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.
The appeal of NZ property is universal – we are lucky (some would say) to live in such a beautiful country, a place many people can only dream of living. Our property though is accessible and appealing to overseas investors and prospective new residents.
Just compare NZ to Australia, here there is no Capital Gains Tax or Stamp duty; additionally overseas investors are restricted in Australia to new builds as opposed to the far more limited restrictions here.
These circumstances are driving an ever growing audience to listings on Realestate.co.nz from overseas. Just last month over 110,000 unique visitors checked out property on the site from outside NZ, that represents over 1 in 4 of all of our visitors each month.
The most active viewers are those in the English speaking countries of Australia, UK, US and Canada, but Asia is assuming a greater and greater presence among this audience growing at 3 times the rate of growth of other countries. This certainly reflects the economic relations NZ is building with its Asia Pacific partners.
This audience though is not as well catered for as English language speakers. This is somethingthat we have focused on over the past year. The main issue facing us has been the ability for us to provide a Chinese language version of the site which can rank highly when Chinese based property seekers are searching for NZ property – especially as the major search engine in China is Baidu. As a company we have always invested heavily in Search Engine Optimistion (SEO) to drive our site and brand given the credibility this brings to our site, however optimising in English for Google is a very different issue from optimising for Chinese language search on Baidu.
This challenge has been solved through a partnership which Realestate.co.nz has established with a NZ/Chinese company HouGarden.com. The company combines the domestic Chinese technology team with the best of SEO capabilities in the Chinese market. Based in Auckland and Beijing, Hougarden has built a website that provides a rich information source for property seekers combining the full listings from Realestate.co.nz translated into Chinese with translated news stories covering the broad NZ economy and property news.
It was decided that translated listings in Chinese would be best presented on a separate website and domain name, rather than on a sub domain of realestate.co.nz and that is the rationale for the partnership with Hougarden.
So how does it work?
Hougarden uses the API of Realestate.co.nz listings to populate their website, all the content of listings including photos, description as well as agent contact details are provided on the HouGarden site in Chinese. By using the API the listings on HouGarden are synchronised with Realestate.co.nz so new listings and withdrawn listings are updated at the same time.
The site provides the great functionality and usability as Realestate.co.nz and the deliberate similarity in look and feel is a deliberate decision to reflect the true partnership relationship.
Property seekers making an enquiry through the HouGarden website by email can choose to respond in Chinese or in English. These email pass through Realestate.co.nz with a human translations service provided by HouGarden. The agent will receive the enquiry in English with a clear message detailing that the enquiry has come via HouGarden website from a Chinese enquirer and whether the original enquiry was written in English or Chinese.
We recommend that agents receiving these enquiries develop a relationship with a Chinese speaking colleague to assist in managing these requests, although clearly an enquiry written originally in English can be directly responded to. It is the plan for the future for Hougarden to potentially provide a return translation service.
The launch of Hougarden was marked this week by a presentation and official signing ceremony in Auckland. Pictured below is Sam Yin the Managing Director of HouGarden.com with myself after the signing ceremony.
We are very excited by this development as a further means for Realestate.co.nz to provide increased profile and advertising for our customers’ listings – reaching out to the massive audience of 1.3 billion Chinese both in NZ and in China.
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.
We recently undertook a survey amongst our email subscriber database. What prompted this was a desire to learn more about the make up of this group of avid users of the site to see how we might improve the service we offer on Realestate.co.nz to buyers, sellers, investors, tenants and any other form of property hunting fanatic!
What we have discovered is very interesting and certainly worthy of sharing. If you participated in the survey; we really appreciate you taking the time to complete the survey and we hope with your help to repeat it again on maybe a quarterly basis as the data is valuable, and to see trends over time for some of the finding will be useful.
To start with we had 398 people complete the survey – a significant number and certainly large enough for the data to be representative of people in the market for property (we are not statisticians nor a research company so we are not trying to make any comment as to statistical margin of error etc).
The first question we asked was as to the status of the respondents.
