The Unconditional Blog

The impartial voice of the industry

 

Archive for the ‘Website searching’ Category

1

Searching for property online growing at the fastest rate since 2007

Posted on: October 22nd, 2009 | Filed in Uncategorized, Website searching

In just the last four weeks there have been more visitor sessions to the major real estate websites in NZ than there are in inhabitants of our country – 4.41 million visitor sessions compared to 4.33 million people.

This total activity is measured across the major 8 websites as reported by Nielsen Online and measured as purely the number of NZ visitors.

The rate of growth over this year-to-date as can be seen from the graph below is the sharpest rise since early 2007 when the property market was in full swing with sales per month running at around an average of 7,800. Today that average is just 5,800 per month some 25% lower; yet interest in viewing property online is actually some 50% higher than that same period in 2007.

NZ real estate weekly traffic 2005 - 2009

The scale of online property searching is staggering – an average day sees over 113,000 unique browsers researching at least one property website. During that time a total of over 4.7 million pages will be viewed and the total time consumer viewing those pages will exceed 122 million seconds – roughly 34,000 hours!

1

Check your address at myaddress.co.nz

Posted on: October 18th, 2009 | Filed in Technology, Website searching

myaddress.co.nz website - NZ address registerWe may be a small country – but sometimes we do make life hard for ourselves, take addresses for example. Most countries have a post code or Zip code which in some countries represents an area comprising on average less than a dozen or so homes, thereby allowing hyper local addressing. Here in NZ our post code is both little known and at the same time not that granular.

This not only makes for issues with postal systems, but more importantly with emergency services. That is why a new website launched by Terralink International is a great opportunity for NZ to get itself back on the map.

The New Zealand Address Register at www.myaddress.co.nz is an excellent tool to allow home owners to check out the place they call home and make sure it is accurately represented on the mapping system which Terralink operates. This is important as Terralink provide mapping services for the emergency services.

Should you find that your property is not accurately represented – not the right number or street name then this website allows you to send in details to submit proposed changes and thereby allow a more accurate record to be kept so that the emergency services know exactly where you are, especially if your house is known by a name rather than a number, or that your street name has an alias!

For the real estate industry addressing is a critical issue. This tool will be a great opportunity for real estate agents to work with clients to ensure that at the time of any listing or prospecting they can provide assistance to ensure their local knowledge enhances the accuracy of this critical website.

As joint venture partners with Terralink in the property information website of Zoodle, we are pleased to see this initiative come to fruition as it will greatly assist Terralink to maintain a more comprehensive up-to-date database of all properties in the country accurately addressed.

10

What value research when staring reality in the face!

Posted on: October 16th, 2009 | Filed in Media commmentary, Website searching

istock_000000839419xsmallThe recent debate with Property Press over the value of different methodologies of research are, on reflection a complete waste of time!

We could continue an online slagging match quoting every conceivable piece of research that can be dusted off and used to justify a position – as is often the case with research.

After all quantitative research is only the ability to extrapolate based on sample groups. However extrapolation is not an accurate science. You can never say with 100% confidence that what 1,000 people say they will do will be exactly what 4 million people actually do.

So instead of quoting research let’s for a moment consider facts:

In the last week (w/c 5 October) the following numbers represent facts (what actually happened) – not research extrapolation:

  1. A total of  4 million unique browsers from within NZ visited a total of over 350 websites monitored by Nielsen – this is the unique total many of these visitors will have visited many of these sites
  2. A total of 475,866 unique browsers in NZ visited one of the 25 real estate websites monitored by Nielsen – these are unique users who may have visited a number of the websites – but are not counted twice
  3. A total of 86,912 unique browsers in NZ visited the website of realestate.co.nz viewing 2.2 million pages and spending a total of 85.6 million seconds on the site during those 7 days

These are audited actual events and activity, they are not extrapolations based on the words “would you”. They are based on the facts of what people actually did.

