The Unconditional Blog

The impartial voice of the industry

 

Archive for the ‘Online marketing’ Category

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Newspaper advertising takes another hit as real estate focuses on the web

Posted on: September 13th, 2008 | Filed in Online marketing

The question was posed on this blog earlier this year as to the future of newspaper advertising for the real estate industry. Well the facts seem to be piling up especially given the latest information from the US released this week.

In the 2nd quarter total US newspaper advertising by real estate companies was down 36% on the same time last year as seen from the graph below. The figures compiled in the blog post by Trulia CEO Pete Flint shows that whereas in the first half of 2007 close on US$2billion was spent advertising real estate in newspapers the same period of 2008 saw just US$1.2billion.

As he points out this is good news for the real estate industry and the consumer, providing as it does a means for the industry to operate more effectively leveraging the greater reach and efficiency of the web to provide a far more cost effective advertising medium for property.

In NZ it is clear that media companies are concerned about declining ad revenue – the recent news of job losses must have been influenced in part by declining ad revenue. Added to this was recent statistics released by Nielsen Online in July showing that when it comes to real estate information online newspapers are loosing relevance. The online survey undertaken in May and June asked respondents how useful they rated differing forms of media for real estate research – specialist real estate website such as realestate.co.nz where rated as useful or very useful by 93% of respondents, by comparison metropolitan newspapers were similarly rated by only 48% of respondents, falling behind real estate office window displays and for-sale signs which were rated by 53% and 54% respectively.

Whilst the benefits of this more efficient and cost effective medium should benefit the consumer, it is concerning that whilst media companies so dominate the market place, the loss of business in print has driven dramatic price increases in online advertising.

Examine for a moment the cost of a property listing on trade me. Just over 2 years ago a listing cost $49, in intervening period the cost has increased through $99 and $149 to the current price of $199 – a 300% increase! all adding to the recent profit result of $70 million from the website. By comparison this website of realestate.co.nz which is owned by the real estate industry has not altered its fees to the industry at $200 per office per month for an unlimited number of listings since it launched in August 2006.

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Real estate websites – the fundamentals of design, form and function

Posted on: September 7th, 2008 | Filed in Online marketing

I am avid podcast listener and have through this medium gained a sense of using my time more efficiently;be it listening to global news or technology developments whilst in the car or walking to work. So it was natural that at some stage I would come across a podcast that I just had to share -so have a listen to this one.

In the past I have highlighted the appeal of the Real Estate Guys podcast, but today’s podcast is from a team called Intuitive Websites this podcast series focuses on online marketing, providing tips and trends of specialised web site design and development – not techy, just good practical insight and ideas.

This particular podcast should be mandatory listening for every real estate agent out there! – it is full of valuable advice and insight regarding the key components of real estate on the web.

I also believe it is of as much value to property owners looking to market their homes, as it is to agents marketing property on behalf of owners. I would encourage property owners to challenge and question not just the choice of advertising media proposed by agents, but also to evaluate the presentation of those adverts – especially when it comes to the web given in the vast majority of cases it is the first place people begin their property searching.

The summation of the podcast (which is only around 18 minutes) is categorised by these 4 platforms.

  1. Photos – rich imagery is so important, but more than just that is understanding the emotional connections to the imagery – there are some really interesting observations here.
  2. Video – with the greater access to faster broadband this medium is likely to grow to become a staple component of almost all listings ( realestate.co.nz is seeing  a vast upsurge in videos on listings overr the past few months).
  3. Information – dazzle those website visitors with tons of information on the property – just so that they do contact the agent – one of the ingrained issues of this industry in relation to marketing in general is that many agents think the opposite – because that is how it used to be! – but the internet has for ever changed that.
  4. For the agent advice around finding your niche and then actively marketing online with the specific purpose to deliver leads through use of traffic building marketing tolls online, specifically search engine marketing and search engine optimisation.

They may not seem that radical ideas – but the value they can add to the presentation of properties is huge when you see it from the perspective of the benefit of following these key strategies as opposed to not following them.

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Video adds to the impact of property listings

Posted on: August 16th, 2008 | Filed in Online marketing

The key message as to the future technology emerging from the Real Estate Connect conference held in San Francisco last month was focused around the accelerated adoption of new forms of social media matched with the long anticipated and eagerly awaited mainstream adoption of video.

