The Unconditional Blog

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Archive for the ‘Website searching’ Category

21

Is Auckland unaffordable for first time buyers?

Posted on: May 17th, 2010 | Filed in Buying / Selling a home, Website searching

The excellent Personal Finance section of the Weekend Herald hosted by Mary Holm featured a letter this week from a 25 year living in Auckland earning $62,000 a year and asking the question – how could he and his wife possibly afford to buy in Auckland where as he states in the letter the average house price is around $500,000. He states that his weekly net income is $806 after tax, student loan and kiwi saver. He judged that something was out of skew and that possibly house prices might have to go through a correction.

This letter naturally got me thinking. Firstly if this question was universal to all 25 year olds or to all first time buyers then the market would very quickly come to a grinding halt and have to re-adjust prices for without first time buyers the market would have no fuel at the bottom end to stoke the engine.

Secondly there always seems to be an assumption or over simplification that if the median price is $470,000 (the actual Auckland figure for all sales in April from REINZ) then somehow this is the cost of houses in Auckland – it is only the mathematical median price. Of the 1,768 houses sold in Auckland in April 884 were sold at a price above $470,000 and 884 were sold at a price below $470,000.

In the spirit of helpful assistance I though I would assist this 25 year old find a suitable property they could afford on their single income (they are thinking of starting a family soon so rightly want to budget for one income).

Here then are some options.

How about the central city suburbs – Grey Lynn is a nice area. This 3 bedroom house is on at $399,000. According to the Westpac mortgage calculator on the site this with a 5% deposit of $79,800 would cost $424.91 a week based in the current interest rates for a 30 year mortgage.

Maybe the central city does not suit so how about the North Shore. This 2 bedroom apartment in Albany is only $246,000 – with a $49,200 deposit this would cost $261.97 a week based on a 30 year mortgage at the current mortgage rate of 5.65%

How about out west Auckland – here is a modern townhouse, 2 bedrooms at $259,000 in Glen Eden. With that 20% deposit of $51,800 this property would have weekly repayments of $275.82 on a 30 year mortgage.

31

New brand, new look – new platform

Posted on: May 4th, 2010 | Filed in Featured, Website news, Website searching

New Realestate.co.nz logo May 10Over the past 48 hours you will have noticed a few changes to the Realestate.co.nz website.

We have released a whole new platform, a ground-up rebuild that leaves the old site and focuses us to the future of delivering the best property finding experience in NZ. The process to this day began last year with conversations. Conversation grew into discussions and discussions grew into concepts.

We heard loud and clear from our current users of the site, and those who did not use it, what they liked, what they did not like and what they wished someone would give them – the latter component is so key, and yet at the same time so elusive as to be able to easily define what people really want when sometimes even they cannot articulate it.

We also took the opportunity to review the global leaders in real estate online solutions across the world, sites like Realestate.com.au in Australia, Rightmove in the UK and in the US Trulia and Zillow. These would be the sites that guided (but were not allowed to constrain) our thoughts and ideas.

Zipping ahead to today. We have built a new website that is different, certainly that is clear from some of the flow of emails received so far, as clearly people are not accustomed to change, however the feedback has been balanced. The essential focus of the new site is to allow anyone to use the site to easily accomplish two related but very different tasks – browsing and researching. These are two behaviours of real estate online search that are critical to understand in order for our site to deliver a unique and valuable experience.

Browsing

iStock_000006685515XSmallThis is the start of any property buying (or renting experience) – it is typified by a “lean back” mode in the chair to view the screen – here the task is to chose a location and then browse through images in a large format in which property images can be scanned. This is achieved in the search result page for any location. Any property listing can be assessed by flicking through the portfolio of images without ever leaving the search results thereby ensuring you have your options in front of you.