The largest group (40%) are looking to buy property – this made up of 7% as first time buyers and 32% as general buyers. A fifth of respondents describe themselves as a landlord, with a further 7% saying that they are (or are looking to be) an investor.
We then went on to ask the prospective buyers amongst the respondents when specifically they were looking to buy?
Not surprising was the fact that just under a third were looking to buy (we assume this is intent to be buying / searching actively as opposed to completing the purchase) in the next month. In total it would appear that over 60% of buyers are looking to be buying in the next 6 months in total, this would be expected as subscribers to the email are actively keeping tabs on the property market and receiving daily email alerts of new properties. We will be keen to ask this question again in the future to see how trends change over time by factor of market conditions and seasonality.
Additionally of interest is the fact that 11% are showing a reluctance to buy as they are waiting until the market improves.
Tenants – looking to buy
We also asked the same question of current tenants who expressed an intent to buy a property in the future. Their response was somewhat difference due to their circumstances.
Clearly the key issue for this group of respondents is the need to save for a deposit; a third of the respondents saw this as the key step to buying. Of the remainder 18% said they were looking to buy in the next 6 month, far less than active buyers, but interestingly a lower percentage (8%) felt that they would leave it until the market improves.
Type of property to buy
Going back to the group who are thinking of buying a property we asked them what type of property they were considering buying.
The majority of people (53%) looking to buy were interested in a property that would need a bit of work to be done – clearly the kiwi DIY mindset is still alive and well as people as still keen to add value to properties. This compared to just under a third who really wanted somewhere where the renovations had been completed and the property was ready to move in straight away.
Moving from buyers to sellers we wanted to find out when those people who considered themselves sellers were looking to sell. The vast majority (83%) were looking to sell in the next 6 month, with 4 out of 10 thinking of selling in the next month, or at least putting their property on the market.
How would you sell?
We then posed an interesting question to those looking to sell. We asked them how they were looking to sell their property. Would they use a licensed agent, try and sell it themselves or might they give private selling a go, but more than likely end up using a licensed real estate agent. Having collated the results of this question we compared these with the recent Nielsen online real estate market survey asking the same question.
These results are very interesting. From both surveys the majority of respondents were likely to use a licensed agents, the sample respondents from the Realestate.co.nz email group were slightly more likely than the broader Nielsen market survey.
When it comes to selling privately the difference were significantly different, just 5% of the respondents to the Realestate.co.nz survey indicated that they would try and sell privately as against 11% for the broader Nielsen survey. Of note is the fact that the Nielsen survey was based on questionaires posted on both Trade Me and Realestate.co.nz and this is clearly showing that greater interest in private sales from Trade Me respondents to the Nielsen survey.
The final set of questions we asked related to investment property. We asked those who described themselves as a landlord or investor how many properties they owned.
70% of those respondents who identified themselves as a landlord or investor had more than 2 properties with 14% having more than 5 properties. Clearly the Realestate.co.nz website is a core resource for investors looking to enhance their property portfolio.
Of these landlord we then asked if they used a Property Manager to manage their property / properties – or if they did themselves. Fully two thirds said that they managed their investment properties themselves with just one third using a professional property manager.
Probing a bit deeper we then asked them why they chose not to use a Property Manager.
Some useful insight here to assist the Property Management companies in providing support for this important sector of the property market.
Searching for a property is a time consuming task, thankfully since the emergence of the web as the primary source of property information, this process has got a lot simpler.
Remember just for a minute, when your only means of finding property for sale in your chosen area was to trawl every page of the property magazines and newspapers and then drive round the streets. There was no intelligent filter to apply to finding only those properties that were in your price range and specific area – properties in print publications are still today presented as branded sections by real estate company!
Well the searching filters available to you on Realestate.co.nz just got a whole lot more advanced to help you can use your time far more effectively. We have rebuilt the Advanced Search feature specifically to help the many thousands of users of our site everyday who are really committed buyers, those for whom the buying process is not a casual browse, but a detailed committed search project.
