What response rate should I get from my web listing?

This was the question posed to me yesterday in an email from an agent concerning their listing that had received over 2,500 viewings but only 4 emails. Naturally such a question prompts me to share my thoughts and observations with the industry at large as well as the agent concerned.

There are many ways to look at this question:

  • How many enquiries would you expect to get from that listing in say a newspaper?
  • How does that property compare to other properties on the market at the moment?
  • Are you getting a lot of enquiries generally at the moment?
  • Is the presentation of that property appealing to the right audience?

Let’s look at these questions and in so doing let me share my thoughts.

The web is an incredibly efficient medium – post a property on a website and potentially within seconds it can be viewed by the entire audience of web-connected computers – somewhere around 1,800,000,000 people! You can then analyse who looks at it, where they are when they look at it, where they came from (previous website), how long they look at it for and where they go afterwards (next web page or website).

This richness of information would be the envy of newspapers (surely!) – the reality is that all this information sets a high expectation which sometimes can be a double edged sword. The reality is that a listing may only be looked at 10 times on the web, may be looked at 3 times in a newspaper (if you could record how many people actually looked at the listing) – and yet it sold in 10 days. On the other hand it could have been looked at 5,000 times on the web and 30 times in the newspaper and yet nobody made an offer.

We had a great example recently of a featured listing which within 1 month had over 4,500 viewings, there were 23 emails sent to the agent, the property went to auction and with such extensive marketing through the web the auction attracted a handful of serious buyers who bid – however the property was passed in – no sale / no commission! Every property is different and response rates varies – there is no absolute conversion factor.

The reality as we all know is that there never are hundreds of people looking buy a property – there may be 10 – there may be only one. The key thing is to make sure that your listing is disruptive enough to be seen by the right people – not all 1.8 billion people.

The interest in a property is always related to the unique appeal of the property and its marketing. So the important question to ask yourself of every listing is – Is this presentation – headline, photos, description, information presented in the best way to ensure that the people I want to attract to see the property listings and be interested? The bottom line of this is quality counts (images and facts) and richness is rewarded (lots of relevant facts, information and reasons to come and see the property).

As to how many enquiries – in addition to how appealing the property is, is also what the market is like and how engaging the presentation is. The property market over the past few months has been very subdued and not surprisingly the level of genuine enquiry of emails sent from our site to agents has fallen on a seasonal adjusted basis – people are just plain wary of the market and are reticent to step into the market – so enquiries are low and so are sales.

A final important point made a while ago is not to judge website effectiveness purely by the number of emails as cited in the blog post “Who do you credit when that phone call generates a lead?” the facts from the UK website of Rightmove show that for every 20 emails a website sends an agent 40 telephone calls are generated.

And when that email does land in your inbox the key thing is to treat it as the lead you have been waiting for – to be responsed to quickly and professionally… more on this shortly

December 10 2008 | Online marketing | 1 Comment »

Letter to the real estate industry

For this month’s email I have chosen to write what I see as an “open-letter” to this industry. I would urge you to read it and share it with your colleagues.

All of us in this industry face a very challenging period over the next 12 months, just as we have done over the past 9 months. The smart professional operators in real estate will be here in 12 months time, stronger and more successful – we want to be a part of your success. For that to occur needs for us to work together – your support of realestate.co.nz is more important now than ever before – I would urge you to read on, and take the opportunity to comment on this letter through the comments section.

The competing web market place for real estate listings

It is just 2 years since the website of realestate.co.nz was launched – such an anniversary provides an opportunity to look back and reflect upon this period.

At that time this industry was being wooed by new competing online marketing options of Trade Me and Allrealestate; both owned by international media empires and both equally keen to carve out a share of the estimated $150 million this industry spends each year on advertising. Into this arena we launched realestate.co.nz – a website that had on day-one a key advantage – rich content. We had then, and we still have today over 90% of all licensed real estate offices in NZ subscribing and thereby delivering the most comprehensive real estate website in NZ.

