The Unconditional Blog

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Archive for the ‘Website searching’ Category


Searching for mortgagee sales remains a focus of buyer attention

Posted on: May 29th, 2008 | Filed in Website searching

This year has created a new sport for business commentators – tracking the stock of mortgagee properties on the market. We have had all the mainstream media taking a great interest in this growing stockpile – closely monitored by Bernard Hickey on his blog showing that as of this week we are hovering at all time highs.

This site however can go one better and not only track the stock of mortgagee properties for sales, but can also track the searching habits of our visitors looking for these properties. This is done by analysing the extent of keyword searches on the site.

Tracking this over the past 3 months shows that as the stock of mortgagee properties has grown from 147 at the beginning of March to end this week at 194, the level of searching has averaged 1,200 searches a week. This level of keyword search places this phrase of “mortgagee” as the #1 search each week of this year, representing around 1 in 15 of all searches.

The graph below shows the weekly statistics of mortgagee listings in the shaded area, with the red line representing the % of all key word searches using the word mortgagee.

If the spike in searching in the first week of the April seems an anomaly – there is an answer, in that week TV3’s Campbell Live aired a piece on the real estate market and highlighted the extent of the growing stock of mortgagee property as well as the growing interest demonstrated by search queries on the site. Within the first hour after the show the level of searching on the site skyrocketed – who says the media do not influence consumer psyche?!

Taking a wider perspective and looking back over the past 12 months it is interesting to note the extent to which the state of the market has influenced interest in mortgagee properties as seen from the graph below tracking keyword searches. As one would expect with the slow down in the market and the squeeze on mortgage payments with interest rate hikes and the subprime meltdown, searching has grown exponentially.

Mortgagee keyword searches on 2007 & 2008


How to choose a real estate agent?

Posted on: May 24th, 2008 | Filed in Agent Tips, Website searching

Who do you turn to when you need a plumber? or whose advice would you seek when looking for a lawyer? Naturally you would in the main ask the advice of a friend or colleague at work.

How to choose a real estate agentWhen it comes to real estate agents though, it may (or may not) surprise you that the vast majority of us do not ask friends or colleagues. For in the main we select an agent using our eyes and our ears – we see who has the most sign boards and who sounds good at an open homes we visit, or at least we used to; because with the ascendancy of the web we can better assess the most appropriate real estate agent by using web search.

Type in any real estate agent’s name into Google and the likelihood is you will find out about that individual – as you will for most of the population of the western world!

With a real estate agent you will find content related to what they sell and possibly even a profile hosted on their office website or maybe even their own. This profile is their selling message to you. As prospective clients – they will speak of their experience, their current clients, maybe some referrals from past clients, very much what you would expect; however is some ways not quite enough information.

The reality is the selection process and appointment of a real estate agent should be looked at rather in the same way as an interview for a job. You are selecting an individual. That individual needs to demonstrate to you their experience and competencies that make them the best real estate agent to sell your property. The company they work for can provide a degree of confidence but at the end of the day it is that individual you will trust to get you the best price within the timescale you expect.

So in perusing the results of the Google search the single feature that I judge will provide you with the most valuable information to assess a real estate agent now and in the future – a blog.

Whilst listings are interesting; nothing can beat the authenticity of a blog. At this time in NZ there are probably less than 100 real estate agents’ personal blogs, by comparison to other countries, we are ahead of Australia, but way behind the US. Conservatively there are upwards of 100,000 realtor blogs in the US – on a base of 1.5 million realtors that would mean that on a pro-rata basis we could have over 1,000 blogs here in NZ within a year. That would provide a good coverage of most of the country.

Blogs expose the true skills and capabilities of a real estate agent. If you are looking to buy or sell in an area, you want to find the person most in touch with the local market, someone who knows the market, what is going on, what the trends are in property and what the local news of the community. They are the type of people who want to engage in an open dialogue with readers. Such people are open to questions and will openly share knowledge and advice, they are far more likely to have an an open and engaging manner.

Voices - NZ real estate agent blogsIn an effort to encourage a greater adoption by this industry of blogs we have launched a free service for all real estate agents of this site to set up their own blog. Called Voices this blog platform is hosted by so we can provide you under one roof a selection of real estate bloggers from around the country. To provide you a sense of the diversity of content and interest of these real estate bloggers we have posted various recent posts from these blogs on the home page of the website to share the thoughts and skills of these individuals.

Naturally whilst we offer advice and some degree of coaching for these real estate bloggers, it is up to them to create a dialogue with you and demonstrate value. Since we launched this service in January we have had over 30 blogs start – a small but passionate group who believe that your choice of real estate professional in the future will be judged more by the quality and professionalism of an the online dialogue than some arbitrary 5 star rating on a “rate an agent website” or by judging who has the most for-sale signs in the neighbourhood. So hopefully in time you can appoint your professional agent confident in the knowledge that their reputation will be further enhanced through acting for you.


Media seriously impacts the psyche of NZ’ers when it comes to property

Posted on: May 11th, 2008 | Filed in Media commmentary, Website searching

Real estate as we are often told is the most expensive purchase you will ever make and one fraught with uncertainty and complexity – an industry turning over $34 billion in the past 12 months, transacted by over 16,000 agents. So why then would you imagine that the sentiment of these buyers and sellers could be so influenced by the media?