The Advanced Search feature is located adjacent to the “Find Properties” search button in the property finder search box at the top of every page on the site. This feature opens up a wide option list to refine your search:
Traditional search allows you to use a hierarchy to search for a suburb or group of suburbs within a specific district of the country. You have always been constrained to a search being geographically bounded, now that has changed.
With Advanced Search you can select a wishlist of chosen areas of the country and group them together to become your saved search parameter. Saving you chosen search using the My Property feature ensures you can get daily emails that tell you when new listings appear in your area of choice.
So lets look at a real scenario. Say for example you are interested in buying a beachside property – something of a lifestyle choice and you hear on the grapevine that beachside properties are a good buy and prices are good. You live in Auckland and your choice could extend all the way from the Bay of Islands through the Matakana coast down to the Coromandel. No problem with Advanced Search. Just select your chosen suburbs (or whole regions) to effectively build a “shopping list” for your search – for me this includes Matarangi, Kuaotunu in the Coromandel, Russell in the Bay of Islands and Algies Bay in Rodney district.
Hard as it is to face up to the fact, not all of us have a bank balance approaching a lotto win! – for that reason we have to stick to a budget when searching for a property. The standard search price range selection on the website has been greatly enhanced as compared to the old realestate.co.nz website. We used to have 16 ranges, we now have extended that to 25 ranges.
The Advanced Search however takes it even further – now this feature allows you to search for any price range – you name your price!. Just under the price range boxes is a link titled “Specify your own price range” – this allows you to enter any price range you want – $425,000 to $465,000 for example. Just type in any numbers – a tight or as broad as you like. This advanced search will only show properties for sale which are being marketed with a price in this range.
A common and consistent feedback we have received from users of the website over the years is the desire to see properties with a price; they often go on to say “please don’t show us property marketed as tenders / auctions / price by negotiation etc”. We certainly feel that it is best to check out all property regardless of price method, however we respect the users of our site and that is why we have introduced this feature.
You can now select only ‘displayed price’ property or just ‘auctions’ or just properties going to ‘tender’ – you choose which one or combination you want to filter on.
Land area / Floor area
This additional filter allows you to set some parameters around the size of house or the size of section. As a note of caution please be aware that we do not have details of the floor area of every house nor the section size of every property on the website. This unfortunately is something that is outside of our control as we seek the input of this data from the listings agents and it may not be provided. So choosing this filter may mean that some property results are excluded as we do not have details on these parameters.
This final filter tool is pretty self explanatory. Researching properties that have a displayed address is more valuable as you can see the location on a Google map on the site as well as review the property information and free report on Zoodle about that property. So now you can select to search only on properties with an address, we think it will be helpful.
So there you have it! – an exhaustive view of the richness of Advanced Search – my choice; well I wanted to look for that beachside property so I have made my search based on Russell, Algies Bay, Matarangi and Kuaotunu; a price range from $465k to $585k; anything up to 4 bedrooms and I am only interested in property with an address and with a price displayed – my search gives me 18 properties to review!
You cannot have ignored the extensive TV campaign for “The Energy Spot” by EECA Energywise. This government agency has shared with us some of the myriad of ways in which we as a country can do a little bit to make ourselves more energy efficient. To all save a little, so we can all save a lot.
When it comes to your home the benefits of energy efficiency run deeper than cost savings. It can go as deep as your health and well-being. It is well know and often reported that the housing stock of NZ could be improved – making our homes more comfortable, warmer in winter, cooler in summer and healthier, while using less energy and water.
This focus on the overall performance of your home is the principle behind a parallel initiative: Homestar which is a Joint Venture partnership between BRANZ and the New Zealand Green Building Council. Through an assessment process homeowners can better appreciate the differences that can be made to the performance of their home. Armed with such information appropriate decisions can be made as to improve the living environment of your home.
The Homestar initiative was launched at the end of last year and involves a free online self assessment as well as a far more comprehensive and professional certified onsite assessment. As a result of the latter certified assessment; properties can be rated on a 10 point scale – the first of these properties having been assessed, are now on the market with the assessment rating providing a real point of difference in the marketing of the property.