Just look at the figures either in total or by category – whichever way you look at it realestate.co.nz is the most comprehensive and relevant website for your listings in NZ.

This advantage of comprehensive content has been our advantage over these past 2 years – for whilst we started just holding onto the #2 spot in terms of web traffic website, we have never lost sight of that #1 position, and as a result we have widened the gap between ourselves and the #3 and #4 players in the market.

The goal of #1 is still firmly in or sights, but the goalposts set by Trade Me have meant that we have been significantly handicapped; or put it another way, they have been significantly advantaged as they have the equivalent of a grunty V8 as compared to our wonderfully environmentally friendly hybrid car, as everybody else in this online marketing game is driving now!

Trade Me is the largest website in NZ and its stellar success is proving a windfall for Fairfax to the tune of $70 million of profit in the most recent 12 months. The property classified section benefits directly from its exposure to the massive 2.8 million audience the site gets every month – of which just 22% of NZ visitors check out properties whilst on the auction site. Additionally within their total audience of property visitors there is a huge overlap with visitors to realestate.co.nz

It is really important to remember that serious buyers of property of all types in NZ are smart – firstly they get the web – they use it daily, they are smart enough to recognise the efficiency of a single website which provides the most comprehensive portfolio in one place (realestate.co.nz) – however they are not 200,000 or 400,000 or 600,000 in number – there are in fact barely 30,000 of them. Bear this in mind so as not to be seduced by huge audience numbers – biggest is not always best when what you really want is a defined target audience.

State of the market

I know how challenging it is to run a real estate business in today’s market. We are a business owned by this industry which gives us an innate connection with the industry – our role is to work to help you build a better business, whatever your chosen field of real estate.

Further I know that in these times the costs of operating your business will come under closer scrutiny. I encourage all offices to do this – it is good business practice. However I would urge you to make a distinction between operating costs and marketing investment especially when it comes to the web. The web is proven in research study after research study to be the most efficient, relevant and popular means of searching for properties.

When it comes to costs effectiveness you should not have to question the value of the web – and in particular the subscription to realestate.co.nz. The charge of $200 per office per month is the same as that charged 2 years ago. The competitive websites and the newspapers have done nothing to help this industry over the past year or two, quite the opposite – in some cases increasing costs by well over 200%!

I would also urge you to be careful when evaluating your marketing budgets not to believe that all website are the same or to get caught up in evaluating website purely on the response rates of email enquiries for example. Should you judge a website by how many emails you receive? – it may turn out to be the case that email enquiries may have declined because consumer sentiment and interest in general has declined – but don’t assume that this is because a website is not delivering results, remember a website is not just a means of generating leads, it provides a showcase for your listings 24hrs a day to a worldwide audience. The motivation of prospective buyers to send an email has often little to do with the website and more to do with the state of the market.

I am pleased to say that in this regard realestate.co.nz in total is actually delivering 20% more email enquiries over the past 3 months than a year ago – the question is – are you getting your fair share of enquiries or are they going to competitor agents ?

I make these comments because more than ever this industry needs to recognise and support the website of realestate.co.nz. The site is owned by the industry and its role is to protect the interests of the industry and safeguard them from the competitive threats of competing media owned websites so as to secure a cost effective marketing platform for the long term. Our income is directly related to the success of this industry; as we derive the vast majority of our revenue from office subscriptions. With office closures we, like yourselves face challenges in managing costs to ensure we maintain a balanced budget to the satisfaction of our shareholders.

Media coverage

You may have noticed that over the past 6 months realestate.co.nz has been receiving a greater degree of coverage in radio, TV and newspapers. This is part of a strategic plan to raise awareness of the brand name and to create a competitive position for the website.  I am always seeking to find ways to cost effectively promote the website – advertising in traditional forms of radio, press and TV is not justified for our scale of operation from a cost perspective and with a greater fragmentation of media it is a challenge to create awareness. It is for this reason that I have leveraged the media appeal of property to build our profile.

