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Archive for the ‘Online marketing’ Category


Out of date information on web listings damages agent reputation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The next major technology challenge for real estate – 3D!

Posted on: December 7th, 2009 | Filed in Online marketing, Technology

istock_000008454256xsmallHeading as we are to the end of the decade prompts me to wonder – what will be the “next big thing” for 2010 and beyond?

So I will stick my neck out and say that the next decade will bring a radical change to the real estate industry processes borne of the transformative technology of the visual images we will see on every device in the future. That transformation will come from the switch from 2D to 3D.

To be clear I am not envisaging the adoption of the current version of 3D complete with coloured lens glasses – no! the technology I foresee will be a totally immersive and life-like experience.

I cannot claim to have come up with this prediction – for that I have to thank Phil McKinney the global CTO (Chief Technology Officer) of HP who in a recent interview with the Tech Weekly team at the Guardian podcast in the UK laid out his vision of the future focused around 3D.

So how would 3D imaging radically change real estate?

Well think for a moment around this analogy – the current 2D imaging we see every minute of every day is akin to the very first moving pictures – they were a marvel and without sound relied on captions to provide dialogue. Then came the talkies and some wondered why people would want to have sound – that view lasted all of 5 minutes before sound and image became the norm. So it will be with 3D – there are those that say “why do we need it” – until we experience it.

So imagine this world of 3D – the ability in the case of real estate to genuinely and authentically undertake Open Homes – true, lifelike experiences at the click of a mouse.

With this type of experience for all properties there will be no need for 150 words of description for a property, as the images will be streamed in real time to your viewing device; which will not be  a 17″ laptop or desktop PC, but a 50″ TV monitor.

Browsing through photos will still be the first step of search, but each property will be able to be experienced in a comprehensive fashion; investigating every room of a property from every angle in a truly immersive manner. Added to which you will be able to add your own furniture and colour scheme to ensure you can fit, and that the house fits you!

So how will this impact the real estate profession? – it is likely that we will see changes around the marketing of properties. It is quite possible that the marketing of properties will become an outsourced service. Specialised companies will be contracted by real estate agents to document digitally every property to enable a comprehensive selection of still and moving 3D images to be created.

Removing this task of content creation is great news for the real estate profession, freeing them up to focus their skills directly to the task of facilitating the sale. Bringing together the buyers and seller and providing guidance, advice, local knowledge and statistical insight to ensure that the purchase is executed with clarity and efficiency which satisfies both parties to the sale.

The technology for 3D is not quite there as yet, but something like this certainly has the ability to come upon us speedily. Rest assured when it does will be embracing it to add richness to the experience of property searching – we plan to be here providing services to property searchers and the real estate industry way into the next decade and beyond!


Do you really need to subscribe to another property website?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


Principles of reciprocity in social media

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Perfect marketing for halloween!

Posted on: October 31st, 2009 | Filed in Online marketing, The lighter side

It’s the 31st October today and this presents marketeers with a twice a year opportunity (well April the 1st would be the other day!) – theme an advert to suit the day!

This is exactly what this smart agent Andrea Kent has done with her client’s house – as she calls it a “quirky home” – definitely one of those great real estate euphemisms for “this house needs some significant work.

The advert in today’s paper and on the web certainly creates standout – that is what marketing should do, so my congrats to Andrea – I hope you find an enthusiastic buyer who is prepared to step into the shoes of its prior owner who as you appropriately describe “have returned to Transylvania”!


Beware the cashcow in the coalmine!

Posted on: October 14th, 2009 | Filed in Media commmentary, Online marketing

istock_000002421561xsmallThis headline is taken from the excellent book ‘What would Google do?‘ by Jeff Jarvis. It speaks to the danger lurking in industries that blindly continue to milk a cashcow of the old economy, without realising the oncoming possibility of failure driven by the game-changing impact of the web. As Jeff so eloquently puts it “They (those companies hell bent on protecting their cashcows) lost their destinies because they wanted to save their pasts. Protection is not a strategy for the future.”

It was clearly with this in mind that I read a somewhat surprising press release issued last week by the Property Press with the eyecatching headline

“Real estate survey – flawed, useless”!

The press release set out to discredit and challenge the Nielsen Online survey undertaken in May and June of this year (of which was a major sponsor) which provided insight into the attitudes and behaviour of property searchers in NZ. The results of the survey have been shared on this blog under the title of “Newspapers big losers as property searchers stampede online” as well as being printed in the REINZ monthly journal RE Magazine.

