The Unconditional Blog

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Archive for the ‘Online marketing’ Category

5

Raising your social media skills

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11

New websites better meet the needs of our customers

Posted on: April 20th, 2010 | Filed in Featured, Online marketing, Website news

New sites - April 2010 largerRealestate.co.nz as a company today embarked on a major strategic move designed to cement its position as the most valued and comprehensive source for real estate information in New Zealand.

Since the launch of the website of realestate.co.nz back in August 2006, the website has maintained a leadership in content, supported by its ownership within the industry; the single site has hosted over 1 million listings spanning the wide diversity of real estate from rental properties to businesses for sale, from high country farms to lifestyle properties and from townhouses to retail premises to lease. Today the site hosts over 120,000 listings and regularly receives over 26,000 unique visitors everyday.

Whilst the site provides great capability to find all sorts of real estate we have never assumed that it was the best solution of how to find the best property. In business there is always a need to constantly want to strive to find a better solution. Solutions come from insights and through much of 2009 we talked with consumers, as users of the site and also our real estate customers, to better understand what they felt was important in a tool to assist them. From the standpoint of the homeowner – how to more easily find listings; from agents and offices – how better to display and feature listings.

These insights lead us to develop a new website structure, and not just one website. As one of the key insights we learned, was that there was a desire to separate the different content of listings – separating commercial property to buy or lease, from businesses for sale, separate from farms; all separate from residential property to buy or rent. Our solutions launched today is a family of websites – 3 brand new names and websites to provide the industry and consumers of New Zealand with the most comprehensive focused means of easily finding the property or business to suit their needs.

Prime Commercial headerPrime Commercial – the new brand for commercial property showcasing the most comprehensive collection of properties for sale or lease across NZ. At this time 25,322 listings are featured on this website from over 94% of all licensed real estate offices – this site has more than 20% more content than any other website featuring commercial property. Whether you want to find leasehold property on the North Shore or commercial land in Nelson this site has it all.

Prime Business header smallPrime Business – the new brand for the specialist area of business broking, this site provides the most comprehensive selection of businesses for sale anywhere in NZ. At this time a total of 3,768 businesses for sale are featured on the website – more than double the content of any other website in NZ featuring businesses for sale. Whether you want to find a new franchise opportunity in the Canterbury region or a manufacturing company in the Hawkes Bay this site has it all.

nzFarms headernzFarms – the new brand for the rural sector of the NZ market, this website provides the most comprehensive slection of farms, agricultural land as well as lifestyle properties for sale across the whole of the country. At this time a total of 7,917 farms and agricultural businesses are featured on the site together with 11,809 lifestyle properties. This comprehensive portfolio of rural NZ properties and agricultural businesses is more than 50% more than any other website featuring such content. Whether you want to find a dairy farm in the Waikato or horticulture in Central Otago this site has it all.

28

Selling your home? – auction marketing reaches new high

Posted on: March 21st, 2010 | Filed in Buying / Selling a home, Media commmentary, Online marketing

iStock_000009029079XSmallWith the level of homes on the market reaching new highs the extent of auctions is also reaching new highs as reported in the Sunday Star Times today.

In February of the 15,129 new properties coming onto the market, 1,904 of them were being marketed as auctions. That is 1 in every 8 of these new listings. The total is an all time high – surpassing the 1,410 properties marketed as auctions in August last year.

The chart below tracks the percentage of all new properties listed on Realesatate.co.nz in the past 3 years that are being marketed as auctions. The data is adjusted in this chart to exclude mortgagee properties (which predominantly are marketed as auctions as the lender usually is more keen on auctions).

Auctions of new listings

The February total represents 12.6% of all new listings. The chart does clearly show the fact that compared to both 2007 and 2008 auctions have become far more popular as a method of marketing properties. As a point of note the percentage of properties listed in August last year marketed as auctions was actually slightly higher than the February figure at 13.2%.

24

If you are selling your home – please read this!

