Supporting your industry owned website

It is over 3 years ago that the website was born, and as we approach a new milestone with the plans for the new re-launched website which will be announced in the coming weeks, it is timely to remember the principle of this website:

“An industry owned website – supporting and protecting the real estate industry of NZ from the profit motivated ambitions of global media players”

For 4 years, through the significant support of this industry has been able to develop and operate a website that has grown in size from 180,000 to over 400,000 unique browsers per month, and at the same time grown its subscriber base from 80% to 94% of all offices. All achieved whilst holding the cost to the industry at the same level of $200 (+gst) per office per month.

During this time, we can with due pride say we have significantly challenged our media owned competitors.

In the case of the REA Group owned ‘’ we forced them to shut-up shop and leave the NZ market. In the case of Fairfax owned ‘Trade me property’ we have been a factor that has potentially constrained their ability to raise subscription fees.

Their subscription fees 3 years ago for residential property sales is the today as it was back then in 2006. This success is neatly presented in the chart below which not only shows the annual subscription costs of the two leading NZ real estate portals but also compares it to the revenue charged to Australian real estate companies by their leading property portal ( over the same period.

The question that I am sure will surface in your mind in looking at these numbers will be”what would we be now paying in NZ if we did not own the valuable website of”

Conservatively you could say that has saved the NZ industry around $16 million over the past 4 years. This calculation is made by looking at the Australian website of and its annual revenue per office per year. By this calculation it is quite logical to see what might have been the case in NZ of what offices might now be paying.

Back in 2006 Australian offices paid an average of $7,800 per year for At that time in NZ Trade me was charging the current monthly fee of $599 equating to $7,188 per annum – not that much difference. Now applying the same annual % increase each year that has levied would mean that in NZ offices might now be being charging $12,900 per annum – over $1,000 per month by the dominant website.

Makes you think that the current subscription fee of $200 per month for is a great representation of value, or as a new UK industry owned real estate website put it so well last week “Stop feeding the hand that bites you“! – how they would wish they had a leading industry owned website.

Later this month we will be communicating the full details of the new websites we are building. These sites will allow us to better serve the specific needs of each sector of the real estate industry far better than a general property portal. The commercial property sector, the business broking sector, the rural property and farming sector specifically will be uniquely serviced by with a new and powerful online marketing platform.

November 05 2009 | News | No Comments » limited – Annual Report 2008/9 is an industry owned website – we are enormously proud of this fact as well as the support that we receive from the real estate industry. We are unique in a world where the international media barons dominate the print and online real estate advertising marketplaces, to be able to offer you a NZ owned, cost effective tool for marketing yourself and your listing in a website that classically punches well above its weight.

As an industry owned website we are keen to be transparent about our business – a business you all share in, to enable you to see what you get for your subscription. You can download and read a copy of our annual report which details the performance of the website over the year to 31st March 2009. In addition we would encourage you to share your comments and thoughts on this blog post.

Annual Report – Limited.

Financial year ending 31 March 2009.

1. Key performance metrics

All metrics are as at 31st March 2009

2. Chairman’s Report

This past year has been a challenging one for the whole of the real estate industry. The direct consequences of the economic recession saw property sales drop by half and sent ripples through all sectors of the industry. Online real estate marketing was not immune. Ltd was impacted by the loss of over 150 subscribing offices that ceased operations in the past year. Such a scale of office closures impacts subscriptions, the primary revenue driver for the business. Heeding early warning signs, the Board and management embarked on protective strategies and actions which has enabled the company to end the year in excellent operational and financial health.

For the 12 months ending March 2009 the company reported total revenue of $2,854k, a decline of $327k from the prior year as a direct result of the loss of subscribing offices. That decline in revenue caused the operating profit before license fees to fall to $67k, from the prior year $483k.

Beyond ensuring that we remain financially sound, financial success for Limited takes a back seat to ensuring the success of as an effective marketing tool for the subscribers. A key measure of the success of the company in the year can be judged in the strength of the subscriber base which grew in percentage terms to finish the year at a new high of just under 93% of all licensed real estate offices. An equally significant vindication of the growing success of the website was the closure of the competitor website of in December of 2008. That website had aggressively launched in October 2005 with the backing of the media muscle of News Corporation through the Australian company REA Group which runs the #1 real estate website in Australia. Despite that backing and some very aggressive attempts to dominate the NZ market the website was closed as, in the judgment of its owners, it could not justify the continuing investment required just to hold its 3rd place in the market.

Their demise has assisted the website to grow in value to the property seeking public both domestically and internationally. The monthly traffic to the website now exceeds 360,000 unique browsers per month, significantly up from the 260,000 per month a year ago. Whilst not attaining the #1 spot in terms of domestic traffic the website ably demonstrates its appeal in being the clear #1 website based on international visitors searching for NZ properties with a clear margin of 50% more traffic than the #2 website, with over 110,000 unique browsers per month from over 200 countries.

