Looking back is not something that I am prone to do too regularly as I am focused to the future, however it is useful to look back occasionally to be able to ensure you do not make the same mistakes again; but also to reflect on past achievements.
It was this that I reflected upon when I came across the very first email I sent out to this industry 3 years ago!
Three years is a long time -especially in the internet age where they say a year online is worth three off line! That first email seems by today’s style very formal, as does the photo (the suit and tie have certainly gone). However the intent and focus have not. We still uphold those same principles:
- face to face meetings with this industry, gathering feedback and comment
- putting in place the capability and resource necessary to deliver an enhanced quality of service to members and the public
- making the site a powerful marketing tool for its customers
- focused on its stakeholders – the licensed agents and members of REINZ – and the provision of a website that serves the needs of the industry and its customers
Over this 3 year period the website owned 100% by this industry has grown consistently from around 160,000 monthly unique browsers to over 350,000 unique browsers – for April a total of 354,357 which is 41% up on April last year – matched to an industry wide online growth of just 6%. The latest report attached here provides a view of the market and website performance.
Allied to this growth in visitors has been a consistent and progressive development of the site -
1. August 2006 – the new realestate.co.nz website launched
2. September 2006 – the first site to feature Google maps
3. November 2006 – launch of the syndicated website with Xtra (Yahoo!Xtra)
4. June 2007 – the introduction of a secure forum for real estate agents
5. September 2007 – launch of featured listings
6. October 2007 – site redesign
7. November 2007 – first real estate site to feature an industry blog – Unconditional
8. January 2008 – the launch of the free service for agents to blog – Voices
9. March 2008 – integration of Open2view photos on the site
10. April 2008 – introduction of dynamic tracking of visitors per listing on the website
11. May 2008 – the introduction of videos for property listings
12. November 2008 – launch of the syndicated website with MSN
13. December 2008 – major competitor closes with redirect of traffic and overseas audience
14. January 2009 – launch of the new Zoodle website
15. April 2009 – launch of featured agents
That is equivalent to a major new development of the site every two and a half months ! – that is a frenetic pace of development, all of it focused to making the website of realestate.co.nz the best real estate site in the country, leaving competitors in our wake.
What is even more important to realise is that all of this has been achieved without ever in the past 3 years going back to this industry and asking for more money. We started out 3 years ago telling you that we would build a website to be the best in the market – we said we would control costs and develop the best, we said we would charge the industry $200 per office per month. Now 3 years later we are still just charging $200 per office per month – make that judgment against some other websites and see who is supporting the industry as opposed to who is supporting their shareholders from the industry!
Clarification – answers to important questions
Over the past few weeks whilst travelling the country a number of pertinent questions have been asked of me and I thought it would be of benefit to share these responses to such questions to ensure everyone understand this business and the website.
1. REINZ is a shareholder – what happens if I don’t want to be a member of REINZ from November of this year, will my listings still appear on the website?
Yes the REINZ owns 50% of Realestate.co.nz, however that is all – the website of realestate.co.nz is a commercial business, owned by the industry – not by REINZ. Access to the website is restricted to licensed real estate offices, licensees and salespeople. That licensing from November will be handed over to a new government body – we will look to that body to direct us to the criteria for licensing. Any licenses office will be able to use the website to market their listings even if they choose not to be a member of REINZ.
2. This has been a bad year for the industry and I hear that “realestate.co.nz have lost a lot of customers and is losing money?
Yes this has been a bad year for the real estate industry, sales are down 50%, and realestate.co.nz has around 160 less customers than this time last year. Those customers have largely closed down and as a result we have now just 1,140 offices subscribing. However the current level of 1,140 customers represents around 94% of all offices in NZ whereas 12 months ago 1,300 offices subscribing represented just 91% of the industry. So we are gaining market share – becoming even more important for the industry.
As to profitability – well we have just finished our 3rd full financial year and we have made a profit – even though loosing 160 office cost us $384,000 in lost revenue we have controlled our costs and grown our other revenue to deliver a profit ahead of estimate. This performance follows a profit last year. Consistently we deliver a profitable business for our shareholders, however it is important to note that we have not made this profit to see these profits shared amongst the shareholders as the Directors judge that it is in the best interests of the business and its stakeholders to retain this profit to reinvest in the website.
3. Realestate.co.nz is fixated on making profits for its shareholders through developments such as featured agents and Zoodle and is ignoring the importance of a basic website for offices and their salespeople?
As stated above realestate.co.nz is a profitable commercial company – it does not rely on funding from its shareholders. It is a forward thinking and leading website, we constantly look for ideas and business opportunities to grow the business. Part of this process is importantly to see how we can grow incremental revenue to supplement the income from subscriptions so that we can at the very least maintain if not reduce subscription rates in the future. All the initiative we plan and implement are vetted by the board of directors and have to meet the principles of the business “to safeguard and protect the interests of the businesses customers from the aggressive, profit motivated ambitions of its media owned competitors”.
As ever if you have a question or comment about what I have written about here or any aspect of the website or how it is run, please call or email me or leave a comment on the website hosting this article here.
Finally as a reflection of these 3 years – a big thanks to this industry. Your support for this site and your commitment and subscription as well as promotion and advocacy means we as an industry can be proud that we own an industry website that no other country in the world has – something many of your colleagues in other countries would dearly love as they have to live with the resultant financial cost of a media owned website putting up subscriptions annually or even in some cases every 6 months!