Posted on: March 17th, 2010 | Filed in Featured, Online marketing

Perfect image of houses croppedAn early lesson I recall when starting out to write this blog, was that if ever you feel that you need an inspiration for a blog post – just recall a recent conversation. The topic of the conversation is sure to be of benefit to share.

Well this post, although stimulated by a telephone conversation, was not originated through a dry spell of me searching for a topic – quite the opposite, there seems so much to write about real estate these days! However as you will see this issue is a pet issue for me. So here goes!

Why is it that so many properties featured on this website and in fact so many websites, showcase such poor photographs?!

This is a serious question, and it was asked of me by a professional photographer who was struggling to get his local real estate agents to take seriously his service. (as an aside I would like to point out this is not an advertorial for any particular photo service or photographer, this is simply something that I think is really important. In the spirit of openness and reciprocity the photo service he works for is Essential Images)

As we spoke and we discussed this issue, it struck me that whilst the real estate profession should be motivated to present the very best images for every property they market on the web, there is a sense that vendors should be far more demanding of this from agents. This seems so strange, after all where else do people begin searching for property these days? At the time of the last research nearly a year ago close to 80% of all buyers used online in the recent week to search for property; whilst traditional media such as newspapers and magazines languished at just 31% and 46% respectively. In the US the percentage is over 93% of all buyers using online search.

We all know the expression – a picture is worth a thousand words. Well in the same vein when it comes to advertising property online; 20 photos are probably worth a hundred time more than half a dozen photos; and a high quality photo set for a property is worth thousands!

Courtesy of the photographer I spoke to, here are some of his examples of the difference professional photos can make to a property presentation online.

Lounge basicLounge professional

The presentation of this lounge is considerably enhanced through the use of the right light balance to better show the relationship between indoors and outside.

bathroom basicbathroom professional

Whilst the bathroom may not be the most appealing part of the house, good lighting makes all the difference; in this case bringing the room to life and show off the polished floor.

deck basicdeck professional

The all important exterior deck can be challenging to photograph right, without the expert eye. Whilst a bight cloudless day shows off the appeal of the deck; without the right skills the interior is left as a dark hole!

The web is a visual medium. The human eye can scan a page of images of property in a mere second or two. In that time your house (be that your house as the vendor, or as the appointed agent has to be seen and then clicked on to elicit interest and a further review.

At that stage the photos, and nowadays that selection of photos should be extensive (ie. more than 20) needs to captivate the interested buyer to engage them and hook them in, so they then go on to read the details and really consider the property for a physical inspection.

This all seems so logical. Why would you not get a professional photographer to undertake an extensive photo shoot? – yet so many properties on this website are poorly presented with barely a handful of images some of them taken with a camera phone.

If the answer is money – then think again. Most photographers charge much less than $500, many times less than $250. Yes; that has to be paid up front. But then if you are serious about selling you need to help sell the house, and in this cluttered and competitive market how else are you going to standout? – certainly not if you only have 5 average quality photos.

The median price of property across the country is $350,000; even in the cheapest region Southland the median price is $190,000. Why then would you not spend $250 to really help the sale of a $190,000 property – that amounts to just 0.13% of the sale price. Or think of it another way $250 is little more than a week’s mortgage payment. A well presented property is far more likely to sell faster and therefore save you more than a single week’s interest on the mortgage.

1

Twitter – carving out a valuable space in our day to day world

Posted on: March 11th, 2010 | Filed in Online marketing, Technology

twitter-birdOne of the great benefits of a blog is the ability to go back in time to review old posts and see how issues have changed and then refer to them. So when it comes to Twitter I find myself writing a third post on this subject.

My first post was back in August 2008 and at that time I had set up a Twitter account but felt a bit like a sideline spectator trying to better understand the benefits outside of event commentaries.

Some 6 months later and I found myself with 3 months of active usage under my belt and a growing appreciation of the benefits of this communication technology.

