The Unconditional Blog

The impartial voice of the industry


Archive for the ‘Online marketing’ Category


Property Book – the future of property advertising!

Posted on: May 17th, 2008 | Filed in Online marketing

If you live in Auckland and are intrigued by a billboard and bus advertising campaign for something called Property Book, I thought I would help you with the answer – primarily because what is being advertised is not actually available today!

It is at first sight a rather strange thing to do, and effectively breaks one of the golden rules of advertising – make sure you have adequate stock and highly impactful merchandising of your product ready before you hit the advertising button!

So what is Property Book and why the advertising?

The information I have to hand is a press release sent out earlier this month – this was kindly highlighted by Lance Wiggs in his blogpost “Property BS“. The PR release makes some pretty amazing claims that I thought I would share, so that you as a property buyer can make an informed decision as to whether you will hunt it out.

The advertising uses the line “the future of property advertising” – yet the PR says that it will be a free glossy magazine and a website – not really very different from many offerings in the market today! Property Press is very well established and extensively read; and rather like this site provides a very comprehensive presentation of properties for sale.

The publication is “promising an innovative online version aimed at local and international buyers” – interesting! They go on to say that the site will be “cool and convenient!” and “buyers will be able to register to receive weekly email updates hot off the press”! – wow that is (not) innovative – did nobody tell them the public already have daily or weekly emails or instant RSS feeds from and most other real estate websites.

Further, the PR says “visitors who view Property Book’s online ads will also be able to click through to agency advertisers’ own sites”. Again not innovative – that works on almost all listings on

The launch date is the 29th May for Auckland City with North Shore on the 5th June. The reason for the advertising ahead of time is simple – they need to have content to make their business succeed both in print form and online. Without property to feature their first book and subsequent books and the website will be of little value to the public, so what they want is to convince the real estate agents to bring their advertising budgets to them.

Now I believe completely in competition, it is healthy – the current online real estate market is incredibly competitive with a number of competing portal websites as well as the company websites(Nielsen Online currently track over 20 real estate websites). For Property Book online it will be tough, we welcome them to the market – the key test for them as all website have found over the short life of the internet – is that content is King! There are over 100,000 real estate listings in the market in NZ today – it will be interesting to see how many they secure for their website.


Newspapers create impresssions, the web delivers !

Posted on: April 30th, 2008 | Filed in Online marketing

Following my recent post regarding the battleground of newspapers vs websites for real estate I received this email today from a real estate agent:

Thanks for your email about wasting money on print advertising and website traffic on the Real Estate website.

I would like to say that in the last 12 months of advertising property on the Real Estate website, I personally have had may be 2 email enquiries from an average 6 – 8 listings.

Not a terrific response compared to our local newspaper adverts.

It is all very well having statistics about web traffic, however that traffic is not generating genuine enquiries, in my experience.

I look forward to your comments

Naturally I felt that having made the assertion I needed to respond:

The fact is the web is an entirely transparent and accountable medium – something that newspapers have never been. You spend say for example $500 for a newspaper advert. It is printed in say 10,000 newspapers that are sold or distributed – then you wait.

The fact is that nobody can tell you what happens then! The only thing you know is that within 24 hrs those 10,000 images of that property are likely to be gracing the bottom of the litter bin or the fish and chip wrapping – the only fact we all know is that image is lost forever within 3 days.

Nobody definitively knows how many people looked at that newspaper advert for how long, how many, if any people acted on that advert, how many are driven to call you or come along to an open home. True when asked where they “saw” the property details property buyers will say “oh – in the local paper” – why? because everybody knows that is where property is featured. People have been conditioned by a lifetime of habit that has changed in the blink of an eye, well 4 years of the web.

Now compare that to the web. A listing on a website is there not just for the weeks it is on the market but it actually is archived to be there for eternity. It is possible that it could be seen by everyone on earth who has access to a computer – estimated today at around 900 million, but that is too general because every website can tell you exactly when to the last second, when someone looked at that listing. How long they looked at it, where they were (in the world) when they looked at it, what they looked at before they looked at it, what they looked at next, what computer they were using and what if anything they did with that viewing (an email, a saved search or image). Not only that there is a record of an address of who looked at it and also if they have looked at it before. That listing is featured every second of every day that you want it featured. That is I would judge very powerful – as to it being better than newspapers, how can you tell when you know so little about newspapers?

As to email enquiries, being a little flippant – when was the last time you got a letter posted after someone saw an advert for a property in a newspaper!