The survey was undertaken by Nielsen Online as it has been in each of the past 3 years.

Being completely open and transparent about the survey I can confirm that it was what is called an intercept survey. This type of survey will probably be familiar to many of you reading this blog post. You go to a site and a pop up appears inviting you to participate in the survey, naturally being the web the targeting can be made with pin-point accuracy in regard to targeting those people on a certain page.

In this regard the survey was not as the press release from the Property Press seems to imply, simply a survey “asking people online if they use online for searching for real estate“. The survey was far more comprehensive and credible than that. The methodology, sample size and error rate are detailed here.

One key question which the Property Press seeks to establish as being ‘flawed’ is the question regarding the selection of media consulted for real estate research in the past week. The chart below represents these results.

Nielsen real estate market survey - June 2009

The key fact here is that the question was not simply a yes/no – (did you use the web to search for real estate?) – rather, the question allowed for multiple answers reinforcing its value, as it allowed for greater insight into the mix of media used by property searchers.

The credibility of the research in general and this question specifically is not justified as the research methodology is sound.

In addition the fact that the research has been undertaken in each of the 3 preceding years utilising the same methodology only strengthens its inherent value. Presented below are the results of this same question in each of the prior surveys.

Nielsen real estate market survey 2006 - 2009

As can be clearly seen from the chart, that, although there are variances from year to year, the trends are patently clear.The usage of the web based options – specialist real estate websites / company website & search engines are growing

Print publications – specialist real estate magazines / community, local newspapers / metropolitan newspapers are declining. The one exception is company magazines.

I therefore stand by the assertion that “Newspapers are the big losers as property searchers stampede online” – to that I now add specialist real estate magazines. My view is that they are trapped as part of the cashcow in the coalmine syndrome!

I respect that this is how I interpret the findings of the Nielsen research, I also recognise that Property Press hold a different perspective and therefore I welcome them to engage in the debate here by posting a comment or response to which I am more than happy to debate and would naturally welcome others contribution and comments.


Converting viewers into enquiries and into buyers

Posted on: October 2nd, 2009 | Filed in Online marketing

istock_000009805936xsmallThere is a simple statement I have always made in regard to this website from day 1. “We do not sell property“!

No property website sells property! – websites are a powerful – in fact the most effective and  powerful marketing tool for anyone wanting to sell property. However at the end of the day property transactions at this time are still undertaken through face-to-face negotiation.

It is therefore often asked of us as to how we can help improve the conversion of viewers into enquiries and then into buyers. The question was again prompted last week by this comment on a post on this blog by a real estate agent – he wrote:

Traffic growth is great but what I am really interested in is conversion rates. Do you have any data across your site in terms of average conversion rates (listing view to agent contact by email)? I would be interested in the property with the most hits, the property with the best conversion rate etc – like a roll of honour.

In general, our office sees the most hits from trademe but the best response from open2view, with somewhere in between.
We talk about a “trademe mentality” as a way of trying to describe such a high hit rate with such a low response from real buyers. We think that trademe browsers either have a mindset that is counter productive to selling homes or simply, have an auction open on some product they are bidding on which they are waiting to close and while they wait they flick open trademe property and waste a little time there.

Nowhere is this more noticeable than in our rentals department. Our letting agents were receiving so many low grade emails from people enquiring about listed rental accommodation that they hardly had time to do anything else. A break of about half an hour to have lunch sometimes allowed the buildup of 40 or 50 emails in the inbox. The vast majority of these emails didn’t go anywhere. They were contacted back by the letting agent with the required info and were never heard from again. One letting agent got so exasperated that she took all of her rental listings off trademe and as a result she let twice as many properties in the following months because she wasn’t spending time replying to time wasters.
Fascinating aye!

I promised David that I would share some observations and thoughts in regard to his comments. Hopefully in doing so I could elicit some input from property buyers and sellers as well as other real estate agents.

My view is that the response rate / conversion rate from viewers into enquiries can be seen as a function of information, and to help explain my answer I have constructed this chart.


So it is my contention that the more information that an agent provides on a listing – the kind of rich accessible information that helps buyers better understand the property and the location then the less likely the buyer is going to need to bother the agent with frivolous / time wasting questions allowing the agent to get on with professional advice and guidance for buyers and sellers.

Equally and far more importantly the more information that an agent provides on a listing (the type of information that the buyer would expect an agent to provide, the kind of information that is readily available on the web of contextual value) then the more that agent will be respected and referred – the more likely that that agent will be called upon to market the buyers property.