Well the fact is that as a function of the unique analytical capability inherent within the web this long held proposition that the real estate industry judges that the media impacts the state of the property market is in fact proven.

The view that rampant speculative buying is fuelled when headlines such as “House prices – the boom keeps rolling ” & “House prices still on rise” appear on our morning desk; and equally when the market is spooked by headlines such as “House sale low is sign the tumble has started” “Shades of the 80s in housing obsession” “Figures confirm property slump bedded in” & “Property market set to crash, says expert” pummelling the market into a nose dive when sales statistics reflect a slowing market.

Well now there are statistics to show that this is the case – well certainly on the downside impact. Analysing the web statistics of this website and several other specialist real estate websites (A total of 7 websites – portals and real estate company websites) produces the following graph.

NZ real estate web traffic 2006 - 2008

Most conspicuous is the manner in which the tracking of the aggregate of website visitors fell sharply from the 3rd week of February as seen by the red line representing 2008 to date. This steep tailing off is significantly out of alignment with the predicted seasonal trend shown in the preceding 2 years. This date of late February exactly correlates with the heightened media coverage borne of the January sales figures and the speculation as to the potential for a 20% to 30% correction in property prices.

With this staring point it is clear to see that interest in property started to wane. The key thing here is that these websites’ traffic statistics not only provide a “never-before” glimpse of the true activity of the consumer, but also a true litmus test of the market as the web has fast become the most valuable source of real estate information.

Adding to this supposition is the matched timing to a cooling off of new listings being added to this website from early March, this has resulted in the total number of listings featured on the site peaking at 109,000 and holding for the past 3 weeks. Were as in January and February the stock of listings was growing at close to 1,000 per week.

Listings stock on at May 08The likely factor behind these figures is the combination of property being withdrawn by agents and vendors who prefer to “sit out” this stage of the market, combined with owners reluctance to enter this market.

At the end of the day the question is – now that we know this, would we expect anyone to act on it?

The country would not benefit from restrictions of press. The media needs report the market and the facts – it simply needs to have freedom to print and publish what they want; just as this blog strives to provide a balanced and impartial perspective on the real estate market in its totality. In commencing this blog I strive to engage an audience. That is no different from newspapers and other media publishing articles designed with eye-catching headlines designed to catch the attention and thereby sell an audience to an advertiser.

I am just grateful that the consumer nowadays is benefiting from this more diverse media and in that context better able to make balanced judgements – this is an evolutionary trend of the web’s impact on all our lives – maybe in time these trends won’t be so extreme and rational behaviour will return to this most important of purchase decisions.


An insight into future technology for real estate

Posted on: May 10th, 2008 | Filed in Website searching

I remember being inspired by the 2002 film Minority report. Not by the concept of the police being able to stop crimes before they happen – but by the concept of the wall sized screen manipulated by Tom Cruise as a virtual workpad for application software on screen. It seemed to demonstrate that we should not be bound by traditional screens for working – so it should be for real estate searching.

So I was interested in the post this week from 1000Watt consulting which provides valuable insight into real estate technology. The question posed was the extent to which the emerging ‘ambient web’ as ubiquitously enabled by GPS technology would empower significant changes in real estate. You may recall in the film the dynamic billboards that delivered personalised advertising messages as you passed by, very much leveraging the concepts of location based advertising.

The capability envisaged by 1000Watt is the ability to activate a reporting device as part of the on-board computer of your car which would feed real estate listings for available properties as you drive around the suburb. Naturally along with all the content details would be the ability to contact the agent directly to provide that personal service.

GPS based real estate searchingIn addition to this idea, I have always believed that through a memory stick you could upload to a standard car GPS system the portfolio of open homes that you were interested in viewing on a Saturday. This would provide an optimised routing to the sequence of the open homes. During the drive between homes the voice messaging could also provide a description in an audio file. Naturally the sequencing of properties to view could also manage the time plan to accommodate a coffee or lunch break.

These ideas are entirely achievable – the technology is evolving, I would judge the consumer demand is there. What we lack is the universal commitment by all of this industry to embrace the empowerment of the consumers and thereby ensure that all properties marketed are comprehensively presented with rich data, images and most important of all the addressing of properties.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


There may be signs of hesitation in the property market with fewer new listings appearing

Posted on: March 31st, 2008 | Filed in Website searching

The website provides a valuable lead indicator of trends in real estate in NZ and deep within the statistics are trends which can be useful to assess the direction of the market. As ever the question everyone wants to know at the moment is – is this a good time to list a property for sale? Our aim in running the website is to assist where we can to answer this and other such questions with facts – far more timely than lag indicators of sales results and sample surveys.

A key statistic highlighted in the graph below (represented by the area in blue) is the number of new listings added to the website over the past 6 months.This provides a valuable insight into the supply side of real estate in assessing the balance of supply and demand and therefore likely price trends for property.