A likely task before even scanning these images is the filtering of the properties in the area. This is done now using the right hand navigation with sliders to tightly define the key metrics of price, size of property. This filtering typically allows the user to refine the shortlist to a couple of dozen – ready for research. The great capability of the new site is that adjustments to these sliders does not require the “update” button – rather updates are made dynamically as you make a change allowing you to refine from 400 properties down to 20.

Research

iStock_000008670275XSmallThis stage in the process is far more investigative and is typified by a “lean forward” mode in the chair closer to the computer terminal. At this stage it is all about capturing your favourites and this requires you to set up your “My Property” feature on the site. Doing this ensures that your properties and saved searches are always accessible from any computer. Storing your favorites from the search results then allows you to view each property in detail on the listing page.

This presentation is all about big images and rich content, both from the listing agents, as well as location based data such as Google maps and Zoodle property information. This is the stage when you can start to enquire about the property or plan to view open homes all of which are accessible from that listing page.

There is much we have learned over the past year that we have yet to implement, that is what will provide us with a great roll out of new functionality in the coming months, however it was important to get the new site live and bedded in – this does sometimes take a few days, and consequentially some issues, so we would ask for your patience.

Of course the other major change you will be aware of is the fact that the new Realestate.co.nz only features residential and lifestyle properties for sale or rent. The comprehensive content of commercial properties are now found on Prime Commercial, with businesses for sale on Prime Business and the agricultural sectors served by nzFarms.

This provides an introduction to the new site – future articles will highlight some of the key features of the site.

15

Time to upgrade your web browser to enjoy the new Realestate.co.nz websites

Posted on: April 22nd, 2010 | Filed in Technology, Website news, Website searching

mosaic-browserI have today personally received 3 complaints in regard to our newly released websites – the common thread was that these sites were broken! – the tabs did not work and the search was unusable. Not good news to any website business. The question I had to ask myself and the rest of the team was – how could it be that we could get these 3 distinct and specific issues when thousands of sessions were being served in the past 24hrs with no issue?

Further investigation revealed the common theme – Internet Explorer 6.

Here comes the brutal truth – our new website architecture does not support and will not support Internet Explorer 6 – sorry!

The constant challenge that faces every web based company is what browser to support. The web has been in operation since the very early 90’s – at that time Netscape was the king of the hill, over the years new and improved web browsers have been released. Each new release bringing enhanced user benefits to speed up and improve the experience of using the web. The challenge in building a website is to be able to ensure the majority of users can enjoy the features and benefits of the website without having to compromise to suit everybody.

There is a very clear and trusted rule which I believe is appropriate to apply in such matters – that rule is “Support to N-1”. This translated means that you build a website which is compatible with the latest version of all available web browsers and also in addition to support the last version. In the case of Microsoft Internet Explorer, the current version is IE8, so we built the new site to run on IE8 and the predecessor IE7. We did not build it to be compatible with IE6.

This rule is consistently applied to other web browsers such as Firefox, Safari, Chrome, Opera etc. The big problem is that the rule of “n-1” for all other browsers is not a problem as most users of non IE browsers tend to upgrade regularly taking advantage of security enhancements and feature improvements. It is also important to remind people – browsers are free to download. When it comes to IE6 however the problem we and many thousands of web companies across the world face is that IE6 was probably the most widely used web browser, as it was packaged with the hugely successful Microsoft Windows XP and many companies chose not to upgrade to Windows Vista in early 2007 and therefore have not chosen to upgrade to the later version of IE7 or IE8.

I don’t need to labour the point, but if you are using IE6 I would recommend reading this Wikipedia page on IE6 – it states that the IE6 browser is “widely derided for its security issues and lack of support for modern web standards, making frequent appearances in “worst tech products of all time” lists, with some publications labeling it as the “least secure software on the planet.” It is a fact that the French and German governments have advised their citizens not to use IE6. It is also important to remember than IE6 was released in 2001 – it is 9 year old technology which in web years is close to half a century!

