REAL LESSONS FROM REAL ESTATE CONNECT AND PROPERTY PORTAL WATCH WORKSHOP
Time just sails away when you’re having fun – especially when you’re in the City of Sails!
It’s been almost two weeks since I got back from the Inman Real Estate Connect conference in San Francisco; timed to coincide was also the Property Portal Watch Workshop, which looked at specific issues facing property portals, like realestate.co.nz (as opposed to the wider topics covered during Connect).
Hearing what the big industry players around the world are doing is always inspiring. The challenge for us Kiwis is how we take what might work in a huge market, like the US, and apply it locally. Realestate.co.nz is not alone in this; successful New Zealand based businesses know that it’s not enough to try to squeeze a square plug into a round hole. What we’re really good at doing is working out what (and how) works internationally and then shaping those ideas to fit our unique market.
Over the next little while I’ll be consolidating those key ideas, trends and the specific learning I took away from my time in San Francisco. I’ll expand on what Realestate.co.nz does and will continue to do to make your property buying, selling and renting experience easier (and cooler) as our lives become not only busier, but also digitally easier. In the meantime, I’ve managed to narrow it down the 6 core topics I got the most out of. I look forward to exploring these more with you over the coming weeks.
1) Content for the small screen and responsive site design. What are the crucial bits of information we need to convey to those browsing on their smart phone? How do real estate agents and property portals monetise premium mobile content?
2) Content syndication for overseas markets.
3) Social media. Yep, it’s part of everyday life now. We’re an e-commerce site, yes, but how can we use the platforms you use to nail a great and useful relationship?
4) TV apps – taking the previously small screen to the big screen. Is a realestate.co.nz TV app on the cards?
5) User customisable floor planner tools. Imagine if you could check out what the property you’re considering buying would look like if only you could move that wall…?
6) What else can we do to make your property search or selling experience easier? Push notifications might be one way; standing outside an open home and you receive an information pop up on your phone letting you know what the local schools are like, for example. What next?
I’m also going to wrap up what the big players are currently doing in this space and how their data insights can help to inform where NZ property portals head. Think Trulia, Realtor.com, Zillow, etc.
My head is still buzzing from my time away. I feel really lucky to have been able to connect with some inspiring people, and am now looking forward to planning and sharing the exciting stuff we have ahead! As I put together my presentations and future blog posts about these areas (and more) I’d love to know if you have any burning questions or thoughts you’d like me to cover off. Please comment below or get in contact with us.
On a side note – today marks seven years since the Realestate.co.nz site launched, please join us in celebrating our 7th Birthday.
Realestate.co.nz’s Acting CEO, Phillip Dunn, is currently in San Francisco to attend Real Estate Connect.
The way we live has undergone massive transformation in recent years. I love using technology and digital tools to help with the simple stuff such as scheduling appointments and staying in touch with friends, to the previously impossible – such as using insights gained from the website to compile our monthly property report.
With how we live changing so much, it makes sense that the way we buy, sell, find and research property is also continuously evolving. The game of real estate is not static. As a web-based company, we’re acutely aware of the need to stay up-to-date with not only our core business, but also with how you want to connect with us, talk to us and what you’ll want to know down the track. Luckily, the future excites us.
San Francisco’s Real Estate Connect Event is the ideal opportunity to learn about, the “trends that will shape our world and business: robotics, crowdfunding, big data, and machine learning”. I, for one, am looking forward to learning more about the connection between robotics and real estate! I intend to connect with like-minded industry colleagues and bring key insights back to realestate.co.nz.
The conference will run from 9 – 11 July. If you’re interested in following the conversation, you can use #ICSF to stay up-to-date on Twitter. I’ll be posting from my own account and on behalf of realestate.co.nz. Follow me now to get the inside view right from day one!
I look forward to keeping you updated during the conference.
Plus, view all of your saved open homes in a map, so that you can easily plan your open home visits.
And, when homes are withdrawn or sold we will keep these in My Property under an archived section for 30 days so that you can keep up to date on what is happening to homes you were interested in.
We have a lot of new ideas of what we can do to our app to make it even better in the future. But we would love to get some feedback from you on what makes our app great, and how we can make it even better.
The free mobile app created by Realestate.co.nz that gives users real-time, location-aware information about homes for sale and rent has now been downloaded over 100,000 times. The milestone coincides with the release of the 2012 Nielsen Real Estate Market Report, which shows a huge surge in homebuyers using mobile property search applications on smartphones.
The report revealed that 27 per cent of homebuyers who responded to the survey have used a property search mobile app in the last year, jumping up significantly from just 7 per cent recorded in 2011.
The report also revealed that seven out of ten of those homebuyers are using the Realestate.co.nz app.
The significance of these two factors can’t be understated. It shows the app is truly changing the way New Zealand home shoppers look for and view homes, and how they interact with property and agents whilst on the go. The Realestate.co.nz app gives home shoppers a birds-eye view of any area in New Zealand, showing properties that are for sale or rent. By simply tapping on the ‘Near Me’ button, browsers are taken to a street map that shows properties within a one kilometre radius of their current location.