The average buyer is not that interested in sending an email if the details they are after are all on the web, that is often the reason that you get more enquiries from newspapers – precisely because newspaper adverts contain so little information. A buyer uses the internet to search and make judgements as to a shortlist of properties to see. The web has conditioned consumers to do far more self-managed research and to rely less on retailers / agents. So that is why you may not get emails – it could be because you provide so much good information.

The salient fact is that more and more buyers judge the internet as the most valued source of property information (80% in 2007) – just because they do not tell you that when asked the question, may have more to do with the reinforcement of the belief that real estate agents have in newspapers as their prime advertising medium than it does in the average buyer telling you the truth.

As a footnote to the original email and in no way being disrespectful to the agent concerned I checked the history of their listings. The facts were that a total of 27 listings were featured on the site in the past 12 months. Individually each listing averaged 150 viewings per property and in total they received 13 email enquiries.


The 3 P’s for selling your property

Posted on: April 29th, 2008 | Filed in Buying / Selling a home, Online marketing

It is classic textbook marketing theory – there are 4 P’s of consumer marketing:


Now in the case of real estate the “place” (which in consumer product terms is where to buy a product) is rather constrained as you cannot buy the house you want except where it is now and will likely be forever more! – So we need to discount this “P”. Although it is the driver of ‘location, location, location’ you cannot change or influence it.

So that leaves just 3 P’s of marketing a property – The right product at the right price, promoted in the best way to appeal to the target audience of buyers. Today’s property market is cluttered with a stockpile of properties all fighting for attention. For those of you as property owners looking to sell here are some valuable reminders collected from my discussions with real estate agents, as well as what I judge to be good sound business sense. If you have any other ideas and thoughts please add a comment to this post to share your thoughts with others.


To get the product right is all about impressions, not just first impressions when someone walks in the door; because in today’s market it is even harder to get people to leave their armchair and visit an open home. The reality is that your house has to leap off the web page because that is where most prospective buyers will find details about your property. So in order to attain that standout “wow factor” look to the presentation of the property on the website search page. To achieve this simply get the best photography as well as devise great copy describing the property.

For photography nothing beats quality and quantity. People spend a lot of time viewing real estate websites; on average for this is close to 10 minutes for every visitor, and in that time they want rich, engaging content. Many properties now feature upwards of 20 to 40 images, this give prospective buyers great information. Be very conscious of picking the right photo to be the first photo as this is the one that is displayed on the search results – this is the photo that has to work hardest get people to click through for more details.

For description of the property key facts well laid out with good easy to read language is critical. Make sure you critique the proposed copy, get your friends to review it as well – is it engaging, relevant and interesting?? – don’t be afraid to make changes to add impact.


As detailed in the post “Thinking of putting your house on the market – don’t be afraid of being a tall poppy!” – The need to stand out in today’s market is critical. Having resoundingly destroyed the myth of newspaper advertising for property let me highlight the merits of choosing a new service on this website to promote your property with maximum impact.

For less than the cost of a colour page in most print publications you can have your property featured on the home page and on the suburb page – attracting an audience which often exceeds 4,000 viewings in a 2 week period. This type of promotion is in high demand so speak with your agent or contact us. Remember this promotion is working 24 hours a day for 2 whole weeks, not just a page on a daily paper becoming part of tomorrow’s recycle bin collection.


This is where the reality of today’s market really hits home. With plentiful choice, buyers in today’s market are looking for properties that are realistically priced. That is not to say that only bargains will sell. However properties without an asking price will be at a disadvantage as buyers are more likely to regard these properties as less actively marketed.

When the market is running hot as it was a year ago and properties typically sold with 4 weeks, not stipulating a price was not a great problem. However a year later with many properties staying on the market for many months – transparency of price expectation will certainly illicit a response from prospective buyers – even if it is to reject the property as the price is outside their range.

It is worth remembering that whilst we encourage all our customers to individually price all property on the website, they may for many reasons choose not to, preferring to identify the property as by negotiation, or some other phrase. In this case for these properties we mandate the requirement for property to be presented with a hidden price range; this range drives the search engine function of the site, helping in your refined search.

And as a last piece of advice on pricing, have a read of this article regarding research in the US which states that selecting a price with lots of zeros is less effective than more accurate pricing – $374,500 being better than $380,000.


Newspapers vs. websites – the battle ground for selling your home

Posted on: April 26th, 2008 | Filed in Online marketing, Website searching

As you struggle home from the dairy on a Saturday morning with kids in tow – the ubiquitous bottle of milk in one hand and the weekend paper in the other, ask yourself this question – is all this newsprint I am taking home only to discard in the recycling bin on Monday morning really worth the bother or the cost to the environment?