One year ago, the week commencing the 6th October 2008 these were the facts:

  1. A total of  3 million unique browsers from within NZ visited a total of over 350 websites monitored by Nielsen – this is the unique total many of these visitors will have visited many of these sites
  2. A total of 361,032 unique browsers in NZ visited one of the 25 real estate websites monitored by Nielsen – these are unique users who may have visited a number of the websites – but are not counted twice
  3. A total of 58,298 unique browsers in NZ visited the website of realestate.co.nz viewing 1.5 million pages and spending a total of 54.2 million seconds on the site during those 7 days
These people using these computers made a positive decision in the case of those visiting realestate.co.nz to enter this website in an effort to search property.
I think these facts tell a very simple story – more and more people; more and more of the time; turn to the web to search for everything from flight tickets to books; to hotel reservations; to news and naturally and not surprisingly property information. This trend has one path.
  • To stand and deny it is to try and stand against a hurricane.
  • Here endeth this debate!
2

The lines between the web and print continue to blur

Posted on: September 15th, 2009 | Filed in Website searching

Google in its inimitable style quietly released what for me was a very smart tool today.

Titled “fast flip” this application from the technical labs at Google is at its heart a reading tool to allow multiple topic-driven articles from news sites to be easily browsed.

Google fast flip

Adopting a “lean-back” posture to browse these pages is as close an experience to the age-old experience of spreading out the newspaper on the kitchen table and scanning pages for relevant article. The difference here is that the article are arranged to suit and reflect your search or topic interest.

The key is the way the layout resembles a series of printed pages which are web pages, this in someways feels an entirely intuitive sensation – one where as I say there is a sense that the experience of scanning a series of print pages and web pages is now completely blurred. When this happens that is when you know, or at least have a sense that the web has now reached a sense of it being an entirely natural way of consuming information.

So what relevance for real estate?

I guess at its heart the experience of leaning-back and browsing real estate listings is akin to this experience and is something that at realestate.co.nz we are working on (stay tuned). What our site has to do is provide this kind of rich experience so property seekers don’t have to rely on Google to aggregate the listings and display them.

I think the benefit for real estate is the aggregation of new stories around the subject matter. As of today the only contextual experience I could create on fast flip was this real estate news layout – nothing as yet as a news story layout for NZ real estate.

1

Lehman Bros collapse and the impact on the property market

Posted on: September 14th, 2009 | Filed in Media commmentary, Website searching

NZ Herald - 14 Sep 09The NZ Herald article today tracking the fall out from the 15th September 2008 collapse of Lehman Bros cites the consequential impact on website traffic.

The specific chart to which the article refers is presented below. The chart measures the weekly total sessions (number of NZ website visitors) across a basket of 7 real estate websites – the leading sites including realestate.co.nz, trade me property, Harcourts, Open2view and other. The chart is indexed based on a rolling 52 week average to thereby exclude the inherent growth of web traffic and in so doing provides a clearer view of seasonality and market trends.

Real estate web traffic - total industry sessions 2007 & 2008

The key takeaway from this chart is that in comparing 2008 weekly traffic to 2007  it is very clear how the global economic recession significantly impacted property viewing online as a surrogate of consumer confidence in the property market either by active buyers or casual observers. The 2008 line starts the year below 2007 and never once does it really show any demonstration of exceeding that performance. Compare this to the latest chart for 2009 which shows the far more active level for this year to date.

The component of this 2008 chart that relates to the Lehman Bros collapse can better be seen in the exploded chart below.

Sep 2008 and the Lehman Bros impact on NZ real estate web traffic

Here is where the 2007 performance shows a more traditional seasonal upturn in the spring. For 2008 that upturn did began in late August with a strong couple of weeks until as shown the 15 September week’s performance kicked in. However from then on the differential performance to 2007 only grew wider and consequentially from an online searching perspective the real estate market failed to have a spring pick up – remaining very quiet through to the end of the year and the traditional seasonal downturn at Christmas.

1

NZ Property websites – August another record level of traffic

Posted on: September 10th, 2009 | Filed in Website news, Website searching

A number of recent search queries on this blog have originated from the question “what are the latest numbers for web traffic on real estate websites?” – so in a spirit of openness and transparency, here are the latest stats for August from Nielsen Online.

