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Archive for the ‘mobile’ Category


Property searching on mobile is a clear winner

Posted on: May 13th, 2011 | Filed in Buying / Selling a home, Featured, mobile, Website searching

I was very interested to read this week of the performance of the Trade Me iPhone app. In a very open manner they shared their data with the NBR. This naturally prompted me to examine the data from the iPhone app after our first 5 months of operation.

As far as uptake is concerned in excess of 1 in every 10 iPhone owners has now downloaded the app, a total exceeding 25,000 downloads since we released the app in November. Every day we continue to see over 100 new users discover this great way to discovery property for sale right around them.

Trade Me’s app was launched at the same time, and in that time they have had over 110,000 downloads. Like Trade Me we had modest expectations of around 12,000 to 15,000 downloads within 6 months; so for us 25,000 for such a specialised app as compared to Trade Me’s app which covers such a diversity of content, is really encouraging.

This strong adoption of real estate listings search on the iPhone is reflective of a global trend which has seen over 1 million downloads of the UK real estate website Rightmove iPhone app and across in Australia over 180,000 for iPhone app.

The most developed market in terms of mobile usage for property search is the USA – there the #1 property portal reports not only downloads exceeding 3 million, but the level of engagement of buyers with property listings on the mobile platform is fast approaching a third of all viewings. For we see that in the past month 10% of all property listings views are made via the iPhone app with a further 2% being on the mobile web platform across a number of mobile devices including Android and the iPad; this after just 6 months, shows how important the mobile platform is to the experience of looking for property to buy.

Another very interesting insight in the usage of the mobile device is the heavy usage at the weekend. Whereas the web usage has higher activity during the week the iPhone is clearly a weekend tool – part of the open home toolkit for a Saturday morning allowing active property hunters to drive around the areas checking out what is on the market or sitting in a cafe between open home visits.

In terms of usage the iPhone is clearly not a tool limited to the inner city suburbs, in the month of April over 90% of all listings of property on the iPhone were viewed by property hunters – that is a figure which has grown progressively over the past months as the penetration has gown and usage has extended to every corner of the country.

Clearly we see the iPhone app (and future Android app) becoming a critical platform to provide property hunters with a great experience to aid the process of finding that perfect property. We have new developments and functionality planned for the next few months and will keep improving the experience. With a dedicated audience of over 25,000 we are fully committed to this sector of the market.



Google exits map based property search service

Posted on: January 28th, 2011 | Filed in Featured, mobile, Technology, Website searching

google map search for real estate - Google SearchGoogle announced yesterday that it was ceasing the operation of its map based real estate search service. This service was introduced back in July 2009 as a complementary enhancement to their standard text search whereby listings for property for sale or rent were mapped based on addresses, supplied with listings by real estate agents and real estate websites ( fed content to Google for this service).

This is a significant decision by the world’s largest search engine.

In their official announcement they state that one of the factors in their decision was “the proliferation of excellent property-search tools on real estate websites“. They went on to say “We recognize that there might be better, more effective ways to help people find local real estate information than the current feature makes possible”.

Whilst I in no way doubt that the reasons they state are a true reflection of the circumstances that led then to this decision, I think there are other factors to consider.

I was always of the opinion that Google came at real estate search almost accidentally, especially in the early days. The concept was originated in Australia through the maps team under the leadership of the Lars Rasmussen. Their desire was to demonstrate their mastery of the mapping platform and locating property for sale and rent on these maps was appealing as data was readily available, with agents only too happy to collaborate (or put another way – the owner of the data would not object). The fundamental problem though, is that whilst mapping property is interesting and no doubt of value, it is not the intuitive first entry point of real estate search for buyers on the web. - Shop boutiques curated by style icons and you - Designer Shoes, Dresses, Handbags

The solution Google should have developed, in my opinion would have been using their image search platform. The primary consumer real estate search experience is really visual – rich imagery of properties for sale is so compelling. The map representation would have then been a natural complement to an image based search. In some ways Google recent foray with Boutiques demonstrated the true concept of a better approach to the real estate sector.

Another aspect of concern to Google could have been the view that an open free service for listing property opens up the potential for spammers to damage the user experience. Ed Freyfogle of Nestoria, who as an ex-Yahoo search expert is well positioned to comment, proposed this view that “The free model as demonstrated by Google means you’ll be spammed, get expired and fake listings, which are bad for users. And because you’re not earning any money, it’s hard to justify investing in the service”. There is no evidence that this did occur in NZ, but it was potentially a problem.

The existing specialist real estate websites like that only accepts legitimate listings actively marketed by licensed real estate agents ensures that this eventuality cannot arise. A subscription fee model charged to real estate agents ensures the integrity of the content.

As to why Google will cease to provide this service. I suspect that the quoted reason being the changed structure of the Google Base to Google shopping data schema is the true reason – Google are a very highly advanced grouping of technologists.

In NZ the level of traffic from Google maps real estate search never eventuated to much. fed 100% of content from day one and over the 19 months we received 220,000 session visits to from the maps search – that is only 11,500 per month as compared to our total traffic being around 900,000 session visits per month. Consumers never easily found Google real estate map search, or even if they did, did not see it as that valuable.

Referring Sites - Google Analytics

The most likely people who did use it were real estate agents, who used it to better appreciate the total marketplace in their area. That is where it was of most value.iPhone map result example

The bottom line is that there is a significant place for mapping real estate listings – it is truly relevant in the context of mobile. When you are standing on a street corner, then a map representation of property near you for sale or rent is very compelling on your handheld mobile device – welcome to the smartphone apps from real estate portals!

Try it for yourself on the new iPhone app.


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 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 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


appUser John commented “This is a great idea, done really well, except for the out of date 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!!

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