Archive for March, 2009

Mortgagee property listings – a note of caution

I would like to bring your attention to the serious matter of adherence to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) guidelines as they relate to the description of mortgagee property listings on realestate.co.nz.

The fact is that within the 349 listings currently on the site which use the term mortgagee there are number that are not in fact properties subject to mortgagee auction or tender or as properties being sold on the instruction of the lender.

To quote a couple of examples (these are not being identified to protect the anonymity of the agent:

Mortgagee Auction ?
Not at all….. but our vendors will meet the market to ensure a sale on auction day!
Situated on an established easy care section with fantastic outdoor living, the home has spacious living, modern kitchen, 3 double bedrooms and 2 toilets.
Inspection essential to appreciate all that the property offers. – Excellent school zones and close to amenities.
This home will be sold!
Will you be the lucky new owner?

Location is the Greatest. Apartment is Excellent, the situation is unbelievable and the timing is right Now! You’ll be surprised what the Vendor will Sell for! Might as well call it a Mortgagee Sale! Why wait? Find out what the fuss is all about!

This practice of “seeding” listings with this keyword of “mortgagee” is clearly being done to attract attention, however as this article in the NZ Herald clearly shows the attention of the ASA may be the result.

The guidelines for us running the website are very clear from a legal perspective – we are a publisher and do not undertake to audit or review any content we receive from any of our customers for publication on the website, to do so would be impossible and impractical. However if any complaint is addressed to us regarding any content on the website we will immediately contact the office and agent concerned and request them to immediately amend the content or remove it.

I would encourage everyone in this industry to recognise that by abiding by the guidelines of the ASA and not misusing keywords that the whole industry will benefit from greater trust and credability as seen from the perspective of the public and regulatory authourities.

March 30 2009 | Online marketing | 2 Comments »

Join a free online seminar with Stefan Swanepoel

If you are quick you can take advantage of this special free seminar by Stefan Swanepoel to he hosted online next Wednesday the 18th March between noon and 1pm (NZ time – how convenient!) – the seminar will be focused on Stefan sharing his insights on the industry from his just-published 2009 Trends Report.

Places are limited due to technology so register now – I have! To register click here

March 13 2009 | Events and News and Uncategorized | No Comments »

Property management – Trade me wants to charge more / realestate.co.nz focuses on more services, not more cost!

The real estate industry continues to be challenged by the most extreme and uncertain economic circumstances. Set against this backdrop of low sales and declining income the last thing this industry needs is cost increases. However property managers will be bluntly faced with this issue from the beginning of May as Trade me increases fees – this time increasing both single listings and subscriptions for property management by 43% and 33% respectively. (The rise is immediate if you are not already a subscribing office).

Single listings go from $69 to $99 and subscriptions for property management offices from $299 to $399 per month – that will be exactly twice the price of a monthly subscription to realestate.co.nz for all your listings. This means that in the space of 3 years Trade me has increased the costs of property management listings by 400% and property for sale listings by 300%.

The rationale for this increase as the trade me communication states is that web site traffic has grown …

“The increased charge reflects a substantial increase in traffic (825,000 Unique Browsers) and enquiries (104,000 email enquiries in February) and also the introduction of a number of new features to rentals, including Google Maps and Street View, and the addition of car parks as a separate category.”

As a member of this industry I am concerned to see added costs lumped on an industry that is constantly challenged by the media as to the value for money the industry derives from this relationship – for years companies have been asked to pay more and more as “readership increases” justified the higher costs. Now newspaper circulation is falling and online audiences are growing so once again the media aims to exploit this opportunity.

However this time the industry has an alternative in realestate.co.nz so let’s examine the situation:

  1. “Substantial increase in traffic” (828,586 Unique Browsers in February) – this is true – as measured against a year ago it is a growth of 21%. Now compare that with realestate.co.nz with 364,055 Unique Browsers in February representing a higher increase of 26% as compared to last year.
  2. But what of traffic to just property management listings? – Surely, not all of these trade me visitors went to rental property? – sorry no data supplied
  3. The rental section of realestate.co.nz attracted 68,439 Unique Browsers in February an increase of 16% as compared to a year ago. It is worth remembering that rental listings on realestate.co.nz total 6,660 which represents just 6% of the total number of listings but attracts 18% of all visitors – this means close on 1 in 5 of all visitors are on the site to look for rental property. However as opposed to property for sale viewers of rental properties tend to be solely focussed on renting not viewing other peoples houses.
  4. “Introduction of new features” – Google maps & Street View. Well realestate.co.nz has been providing Google maps on the site from September 2006 and they are free to use. As for Street View – we went live at 6.45am on the 2nd December last year – the same time and day as Trade me – again it is free to put on any website – so there is no real value there
  5. The addition of car parks as a separate category? – well there are 33 listings of which 32 are private listings, so I am not sure this is a great benefit to professional property managers.