Whilst at one end of the spectrum we still get frustrated that some agents in this industry still don’t upload sufficient photos to do justice to a property (and in the worst of cases fail to load any!), there are a growing number of agents who are turning to video to really highlight and profile their clients’ listings. With this adoption of rich multi-media comes a new raised level of transparency.

As one of the panelists highlighted with video you expose in a more open and valuable way the full picture of a property from all angles rather a brief selection of photos which profile a limited “somewhat selective view”.

There was some very valuable insight from these sessions which I think is of relevant to property owners looking to be better informed about online marketing, as to agents looking to add video as a component of the marketing of a property.

  1. The comprehensive view was that video is clearly a complement to a comprehensive portfolio of photos – not a substitute. Video are an engaging visually rich experience to serious buyers allowing a far more real “virtual” home tour
  2. Virtual tours, those 360 degree panoramic tours taken from a point in each room are finally consigned to history. They have always been somewhat of a compromise which now video can adequately replace.
  3. Participants recommended that the videos were a valuable opportunity to capture not just the property but also the neighbourhood, which then provides rich context to the presentations so people could see the streetscape, schools and community feel.
  4. As to the creative construction of the video there was felt to be value in a commentary to “guide” people through the house. Amusingly was the discussion as to whether this should be done by the agent as part of the sound track or by a professional voice-over. Clearly a professional final product is paramount!
  5. Some agents saw virtue in having the existing owners participate to showcase the property and thereby add that personal experience, equally some “camera confident” agents loved the opportunity to take centre stage -an interesting decision – certainly a matter of taste!
  6. As to the question of DIY or professional production, naturally money plays a part of such a decision. With the latest HD video cameras costing in the low hundreds of dollars allows video to be so easily accessible to all, but there is no substitute for a quality presentation especially when selling a property of upwards of a million dollars.

At realestate.co.nz we are embracing video as a tool set to complement traditional photos portfolios and open2view presentations. We do not host videos, but choose to embed videos from 3rd party hosting services.

Whilst you may not be yet convinced of the merits of a large scale and cost video production – we have partnered with an NZ company Virtual Studios with an innovative product Website Telly. They provide a unique service whereby they professionally produce a 30 second virtual TV commercial for a property featured on realestate.co.nz utilising the available media content we have on the listing.

If you are interested in promoting your property to attract additional exposure and therefore prospective buyers, this service costs $250 (inc GST), and can be ordered through your listing agent or direct from us, just complete the form and we will get in touch to explain in full the service. Additionally have a look at some of these properties taking advantage of this new service.

Webtelly 2
Webtelly 1
11

The power of social media – delivering results

Posted on: August 13th, 2008 | Filed in Online marketing

I am currently reading a great book called “Naked Conversations: How Blogs Are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers“. The title was at one time proposed as Blog or Die! – a very dramatic statement  and one the authors may have wished they had chosen, because this statement 2 years on from the time the book was written is becoming a true component of almost all businesses.

We live in a world of greater transparency – access to all types of information is more freely available and as a consequence consumers feel suitably empowered – better able to join the dots in what-in-the past has been the clouded veil of the multitude of steps between producers and retailers. The outcome of this is potentially greater volatility – a case in point has been the global credit melt down, where, be it a function of solid information or plain rumour the downfall of major banks and financial institutions has occurred in the matter of days and weeks.

Turning to real estate, there is no doubt that greater transparency of information will and must pervade this industry as the incumbent agents realise that greater respect, credibility and trust will naturally follow from sharing as much information as possible on properties. This starts with addresses for all properties, rich and comprehensive photos, property files, historical sales information as well as latest trends on sales and prices.

The consumers out in the market place, be they buyer or sellers are interested and spend a large amount of time researching. The latest statistics released by Nielsen Online in their Realestate.co.nz sponsored “Real Estate Market Report” showed that respondents spent an average of 167 minutes per week researching property on specialist real estate websites (up 4% from 2007), with 93% of respondents rating specialist real estate websites as a useful media option for real estate information, and nearly a quarter stating that they are likely to use them more frequently in the coming 6 months.

These researchers are not just looking at what is on the market, but they are also looking for broader range of information, the most valuable source of which is social media – primarily blogs.

A year ago the word blog when put in front of a group of real estate agents would have generated puzzled and dumbfounded looks – today though the opposite. There are over 50 bloggers actively posting on the Voices blog platform – check out the home page, most of the 5 posts there at the foot of the page are from the past 24 to 48 hours, and represent a rich and divergent perspective on real estate.