So whilst I am sorry if you are experiencing issues in viewing these new websites. My recommendation would be to download IE8 – it only takes a few minutes, but the value to you will be immeasurable not least in knowing that the security of your internet usage will be many hundreds of times better and your enjoyment of the new Realestate.co.nz websites will be enhanced.

3

1,000,000 real estate listings!

Posted on: March 2nd, 2010 | Filed in Featured, Online marketing, Website searching

Champagne explosion

At 4.17am this morning we processed our one millionth listing onto the website of realestate.co.nz – a significant milestone!

The website began life in August 2006 when the former REINZ website of RealENZ was shut down and the new website burst onto the market. Since that time over 1 million listings have been featured on the website over the past 1,290 days – that equates to an average of 775 per day or around 32 new listings every hour of everyday.

Realestate.co.nz is the most comprehensive website for all categories of real estate listings in NZ as marketed by licensed real estate agents. The site covers the full spectrum from homes for sale and rent, commercial property for sale or lease, farms and agricultural land as well as businesses for sale.

More than half of the million listings have been made up of properties for sale. A total of 545,000 have been homes for sale – the biggest year was 2007 with 165,000 new listings comparing with the quietest year last year with just 125,000.

Commercial property for lease and for sale have comprised over 90,000 listings with a steady growth in each of the past 2 years – 2009 alone saw just over 30,000 new listings come onto the market.

A massive 77,ooo listings have been featured for building sections. This sector reached a peak in 2008 with 21,000 before falling back somewhat last year to 17,000.

Since day one realestate.co.nz has enjoyed the support of the vast majority of the real estate profession – a commitment that has grown stronger over the years to see now over 94% of all licensed offices using the site – far ahead of the nearest competitor Trade me property.

Taking the live data as of today – realestate.co.nz has for example 50,184 homes for sale. This compares to 42,499 on Trade me.

As most people appreciate one of the key differences between the two sites is that Trade me takes adverts from homeowners looking to sell privately. In a recent NBR article Trade me highlighted that 16% of their property listings were from private sellers – applying this calculation would mean that today 35,699 listings from licensed real estate agents are featured on Trade me Property as compares to 50,184 on realestate.co.nz. In other words a search on Trade me only shows 60% of the local market for real estate listings of homes marketed by licensed real estate agents.

Comparable licensed real estate listings - trade me property & realestate.co.nz Feb 2010

Note: The NBR article states that Trade me features 100,000 properties – this is the number of total listings covering all categories that are displayed on the website.

The category of homes for sale excludes lifestyle property and sections for sale but does include apartments and townhouses as well as units and home and income properties.

19

Is summer really the best time to sell a property?

Posted on: March 1st, 2010 | Filed in Buying / Selling a home, Website searching

Ask an assembled group of property owners when is the best time of year to buy or sell property. You are likely to get the answer that summer is the best time. However for whilst toy manufacturers and retailers know that over 50% of their business occurs in the last 2 months of the year, real estate agents are actually pretty busy selling property year round.

The fact is that property sales are actually less susceptible to seasonality than some may think. In the chart below the calendar year is laid out showing the peaks and troughs of sales – this data is showing seasonality; based on over 15 years of data from the Real Estate Institute.

NZ Property sales based on seasonality Realestate.co.nz

The analysis has shown that month-on-month variation in property sales tends to fluctuate by far less than people perceive. March is the most active month of the year, with January being the least active. Taking a typical year and a total sales of say 8,000 in March. This would equate to 258 sales per day; based on the same market the figure for  January would be less, but still a respectable 190 sales per day. As for the winter months – they would average around 216 sales per day.

Having said that sales are not that seasonal it may come as some surprise to learn that there are some hidden “windows” of opportunity during the year to list a home for sale! In fact when selling a property, the best time could be in the middle of winter, a time traditionally thought of as the worst time of the year for the property market!

The chart below tracks the seasonality of listing volumes (new property coming onto the market) and also number of people viewing property online. These important new sets of data have only recently been available as a function of the dominance of the web in real estate researching.