I have used the statistics of the website to highlight trends and information which has captured media headlines. Naturally with the association of the real estate industry in name and ownership the media always want someone to be a “crystal ball” gazer to predict the trend. I tend to steer clear of this and stick to facts of the website. However as we all know the media want to create stories from a mix of opinions and this can at time lead to a different interpretation being presented from that originally envisaged.

Please be aware that I hold a deep respect for this industry and would not in any way defame or talk disrespectfully of this industry or those professionals who hold this as their career. With the benefit of the Unconditional blog I have the ability to make public any statement I make in the form of an article or press release. So I would urge you if you have a question regarding any quote I have made in the media to check out the latest blog post as it will include the relevant press release in the context of how I made it to the press.


I just wanted to highlight how the website has been a leader in technology and support for this industry over the past years – consider these initiatives we have implemented:

  • the 1st to add maps
  • the 1st to add embedded videos
  • the 1st to partner with Open2view for rich imagery
  • the 1st to provide a private forum for the industry
  • the 1st to offer property-on-maps searching
  • the 1st to write a blog for the industry
  • the 1st to offer free-of-charge agent blogs
  • the 1st to detail web traffic stats on all listings
  • the 1st to offer a confidential location on business listings
  • the 1st to offer RSS feeds of listing searches

We intend to continue innovating because we focus on one thing – running the best real estate website in NZ.

I would encourage you, your colleagues and your teams to gain a greater understanding of this critical component of real estate today – the power and influence of the web. We are undertaking presentations around the country at many local venues. We started in Otago and Southland this week and for those that came along for the 90 minutes of information, education and insight in the presentation we believe we delivered on the principle of supporting this industry – we know because we have received some great feedback – so don’t get left behind by the web – the presentations are free (we even give you coffee or tea!). Full details are to be found here.


To close I want to thank you for your support for the website – we are working  to help you to sell real estate everyday; but without your support in the form of subscription, promotion of the site or use of the great services such as free blogs or featured listings we would not be able to provide you with this industry-owned website which is the envy of many global real estate industries. We trust you will remain loyal and continue to support us in the coming year; ready for us to celebrate our 3rd birthday with you this time next year!


Alistair Helm




021 610 510

September 15 2008 | Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Who do you credit when that phone call generates a lead?

A constant question raised by real estate salespeople around the country whenever Peter or I talk to them is – how many leads should I expect to get from my listing on realestate.co.nz?

Occasionally we also get the statement that the web does not deliver as many leads (emails) as telephone calls (from newspaper adverts).

Well you may be surprised to learn that a large number of those phone calls could very well be coming from the website contact details. Data from the #1 real estate website in the UK is very revealing…

The web reveals information and facts that before would never be known. The fact is in the past 3 months realestate.co.nz has sent out over 39,000 emails from interested buyers to agents and in the past 12 months over 336,000 referral leads (including web links and emails). Could any newspaper or magazine tell you that?

In reality though the performance of the web may well be vastly under-represented. I came across the annual report of the #1 real estate website in the UK – Rightmove. This website is very comparable to realestate.co.nz with a subscriber base of over 90% of the UK industry. What interested me was the fact that over 2 years ago they started tracking telephone enquiries from web listings.

Over this period it turns out that for every email lead sent to an agent from the website there were two phone calls made.

This data is accurate as the website actually offers every agent a unique local call number through which interested buyers contact the agent, so this is not analysis of sample research – but actual calls made.

The data also provides some perspective of the ratio of emails that agents receive in the UK as compared to here in NZ. With over 5 million emails sent to agents in the UK from the rightmove.co.uk website this represents a response rate of 22 emails per 1,000 browsers sessions on the website. Our comparable figures for NZ are 171,000 emails sent from realestate.co.nz representing a response rate of 28 emails per 1,000 browsers sessions. As ever it is quality over quantity.

So when next you get a call about one of your listings don’t assume that the lead came from the newspaper – it is far more likely that the web listing drove that enquirer to call you.

June 11 2008 | Web facts | 3 Comments »