Which real estate website to use? – analyse the property listings numbers

With the online landscape markedly changed today (1st December) with the exit of allrealestate.co.nz (now directing visitors to this website) the “head to head” analysis of realestate.co.nz as compared to trade me property becomes ever more important. The key determination of value for this industry has always been as proposed by this company comprehensive content.

The most valuable website is more likely to be the website with the largest number of listings – people keen to look for property will always gravitate towards the site that acts as a “one-stop-shop”. Some detailed analysis provides some insight important for all real estate offices to consider.

We have accurately tracked the listings of residential property on realestate.co.nz and trade me property over the past 2 years maintaining a detailed record on a like-for-like basis. The summary of this analysis is presented in the graph below.

The numbers are pretty clear – realestate.co.nz has maintained over 20,000 more properties for sale as featured on the website than as featured on trade me property website over the past 2 years


The data is directly comparable as each data set of listings comprises the estimate of just licensed real estate office listings on each website. How have we done this?

We have on a frequent basis undertaken a sample of around 6 suburbs across the country every 2 months and worked out how many of trade me property listings are “private” and how many are from licensed agents. We have then also applied a factor to the listing stock to estimate the number of properties that are marketed as general listings. The net result of this is the graph above.

The graph shows that the differential of content has remained in excess of 20,000 properties for all of the 2 years, expect for the month of June 2007.

At the peak in February of this year (prior to the decision by Barfoot & Thompson to list on Trade me) the differential stood at 34,000. Following the addition of the 7,000 listings from Barfoot & Thompson the differential came back to 26,000 and then by September has slipped to 23,000.

The past 2 months has seen an increase again with the latest listing comparison showing a differential of 25,000 – with 67,000 residential properties on realestate.co.nz as compared to 42,000 on trade me on a like-for-like estimated basis of licensed real estate marketed properties.

December 01 2008 | Market stats | 2 Comments »

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.

Leadership

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.

Summary

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!

Regards,

Alistair Helm

CEO

realestate.co.nz

alistair@realestate.co.nz

021 610 510

September 15 2008 | Uncategorized | 3 Comments »