At Realestate.co.nz we are totally committed to this initiative on behalf of the industry and also as a service we can provide to buyers, sellers and agents by profiling these properties on our website differentiated by this certified assessment. Have a look at these recent listings of properties rated by assessors.
It is important to point out that whilst the rating scale is 1 to 10 the vast majority of NZ properties are rated 2 or below, rating a 4 is a reflection of a reasonable amount of attention to efficiency. Rating a 10 is all but impossible without being able to generate your own power and recycle your water. A new house built to the current Building Act would likely score a 4.
As stated we want to support the Homestar rating process and we are putting our money right on the line. We have made a commitment to the real estate industry to say for every property listed on our site between now and the year end with a certified Homestar assessment we will provide the vendors of that property through the listing agent a marketing package worth $359 – comprising a feature listing and 2 weeks of showcase listing.
Just to be clear this is not for an online self assessment- it does require a certified assessor to visit the home to undertake the assessment. The costs for this assessment are not fixed, but indications are that it would cost around $500. So we are prepared to give back to vendors who want to demonstrate the performance of their property a large portion of their costs in the form of premium advertising their property on realestate.co.nz – a powerful means to promote their property online.
Following the announcement on Thursday the levels of visitor sessions on Realestate.co.nz for property in the Canterbury region shot up by more than a third. The chart below track the past 4 days since the announcement.
The most severely affected areas around Bexley, Avonside, Avondale, part of Brooklands, Burwood/Horseshoe Lake, part of New Brighton and Dallington are still showing property listed for sale as shown on the map view of listings from the website. This area comprises 130 properties on the market at this time, some of which will be outside the red zone.
In total there are some 2,142 properties on the market in Christchurch city at this time – a broad selection for those effected by the earthquake, adding to this total some 700 new listings have been brought to the market over the month of June to date. Full details of these will be in the June NZ Property Report published on Friday 1st June.
The NZ Herald today published an article “Revealed: NZ’s top homes for sale“. The article utilised search data from Realestate.co.nz which is publicly accessible to search out the most expensive top 20 properties currently advertised on the website.
The article highlighted a property which was advertised on Realestate.co.nz for sale at an asking price of $17.5m. This was the price which the agent had sent through to our system, and therefore this is the price we displayed for the property. The property upon investigation is actually for sale at $1.75m.
The NZ Herald has had to make a update to its online article to reflect this error presented in the article, the print article though was published based on the data presented on the website at that time. To be clear Realestate.co.nz was not approached to provide this information.
Now clearly this situation is not satisfactory – it is not satisfactory to the property owner as very people will be interested in looking or enquiring about such a property at that extreme price level; and not satisfactory to the prospective buyers who may question the accuracy of data on the website.
Running the website of Realestate.co.nz is a challenge of extensive data management. We display over 74,000 residential properties for sale or rent at any one time, around 700 new listings are added on an average day together with around 500 changes to property details. These additions and changes are provided by the total of over 1,050 offices subscribing to the website who send data to us electronically all the time.
If we were to start to review every listing coming in everyday to look for mistakes or accuracy of information we would need to employ an army of reviewers. That however is not the real issue. The key issue is that it is not possible for us to review or audit any of this data as we are not in a position to know any details of specific properties. The listing agent who is providing a service to the vendor is responsible for the accurate collation and publishing of this information on the web and in print.
Such situations as these are deeply frustrating to us. We act immediately we are informed of an issue or if a complaint is made to us. We investigate and communicate with the agent concerned and take immediate action, in this case to correct this price. In other cases we often remove the listing pending any investigation to ensure that no misleading or inaccurate information is displayed on the website.
The key thing is this regard is the importance for all agents and salespeople on behalf of their clients to proof their listings and in that way ensure that every advert whether on the web or in print is accurate and a true representation for the property they are marketing on behalf of their client.
I was very interested to read this week of the performance of the Trade Me iPhone app. In a very open manner they shared their data with the NBR. This naturally prompted me to examine the data from the Realestate.co.nz iPhone app after our first 5 months of operation.