The app – available on both iOS for the iPhone and iPad as well as Android devices – has become an essential accessory for Kiwis searching for local properties for sale or rent. And we are aware of several buyers who have found and purchased their home for sale solely through using the mobile app. People are turning up to open homes guided by the app with a schedule fully planned of where they are going and what they are going to check out.
It seems that there’s really only one smart way to search for property in 2012 – that’s on a mobile device. Over the past week the usage of mobile devices to access real estate listing content blew through yet another new record.
A staggering 1 in 5 of property hunters used a mobile device to find property information – 22% of all views of listings on realestate.co.nz were undertaken on the go, from a mobile device. That’s a massive increase from just 8% a year ago.
Even more impressive is the fact that mobile users engage with the mobile app far more than the website – it is turning out to be very “sticky” – the average visitor using the app views 37 pages per visit as compared to just 11 on the website. People clearly recognise the real value of having real data in the palm of their hand.
The key fact to bear in mind when it comes to mobile, is that users on the mobile platform are by-and-large more likely to be seriously active property seekers. The mobile is not a “lean back experience” as the web can be with super-glossy wide screen images, the mobile is about information. Location details, listing details, great photos and easy contact to the agent by phone, email or text.
Choice of mobile device
When it comes to the choice of device the most popular was the iPad – it represented nearly half of all mobile usage in March. On the iPad the app though only represented 20% of users with the other 80% of users choosing to view the website on the device. The iPhone represented 40% of all mobile users in the month with a 60/40 split between the app and the web. Android came in 3rd with 14% of all mobile users, although it is fast catching up ground, with a 6 fold increase in the past year; its usage is evenly split between app and the web.
There are some interesting insights of mobile usage which surprise some people. Mobile usage is not restricted to just the main cities and large towns, in an average month, every single listings we have in the database with an address is viewed at least once. That shows the mobile app is used right around the country when discovering property around you for sale or rent from Kaitia to the Bluff!
NZ’s favourite real estate app
The app is clearly NZ’s favourite real estate app, blasting through 70,000th downloads and only growing faster by the day – an average week sees around 1,200 downloads, in the 4 days over Easter we saw over 1,600 downloads; taking us ever closer to 100,000 downloads in the next few months.
In the month of March over 85,000 visitors opened up the app to discover property for rent and for sale right around them, letting them make better house hunting decisions whilst out-and-about.
To further accelerate this rate of download and usage we are delighted to have our partner Westpac undertake another extensive advertising campaign on bus shelters and on TV. Our partnership with Westpac is mutually beneficial adding value to Westpac customers to help them in the home buying process by showing them a smart way to house hunt on the go with the app, as well as info on local branches, ATM’s and also contact details for their Mobile Mortgage Managers.
It is always useful to compare NZ uptake and usage of real estate mobile with key developed markets such as UK, Australia and the US.
The data for the UK is not the most recent; the leading website for real estate in the UK is Rightmove, back in August last year they reported in their half year report that 14% of access to listing was via the mobile, I am sure that has grown significantly since then.
In the US the leading website of Zillow was a very early innovator of the mobile platform, starting with an iPhone app in 2009 and now having an app for all platforms (inc Windows and Blackberry) – they report usage on mobile being 24% of all access to listings. In their Q4 financial report for 2011 they reported also that property was viewed on the mobile devices at the rate of 53 houses per second (3,180 per minute) in January. Now that is a stunning stat. For us in NZ we are currently seeing a rate of 24 houses viewed per minute. Allowing for the fact that the US population is 71 times that of NZ means that we are seeing activity at about half the rate of the US.
So as ever the rate of development overseas shows us how the the future is likely to look; and it looks like we will continue to see exponential growth in mobile usage across the various mobile devices, with NZ’s favourite real estate app only continuing to grow faster in usage and engagement.
Since the launch of the Realestate.co.nz iPhone app in November last year over 35,000 downloads of the app have been made by property addicts keen to discover property for sale around them. On an average day over 1,500 people fire up the app to check out local properties; come the weekend that activity leaps as open home tours are instigated by serious property seekers, especially now that Spring is round the corner and the property market is showing strong signs of activity.
Up until now the app has only displayed property for sale. This is all changing as we have now released version 1.1 of the app – complete with the discovery of rental properties. You can now fire up the app to check out the rental properties around you, wherever you may be in New Zealand. The app is free to download from the Apple apps store.
At this time there are some 4,262 rental properties discoverable on the app based on their location, covering all sizes, price ranges and locations right around the country. Using the search function you can find another 3,000 listings that unfortunately have not been addressed, but full details of these rental properties can be found on the app.
Unlike some real estate mobile apps we have decided that we would not clutter up a local map with both rental properties and properties for sale. So with our new version of the app you choose to discover rental properties or properties for sale. Return to the home screen at anytime to make a change to the other selection by the icon at the bottom right of the screen.
