The Unconditional Blog

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Property buyers continue to favour the web over print when searching

Posted on: August 24th, 2010 | Filed in Buying / Selling a home, Featured, Online marketing

Family viewing laptopThere is a fundamental disconnect in the real estate industry today between where the industry advertises and where the audience of buyers are researching.

The latest data from this Nielsen survey highlights this in stark relief. Currently around 90% of the dollars spent by the industry (somewhere over $2,000,000 per week) is spent on traditional print media – specialist magazines as well as national and local newspapers.

That spend though is not relevant to where buyers are researching the property market. The Nielsen survey asked respondents to select which of 15 different mediums (print, online, signs, magazines etc) they had used in the past week to assist in researching real estate. Respondents were able to tick as many forms of media as they liked.

The results this year are staggering as is the trend of the 4 years that the survey has been undertaken – this point is made as whilst some may judge that as the survey is undertaken online there may be a bias. However you judge the methodology, the trends are not to be ignored or dismissed.

National newspapers have now fallen to a level where just 1 in 4 of people surveyed had used them to research in the past week. Back in 2007 it was just half of all people surveyed, in 2008 it fell to 43% and last year it was down to less than 1 in 3. So in the space of just 3 years the proportion of people in the survey relying on national newspapers to research real estate has halved.

Newspapers source of content

Specialist real estate magazines have equally suffered a decline over the years. In 2007 they were judged by 6 out of 10 respondents as being a part of property researching in the past week. By 2008 they had fallen to 55%, 2009 saw a further fall to below half of all those surveyed and finally this year they have fallen again to just 45%.

decline of specialist magazines

Over the same period the web has been in the ascendancy. Even back in 2006 with the first survey, the web was judged by 7 out of 10 to be a valuable source of research in the past week. In 2010 that ascendancy and supremacy has grown. Heading the pack are specialist real estate websites of which and Trade me property are the two dominant sites, this category is now judged by 8 out of 10 respondents as a valuable source of research in the past week. Closely behind are company websites (64%) and search engines (42%).

ascendancy of specialist websites

Not only are real estate websites chosen more often as a source of property research the amount of time that people are spending on them continues to grow. For specialist real estate websites the weekly total is now over 3 hours (197 minutes) up from 172 minutes last year. Company websites and search engines are both up and both exceed 2 hours per week. The print publications in the real estate arena on the other hand are falling – national newspapers now account for less than an hour per week and specialist real estate magazines just over an hour a week (down from 77 to 76 minutes).

The trends presented in this Nielsen survey truly reflect usage by property buyers. More and more these days real estate professionals rely heavily on lead generation and online marketing of their clients’ properties from the web – on specialist real estate websites as well as their own company websites.

With close to 90% of all NZ’ers now accessing the web and broadband penetration exceeding half of the population, not to mention the projected rise in mobile internet, the future for the real estate industry will ever more be online – the question is clearly going to be – for how much longer can the industry afford to keep pumping all that money into print media?

Note: The Nielsen Real Estate Market Report is based on a website-intercept survey on New Zealand real estate websites conducted during May and June 2010 with a sample size of 1,225 respondents and a margin of error of 2.86%.

Article Discussion

  1. Sharon James says:

    Alistair, thanks for sharing these results. Clearly the web is the way forward yet why do Agents (in general) continue to spend 90% of marketing money on print advertising, it defies logic?

  2. Andrew says:


    Thanks for sharing this information. The trend is heading in one direction and certainly the writing on the wall is clear for the print industry. I still do believe that the 45% represented in “special magazine” graph still do make up a valid/important percentage of real estate transactions. Based on this, many in the Real Estate industry will continue to use a mixture of both print and web mediums for at least a few more years until the next generation become more prominent property consumers & in tiurn will look exlusively for content/images/information solely via the web.

    Thanks Alistair – I always enjoy reading your insights and knowledge.


  3. Ross says:


    Real estate consultants are working for the seller. I think it would be remiss of us to focus solely on one medium when selling properties. To do so could be detrimental to our clients.Remember we have a professional obligation to them. I would be surprised if consultants were avoiding the internet as a means of promoting properties. Internet advertising is certainly cheaper than the print media. But it’s worth mentioning that not everyone has access to the internet or wants to search for properties there. If we limit our marketing to the internet, we are likely to be ignoring a segment of the population. In a tight market (and indeed in any market but especially so now) we cannot afford to do that, for our clients’ sake.

  4. Alistair Helm says:


    Whilst your comment is addressed to Sharon, I am keen to respond.

    I completely agree and would never say that a solus media campaign should be adopted – you are right – an agent has an obligation of care to ensure their clients listings are marketed to optimise awareness and inquiry.

    All I want to highlight for the benefit of agents and homeowners is the need to recognise the power of the web and the reach of the web. As to whether everyone has access to the web – the number not having access intersected to the audience of buyers is by any measure small and getting smaller.

    As for consultants avoiding the web – I am constantly surprised by the extent to which listings are added to our website that have such scant information or worse no information (ie photos) which sadly would seem to demonstrate that there are agents who do not understand or appreciate the web.

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