) is the tactic of posting a new listing with a heading “Just listed – too new to photograph”, often accompanied with insufficient or no information. The logic for this behaviour from those agents is the desire to “get the listing online” as fast as possible – of course not appreciating that no content means no value to the target audience and going back to an earlier comment – blows the credibility of the agent. Added to the negative impact on the searcher online is the fact that all new listings are featured in the daily email to hot prospects – this one time medium is so powerful to target the listing to the right audience. As I say to agents, miss that first day and you have almost blow the campaign.

We did research recently on a sample of over 1,000 listings and found that over 40% of viewing for a property occur in the first week with the majority of that on the first day. So it comes down again to “proofing” a listing with comprehensive information before posting it to the web.

Besides creating high-quality listings, what else should Australian and New Zealand real estate agents be doing to market themselves online?

Every agent has to have a profile page on the web. This page must be the #1 link on a Google search for their name (with or without the reference to real estate in the search term – depending on the uniqueness of the name). Every agent needs to own this space. This is their reference tool 24hrs a day. Ideally the profile should be hosted on their own domain name, if not then on the domain of their company or as in the case of our site we offer profile pages on our site. The benefit of a profile page on realestate.co.nz is that if the agent changes offices/ company, the day of that change the profile page on our site changes, and maintains the same Google search page ranking, whereas the old profile on the old company website will still be there until the new profile gains ranking.

Step 2 after the basic web page is a web site, this is the opportunity for richer information to profile the agent and feature all the success and unique proposition they offer prospective clients. A natural evolution to the website is a blog. Today the lines between blog and website have blurred to the extent that they are one of the same. The feature set of being able to add dynamic content to a website is critical for an agent to build a profile as a local expert – or as a subject matter expert. This is or rather should be the ambition of every agent, this is their calling card, their prospecting tool, their letterbox drop all rolled into one.

As ever building the website is only the beginning – it needs nurturing and growing to attract an audience, it needs referral links in both on an offline references. This requires work, the use of social media tool such as Facebook and Twitter as well as outreach to establish back links to other relevant and contextual sites in their community or business area. It take time, but as with anything the investment will pay back – and the beauty of the web is that it keeps paying back 24hrs a day.

9

More and more listings found online is great for consumers and the industry

Posted on: November 19th, 2010 | Filed in Featured, Online marketing, Website searching

blue bar chart growing - croppedI am sure that the phrase “Content is king” had relevance prior to the internet age, however in the past 20 years it has become a mantra of web companies. As consumers gravitate to rich content, so will be found the opportunity for product and advertising sales.

In the context of real estate, listings content is critical. A property searcher wants to find the most comprehensive selection of property for sale or rent ideally on one site (to avoid having to visit multiple sites). In the NZ market the challenge for the 2 main websites (realestate.co.nz and Trade Me Property) has been in attracting real estate agents to list their content. The chart below tracks the total number of residential listings (this includes homes, apartments, lifestyle properties and sections) on these 2 websites over the past 4 years.

real estate listings for NZ between 2006 and 2010

As is very clear from the chart, realestate.co.nz has long hosted a more comprehensive selection of content than Trade Me. Realestate.co.nz is a website owned by the real estate industry through a 50% shareholding by the Real Estate Institute and 50% by six of the large real estate companies. Trade me is a subsidiary company of Fairfax media.

A key differentiation of Trade me as compared to realestate.co.nz is the fact that Trade me features private listings, something that naturally Realestate.co.nz and its owners are reluctant to do. This means that all of the listings on realestate.co.nz are from licensed real estate agents. Realestate.co.nz currently has around 95% of all of the listings of licensed agents in NZ featured on the site.

The growth of Trade me Property is impressive and they are to be congratulated. Their latest email for November celebrates this fact, citing that with “more than 70,000 houses for sale and rent.. that’s more than any other real estate site in NZ”. This is a fact if you add up all the homes for sale, together with lifestyle property and rental property Trade me Property has 72,835 and realestate.co.nz has 68,182.

This fact is a reflection of just how important the real estate industry judge the web to be in marketing property. This industry judges that in addition to their own websites and realestate.co.nz they wish to ensure that they all feature their listings on the largest trafficked website in NZ. As less people read newspapers and property magazines, with an ever growing use of the web for property searching it is completely logical that real estate agents on behalf of their clients would go for maximum exposure.

In most countries around the world now as newspaper and magazine advertising for property dwindles in relevance so each country begins to rely on 2 or 3 major real estate websites. In Australia it is Realestate.com.au and Domain. In the UK Rightmove.co.uk and Primelocation.co.uk. In the US – Realtor.com, Zillow.com, Yahoo real estate and Trulia.

However returning to the opening statement – content is still king and for the sake of transparency I think it is valuable to dive a little behind the headline figures provided in the Trade me Property newsletter. The chart below breaks down the number of listings by category. It is very clear that whilst Trade me Property holds a significant advantage in rental property (a significant part of that segment is made up of private landords) when it comes to homes for sale, lifestyle property and sections for sale, realestate.co.nz still holds a more comprehensive portfolio.