We live in a far more transparent world thanks to the web – real estate is very much based on reputation. The more people respect you for sharing valuable information the more you will be respected. It is however unfortunately the fact that the heritage of this industry was that it taught the principle of “share only scant information with buyers to hook them in and get them to call you!”

So my premise is it is far more likely that email enquiries will not grow – however higher quality leads will predominate. I am sure the real estate industry will recognise that 10 good leads is far better than 100 frivolous emails.


Vendor paid marketing – the impact of the new Real Estate Agents Act 2008

Posted on: September 26th, 2009 | Filed in Online marketing, Real Estate Industry

istock_000004577428xsmallThe NZ Herald today provides an insight into the new Act that will apply to all in the real estate industry from 17th November. All that is except Property Managers who were excluded from the Act – a matter that will be debated extensively in the coming months as may facets of their role in providing services to landlords and tenants are very much akin to that of a selling agent.

The new Act is extensive and much needed – nobody in the industry would disagree with that statement as the previous Act of 1976 which this Act replaces was instigated in a very different world and without amendments it had failed to keep up to date with the changing nature of business and appropriate controls.

The area that I am interest to highlight as the NZ Herald has done is the rules as they apply to the disclosure of discounts and rebates on the expenses incurred by agents in the process of selling a property.

The exact wording from the Act is as follows:

Section 128 : Agency agreement must disclose rebates, discounts, and commissions

(1) An agent is not entitled to any expenses from a client for or in connection with any real estate agency work carried out by the agent for the client in connection with a transaction unless the agency agreement under which the agent performs that work contains a statement that-

(a) identifies the source of all rebates, discounts, or commissions that the agent will or is eligible to receive in respect of those expenses; and

(b) specifies the estimated amount of those rebates, discounts, or commissions (to the extent that the amount can reasonably be estimated).

(2) This section does not limit the liability of any person under the Secret Commissions Act 1910.

The Herald article quoted some real estate companies view of the interpretation of the Act – I am not a lawyer and would not wish to make interpretation as to this section of the Act. However it is clear what the intent of the law in the drafting of this section.

The view was that in principle the role of real estate agents was not as transparent as some would judge it needed to be – whether that was a small minority that created that perception or whether it was a wider held view is again not something I would wish to speculate on.

The key issue I feel is the appropriateness and application of the disclosure of rebates and discounts on advertising in the media which is clearly what this section covers.

Let’s look at real situations as they occur in this industry – A real estate agent when putting forward a marketing proposal will quote the cost of a premium featured listing on a website or an advert in the newspaper. From my experience the majority of real estate agents charge clients the cost that the publication or website charges them (ie. charged at cost with no margin added).

In the case of our website a featured listings is currently $250 (inc GST) – in the case of the NZ Herald the cost of an advert is clear in the rate card.

The real question is how much information does the public want or need to know in regard to the costs of advertising; as long as the cost is the competitively challenged market rate.

For example if the newspaper or website is aggressively fighting with a competitor and decides to reward loyalty or incentivise a real estate company through some form of annual rebate – should that be disclosed? – could that be disclosed?

If for example it was an annual volume based rebate. If that rebate was disclosed to the property owner and the owner felt that the rebate should be deducted from the marketing costs. If subsequently the real estate company fell short of the annual volume target set by the media company and therefore failed to receive the rebate – what happens then? Does the property owner have to refund the rebate?

The fact is most businesses – whether they be restaurants, bars, supermarkets, plumbers, painters, carpet layers etc etc operate on the basis that the costs of the raw materials supplied by them to a client may not be what they paid – there may be a volume rebate. What is so different about real estate?

Real estate is a competitive business. If a property owner does not like the service or fees from one company they can cross the road to another company.


Compelling images really sell a property (Updated)

Posted on: September 3rd, 2009 | Filed in Online marketing

With an average of 350 new listings coming onto the website everyday at the moment as we head into spring you can get a bit overawed with the property for sale in NZ. However every once in a while there is a property that appears on the site that makes a lasting impression – just such a property caught my eye today.

Omokoroa property for sale on this is a very impressive property comprising 6 bedrooms and therefore you could argue that it is bound to be more of a dream property. I do believe that a key component of what caught my eye was the quality of the photography. The vendor in consultation with the agent chose to get in a professional photographer and create a very appealing and engaging portfolio of images.

These 16 photos are a superb example in my judgement of how to really market real estate. Those photos are the most powerful and effective way of grabbing attention as a would-be buyer scans the website and the search results. This property rightfully jumps out and says in confident and arresting tone “Check out this house”. As a vendor that is what you want from marketing and this is what the property achieves.