In the month of August a total of 1,489,294 unique browsers visited at least one of the real estate website tracked by Nielsen during the month. That is up 17% on a year ago and now represents the highest ever month. The previous record was just last month with 1,415,803. As can be seen from the chart below the rise of real estate web traffic has been steady and progressive over the past 4 year when back then 500,000 unique browsers was a record.

NZ real estate web traffic - total UB's to August 2009

Whilst the traffic may have grown 3 fold over the past 4 years the sales and buyer demand has not grown anything like that level. This demonstrates firstly the growing dominance of the web as the most utilised and valued source of real estate information, but also that online browsing of real estate listings  – and especially those of appealing lifestyle property is a very active kiwi pastime!

In terms of which websites are being viewed the table below charts the top 10 websites on the same metric of total unique browsers in the month of August 2009.

nielsen-top-10-sites-aug-09

What is noticable from the table is the growing polarisation of audience – those property portals (realestate.co.nz and trade me property) are stretching the lead. This is a function of the appeal of their respective offerings – in the case of realestate.co.nz, the most comprehensive content and in the case of trade me property, private sellers.

A final metric of the market for online real estate websites is the relative growth on a year-on-year basis. The total audience of all real estate websites is up 17% – indiviudally the growth of individual website from within the top 10 in most cases exceeds that growth  further demonstrating the polarisation to the major top sites.

Naturally we are delighted to see that realestate.co.nz is up a staggering 50% in a year delivering close to 400,000 unique browsers in the month of keen property searchers both here in NZ and from overseas.

% growth in we traffic for real estate websites NZ - August 2009

10

The most comprehensive website will always triumph

Posted on: August 29th, 2009 | Filed in Website searching

istock_000002552215xsmallI have a passionate love of listening to podcasts. They allow you to so much more effectively use your time to become better informed accessing news and information from around the world brought to you for free through the iTunes service.

So it was I was listening to a podcast the other day from Harvard Business – the title spiked my interest:

Will Monster.com Go the Way of Newspapers?

If you did not know monster.com. it is, or has been up to this point in time, the gorilla when it comes to job searching online in the USA. This podcast was a transcript of a blog post from Tom Davenport who holds the President’s Chair in Information Technology and Management at Babson College. The concept of monster.com relinqishing its mantle on job searching seems inprobable, but that is exactly the premise he suggest could happen. That was enough to hold my attention in listing to his hypothesis.

His premise is that recently aggregator sites have started to erode the power of monster – sites such as SimplyHired, Jobster, Craigs list and of course Google base. Such sites he says have the advanatge of being able to aggregate all listings of jobs rather than just the ones found on Monster.

This naturally got me thinking as to how he would view the real estate market online for certainly in the UK a new entrant Globrix has shaken up the market as an aggregator of content from many websites undertaken by scrapping content. The simple premise of such aggregator sites is that the more comprehensive the content on any one website the more the public will judge that site to be the most valuable to visit. Whilst in the UK Globrix has acheived significant growth it has not dented the #1 incumbent player – Rightmove for 2 reasons.

  1. Rightmove already has the most comprehensive content with over 90% of all real estate offices subscribing – these offices judge value from the service
  2. Globrix can only ever provide half the service the public want – scratch the surface and you discover that Globrix is a search site speedily handing you off to another site to search for information. The public find this experience jarring and judge a site on content as much as seemless consistent experience of searching, saving, analysing and enquiring about property. Something that RightMove does better than anyone else.

So what about NZ ?

Well here we have one website for real estate which has over 93% of all the listings of real estate agents – realestate.co.nz. The most comprehensive website for real estate in NZ. As the chart below shows on the catgories of property for sale, be it homes (including sections and lifestyle), farms, commercial property or businesse;s realestate.co.nz holds a more comprehensive selection than Trade me property.

listings comparison between realestateconz and trade me property Jul 09

So do we at realestate.co.nz fear we will go the way of the newspapers? – certainly not!

We are focussed to continuing to develop the website to provide the most rewarding and valuable searching experience as a partner in the property buying process, providing the single most comprehensive source of listings of real estate of any NZ website. That is our commitment to the property seekers of NZ and our customers – the real estate profession of NZ.