So how then does realestate.co.nz compare.

  1. Realestate.co.nz charges no more for rental listings or business listings or commercial listings – the monthly fee for an office of $200 per month has been fixed for 3 years and is fixed for the next year and beyond. That is because we can as an industry owned site challenge the media owned companies to keep costs under control. One monthly fee covers all listings for an office.
  2. We send any email enquiries straight to the property manager listing that property – rather than trade me which sends all emails to one office email address. In this way realestate.co.nz ensures that you as the listing agent gets important queries straight to your PC or phone 24 hrs a day immediately they are sent.
  3. Your listings appear on realestate.co.nz the next day after you list, this is often 24 hrs earlier than on trade me for data uploading customers, again faster listing, faster enquiries and faster response.

New initiative

We have a new initiative which we will provide in more detail next month – but to give you some insight we thought it would be good to share the details with you. We are launching a rental texting service so interested tenants can subscribe to a free text service to be notified of new properties instantly they come on the site and then they can call you to make enquiries. This is added value – and look no price increase!!

Choose wisely when selecting where to advertise your property management listings and remember in February over 210,000 unique browsers visited realestate.co.nz but did not visit trade me property.

March 09 2009 | Competitive activity and New feature and News | 8 Comments »

Zoodle – establishing a strong customer base and growing audience

We launched Zoodle just less than 2 months ago and the site has been hailed a great success by consumers and agents alike. We are regularly having over 3,000 search queries per day for property information. The most popular activity on the website is the single free report on an individual property. In total over 100,000 individual addresses have been searched on the site so far.

In case you missed the details around the launch here is a summary of the site I have written for the next REINZ RE magazine due out next month which not only highlights the strategy behind Zoodle but also shares some ideas as to how Zoodle can help you in your day to day business.

The first question when people see the Zoodle website is “what does it mean?” – the fact is there is no meaning, it is a unique name designed to be remembered and recommended. Based on the first few weeks since the site was launched that is exactly what is happening. Property owners and buyers alike are beginning to recognise Zoodle as the simple answer to the question “so where can I find out – all about property”

Zoodle is the most comprehensive source of information on property and neighbourhoods the length and breadth of NZ. Not simply property for sale or rent. Zoodle provides information on every one of the 1,500,000 individual properties across the country. It is designed to be an invaluable tool to provide buyers and sellers with information to help them in the property market.For property owners, to provide them with statistics on recent sales and up to date online valuation, for buyers, to provide rich information and reports on prospective properties and for vendors to verify the information on their property together with an online valuation.

Free reports are available on every one of the properties, complemented by paid reports ranging from $24.95 for local sales records up to $69.95 for a 20+ page comprehensive property report.

Zoodle is a joint venture between realestate.co.nz and Terralink International and is targeted to appeal to the ever growing appetite for rich information online enabling buyers and sellers to make informed decision in the real estate market.
Latest research from Nielsen Online shows that over half of all respondents had accessed or purchased property information online and the type of information they were looking for is varied as the chart below shows.


Top of the list is a rating valuation followed by property statistics and property sales information, clearly highlighting a more informed audience eager to enter the market prepared for that critical buying decision.

The rich and varied content within Zoodle gives it its unique appeal and that content will continue to grow over time. The heart of it is around local information about neighbourhoods and communities – specifically designed to help people better answer the question of “where should I live” as opposed to simply “what is the facts around this house” – this is the key difference between Zoodle and other property information websites that simply sell reports.

At the moment Zoodle provides comprehensive information on schools and school zones. Individual suburb profiles have been written for over a quarter of all suburbs in the country not by paid journalists but by locals, specifically motivated and passionate local real estate agents; this speaks to the ambition of Zoodle to be very collaborative with its audience, seeking content from a variety of sources and sharing it in a single place on the web.