NZ property seasonality - peaks and troughs for listing and researching

The activity of researching and viewing property online (in red above) hardly varies by much through out the year (with the single exceptions of the ever-present distractions of Christmas and the fast approaching summer holidays). For reference  website traffic is measured across a basket of leading real estate websites including Realestate.co.nz.

The one surprising fact though highlighted from the analysis is the seasonality of new listings coming onto the market (shown in blue above). In this regard the behaviour of sellers is completely out of line with buyer activity.

The majority of new property listings tend to flood onto the market in February & March and again in October & November. Such is the surge that close to 40% of all new listings in a year, pour onto the market in just these 4 months in the expectation that this is when buyers are most active. Equally in contrast, those winter months of June, July and August show the lowest level of new listings coming onto the market falling to barely 20% of the annual total of all new listings hitting the market during the 3 months of winter.

So what does this analysis tell us as property owners and buyers, and what should you do to take advantage of this analysis?

Well thinking about it, there is an opportunity here for astute property sellers. For whilst the temptation is to list either in the spring or summer, grabbing the winter season could give your property greater exposure at a time when fewer listings are out in the market to compete with, and yet at the same time buyer interest does not decline to the same extent.

So maybe the best advice is be brave and be different, and just maybe that sale may come sooner than you think giving you the opportunity to be buying just as all the new spring season listings hit the market.

6

Mortgagee listings show declining trend

Posted on: February 22nd, 2010 | Filed in Featured, Website searching

NZ mortgagee properties From the latest data it looks like the peak of mortgagee listings could be behind us. As at this time there are just under 300 listings on realestate.co.nz (lifestyle and homes for sale) that are being marketed as mortgagee sale.

Peaking in early 2009 at over 400 listings, the trend of decline began in the spring and continued right through to Christmas when there was a clear-out of unsold mortgagee properties which resulted in the stock level falling to less than 200. January and February has seen the number of listings pick up again, however the rise is a seasonal lift rather than an underlying increase.

The chart below shows the number of listings in absolute terms and also as a percentage of all residential listings. To be clear these statistics comprise residential and lifestyle property and exclude sections.

NZ mortgagee property listings Feb 2010

NZ mortgagee properties as a % of all listings of residential property

The number of listings as a percentage of all residential listings is key as the past few weeks has seen a significant increase in new property listings coming onto the market – in some extent a flood of new listings. The current level of mortgagee properties is less than half of one percent, that is just one property in every 200.

Matched to this decline in listings is a steady decline in the search enquiry for mortgagee listings. Over the past 6 months the number of search enquiry for the keywords of “mortgagee”, “mortgagee auction” and “mortgagee sale” has steadily declined. At one time over 1 in 10 searches were for these keywords – the past 3 months has seen this drop to just 6% – just over 1 in 18 of all keyword search queries.

The chart below tracks the past 2 years of the number of mortgagee keyword searches as matched to the number of mortgagee properties on the market.

Searching for mortgagee properties in NZ

0

So what have people been searching for this year?

Posted on: December 23rd, 2009 | Filed in Featured, Website searching

Searching on realestate.co.nz - the 2009 top searchesThe website of Realestate.co.nz is one of the most popular means by which people in NZ and overseas search for properties for sale or rent. With over 30,000 sessions per day and around 400 new listings per day – it is not surprising that people undertake searches for a wide variety of properties or property types.

Each year we trawl through the search queries from amongst the more than 500,000 searches carried out over the past year to compile the top 10 lists and also to see what the trending searches have been.

Realestate.co.nz Top 10 keyword searches of 2009

As may might have expected the tone of searching over the past year has been somewhat down-beat with a large number of searches for recession related terms. The keyword of “mortgagee” was the single most searched term – over 40,000 times this word was searched in the past 12 months – that equates to one in every 13 searches.

