It is often said that the best time to launch a new company is in the depths of a recession. To survive in the midst of such adversity should surely provide a proof of the potential when and if the recovery comes, and the economy begins again to fire on all cylinders.
Well, we are from all accounts climbing; albeit slow out of recession across the general economy. The real estate market though is still not as yet firing on all cylinders. Sales in 2010 were barely above the all time low of 56,071 in 2008 at just 56,303.
When compared to the 5 year period of 2003 to 2007 when the average total year sales were just under 107,000 it is very clear to see how slow the property market has become in recent years. Even during the recession of the Asian Crisis of 1997/8 the average sales volumes during those years was over 80,000.
So despite this slow market it is therefore not surprising to see some new companies emerging in the real estate market. With these new companies comes some new approaches which clearly are trying to define a new business model to attract what is still a significant business.
The real estate industry in the residential sector alone accounted for total transacted sales of just under $25 billion in the last year. With an average commission of around 3.5% that adds us to close to $850 million in fees earned by the industry per annum in the depth of the property market recession. In the height of the market the figure reached over $1.4 billion.
Such revenue opportunity supports a large industry of over 11,000 sales agents working out of a total of close to 1,100 offices around the country.
These new entrants to the market that have emerged over the past couple of months share a two key things in common:
1. They focus on online marketing
2. They offer a lower fee for selling a property
The two most recent companies to highlight are 200Square and The Property Market. Additionally it has recently been speculated that Mike Pero may be looking to enter the property market. It is interesting but not surprising that the proposed concepts is also a solution based on a lower fee structure combined with a focus on online marketing.
Late last year details emerged of an Australian company Refund Real Estate looking to enter the market with a rebate scheme of fees and a focus towards online marketing.
This focus online is logical. As has been detailed in the blog previously the focus of property buyers and sellers is to use the web first and foremost for searching and researching property. This focus online in the home or the office is now fast being complemented by the evolution of the mobile real estate applications. At this stage with the Realestate.co.nz iPhone app which is gaining significant traction and usage, with over 14,000 downloads and well over 1,500 daily users. So for smart new companies to advocate the priority to online marketing is both logical and appealing as in so doing they not only save their clients significant amounts of money compared to print advertising, but also provide great analysis of lead generation.
The other aspect of these new companies, being the low fee offering as compared to the established operators. Certainly the consumer appeal of paying a flat fee or a lower percentage is undoubtedly strong, the key question will be as to the ability of these companies to make the business model work. There have been those who have tried and succeeded with a low fee structure, uniquely in the Christchurch market with Diane Astle and Premier Real Estate both offering a 1% fee service. Equally there have been those who have tried and failed, most notably The Jones.
What is certain is that the web marketing advocated by these new companies is pointing the way to the future for this industry, with it comes cost savings for vendors as compared to print media. As for the fees for professional services of real estate agents – the judgment will ultimately be made by the consumer who will trust in agents that deliver true value whether that will be in a low fee, or a full fee structure will be interesting to see and well worth watching as the year progresses.