18

Newspapers big losers as property searchers stampede online

Posted on: August 25th, 2009 | Filed in Buying / Selling a home, Online marketing, Website searching

Each year around this time there is heated anticipation for the release of the annual Nielsen Real Estate Market Report. This comprehensive survey of property buyers and sellers has become a seminal guidebook to the trends in real estate as it has been undertaken in each of the past 4 years.

The survey (which is undertaken through an online survey) covers many aspects of consumer behaviour, attitudes and awareness of the industry and each year new insights and critical trends emerge.

This year one chart from the amongst one hundred pages of the report leaped out and said in a confident and striking manner – LOOK AT ME!

A total of 1,206 people were asked the question:

Thinking about the different media and other things that you consult for the purpose of researching real estate, how useful do you perceive the following?

The respondents were shown a list of 14 sources of real estate information – everything from TV and real estate office window displays to magazines, newspapers and the web, in all their different forms. The respondents were then asked to rate each by how useful they though each was. The chart below compares the 2 major competing media – newspapers and specialist real estate websites.

Nielsen Online real estate market report 2009 - usefulness of media

The results are staggering with 95% of people saying that specialist real estate websites were “useful or very useful” as compared to just 49% for newspapers – taking the judgement of “very useful”; less than 1 in 10 judged newspapers as “very useful”, whereas with specialist real estate websites 2 out of 3 judged them “very useful”.

Evaluating all of the 14 media options as to how many had been consulted in the past week equally startling trends emerged, comparing this year to last year.

Nielsen Online real estate market report 2009 - media consulted last week

Right up at the top of the list is specialist real estate websites; up from 69% last year to 78% this year. Other web options of company websites and search engines showed growth at 63% and 38% respectively.

However the print versions of real estate saw significant declines. Specialist magazines remain relevant although falling from 55% to just 46%. Local newspapers fell from 49% to 40% and then far behind was national / metropolitan newspapers down from 43% last year to just 31% this year – this means that now less than a third of all property researchers surveyed consulted metropolitan newspapers in the past week.

These figures are in some ways not that alarming as the rise in traffic to real estate websites has been enormous over the past few years, however despite this and despite the behaviour of buyers and sellers in using the web as the primary means of researching real estate – the real estate industry still has a love affair with printed publications, demonstrated by the colossal scale of investment of vendors money in print media, with so little relatively being placed in online media advertising of property.

I can’t help recounting a moment sitting just last month listening to a panel discussion at the Inman Connect Conference in San Francisco. I was not surprised. Nor were any of my fellow participants. One after another real estate agents shared their approach to marketing-about both marketing of themselves and of their clients’ properties. Not one of them mentioned newspapers. There are some agents in NZ who share this ethos and maybe in time we will see more; however I think the onus may need to come from property sellers to share their view on the appropriateness of online vs. offline when it comes to vendor-paid-marketing.

Update 25 September : pdf copies of these charts are downloadable here – Usefulness of different media and used in the last week.

0

Online searching for property highlights continued demand

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

The month of July is historically one of the quiet periods of the year in terms of the property market – the most active months are usually February / March and October / November. Conventional wisdom however seems to be overlooked this year as activity in terms of online searching for property is attaining new record levels.

In July just short of 4,500,000 individual sessions were recorded across the top 10 real estate websites – a staggering 1.2 million hours being consumed by property seekers browsing real estate websites – this being just the time spent by NZ’ers – there are many thousands of international searchers of NZ property as well.

The chart below tracks the total sessions undertaken on the top 10 websites as measured by Nielsen Online each month and shows the relative level of activity for 2009 (green bars) as measured against 2008 and 2007.

Online searching for property NZ Jul 09 realestate.co.nz

In addition to the upturn in activity seen this year, what can also be clearly seen is the lack of relative growth between 2007 and 2008. Given the every greater acceptance and usage of the web as the primary means of searching for property there would be an expectation to see a natural annual increase. The level of activity in 2008 in some months barely surpassed 2007 – more than likely a consequence of a very subdued property market and the impact on consumer sentiment.

This representation of data is very likely to demonstrate that the web and the traffic to the websites for property is becoming a valuable lead indicator of market demand.