When it comes to factual information on properties, the partnering with Terralink establishes the required credibility of key property data. Terralink have integrated a lot of their Property Guru subscription service and thereby powered the paid reports on Zoodle to provide the automated online valuation and local sales reports.

Mapping as with all real estate websites is central to Zoodle which uses the ubiquity of Google maps (including of course “street view” image from the street of each property), together with high resolution aerial images of properties complete with boundary markings courtesy of Terralink. The Google maps also allow the integration of other points of interest in a neighbourhood – recently adding the location of restaurants and cafes through a partnership with menumania.co.nz . However the information most actively sought out by prospective buyers is the location of schools and this is what Zoodle does brilliantly helping savvy buyers better understand the critical locations best aligned to school zones.

Zoodle has been established ahead of any other similar competitor community and property websites of which there are many around the world – any one of which may well have had their eyes on starting in NZ. As with realestate.co.nz Zoodle maintains an ownership within the real estate industry and with the partnership with Terralink with a strategic industry partner. Zoodle seeks to capitalise on the growing demand for online information and aims to be a profitable business returning dividends to its shareholders. In the case of realestate.co.nz that income will supplement the other income streams of subscriptions and advertising and thereby provide another means by which the cost of subscribing to the website can be held at the current level of $200 per office per month now and into the future, far below media owned competitors.

Advice

Many in the industry have asked – so what can Zoodle do for my business? – Here are a couple of pointers:

  1. Review all new listings using Zoodle – that way you have a great tool to confirm the basic details on every property you list or prospect
  2. Print off free reports of every property you have on your books and have them available at open homes or better still send the pdf version to interested enquirers or attach to email newsletters.
  3. Review the key suburb stats on property prices, new listings and viewing to see the trends of activity for your suburb
  4. Offer a comprehensive property report to all new listings as an incentive
  5. Contribute a suburb profile if one is not written yet – you will get an acknowledgment and link to your listings.

Most important of all do not see the rich access to information on Zoodle as a challenge – use it to demonstrate to clients your local knowledge, more than that use it to better understand the trends in your local market so you can more clearly be identified as a local expert.

Most important of all check out the website www.zoodle.co.nz and tell others – we are delighted to welcome new users – they are coming in by the bus load every day!

March 09 2009 | News and Online marketing | No Comments »

Continuation of roadshows for 2009

As part of the principle of the website in the support and protection of the industry in the context of online marketing we are off again with another series of roadshows around the country. We start off in the week of the 16th March in New Plymouth and Palmerston North.

These free seminars are open to anyone in the industry and provide valuable information, advice and understanding in all aspects of real estate marketing today with a focus to the role of the web. The content is relevant for business owners, sales agents and office admin and we welcome all of you to attend for what is well regarded as a very intensive and rewarding 90 minute presentation.

We collectively face many challenges in the coming year primarily around the fact that access to property information is becoming ever easier through the power of Google to “organise the world’s information” and yet we genuinely face the predicament of information overload – we want you to be more effective and not to be overloaded. We believe we can help you better understand the mind of the buyers and be better able to manage their enquiries.

As ever we provide in these presentations insightful research on what consumers want from real estate agents – and what they do not want!

• We will help you to make your listings stand out from the crowd to grab the attention of buyers

• We will explain how your next prospective client is researching you right now!

• We will share our thoughts and advice on managing email enquiries from the web

For full details on these 2 seminars and all future ones please check out this website “On the Road“. Also if your office would like to get together a group of 20 or more agents from one or more offices in your group there is an open invitation for a personalised presentation – just send me an email.

March 09 2009 | News | No Comments »

February 2009 – realestate.co.nz report

This month’s report on the realestate.co.nz website is titled “Supporting and protecting the industry” – this is a key principle of the operation of the realestate.co.nz as we continue to be challenged by major media competition.

What is pleasing is the fact that whilst the industry continues to experience the most difficult trading conditions with the consequential decline in the number of real estate offices our subscriber base continues to grow – ever closer to the 100% of all licensed offices which is our goal. At this time we have close to 93% of all office. This clearly demonstrates the recognition the industry has as to the value the site brings to their offices, agents and clients.

I am pleased to have received so many favourable comments from around the industry on the previous 2 reports, clearly this monthly report is helpful in selling vendors on the value of online marketing and for promoting the website as a valuable marketing tool.

Download a copy of the presentation here or review the pages below:

March 09 2009 | News and Online marketing and Web facts | No Comments »