Realestate.co.nz top searches of 2009 - 10 signs of the recession

The keyword also featured in a number of other search terms such as mortgagee auction, mortgagee sale as well as the more obtuse mortagee and morgagee! – totaling up all of the related mortgagee terms delivers a whapping 50,000 searches – 1 in 10 of all searches.

Paralleling the theme of recessionary searches the top 10 business related searches almost all have a focus to making money. Top search was “investment” with “do up” and “home and income” rounding out the top 10.

Realestate.co.nz top searches of 2009 - emerging business opportunities

Contrasting the down-beat sentiment is the fact that within the top 10 are the lifestyle aspirations of property searchers seeking pools, waterfront living, character properties, villas and garages! – we do love our cars.

Keyword searches do provide an insight into the most heavily searched locations. Within this year’s list are some very interesting movements as compared to last year. The biggest rising location is the Christchurch beach suburb of Sumner – last year #354, this year rising to #45. Equally popular appears to be the Hauraki district town of Waihi, although outside of the top 10 suburb searches it did rise from #417 last year to #84 this year.

Realestate.co.nz Top searches of 2009 - locations

Queenstown continues to be the most searched location – up from #16 to #8. The other South Island centres of Christchurch and Wanaka faired well holding respective #24 and #25 positions. Big falls were recorded by Taupo falling from #21 to #39 and Devonport falling from #33 to #64.

Looking for emerging trends the biggest movers of the year had some interesting words – “grammar” (school) clearly shows an interest in the location proximity of home to school, “do up” and “home and income” demonstrate a continuing focus to saving money. As to why sleepout should the biggest rising search term? – that needs some investigation but going from #322 to #28 for the year is a big leap.

Realestate.co.nz top searches of 2009 - the fastest movers going up!

From biggest rises to biggest falls, the town of Paihia seems to have fallen out of favour – last year it was placed #115 – this year it barely scraped into the top 500, making it to #499. The Otago region similarly seems to have fallen from favour – down from #99 to #435.

Realestate.co.nz top searches of 2009 - the biggest fallers!

Whilst we seem to have a growing sense of interest in garages – car ports are clearly not adequate for our needs, falling from #81 to #409!

Finally when it comes to the softer side of property searching we seem to have hardened up this year – two emotional keywords “sundrenched” and “cosy” seem to have been ignored and have fallen by over 300 places to languish in the bottom 100 of the top 500.

0

Mortgagee properties – more than just statistics

Posted on: December 14th, 2009 | Filed in Other interesting reads:, Website searching

nz-herald-mortgageeThe detailed article in the Herald on Sunday by Andrea Milner did what all good reporting should do – provide the human touch. That in many ways differentiates the blogger from the journalist.

Whilst I have at my finger tips the data that provides insights and trends to provide models of where real estate markets are headed (or to to be more accurate – where they have come from!), a good journalist has the expertise and experience to bond together the facts with the emotion to provide a compelling sense of empathetic attachment.

That is where the traditional world of journalists and the new world of social media can coalesce and mutually benefit irrespective of the medium (print or online).

Anyway back to mortgagee statistics. The situation as the article represents is that the scale of searching for the keyword of mortgagee has tailed off during the year as the chart below represents. The red line tracks the number of searches on the word mortgagee each week since early 2008 (tracked on the left hand axis). The blue area represents the weekly level of listings on the site of mortgagee properties (tracked on the right hand axis).

The extreme peaks of searching which at one point totaled 3,500 per week; amounting to close to a third of all keyword searches has now receded to a level of around 1 search in every 14 is for mortgagee properties.

Mortgagee properties - inventory of properties and searching for properties on realestate.co.nz

As for inventory of mortgagee properties. The level has remained fairly stable through this year with some recent fall as we head towards Christmas. The reality is that mortgage repossessions are still occurring – in fact almost as many are being listed as are being sold which is good for the market, as a healthy turnover indicates a steady sales market for property overall. The likelihood is that through 2010 these numbers will begin to fall; however the fact is that mortgagee properties are typically an indicator that lags the more positive trends of economic performance and consumer confidence.