The proof is in the pudding – in just 7 days the property has been viewed over 1,000 times – the fact that it is a featured listing on the website is certainly one reason for the success, but without those powerful images the results would undoubtedly be somewhat less.


Added to the photography is a very compelling summary of the selling points of the property as well as the surrounding community, coupled with a map to provide locational information, this listing comes close to a perfect presentation – the only missing piece is probably the asking price expectation which is so often requested by users sharing their feedback with us on the site.

All of this supports the key finding from the latest Nielsen Online survey into the real estate market. The research surveyed over 1,200 people actively using real estate websites here in NZ during June.

A key question asked was “How useful do you feel the following online resources would be in helping you to research properties and find relevant properties for sale?

The results as seen from the chart below are unambiguous – consumers are telling us they want loads of large high quality images, this helps them make good informed decision as to how the property looks in all rooms and from all angles.

Additionally consumers want context – where it is and what is its surrounding neighbourhood like – this comes from an accurate address which can be mapped.

Lastly consumers want an accurate price indication – they want to know if this dream home really matches their budget.

These are what the consumers want – as a website operator this is what we want so as to provide the searching buyers on the site with what they want – to achieve this we need to get the real estate industry to embrace this message of rich, compelling content – that is a constant part of our role here at

Nielsen research of the NZ real estate market top 13 wish list for buyers

Update 4th September

Below is a further chart providing results from the Nielsen survey showing additional items that buyers are keen to see presented on real estate websites.

Nielsen Research of the NZ real estate market wish list for buyers pt 2


Newspapers big losers as property searchers stampede online

Posted on: August 25th, 2009 | Filed in Buying / Selling a home, Online marketing, Website searching

Each year around this time there is heated anticipation for the release of the annual Nielsen Real Estate Market Report. This comprehensive survey of property buyers and sellers has become a seminal guidebook to the trends in real estate as it has been undertaken in each of the past 4 years.

The survey (which is undertaken through an online survey) covers many aspects of consumer behaviour, attitudes and awareness of the industry and each year new insights and critical trends emerge.

This year one chart from the amongst one hundred pages of the report leaped out and said in a confident and striking manner – LOOK AT ME!

A total of 1,206 people were asked the question:

Thinking about the different media and other things that you consult for the purpose of researching real estate, how useful do you perceive the following?

The respondents were shown a list of 14 sources of real estate information – everything from TV and real estate office window displays to magazines, newspapers and the web, in all their different forms. The respondents were then asked to rate each by how useful they though each was. The chart below compares the 2 major competing media – newspapers and specialist real estate websites.

Nielsen Online real estate market report 2009 - usefulness of media

The results are staggering with 95% of people saying that specialist real estate websites were “useful or very useful” as compared to just 49% for newspapers – taking the judgement of “very useful”; less than 1 in 10 judged newspapers as “very useful”, whereas with specialist real estate websites 2 out of 3 judged them “very useful”.

Evaluating all of the 14 media options as to how many had been consulted in the past week equally startling trends emerged, comparing this year to last year.

Nielsen Online real estate market report 2009 - media consulted last week

Right up at the top of the list is specialist real estate websites; up from 69% last year to 78% this year. Other web options of company websites and search engines showed growth at 63% and 38% respectively.

However the print versions of real estate saw significant declines. Specialist magazines remain relevant although falling from 55% to just 46%. Local newspapers fell from 49% to 40% and then far behind was national / metropolitan newspapers down from 43% last year to just 31% this year – this means that now less than a third of all property researchers surveyed consulted metropolitan newspapers in the past week.

These figures are in some ways not that alarming as the rise in traffic to real estate websites has been enormous over the past few years, however despite this and despite the behaviour of buyers and sellers in using the web as the primary means of researching real estate – the real estate industry still has a love affair with printed publications, demonstrated by the colossal scale of investment of vendors money in print media, with so little relatively being placed in online media advertising of property.

I can’t help recounting a moment sitting just last month listening to a panel discussion at the Inman Connect Conference in San Francisco. I was not surprised. Nor were any of my fellow participants. One after another real estate agents shared their approach to marketing-about both marketing of themselves and of their clients’ properties. Not one of them mentioned newspapers. There are some agents in NZ who share this ethos and maybe in time we will see more; however I think the onus may need to come from property sellers to share their view on the appropriateness of online vs. offline when it comes to vendor-paid-marketing.

Update 25 September : pdf copies of these charts are downloadable here – Usefulness of different media and used in the last week.

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