In order to be able to see a better representation of truer demand by property seekers the chart below tracks the same data, but rather than show actual activity it indexes the weekly level of activity across the 10 websites. This method helps in removing the factor of natural organic growth of web searching, to better show property market demand.

Property searching online NZ Aug 09 realestate.co.nz

This chart which uses data right up to this week does highlight the pick up in property searching since the low in June which on an index basis matched the relative position back in June 2007. Subsequently the level of activity is increasing at a far faster rate than 2 years ago which was as you will recall, a time when the property market was considerably more active than it is today in terms of sales.

Measured against last year the level of property searching this year is much stronger, and already experiencing an early spring pick up which was never really seen this time last year when global and local economic sentiment was dropping to all time lows and before interest rates really started to fall.

10

Challenging times in Australia for online real estate search

Posted on: July 29th, 2009 | Filed in Media commmentary, Website searching

Google vs the Australian Property portalsThe launch 3 weeks ago of Google’s new mapping service for real estate search in retrospect slipped into life without great fanfare. It is only subsequently that the dust has been kicked up as the Australian media have started to report a growing stand off between the 2 major real estate portals – their media owned parents and Google.

At the heart of the issue is the question of whether Google’s move to provide map based search for property is anything more than an extension of the well established Google Search or whether this move takes Google into the operational domain of a real estate portal and as such states a desire by Google to compete directly with the established portals in Australia of Domain (Fairfax owned) and the market leading realestate.com.au (News Corporation owned).

At this time the two Australian real estate portals have stated that they will not supply a feed of listings on behalf of their customers – the real estate offices and agents to Google as in doing so they believe that Google is trying to compete directly for real estate buyers searching for property on behalf of agents. Google on the other hand sees its service as an extension of its well established natural keyword search – providing the public with a rich and engaging search experience, which then link to property portals and agents websites.

For clarification in simple terms (although not universally agreed) a real estate portal is a website that aggregates (for free or at a cost) a comprehensive selection of real estate listings and seeks to create tools to ease the property search process and provide the pubic with a great user experience around rich data. The end result may be in the form of a telephone call, an email or a referral web link to an agent or real estate office. The principle is based on the premise that buyers do not want to search multiple websites for property in a suburb when a portal can aggregate the results for very specific search – 3 bedroom house in this suburb at this price. Realestate.co.nz is a real estate portal.

This whole issue in my view revolves around this question: “Is what Google is doing with real estate map search any different from what they have always done in keyword search”.

Over the past decade as online real estate search has grown to become the first and last place people search for property, every real estate portal has spent directly and indirectly millions of dollars ensuring that their content is “found” and indexed by Google specifically so that the Google searches people do everyday for “homes for rent or homes for sale in xyz suburb” drives traffic to the portals. Most portals receive anywhere between 30% and 60% of their traffic from Google. To get this traffic they provide Google with no data, they simply let Google “read” and index their site.

Google therefore has always had an index of every listing of real estate in every country. The establishment of Google Maps real estate simply has added a single piece of data – the physical address. This is the piece of data that Google has found hard to access by indexing real estate websites, but is in the context of real estate so critical. With the address Google can places properties for sale or rent on a map.

So in Australia, these 2 major real estate portals and their parent companies have said they will not provide the complete data set for each listing with an address and further they have gone on to threaten the removal of advertising on Google search of their parent companies own media publications worth millions of dollars to Google.

What seems slightly ironic is the fact that the 2 major real estate portals in Australia have utilised the services of Google maps and been delighted to have had this excellent technology to feature on their own websites for years, allowing them to pinpoint the location of both individual properties and search results of multiple properties on Google developed maps; yet when Google takes that same data and presents it on a map on their own site the portals object.

Australian portals use of Google mapsA very clear principle of the web is open access to data – making content and data freely available – it is then the opportunities for business to find ways to monetise the aggregation of this data through advertising or premium services.

At this time only realestate.co.nz as the most comprehensive property website in NZ is feeding to Google maps on behalf of its customers – the real estate offices in NZ. Trade Me property as the other property portal has stated that they are not at this time feeding such data, although in this comment on the Fairfax owned Stuff website they state it is not a function of the decision taken by their parent company Fairfax in Australia.

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