The fact is newspapers are getting bigger and bigger – not unfortunately as a result of deep insightful investigative journalism, more the result of more and more advertising. At a rough count, the average weekend paper comprising 5 sections and over 150 pages is close to 55% adverts, and of these a third are real estate adverts making the property section often bigger than the national news section – maybe it is time to rename this bulky mass of newsprint the Weekend PropertyPaper.

The reason for the mass of paper based adverts are two fold – the state of the market and the behaviour of the real estate industry.

As the market for residential property has stuttered to a halt over the first quarter of this year, the stock of properties for sale has risen sharply. As reported back in February the stock of properties on this website has risen from 58,000 in October to 60,000 in December to 76,000 in February, to stand today at 81,000 – an extra 23,000 properties in just 6 months!

When set against the projected annual sales of c. 72,000 this calendar year, the stock represents close on 15 months stock – so in theory if no more listing were taken by agents it would take till mid June 2009 to clear this stock!!

All of the owners of these properties are presumably keen to sell. And for real estate agents keen to sell these properties advertising them is critical to ensure they standout from the rest of the market. This results in a bumper time for newspapers that lap up this demand and charge accordingly. In total an estimated annual marketing expenditure by the industry of over $120 million. This lemming like flight to newsprint by real estate agents is in fact in complete contrast to the blinding facts of behaviour of property seekers both here and overseas.

In NZ and internationally the vast majority of property searches start online – the emerging figure is close to 80% of all searches are undertaken on the web; rising steadily from almost nowhere earlier this decade. In the most recent study undertaken in NZ last year through an online survey undertaken by Nielsen Online, 80% of respondents sighted specialist real estate websites as the most consulted in the past week, the comparable figure for metropolitan newspapers was 49.6%. In terms of trends over the past year, websites were up by 10 % and newspapers fell by 7%.

These statistics you would think would drive more and more real estate agents and their clients – home owners to abandon the world of newsprint and insatiably devour real estate websites. The truth be told – its isn’t happening, and the reason is the old head in the sand mentality.

I personally could not have put it better than this quote from Sami Inkinen – founder and COO of Trulia a very successful US property website. The quote is from a major strategic report by Stefan Swanepoel – 2008 Real Estate Trends.

“I can’t find a single large real estate brokerage firm in 2007 that says print advertising really works….but I can easily name dozens who still spend the majority of their ad budgets on newspapers. It’s like a chain smoker battling lung cancer, while still smoking two packs a day.”

What I find equally amazing is the reaction of real estate companies to the alarmist media headlines which some have claimed to have actually perpetrated the accelerated stalling of the property market – it feels so limp wristed – berating the media while at the same time cheerfully handing over millions of dollars a week in ad spend with no clear idea of the true value of the advertising – it is in some ways a more extreme version of the classic marketing catch-cry attributed to John Wanamaker

“I know that half of my advertising dollars are wasted … I just don’t know which half.”

For real estate it seems the ratio is ever worse, with potentially the majority of the money being wasted – “but what can we do” laments the real estate industry, after all vendors want to see their property in the paper! Well i think it is time the industry recognised the power of the web and started being more analytical with that advertising money – after all the majority of the that advertising spend is vendor paid!

Whilst I struggle to find comparable data for NZ (a function of our small newspaper industry) the US is already seeing a turning point in newspaper advertising with a report highlighted by Trulia showing that real estate newspaper advertising fell over 22% in 2007 from the high of over US$5 billion in 2006. Maybe the turning point in NZ is equally not too far away and as a consequence your Saturday morning return trip from the dairy will be lighter in weight – but maybe costlier in price as a consequence of the loss of all that real estate advertising.


Birds eye view of properties on the web

Posted on: February 25th, 2008 | Filed in Cool sites, Online marketing, Website searching

I was drawn yesterday to the very large images splashed across the front page of the Herald on Sunday as I went about my weekly supermarket shop – Graeme Hart’s $20 million make over was the story. The images clearly were taken by some rather nosy helicopter-accompanied photo-journalist. However whilst fascinated as to what Graeme Hart decides to spend his money on may interest some people, my bit of voyeurism prompted me to solicit some opinion from readers of this blog as to whether it is a good thing or not that ever more detailed images of properties are available on the web for literally any property in the world.

Now I am not of the same league of Graeme – being of somewhat more modest means. But that does not stop me searching online to find images of my house, my neighbours house, my last house and most every house we have on the site. Now Google in NZ provides very good high resolution images from satellite to show a view from effectively say 500 feet, and we utilise this service to power the maps and satellite images for properties on the site.