During the year the company has strategically sought to broaden its business base and consolidate its position of being the most comprehensive website for content as well as an authoritative source of real estate information. New incremental revenue was derived from the premium marketing services of featured listings and featured agents during the year. A new company was launched in January as a joint venture with Terralink International providing rich and comprehensive information on all of NZ residential property through an innovative new website – Zoodle. This website has already established itself strongly in the market for property reports and community information and regularly receives over 35,000 monthly unique visitors as well as steady revenue from property reports sold online.

Building on the platform established in the prior year around social media and property data the company has actively promoted its growing role as a reporting service of key data from the website as a lead indicator of consumer activity. This initiative has captured significant media coverage, critical in building the visibility and credibility in the marketplace and placing the company ahead of competitors who could equally have taken the opportunity to provide and promote such data analysis.

As a demonstration of the effective role of social media the traffic from unique visitors to the agents’ own Voices blogs as well as the Unconditional blog now surpass 20,000 unique browsers per month capturing a unique and credible place in the market for timely and accurate property market information.

Far from believing that our work is done the team have embarked on a challenging redevelopment of the site to provide an even more compelling marketing opportunity for a broader range of property types. This new investment will reflect the feedback provided by public users of the site and offer an improved level of engagement for users and ultimately improved marketing outcomes for subscribers.

As Chairman of the Board I would once again like to acknowledge the contribution made over the year by the directors of the company who have given generously of their time as well as their demonstrated support of the site. To the team, which includes our partner companies, I offer my thanks for their ongoing commitment, dedication and belief to deliver a high value-add service, support the continued development of the site and provide marketing to assist in developing and growing the brand. There exists within the team an urge to constantly develop and enhance the website and I am confident that the coming year will see the fruits of their vision take the website to a new level.

The last and most important thanks should go to the industry at large who continue to demonstrate their support for the site, as it is becoming a “must-have” within their marketing portfolio. Limited respects and appreciates its role in providing the real estate industry of NZ with a highly effective, cost competitive real estate marketing website where the value created in the business will deliver long term benefit for all of those in the real estate industry

Jeff Davidson
Chairman – Limited

3. Company structure Ltd has 2 shareholders. 50% of the shares are owned by REINZ Member Services Ltd, the remaining 50% are owned by Property Page (NZ) Ltd owning 50% of the shares.

Board of Directors

The board of directors for the year ending 31st March 2009 comprised the following:
Board Member Shareholder representative

Murray Cleland – REINZ Member Services Ltd

Mike Pinkney – REINZ Member Services Ltd

John Ross – REINZ Member Services Ltd

Ross Hunter – Property Page (NZ) Ltd

Peter Thompson – Property Page (NZ) Ltd

Bryan Thomson – Property Page (NZ) Ltd

Independent Chairman – Jeff Davidson


The management team and employees of the company comprised the following as at 31st March 2009

Alistair Helm – Chief Executive

Phil Dunn – Chief Operating Officer

Kerry Kissane – Training and customer services manager

Katherine Jariel – Customer services representative

Crystal Fell – Customer services representative

4. CEO outlook for 2009/10

The website of continues to offer a tremendous service to the real estate industry of NZ.

In the 3 years of operation, the site has demonstrated that with the unified support of the industry a lean operation can compete and challenge any well resourced and funded media company to offer the property buyers and renters of New Zealand a market leading website whilst ensuring that the costs to this industry are controlled.

At no time over the past 3 years has the website rested on its laurels. With constant development and enhancement it has striven to set new benchmarks and provide new services to both its consumers and customers.

This forthcoming year will again be a period of development for the company and the website. There are many new features that we have planned to incorporate into a re-design of the website. The focus is on providing property seekers with a more engaging and valuable experience in using the website – an experience that prompts them to visit regularly as well as share their experiences with their friends, family and colleagues.

The web in general is becoming a far more social environment as people demand greater transparency and authenticity enabling them to be able to make more informed decisions in regard to products and services they buy either directly online or through information provided online. The real estate industry is being challenged by this drive for greater openness and interaction, the winners in the future will be those in the industry that recognise this trend and embrace the online opportunity – using technology to build their profile and their referral base.

The website of intends in the coming year to take a leadership position to provide tools and services to assist the industry to embrace this era of transparency and openness as well as cement the dominance of the web as the most effective medium for advertising properties and promotion of salespeople and companies. A key part of this development is the more specialised segments of the industry catering to commercial property agents, business brokers and rural specialists. To each of these dedicated areas we intend to develop bespoke solutions that are tailored to their needs as well as their clients’ needs thereby ensuring that the website continues to offer a true one-stop-shop solution for all segments of the industry.