It is worth just confirming that as mortgagee properties are not a defined category of listing submitted to realestate.co.nz the means that the only way in which people find such listings is by typing in the keyword or keywords into the search box.

The data of listings using this term is collated using the same method with the filter undertaken manually to remove any listings that have used the word mortgagee to deliberately capture interest for properties that are not being sold on behalf of the mortgagor. Examples being headlines such as “As cheap as a mortgagee property”.

1

Google further enhances property mapping search

Posted on: November 5th, 2009 | Filed in Website searching

It was 4 months ago that Google offered real estate search within their excellent mapping platform. Last week began what will likely become a steady and progressive expansion of the exposure of this service within more general Google searches – this is certainly going to be a beneficial move for the consumer.

When initially released, to be able to search for property (sale or rent) on a Google map required a number of steps and a fair amount of investigative ability. It did almost seem like Google had in some way hidden this service away from the mass of the market. Were they doing a cautious test or were they apprehensive as to the reaction by the industry??

It was as a function of this limited visibility that the re-direct traffic gained for realestate.co.nz from this service was tiny in comparison to the thousands of visitors everyday who arrive at realestate.co.nz from a Google search. Now this latest change, very ably detailed in this post from the Google maps product manager Andrew Foster will likely see a greater referral traffic from Google maps.

Google Maps real estate search - Sumner, Christchurch

On every Google maps page there is an “More” box at the top right section. Within this is the options for adding to Google maps search results content such as photos, video, wikipedia entries, webcams and now real estate – tick the box and the map now populates with the latest listings of property for sale or rent.

Realestate.co.nz feeds a comprehensive extract from our database every day to Google so with over 112,000 listing you can be sure that the presentation on these maps is the most comprehensive representation of whats truly on the market. Realestate.co.nz is the only portal confident to feed content to Google – Trade me property chooses not to share this great information.

As an industry owned website we have a focus to provide our customers with the best marketing of their listings across the web as well as to provide the property searching public with the best web experience – sharing content with Google is the best way to meet both of these objective perfectly.

View Larger Map

16

Property searching online vs offline

Posted on: October 28th, 2009 | Filed in Media commmentary, Website searching

The recent debate on this blog centered around claims by Property Press regarding the validity of research methodology would again appear to closely resemble a discussion around the seating arrangements on the Titanic, as the latest readership survey from Roy Morgan looms large as an iceberg.

The data of readership of NZ newspapers and magazines has been neatly presented by Lance Wiggs to show what amounts to in the main a pretty depressing picture of the printed media industry. When it comes to New Zealand newspapers analysing the 12 months to August 2009 as compared to a year earlier 19 newspapers showed declining readership with just 5 showing increased readership. When it comes to magazines 91 magazines showed declining readership with 50 showing gains.

In regard to the specific area of real estate the performance of the 2 key magazines of Property Press and Real Estate (regional Wellington magazine) were pretty much in line with industry trends, showing declines.

The weekly readership of Property Press fell by 38,000 from 273,000 to 235,000 over the past 12 months; the Real Estate magazine falling by 25,000 from 132,000 to 107,000.

These figures as presented in the chart below are matched to the visitor sessions experienced by online real estate websites as measured by Nielsen Online. The data shows the average weekly sessions hosted by each website over the same tracking period as the Roy Morgan readership survey.

So whilst the Property Press readership has fallen by close to 14% over the past year to a weekly average readership of 235,000; total web traffic to a group of 8 real estate listings sites has grown by over 20% to reach a weekly session total of 912,919.

The largest total sessions for real estate is recorded on the property pages of Trade me with a weekly average of 557,816 a year-on-year increase of 22.8%; realestate.co.nz comes in with a weekly average of 127,190 sessions per week an increase of 27.1% and then the largest company website of Harcourts had an average of 70,180 sessions per week an increase of 18.1%.

Further objective reinforcement of the shift from print to the web.

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