Another telling statistic of the power of blogs is shown by the graph above. It shows the level of international traffic to the realestate.co.nz website over the past two and a half years, whilst growth was steady through 2007 – the scale of growth in 2008 has been huge. The reason is clear, through the adoption of social media in this Unconditonal blog and Voices blogs the website of realestate.co.nz has become more broadly indexed by Google around the world, this has driven a broader audience who have checked us out and stayed a while to consider the property market in NZ – maybe with an eye to buying in the near future.

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Belief in private sales falls as property market falls

Posted on: August 5th, 2008 | Filed in Online marketing, Real Estate Industry, Website searching
FSBO - appeal falls as market falls

Step back a year or so ago when all seemed right with the property market. Prices were steadily advancing and buyers were plentiful, this was a time when the pervading view was selling a property was as easy as selling a second hand car. All you needed was the web and a sign board, this was the time when people were questioning the very existence of real estate agents.

Well come back to today and the reality of the market which has shown all the symptoms of a significant slump with the total sales for the first half of 2008 falling just short of 30,000 representing a 43% decline. Now it appears from research released today that sellers are turning back to the real estate agents to help sell their house.

The annual Nielsen Online study into the behaviour of buyers and sellers of property provides a rich insight into the market through the eyes of a sample of consumers actively using real estate websites. The survey examines many aspects of real estate marketing online as well as the buying and selling process.

One of the key finding of the report is that in the past year there has been a significant increase in homeowners planning to get a professional real estate agent to sell their property instead of planning to undertake a private sale.

41% of vendors say they will DEFINITELY list with a real estate agent compared to 35% last year.

In total last year the survey said half of all sellers would at least try to sell without using an agent, that number this year is 46%, with just 14% this year said they would definitely sell privately.

It is clear from these figures that as a consequence of the change in market conditions, sellers better recognise the value of a real estate agent to be better able to secure buyers and close a deal on their property.

This renewed confidence in the role of the agent to support the seller has not in any way diminished the critical importance of the web as the primary search and marketing tool for all parties in the real estate industry. In total across all websites monitored by Nielsen Online the total daily average number of browsers now exceeds 100,000 and in total these visitors consume over 1 million hours researching real estate website information per month, both of these traffic statistics represent growth over last year 22% in the case of daily browsers and 30% in terms of duration.

Examining the attitudes of prospective sellers to the real estate agent in general shows some interesting pointers. The factor potentially effecting the selection of an agent the most is reputation, for whilst “previous experience” of real estate company came out top with 39%, the fastest and most consistent growth over the past 2 years is reputation of the agent – from 34% 2 years ago to 37% now.

It is clear from reading this blog in the past you will be aware of the growth in individual agents writing their own blog – this is judged to be the most effective tool for an agent to demonstrate through open and honest communication a passion and competence and through blog comments attract genuine feedback. The Voices platform of blogs for agents has been a catalyst for this change with now over 50 agents actively blogging – all from a base of virtually nothing 6 months ago.

Survey background
Nielsen Online surveyed nearly 1,200 online users between April and June 2008.  The research was undertaken on four selected real estate websites and compared the data to the two previous Nielsen Online surveys in 2006 and 2007.  The report was commissioned by a number of companies operating specialist real estate websites and services within the industry and sponsored by www.realestate.co.nz .  The survey has a margin of error of 2.9%.
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Newspapers and real estate – a match made in heaven; now beginning to show signs of disaffection

Posted on: July 7th, 2008 | Filed in Media commmentary, Online marketing

Newspapers vs online in the real estate raceThe reliance on newspapers by the real estate industry has been an enduring relationship – one that has seen many a boom and bust in the latter’s industry cycles, and yet through all of that, the two have been inseparable – a perfect symbiotic relationship.

Newspapers have delivered the captive audience and offered the visual medium so critical in portraying property for sale at what has been a cost effective rate. The real estate industry has found the layout opportunity of the newspapers very much to their liking with clear sections focussed to bundle key company brands rather than location based presentation. Allied to this the individual agents have grabbed the opportunity to profile themselves as part of the newspaper advert for a client’s property again bundling their portfolio as a subset of the company pages. All very efficiently handled and mutually supportive.

But as with every other industry and in fact every advertising medium the steady march of the internet has begun to expose some deep cracks in these relationships.

The newspaper industry when it comes to real estate search is struggling to maintain a relevant and credible offering – the market research from Nielsen Online as of July last year showed that in the 12 months running up to the report the rating of newspapers as the most actively used medium for searching for properties in the past week had remained static at just under 50% of all buyers, whilst by comparison the web has rocketed from 70% to 80%. (The latest update to the research will be available shortly and based on overseas trends is rising at a stellar rate towards 95%).