Very good as this is – it is nothing compared to parts of the US and UK that are now searchable using Microsoft’s Virtual Earth “birds eye” view. This as you will see provides a very much more detailed view of property than we have yet in NZ. The property featured below is actually the first house I bought in the UK – many years ago! It is found on the website which is a sister site to the leading UK property site –

Birds eye view of property curtosy of Microsoft virtual earth

I like most people when presented with this kind of technology, tend to leap at the opportunity to check out current houses and past houses just to see what people have done since you sold up; in this case added the ubiquitous English conservatory! It is almost as popular as doing Google searches on old school friends and ex-girlfriends!

Now the power of Virtual Earth “birds eye” is the fact that the images are taken from a 45 degree angle so instead of seeing just the roof you get to see the side of the house from the North, South, East and West.

The question I am interested in hearing comments on, is given the leaps in technology it will only be a matter of time before the images can be so clear as to see colours of rooms as well as how well cut the lawn is, and if the car in the drive has been washed! Is this service a heaven-sent opportunity to provide us with a richer property searching analysis or a further invasion of privacy.

And finally I could not help but highlight that what we saw on Graeme Hart’s house – as if a rare treat, is common place in the US – try out Zillow’s section of their site highlighting TV star homes – see the home of the Soprano’s in New Jersey, of course who would not recoognise that gothic house from Six Feet Under or where the actual Friends NY apartment building is!

As to when we will have such high resolution, low level imagery in NZ ? – I did ask Microsoft at a recent conference, they were not specific, but their ambition is to map the whole world at this level by the end of the decade. Google are hard on their heals with their Google Earth product.


Real estate video – the good and the bad

Posted on: January 12th, 2008 | Filed in Cool sites, Online marketing

It’s a cliche I know, but when it comes to the good and the bad in this world (and especially in the context of real estate) – you never have to look any further then the USA, and in the US it doesn’t get any better than New York. This city has this week been playing host to Real Estate Connect a real estate industry conference bringing together real estate agents and technology companies in what has become a valuable insight into global trends in real estate marketing online.

I have had the pleasure of attending and sharing the NZ experience with my US and international colleagues; hot on the list of emerging trends this year has been the role of video in real estate marketing. Real estate video is a perfect match for video – rich images, exuberant personalities and persuasive selling – the pivotal ingredients of a 3 minute mini-movie!

However as you can image there is clearly a vast difference between the professional video shoot in the made-for-TV school style as opposed to the amateur handycam style. In wishing to reflect this emerging trend I was delighted to stumble across a fantastic site which today hosts a perfect snapshot of what I am alluding too “Best of the Bad – So bad it’s good - the good and the bad of real estate videos

This video is but one of a daily diet of short videoblogs created and hosted by Rachel Natalie Klein on “” – describing itself as the “home for daily videos about real estate-obsessed NYC”. This is the best videoblog I have come across and adds richness to New Yorker’s day by providing an inspiring and entertaining video-bite on the city’s second favourite passion after money – real estate.

It certainly is worth diving into her archives to capture a spirit of New York from a real estate perspective, but also to see the capability and effectiveness of videoblogging as a communication medium – could we potentially see such a feature revealing the true lives behind the curtain of life in Remuera!?

Alistair Helm


Google “Street View” mapping will add richness to real estate websites

Posted on: January 2nd, 2008 | Filed in Media commmentary, Online marketing, Website searching

Too much information.. invasion of privacy… big brother watching us. Those are the emotive headlines at the news that Google is out in force capturing ground level images around NZ with camera mounted cars driving down your street.

Twenty years ago it was a very real concern as to the degree with which our privacy was being impacted by advancements in technology. Those Orwellian visions have materialised in a very different form from that envisaged at the time, far from being restricted and controlled, I would judge that in today’s world we are more empowered and enlightened than ever to make better decisions.

The ubiquity and pervasive power of the internet has transformed our lives – where would we be without its ability to answer our every question and provide us with a communication tool which has truly destroyed the tyranny of distance and brought NZ to the shop window of the world (or probably brought the world to the NZ shop window).

So given we should not fear this new level of information, lets look at what “Street View” can do for real estate online.

To start with let’s not forget what the current service offers as mapping has really only been available on real estate website for just over a year – street layout and satellite images to all areas of the country (satellite image resolution is variable, however with time the coverage and definition will only improve). This facility enables a very intuitive ability to search for property for sale based on where you want to live.

As an example let’s say you fancied buying a bach on the Coromandel and you fancied checking out Matarangi – the Google mapping on the site clearly shows where all the properties are located along the beach front and allows a clear understanding of which ones are real “beach front”. The standard view can be enhanced to show the satellite perspective as well – all photographed on a perfect summers day from 183 km above us.