So a further year on and I find that Twitter is now my “first place” for news as well as status updates on my world and the connections I want and need to make with the world around me. It is more important than news websites and RSS feeds and with the many applications drawing on the API it is conspicuously becoming a more frequent check than my email.

Simply put Twitter is a live feed into the world I am interested in which has a large component of real estate, and sourcing real estate news can be undertaken so easily by following the key people who like me use Twitter to highlight their latest blog post or direct people to interesting stories on the web.

Every time a major event or news story breaks I can now be assured that if I am at my laptop I will hear about it / see it on Twitter – no longer do I have to refresh the news sites. With mobile clients even when away from my laptop I know truly the world is at my finger tips.

For me Twitter is certainly not inane banter – it is a business tool to aid productivity and comprehension. It is also a marketing tool to ensure that my aspiring communications about this real estate industry are spread and read widely. I do that by cultivating a loyal following through valuable referrals to information and articles of interest – the very essence of reciprocity.

So 15 months into serious Twitter usage it is time to further tailor my approach to Twitter. We have launched a Realestate.co.nz Twitter account.

Realestate.co.nz (realestateconz) on Twitter-1

From now on the tweets on the Realestate.co.nz (@realestateconz) and my own account (@alistairnz) will  be clearly separated. Realestate.co.nz Twitter account will focus on news and articles purely related to the industry of real estate. This will comprise articles on the industry for both agents and consumers alike, it will also draw attention to recent blog posts written by agents who blog both on their own and on the Voices platform on Unconditional. The account will also be able to provide a status update to the website – should anything need urgently communicating.

As for my own account, I will tend to use this to share observations and insights into things I think are important – real estate certainly, but also technology and business in general.

So please come join us and follow Realestate.co.nz on Twitter and/or follow me on Twitter.

3

1,000,000 real estate listings!

Posted on: March 2nd, 2010 | Filed in Featured, Online marketing, Website searching

Champagne explosion

At 4.17am this morning we processed our one millionth listing onto the website of realestate.co.nz – a significant milestone!

The website began life in August 2006 when the former REINZ website of RealENZ was shut down and the new website burst onto the market. Since that time over 1 million listings have been featured on the website over the past 1,290 days – that equates to an average of 775 per day or around 32 new listings every hour of everyday.

Realestate.co.nz is the most comprehensive website for all categories of real estate listings in NZ as marketed by licensed real estate agents. The site covers the full spectrum from homes for sale and rent, commercial property for sale or lease, farms and agricultural land as well as businesses for sale.

More than half of the million listings have been made up of properties for sale. A total of 545,000 have been homes for sale – the biggest year was 2007 with 165,000 new listings comparing with the quietest year last year with just 125,000.

Commercial property for lease and for sale have comprised over 90,000 listings with a steady growth in each of the past 2 years – 2009 alone saw just over 30,000 new listings come onto the market.

A massive 77,ooo listings have been featured for building sections. This sector reached a peak in 2008 with 21,000 before falling back somewhat last year to 17,000.

Since day one realestate.co.nz has enjoyed the support of the vast majority of the real estate profession – a commitment that has grown stronger over the years to see now over 94% of all licensed offices using the site – far ahead of the nearest competitor Trade me property.

Taking the live data as of today – realestate.co.nz has for example 50,184 homes for sale. This compares to 42,499 on Trade me.

As most people appreciate one of the key differences between the two sites is that Trade me takes adverts from homeowners looking to sell privately. In a recent NBR article Trade me highlighted that 16% of their property listings were from private sellers – applying this calculation would mean that today 35,699 listings from licensed real estate agents are featured on Trade me Property as compares to 50,184 on realestate.co.nz. In other words a search on Trade me only shows 60% of the local market for real estate listings of homes marketed by licensed real estate agents.

Comparable licensed real estate listings - trade me property & realestate.co.nz Feb 2010

Note: The NBR article states that Trade me features 100,000 properties – this is the number of total listings covering all categories that are displayed on the website.

The category of homes for sale excludes lifestyle property and sections for sale but does include apartments and townhouses as well as units and home and income properties.