The impact from the latest data from the US is also showing the effect on the bottom line of the newspaper industry. The statistics from the Newspaper Association of America just released for the 1st quarter of 2008 show just how much the real estate industry is fleeing this once critical medium – a 35% decline in spending in the 1st quarter of this year as compared to 2007 – just US$619m was spent – representing a net loss to the newspaper industry of US$334m!

Real estate newspaper advertising in the US It is interesting that these figures were reported in the NZ Herald the other week, but were not featured among the headlines of the day. The adjacent graph shows the extent of the decline in real estate advertising on newspapers in the US over the past 3 years – a period that has seen over a billion dollars removed from newspapers’ coffers and reinvested in other media or simply not spent.

The comparable data for NZ is not published – investigation of the website for newspaper advertising does not offer such comprehensive information to provide an insight into the performance of the two major media empires of the NZ market.

Whilst the decline is inevitable the extent of the reliance on this medium is still surprising. One explanation for the continuation of the support for the medium was effectively shown in a recent research study of the marketing activities of a sample of 1,300 US agents carried out by VHT – a real estate marketing services company.

When asked what their most common media for advertising a listing 83.3 percent said they used newspapers. While respondents indicated a significant portion of their listing budget was spent on newspapers, only 20.4 percent said they think this medium is “effective.” 49 percent felt that online ads were “very effective.”

As to this illogical imbalance between investment and return – the telling statistic was the in the response that when asked what their sellers felt was important (in advertising a property) 92.4 percent said that their sellers mentioned newspaper ads.

Clearly the real estate industry continues to educate the public in the perpetuation of the belief that newspapers are valuable in marketing property, thereby gaining valuable marketing dollars to continue the perpetuation of company and individual agent self promotion in the property supplements to the newspapers. The purpose of this blog is to bring some impartial perspective to the real estate industry and I believe this is one of the key elements of this industry that needs greater understanding and transparency.

Disclosure of interest – it should be noted that the successful transfer of marketing dollars to online website such as realestate.co.nz is in the best interests of the consumer (property buyers and sellers), the real estate industry and this website – a rough estimate of the collective media spend by the real estate industry online in the whole of 2007 in NZ was less than $15m – that is less than 10% of the total spend by the real estate industry across all media, yet at that level of spend online is delivering the best return in lead generation.

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Google maps add terrain details to enhance property mapping on the website

Posted on: June 20th, 2008 | Filed in Online marketing, Website news

One day in the near future – in theory at least, you will be able to do a virtual fly around a property that you are interested in buying – all aided with the benefits of tiny helicopter. This will show you all of the property and the surrounding properties and landscapes! However until that time comes we must press on with what is becoming an every richer portfolio of information helping to provide context to property listings on the website.

As has been detailed recently we provide rich Open2view photographic portfolios on properties which include dynamic floor plans and virtual tours. We also have added embedded videos – all of these enhancements are designed to enable you to gain a greater understanding of properties from the comfort of your armchair.

Thanks to the technical competency of Google and their mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful, we are now able to provide you richer mapping information on every property on the website for which we have an address provided by the listings agent. (As an aside we only show maps for properties for which the agent marketing the property has told us we have the right to display the address. If your property is not shown with a map it is necessary for you to instruct the agent to notify us to show the address – from our research maps are a highly valued aspect of a listing for a property for sale).

This new information is topography – terrain information provided by Google – maps with the contour lines showing you clearly the hills, mountains and valleys of the area around the property. So now for every property with a map you can see the satellite image, the 2 dimensional road map and now the terrain perspective – all adding up to a more complete perspective on a property as this beautiful property of a winter wonderland just north of Queenstown in the valley looking towards the Coronet Peak snow field clearly shows. The difference in having a terrain map is invaluable in enabling a more complete picture of the landscape surrounding the property.

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Need assistance promoting your property for sale?

Posted on: June 17th, 2008 | Filed in Online marketing, Website news

As is fairly self evident these days that the real estate market is not looking too bright. As to it being a crash, a slump or a correction – that is a matter of debate. What is undeniable is that it is a challenge to try and sell a property in today’s market, especially as you are competing with over 80,000 homes for sale.