Now the new capability of Google Street View will provide images taken from 1 metre from the ground rather than 183kms. This will provide the opportunity to not only see the house you are interested from the front gate of the property so you can see the true perspective of the house, you will then be able to spin round and look in more detail at the neighbourhood – what the adjoining properties look like, and also what’s at the end of the street!

All of these enhancements and developments will provide a richer and more valuable experience for real estate search – for both the buyer and the seller enabling a more informed buyer to better evaluate prospective properties. Bring it on! – greater openness and access to information empowers the future.


Property investors – podcasting brings wisdom from US to NZ

Posted on: December 16th, 2007 | Filed in Online marketing, Property Investing

Real Estate GuysI just wanted to share this link with you if you are an existing or prospective property investor looking for advice and wisdom from those who have been in the business for a good while.

The Real Estate Guys is a syndicated weekly radio programme that is available through iTunes. It delivers a fast paced discussion forum of topical issues and advice surrounding investing in real estate in the US market. Whilst this might not be at first glance a great use of your one hour; all I would say is it is worth a listen as before long you may be like me addicted. Best of all it is free, and there is a sense of being a part of a conversation with people who are as passionate about property investing as you are.

The content is as relevant to NZ despite the references being to the US – although of late the focus of many of their programmes is international real estate investing – including a programme recently highlighting investing in Melbourne.

Technology advances bring this world ever closer. This podcast is for me a great example allowing me to choose what I listen to and when I listen, and as for the ads – well they are fun, but you can always fast forward!

As for property investing in NZ well at this time there are over 600 listings on the site under the search of property investor – everything from a $75,000 ex state house in Dannevirke to a development opportunity in Dannemora, Auckland for $3.5m


The Joneses – “virtual” real estate or “real” real estate?

Posted on: December 14th, 2007 | Filed in Buying / Selling a home, Media commmentary, Online marketing

The news that The Joneses are planning to list on the stock exchange next year is in someways not surprising. It has many of the hallmarks of a “venture capital funded” / “new business model enabled” IPO. Initial investors are keen to see their risk capital rewarded by a broader share ownership which will afford expansion opportunities as well as realisation of early gain in value.

The enticing figure quoted by Chris Taylor of enabling investors to secure a share of a $1.2 billion market will certainly sow the seeds for a healthy interest in the reverse listing.

What caught my eye was a reference in the article on Stuff that stated that The Joneses planned to branch out into “second-tier” markets, and hoped to have 10 -15 offices in the next few years.

Now my understanding of the business model of The Joneses is that of a “virtual” real estate company – there are no offices of The Joneses on the high streets of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin – they are a highly developed customer management and marketing business that creates demand through advertising to meet the supply created through exceptional service – that’s the idea at least as I read it, so what is with this idea of 10 – 15 offices??

I personally share the views expressed very well by Mike Green – the MD of Harcourts on his blog that there is a very real prospect in the future of high streets devoid of real estate agents. Expensive office space is currently used to “house” real estate agents who seldom spend any time in the office. Additionally the days of prospective buyers wondering in to offices to find out what was for sale have been completely replaced by online searching.

So what are the future plans for The Joneses?


So what price is that property on the site?

Posted on: December 9th, 2007 | Filed in Buying / Selling a home, Money Matters, Online marketing, Website news

It is the question that ever visitor to our site asks – if not directly to us by email, then at least to the screen in front of them?

If I could do one thing for this site it would be to make sure that every property featured had a price.

Homes for sale are not like cars, where there is no question that a 4 year old Honda Accord is worth $20,000. Every house on the other hand is unique and therefore only the classic market forces of supply and demand will establish a price. We want to work to improve the transparency of pricing on all of the listings on the website to help you more effectively search.

To start with a useful piece of information for you to know. Every agent posting a listed on the site is required to provide us with either a stated price (which we display) or if it is being sold as a tender or auction or is just POA or Negotiation (or other acronym) , the listing agent must supply a price range. Armed with this information we deliver results for searches that you make on the site.

So if you search for homes for sale in Paraparumu priced between $400,000 and $500,000 you will see a selection (based on today) of 39 homes, only a third of which have a price, the rest are marked as “offers” or “negotiation”. All of these listings however were provided to us by agents who told us that the price range fell between $400,000 and $500,000. We do not, and would never try to be clever and add properties to individual priced searches for which we know the price range fell outside the range you selected.

Having explained this part of the site mechanics, it is clear that some agents select ranges that are just too broad. This is something we do not condone and we are constantly communicating with the industry to try and get them to price more openly all properties to help you – the buying public.

Page 9 of 10« First...678910