0

Google real estate search gets an advertising boost

Posted on: February 17th, 2010 | Filed in Online marketing

Google clearly has real estate in its sights as it begins the new decade with a more aggressive stance to challenge what is clearly turning out to be its main competitor – Apple.

The once cosy partnership that saw reciprocal governance seats on respective boards now sees Google entering Apple’s home territory with the Nexus One smart phone, coupled with a rumoured Google tablet device to challenge the Apple iPad territory.

Google is ambitious and clearly in its judgment it has a lot to offer the real estate market – not least of which its very successful advertising model.

As yet the extent of Google real estate has been limited to the capability of a functional enhancement of Google map search – limited here refers to the exposure (or rather the lack of it) that Google has applied to this service. This is set to change with the release of a series of online adverts providing a humorous intro to the benefits of real estate map search.

The campaign introduces the yellow Google man as he navigates the real world of property aided by the map search online.

Australia is the target audience of the adverts – a country that has been hesitant in supporting Google maps search – certainly when it comes to the 2 leading websites of realestate.com.au and domain.com.au which have judged that providing content to Google is a competitive threat. Both of these websites have decided not to feed listings to Google to thereby allow these properties to be presented on Google maps. Despite this Google report that some 1,000+ real estate companies have so far supplied listing content direct to Google, in effect by-passing the major 2 real estate websites.

Here in NZ there has been a more passionate adoption of support for the Google map search from real estate companies and realestate.co.nz in particular – thereby making the map based search a more valuable experience for NZ property searchers.

5

A significant decade for real estate closes – the future will be challenging

Posted on: January 20th, 2010 | Filed in Online marketing, Other interesting reads:, Real Estate Industry

The last 10 years witnessed some incredible highs and lows in NZ real estate – at its peak in the month of March 2005 houses were being sold at the rate of 368 a day – that is close to 33 an hour. At the other extreme in January 2009 sales stalled to a low of just 3,706 – a daily rate of just 120.

In pricing terms the decade started with an average NZ home costing $174,850 – in today’s money that would equate to $222,411. By the end of the decade that average NZ home cost $369,825 a rise of 66% over the decade. If you had decided to sell in that house in November 2007 when the market peaked then that house would have seen an inflation adjusted rise of 77% from the start of the decade.

At the start of 2000 the process of searching for a home likely involved a meeting with an agent early in the process as access to information as to what was on the market very much resided in their offices. The internet was used for property search but not as the primary means. Back in January 2000 there was only one website aggregating listings from various sources RealENZ (the predecessor of Realestate.co.nz) – the monthly traffic to the site was around 60,000 visitors as probably less than 20% of buyers used the web.

REALENZ - NEW ZEALAND LARGEST REAL ESTATE DATABASE ON NEW ZEALAND INTERNET-1In January 2010 78% of buyers turn to the web first when searching for real estate and the monthly audience for all monitored websites is over 1,300,000 unique visitors. This has largely placed the task of searching firmly in the hands of buyers with a vast amount of additional information accessible to educate and inform buyers mostly thanks to Google and their ability to organise the world’s collective knowledge and make it universally accessible.

So as we start this new decade and consider how the industry will change in the next 10 years I was prompted to share the following summary from Brad Inman written as the introduction to last week’s Real Estate Connect Conference held in New York attended by over 1,800 delegates from around the world. Brad is highly respected in the industry as the publisher of Inman News and a knowledgeable and insightful observer of the industry.

“The first decade of the new century ended last month. What began in a boom and ended in a bust, the real estate market, is slowly coming alive. Along the road to recovery is a raft of innovation that has enabled the smart and technology savvy real estate agent/broker to survive. Combine the technology transformation with a revived market and change will accelerate dramatically in the coming 24 months.

Think of these changes in phases. Phase one included a greater number of steps in the home buying and selling process being digitized and automated, allowing consumers to more intelligently navigate real estate deals. In addition, the Internet has enabled home buyers through maps, search, AVM’s and MLS data (US centralised Multiple Listing Service) to structure their own home hunt, in one way relieving the agent/broker but reshaping their world along the way.