The promotion and advertising of the website is recognised as a key requirement to build consumer awareness and through that customer loyalty. In today’s fragmented media world the route to achieve this awareness no longer solely relies on traditional mainstream media. It is for this reason that the company continues to seek out opportunities to utilise new and emerging platforms for promotions of the website and thereby endure that the marketing investment is efficiently and effectively invested.
Alistair Helm

September 14 2009 | News | No Comments »

Property management – Trade me wants to charge more / 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 compare.

  1. 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 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 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 but did not visit trade me property.

March 09 2009 | Competitive activity and New feature and News | 8 Comments » – continuing to support and protect the industry

The start of a new year is a chance to reflect and plan. For the real estate industry the past 12 months have been the toughest in recent memory, for those that have stuck with this business there will be rewards for the hard work and dedication that it has taken to make it this far.

The challenge is that the next 12 months are going to be far from easy – personally I believe there is the potential for the volume of sales to rise (have a read of a recent blog post I wrote and the feedback comments of others), however it is very unlikely we will see sales volumes of the order of 100,000 per annum again for quite a few years, more likely will be of the order of 70,000 – better than last year’s 56,000!
Here at we appreciate the challenges facing the industry – we are a part of the industry and are directly affected as the majority of our income comes from subscriptions, so when offices close as they have done this year we lose income.

We are an industry owned site and our role is to provide the best online marketing for this industry at the most cost effective price, in order for us to support and protect the industry from the aggressive profit motivated media owned competitors. In terms of performance of the site that speaks for itself in the growth and development of the past 3 years, but let me remind all in this industry that set a subscription rate in May 2006 – nearly 3 years ago now, at $200 per office per month for all of your listings. Today that subscription is still $200, and as communicated last year at this time it will not increase in the next few years – the commitment I made was to the end of 2010 – that still stands.

It will be interesting to see how other websites offering services to the real estate industry react this year to the challenge of continual demand of shareholder dividends from profits which more and more come from online businesses. The major real estate website in Australia ( announced only yesterday after much speculation that they will freeze their subscriptions until February 2010, this comes after many years of twice yearly increases which sees the average price of basic subscription to their site at over $700 per office per month.

Not only will our subscription remain at $200 per office per month, I just wanted to remind all of our customers that we have no contractual period; every office pays for the service on a month to month basis, no forward commitment. The only offer we make is a 10% discount for the pre-payment of 12 months which any office can switch to at anytime.

I hope you can appreciate how we strive to deliver for you and your clients a great and valuable service at a very competitive price. One of our competitors closed down last year as they could not longer compete with our proposition – that speaks well of our model and support which stands today at over 91% of all licensed offices in the country subscribing to the site, and that number is still growing.

February 04 2009 | News | 3 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 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 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 – 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 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

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 ( – 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 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 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 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 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 »

Market contraction – we are all suffering

I got an email the other day from one our subscribing offices asking me a direct question – are you losing customers?

The short answer is yes! – the second answer as to are we losing market share is no!

The fact is that over the past 6 months our subscriber base has shrunk quite considerably. This was something that we foresaw earlier in the year. It is the result of the market contraction. At a rough estimate we probably have already seen nearly 80 offices close in this period – this is what has been for us a loss of customers rather than un-subscribers. At the same time we have added somewhere around a dozen new office subscribers, so the net result is that we are increasing our share of listings as can be seen from the website – we currently have 106,000 listings, by far and away the most comprehensive selection of listings across the industry.

This industry is undergoing a radical shake down as the sales of property this year will be around 65,000 as opposed to the 100,000 last year and the peak of nearly 120,000 a few years ago, clearly with this level of reduced business sustaining an industry with over 1,450 offices and over 17,000 sales people could not continue. I think by the end of the year closer to 1,200 offices will be operating with around 12,000 salespeople – that is a significant reduction. The licensing board and REINZ currently do not track these figures on the basis of active offices. Data of licences are really only ever analysed at renewal time in April.

This is a difficult time and pressure on margins and cashflow is serious. My comment and advice would be in seeking cost savings don’t look at the web as expendable – it is not. The web is an indispensible part of your marketing – it is now the most valued source of information by buyers and sellers and reducing your investment would be potentially far more damaging to your business than say reducing some of your print advertising.

A this time I would seek to maintain your continued support – we rely on the financial support of this industry – we have no “deep pocketed” media barons to fund us through tough times so we need to secure continued commitment and subscription, after all we are here to do just one thing – provide you with the best tool to help you sell property.

August 14 2008 | News | 1 Comment »