NZ New property listings show signs of slowing

This period of October to March each year is traditonally one of the busiest for property for sale. The sales figures reported for the 5 months to the close of February 2008 showed a decline year-on-year of 28% (31,830 vs 44,015 for 2006/7). At the same time the level of new listings coming onto the website actually grew from around 3,600 in Oct and Nov to around 4,300 in February and early March. At the same time the total number of listings featured on the site has steadily grown from 85,000 in October to reaching a peak of 107,000 just last week (shown by the blue line on the graph) – clearly reflecting a sign of a slower market, with more property taking longer to sell.

From the graph can be seen the last 2 weeks of March which show a significant falling off of new listings being added by real estate agents to the website. This period has included an early Easter, again traditionally a strong period for real estate, however what we may well be seeing is the impact of more reluctance on the part of property owners to put their property on the market with the media reporting more signs of less buyers and as a consequence potentially falling property prices.

As to the peaking of listings at around 107,000 it is slightly too early to read anything more into these numbers until we see the REINZ sales statistics in the middle of April. It could be a function of stabilising sales, or possibly the result of listings being withdrawn as property owners prepare to sit it out until the market looks brighter later in the year.

We will keep you posted through sharing more statistics from the website in the coming weeks.


Mortgagee property for sale is still the top search term

Posted on: March 31st, 2008 | Filed in Website searching

The quietening property market even seems to be having an effect on those out looking for bargains in the “mortgagee sale” bin!

As you may have seen in previous posts we have been tracking the incidence of keyword searches on the website for the words “mortgagee”, “mortgagee sale” and “mortgagee sales” – collectively these 3 terms are consistently accounting for around 5% of keyword searches or around 1 in 20. The last week however has seen some cooling in interest.

In the past 7 days there were 905 searches done on these words, down from the high last week of 1,318; that amounts to a 31% decline. Having said that these key words are the number one search term undertaken on the site – in terms of content the number of listings featuring the word mortgagee have fallen this week down from 158 to 154.

It will be interesting to see if these changes become a trend or a minor hiccup!


Searching for mortgagee sales?

Posted on: March 18th, 2008 | Filed in Real Estate Industry, Website searching

This is a short update to the post of last Tuesday. With the assistance of Bernard Hickey at The Rates blog we have been tracking the incidence of web searching for “mortgagee sale” properties.

On the number of listings featuring the word “mortgagee” has risen from 149 to 151 in the past week – not statistically that relevant as the total listing on the site has increased over the same period by 879 to 106,212.

What is slightly more interesting is the level of activity of people searching on the site using the word “mortgagee” – this includes mortgagee sale / mortgagee sales / mortgagee.

In the past 7 days over 1,000 searches have been carried out for this phrase a 27% increase in a week. This compares with a slight fall of 8% in total number of all searches.

There is clearly no doubt that consumers are searching more actively on the site for mortgagee properties – its was the #1 search for the week representing 1 in 20 searches. But was this a function of genuine demand or is this blog and Bernard’s blog driving people to test our site??

More to follow next week…………….


Mortgagee sales statistics continue to show property hunters searching for a bargain

Posted on: March 11th, 2008 | Filed in Buying / Selling a home, Money Matters, Website searching

Property seekers in NZ clearly feel that in today’s buyers market there are bargains to be had and the rich pickings will come from mortgagee sales. That is why the #1 search term on in the past week has been mortgagee – beating long term favourites pool, villa and furnished (as in furnished apartment – I guess?).


I cannot claim credit for this logical analysis of search terms – I was drawn to it by Bernard Hickey who writes an excellent blog on The blog covers a wide range of financial issues of which mortgagee sales have captured his readers interest. He has responded by creating the “Mortgagee Index” at the suggestion of one of his readers.

This index measures the number of listings on both and trade me property that feature as “Mortgagee Sale” properties. As at the 3rd March, Bernard had a level of 167 listings; up from 154 the week prior. To assist him in monitoring this index I provided not just the number of listings on our site with the word mortgagee or mortgagee sale (as at today 149), I also provided data on the number of searches undertaken on our site by people searching for these types of properties. Here is the latest data.

During the last 7 days the #1 search term used on was mortgagee recording 705 searches in 7 days – this amounts to 3.7% of all searches over the past week. At this time last week the term mortgagee was also #1 recording 1,646 searches over the prior 14 days – amounting to 3.8% of all searches over that period.

Similar terms capturing interest were mortgagee sale #59 with 50 searches and urgent #143 with 31 searches.

Other big searches being made on the site:

  • lifestyle #9 with 223 searches in the past 7 days, a huge increase from 0.6% to 1.2% of all searches
  • queenstown #13 with 126 searches in the past 7 days, increasing from 0.5% to 0.7% of all searches
  • beach #8 with 224 searches in the past 7 days, falling from 1.5% to 1.2% of all searches
  • pool #3 with 430 searches in the past 7 days, falling from 3.5% to 2.3% of all searches

So clearly it looks like property searchers are hunting out that mortgagee bargain whilst sadly accepting that summer is over and it’s time to think of the escape from the city to the lifestyle section!


Birds eye view of properties on the web

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

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

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

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

Birds eye view of property curtosy of Microsoft virtual earth

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

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

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

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

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

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