As far as uptake is concerned in excess of 1 in every 10 iPhone owners has now downloaded the app, a total exceeding 25,000 downloads since we released the app in November. Every day we continue to see over 100 new users discover this great way to discovery property for sale right around them.
Trade Me’s app was launched at the same time, and in that time they have had over 110,000 downloads. Like Trade Me we had modest expectations of around 12,000 to 15,000 downloads within 6 months; so for us 25,000 for such a specialised app as compared to Trade Me’s app which covers such a diversity of content, is really encouraging.
The most developed market in terms of mobile usage for property search is the USA – there the #1 property portal Zillow.com reports not only downloads exceeding 3 million, but the level of engagement of buyers with property listings on the mobile platform is fast approaching a third of all viewings. For Realestate.co.nz we see that in the past month 10% of all property listings views are made via the iPhone app with a further 2% being on the mobile web platform across a number of mobile devices including Android and the iPad; this after just 6 months, shows how important the mobile platform is to the experience of looking for property to buy.
Another very interesting insight in the usage of the mobile device is the heavy usage at the weekend. Whereas the web usage has higher activity during the week the iPhone is clearly a weekend tool – part of the open home toolkit for a Saturday morning allowing active property hunters to drive around the areas checking out what is on the market or sitting in a cafe between open home visits.
In terms of usage the iPhone is clearly not a tool limited to the inner city suburbs, in the month of April over 90% of all listings of property on the iPhone were viewed by property hunters – that is a figure which has grown progressively over the past months as the penetration has gown and usage has extended to every corner of the country.
Clearly we see the iPhone app (and future Android app) becoming a critical platform to provide property hunters with a great experience to aid the process of finding that perfect property. We have new developments and functionality planned for the next few months and will keep improving the experience. With a dedicated audience of over 25,000 we are fully committed to this sector of the market.
The web is a vast repository of data. The key is making sense of it and providing that information to those who rely upon it to run their business. In the case of real estate our role at Realestate.co.nz is to not only run a popular and comprehensive website for real estate listings to support the advertising needs of our customers – real estate agents, but also to share key data of the behaviours and trends we see in the use of the website.
A key outcome of great value to real estate agents is leads – strong prospects made up of both vendors and buyers. Such leads can come from a variety of connections from the website. The most eagerly anticipated lead is from an email sent from the website to an agent regarding a property. Second only to this is a phone call originated from the contact details of the listing agent displayed adjacent to the listing.
These would generally be regarded as the most significant lead generation mechanisms from the website, however there are others. Each listing generally has a link from the webpage of the listing on realestate.co.nz to that listing on the agent or office website. Additionally each agent and office has their own webpage on the site which has links to their own website or social media platform; again providing an opportunity for enquires to be made by clients to agents. Many of such leads may result in the opportunity for agents to make listing presentations as prospective vendors use realestate.co.nz to profile agents. This profiling allows a vendor to establish the professional capabilities by reviewing the approach an agent takes to profiling, promoting and displaying a current clients’ listings.
One trend that has been noticeable and is demonstrated by the chart below is the extent to which realestate.co.nz is acting as a referral site to agents own websites.
In March of this year just under 400,000 instances of referral links were made from realestate.co.nz to agents and offices websites, this is up significantly on the 317,000 in March of last year.
This trend of increasing referral to real estate company and agent websites potentially points to greater researching on the part of serious property buyers, seeking comprehensive facts regarding properties and agents. This trend is only likely to continue in the future with the growing focus of buyers and sellers to online searching.
It is interesting to note that this trend could be a factor behind a recent number of comments made by real estate agents that lead generation from their own website has been growing – this could well be the result of serious enquiries originated from realestate.co.nz and then referred onto their website. A core principle of realestate.co.nz since the start of the company back in 2006 has been to provide as comprehensive and easy access for consumers to communicate with agents using whatever medium they choose – this now appears to be more through referral links than any other form.
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