Because of technology, consumer needs are changing, and smart agents are transforming their business practices to focus on these new expectations. Technology – communication and information delivery – has become a central part of the services that home buyers and sellers expect and that savvy agents are providing.

Instant online real estate intelligence will be the next big change as consumers rely more on rich live data feeds, social media and local metrics to make house buying and selling decisions.

These innovations will change the role of the agent and the broker again. At one time, the listing data was perceived as the central value proposition of the industry, but that has changed with ubiquitous listing data. Then the agent became more of a counselor, teacher and advisor, which will evolve as Internet real estate intel becomes more sophisticated and matures.

In the future the role of the agent will be to focus on the gnarly often confusing transaction and direct and move it along. Smart agents are using technology to make that process easier and less confusing for their customers. The agents with the best technology will find and close more deals online and dwarf their slower-to-adopt competitors. Thanks to technology adoption, their business will scale and they will capture greater market share by closing more deal efficiently”.

0

Some genuine home truths about home buying

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Buying a home despite what many believe it to be is not always a rental investment property. Many people just want to satisfy their emotional desire to own a home – it is also a great form of forced savings
  2. The process of house hunting is time consuming, enormously time consuming involving – daily review of listings (I clearly need to introduce Jane to Realestate.co.nz as well as Trade Me, after all Realestate.co.nz does feature a more complete view of whats on the market), as well as weekend open homes
  3. The activity is very much a self managed exercise.
  4. Everyone has an opinion / piece of advice. At the end of the day the collective wisdom as represented by the comments is that you have to make that decision yourself and accept the implications.
  5. Your key partner in the process seem to be the mortgage broker rather than the real estate agent
  6. Unfortunately real estate agents tend to be seen (and demonstrate the behaviour) of being seen as purveyors of other people’s listings
  7. There are huge emotions involved in real estate process – the heartache of missing out, matched to the desire to find just the right place
  8. Home buying has a benefit in a sense of control, something that can not be attained through renting and therefore financial comparisons are not always relevant
13

To what extent does price marketing effect property appeal?

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

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

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

Judged purely on consumer feedback I would have been drawn to say that putting a price on a property would be the best approach as we regularly receive emails from users of the site, advocating the full and transparent displaying of a price on every property.

Realestate.co.nz breakdown of listings by price marketing 2009Firstly the fact is that the most popular method of marketing a property on the web as judged through all property listings in 2009 was a fixed price – 63% of all properties featured on the site were marketed with a clear price.

As property price ranges rise there is a move towards other forms of price marketing. In the sub $200k range a fixed price represents a majority 68% of all listings, whereas for property over a $1m it falls to just 37%. Between $200k and $500k it is 67% and between $500k and $1m it is 54%. So agents seem to favour less specific price indications as property values rise.

Realestate.co.nz breakdown of listings by price marketing 2009 - property priced over $1mIn the $1m plus category of the property market the most popular pricing method was “Negotiation” representing 38% of all listings just ahead of the fixed price at 37%. Third place comes Auctions with 14%.

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

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

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

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

In terms of viewing properties there is interestingly very little difference in the relative viewing between properties with a price and properties without a displayed price. This did come as somewhat of a surprise as some of the extreme comments of emails we receive state that these people completely ignore properties without a price.

Realestate.co.nz breakdown of listings by price marketing 2009 - Viewing by price marketingOverall if anything Auctions actually generated more viewings than listings in general by around 11%. This could be because auctions are marketed for a shorter period of time and tend to focus attention and generate repeat viewings online prior to the auction.

Realestate.co.nz breakdown of listings by price marketing 2009 - Viewings by priceThe other very noticeable fact is that higher priced properties are viewed more than lower price properties – this could be around aspiration from prospective or casual viewers of the site, or could be that simply higher priced properties are just more attractive!!

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