Real estate listings at Nov 2010 for NZ leading two portals

As a final analysis it is worth recognising that as mentioned earlier Trade me features listings from private sellers and private landlords. This richer data set will in time mean that as Trade me gains real estate agent subscribers, the total of listings on their site will grow ahead of realestate.co.nz. This component of private listings was estimated by Trade me back in January of this year at 16% of the total. Applying this calculation to the current listings produces this view of the comparison between the two websites.

real estate listings online as at Nov 2010 showing private listings and agent listings

7

When it comes to searching for property nothing beats the ease and functionality of the web – true?

Posted on: November 12th, 2010 | Filed in Agent Tips, Featured, Website news

Searching for a home istock - croppedThat fact holds so true and has been validated in consistent research and usage – especially as everyday close to 100,000 unique visitors check out property information online in NZ (on realestate.co.nz we average of 22,000 per day) – far in excess of any print media. They love the ability to refine searches and be notified of new properties; as well as view dozens of photos, maps, videos and property statistics; all from the comfort of their couch or desk.

Having said all of that, there comes a time in the process of house hunting when printed information is invaluable.

The printed page is still one of the best ways of sharing vital information in a close group of people. In the case of open home viewings, I know from personal experience the ease of grabbing a set of printed details for each of the properties we are going to visit. From listening to our customers this is often their experience as well. It is interesting how that contrasts with earlier responses I remember well when the response was “we are a website – why would you want to print details?”

To help just such people (I suspect more than we might imagine!) we have made some tweaks and added some technology so that now you can print details of an individual listing in a nicely formatted pdf file that can be shared with your friends and partner.

pdf printThe print function lies at the top right of every listing page (and has a clear highlighter saying “New PDF”) – depending on the browser you use, it will create and download a pdf or it may open a new tab showing the document.

In addition to collating all the information presented on the listing – photos, address, specifications and a map; we also have added the latest data of viewings for the listing. These statistics are presented in a chart showing the number of viewings of the property day by day over the past month as well as where those viewings have come from, anywhere around the world.

Sample pdf print of a realestate.co.nz property listing

Listing view stats(By the way these charts are accessible for any listing and are updated dynamically – just click the link in the top right hand side of the page marked “listing viewed xx times”).

So whenever you want to grab a record for a property and scribble some notes, then you can now use this great tool and have all the information laid out in an easy to read format.

We do however ask you to act responsibly and not print excessively! – we don’t wish to be the cause of environmental devastation as our print media colleagues are!

2

Homestar – energy efficiency rating for your home

Posted on: November 10th, 2010 | Filed in Architecture & Construction, Featured, Green

homestar logo horz RGB.jpg-1

We have long heard the media coverage of how close to 1.0 million out of our 1.6 million homes are poorly insulated, inefficient in the use of energy and potentially unhealthy. The big question as has often been asked is “how can I check out my own home to see if it is efficient”?

Well with the launch of Homestar you now can.

Through its online self-assessment tool you can complete a very detailed evaluation of all aspects of your home, from construction type, insulation, lighting, power usage, heating source, orientation, water usage.. the list goes on and on. The survey provides you with a rating score from 1 to 10. Further than just making you feel good (or depressingly bad!) about your score, the tool provides a superb report covering all aspects of your home to advise as to how to improve its performance with ranking as to how expensive such developments could be, how much benefit they could bring and how easy they are to implement.

This report and online tool should be a must for all homeowners, as well as landlords (and tenants). If you know what things could be done, easily and cheaply to improve the rating, then you are more likely to do it.

The good news is that as a country we are beginning to address this broad issue of energy usage and comfort. At the launch of the Homestar initiative this week, the Minister for Building and Construction, the Hon. Maurice Williamson shared the extent of the uptake of the government subsidy for insulation (warm up campaign) – some 61,000 households had applied for the subsidy since it was introduced, very effectively demonstrating the power of financial motivational over legislative mandate to drive homeowner behaviour.

The Homestar initiative, brought together through an industry collaboration with government support, goes well beyond just an online self-assessment tool. Certified Homecoaches will be trained to provide specialist advice as to how the recommendations of the self-assessment survey can be implemented, leveraging the private sector parters; who are the product and system suppliers to the solutions required and identified in the survey.

A very important third component of the scheme is of great interest to the real estate industry, and with the support of realestate.co.nz could become a very key part of selling and marketing a property in the near future.

Licensed certified assessors will be appointed by Homestar to carry out independent assessments of properties in the same way a valuation or a building report will be undertaken. This independent survey will then be public information in the form of a unique individual registered rating, which will have a value in the minds of prospective buyers. There is robust information from overseas examples which show that such rated houses put up for sale, performing highly in terms of energy efficiency and environmental impact not only attain a sale price premium, but also sell faster.

The screen mockups seen here provide a concept of how the information could be added to the details of a listing and through the addition of a search filter could profile such properties as well as allow buyers to filter to specific performance criteria within their geographical and price boundaries.

Homestar Realestate.co.nz Nov 8 2010.ppt

As ever the critical success of this scheme and the full initiative will come from the advocacy within the core groups of which the real estate industry is so key. If real estate agents embrace this certification in the promotion of comprehensive data for listing a property it will provide value for their clients (the property owner) as well as enormous value for buyers.

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