As recommended back in February if you are thinking of putting your house on the market – don’t be afraid of being a tall poppy! – the message being, you have to find ways of ensuring that your property stands out from the rest of the crowd – the crowd that is actively trying to grab the attention of prospective buyers.

In times-gone-by the best approach was to purchase a full page advert in the newspaper or Property Press, or undertake through your agent a letter box drop. Well naturally with the sophistication of the web things have moved on and the solution today is in featured listings – you go to any retail based website and you will see the “featured product” of the day or the “home page featured product” – well at realestate.co.nz it is no different – we have the equivalent – Featured Listings.

These select few listings get premium exposure on key parts of the site and are effectively become billboards on the search process – enabling your property to be seen by a wider and larger audience than would be the case with a standard listing.

Just 3 properties are featured exclusively per suburb, these properties are also featured on broader searches of the relevant region of the country. To add that complete component of premium exposure the listing is featured in rotation as one of 6 images on the home page of the website.

Featured property listing on realestate.co.nzOne of the compelling components of web marketing is the fact that for every action you can accurately track activity in the form of viewings. Compare that to a single page in the weekly property publications – can anyone accurately say how many people looked at it or actually did anything? With a web listing every time the property is viewed it is recorded, anytime an email is sent it is recorded or if the viewer goes to the agent website to see more details – all recorded.

In terms of performance of a featured listing the figures are undeniable – on average a featured listing is viewed over 2,000 times in a 2 week period – that’s compared to non-featured properties receiving on average about 80 viewings for the same period.

featured listings performance on realestate.co.nzTo see the performance of any one of these featured listings just click any of the properties on the home page and then look to see the viewing stats by day – as the example here shows the impact of promoting a listing to become a featured listing turbo charges its views.

If you want to give your property listing that kind of premium exposure then talk to your listing agent, the cost is $795 for 14 days – 24hrs per day. Or if you want our help email us or call our customer support center. Go on give it a go – your property deserves the best marketing – online.

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Property book – real estate publication online

Posted on: May 31st, 2008 | Filed in Media commmentary, Online marketing, Website searching

The launch date has arrived and we are now able to evaluate the deliverable of a new entrant to the property advertising market in NZ, both on and offline – so what do you think?

Having seen the website I personally can now see the logic behind some of the press release comments – the claim of “buyers will be able to register to receive weekly email updates hot off the press” makes sense when the website is actually a weekly ebook of the print publication – so clearly they can inform interested buyers each week that there is a new ebook.

The first week’s publication is for Auckland city and next week we are told that a North Shore edition will be released. The content of this week’s edition stretches to 24 pages and 31 properties – by comparison this seems a bit light with 4,789 Auckland City properties for sale on realestate.co.nz today.

The single lasting impression of flicking through the ebook online as a surrogate for the pleasure of a nice cafe and a chance to flick through the real thing, is the fact that if you ripped off the front page you could not possibly tell the difference between Property Book and Property Press – now, is this a case of imitation being the sincerest form of flattery? or is this a clear case of passing off and the matter may now end up in the high court. Either way let’s leave web searching for property online to the trusted and frequented web portal supported by the vast majority of real estate professionals, after all where would the web be without comprehensive content.

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MyHome (www.myhome.com.au) – an epitaph to aspiring media owned real estate websites

Posted on: May 20th, 2008 | Filed in International, Online marketing

Here is a sobering reality check for the challenges of the online market in the more sophisticated online world. Take an powerful regional media company (PBL), add the “software company of the century” (Microsoft), add A$20 million and develop a website, add liberal injections of national TV programmes and wait 16 months to build an online empire for real estate online.

MyHome Australia real estate website -closing its doors after 16 monthsThe result is the closure of a well funded and well supported real estate website in Australia! MyHome.com.au – just 16 months after launching to compete with the 6,000 kg gorilla of Realestate.com.au and its adversary Domain.com.au. MyHome is to close up shop and withdraw from the market. The reason for the decision is not clear although visitor traffic seems at the heart of the issue with latest stats of less than 500,000 monthly unique browsers, far short of the projected 1,000,000 projected at the launch.

Time will provide the full reasons behind the demise – but simplistically one could easily say that classically content is king!

Without a comprehensive portfolio of property to view, the consumer was less than motivated to visit a site that offered no significant benefit to other sites which people had become well accustomed to using. This despite extensive, expensive and comprehensive marketing campaigns. What is staggering is that this message was I thought learnt the hard way back in the internet bubble days across the world 8 years ago when billions of dollars was wasted building and advertising websites without content or value for the consumer.

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