This latest version of the iPhone app is destined to be a great asset when searching to find that next rental property. You no longer need to be tied to your PC at home to access this great ability to find rental properties close by.
The business of online real estate marketing as presented in this country by Realestate.co.nz and Trade Me Property is not only appealing to buyers and sellers of property (and their appointed real estate agents), it appeals globally as an investment option – one that garners high valuations.
This morning (July 20th EST) Zillow floated 20% of the shares in the company. The company was launched in 2006 and unlike other traditional real estate portals it started life as a property valuation website using publicly accessible data to place a valuation estimate on every house in America. This appealing data set generated massive consumer traffic and interest which over the years has morphed into a complete listings portal for property for sale, for rent as well as a unique mortgage marketplace. The US has a complicated middle layer for property listings unlike almost any other country in the world and as such challenges real estate websites to access the complete set of listings data.
Zillow certainly has a long road ahead to demonstrate that its business can justify that valuation and show a return to the investors – the IPO has added close to US$80m to its bank balance to drive the business forward.
By contrast to Zillow in the US, in other major developed countries the market value of online real estate companies has been long established. The UK website of Rightmove.com and the Australian website of Realestate.com.au have both been listed on their respective stock markets for over 7 years.
The table below shows the relative financial performance of these key sites across these key markets.
When placed against these powerhouse real estate website Zillow looks quite small in comparison especially when judged by the scale of the US market – simply based on revenue the Zillow latest full year shows just NZ$0.11 of revenue per person a staggering 100 fold less than the powerhouse of Australian site Realestate.com.au with $NZ$10.70 per person. The results for Realestate.com.au maybe be slightly inflated as they do have a couple of international businesses, however Australia represents over 90% of the revenue and more than 100% of the profit (the Italian business currently makes a loss).
So Zillow has a major upside if it can continue to grow traffic and industry advertising dollars. It is not without competitors in the form of Realtor.com, Yahoo Real estate, Realestate.com and Trulia to name but a few of what is a very cluttered / competitive marketplace. However it is very clear from this IPO for Zillow and the current financials and investor demand – online real estate certainly holds strong appeal for investors.
Yesterday the challenge was offered to me by the NZ Herald – to participate in a live chat on the wide ranging subject of property.
Sixty three minutes later I had managed to answer 28 of the 114 questions that were posed by the online contributors. I hope the answers I gave were helpful, relevant and legible (I once got a spelling shield at school when I was 6, since then I have have long relied on spell-checker).
The experience was rewarding, but at times daunting, I was sat in front of a laptop with a steady stream of questions being posted. The challenge was which one to answer and how to provide answers that are not too long to type, yet provide some meaningful answer. I like the technology and can see the appeal. We might do one on this site or on Realestate.co.nz in the future.
As I stated I only got to answer 28 of the questions that were asked – barely a quarter of those posted. I may well take a few and answer those in a future post. In the meantime I thought I would share a small survey I have done on the topics of the questions posed, so here are the top 10 questions by topic:
1. Investment – 20 questions were asked about investment property – yield, market etc
2. Timing – is this right to buy, right time to sell
3. Apartments – this was surprising just how many people were asking about buying apartments
4. Mortgage rates – likely future trend, plus a number asking is fixed or floating best
5. General health of the property market – is it going to be good for future purchase
6. New builds – is there a shortage of new builds and what impact this may have on the supply side of the market
7. Capital Gains Tax – given the timing I thought this would be the most active topic
8. Overseas market comparisons – clearly there is a sense of concern that NZ will shadow the US and UK property markets
9. Will prices rise? – expected question but not as much as I would have thought
10. First time home buyers – looking for advice including questions on investment property rather than buying to live in
The overwhelming majority of questions seem to come from Auckland with a lot wanting to know which suburb was best to buy in! I was also pleased to get questions from the Hutt Valley and the Waikato.
In the space of just 120 days the Realestate.co.nz iPhone app has been downloaded by over 20,000 people.
As every day passes that number keep growing at around 140 per day. The app has already become a much talked about means by which house hunters can quickly and easily find properties for sale right nearby to where they are.
Users are telling us how much they love the way they can be sitting in a cafe having a quiet coffee with friends when the inspiration grabs them to see what open homes are within a couple of streets of where they are sitting. This feedback mirrors the statistics of usership which is telling us that the most active time for use is Saturday and Sunday mornings!
Over the past 3 months just under 5 million property page views have been served up on this mobile app which means that the traffic on the iPhone amounts to over 11% of all the traffic on the website. These stats are very much the same as have been reported by specialist real estate websites in UK, USA and Australia with whom we keep in close contact to discuss emerging technologies and developments for real estate online.
The other great feature that people love about the application is the Inspection feature.
This virtual notebook allows you to make notes as well as rate and photograph parts of a house you are inspecting. It goes as far as providing tips per room of the house as to things to look for when you are in different parts of the house.
Don’t forget that the Realestate.co.nz app for the iPhone is free to download from the iTunes app store – it features the most comprehensive selection of property for sale by licensed real estate agents in NZ including all types of property as well as building sections for sale.
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