Price Freeze Over: Can Realestate.com.au Justify a Price Rise?

Last February Realestate.com.au CEO Jaimie Pride announced that “I am pleased to announce that realestate.com.au is freezing residential subscription prices until February 2010*.”

It turns out of course it was not so much of a price freeze but a price cap as many agents who were below the prevailing price at that time were still increased to the higher price. Some people reported that because of an extra increase in September 2008 their number of actual prices rises didn’t actually reduce. All this means  the great gift of a price freeze in February 2009 was not as good as realestate.com.au would have you believe.

During the past year many of realestate.com.au’s add-on products have continued to increase at an amazing rate.  In August 2008 you could get a  Feature Property for $75. In the past 15 months we have seen three prices rises so that a feature property now costs an incredible $105.  Email is suppose to be free right? Not at realestate.com.au where ebrochures will actually cost you close to double of what it would to physically post a letter.

So the traditional subscription increase is back on the cards for February 2010 but can realestate.com.au justify an increase?

Lets look at a few things before we answer that.

Industry Performance

The industry has had a very bad year during 2009. Reports coming out of many of the real estate groups as they all completed their yearly awards were that many offices have experienced revenue drops of 40 to 60%.

In the midst of so much economic uncertainty people have decided to stay put and just “see what happens” when in the past they would have moved or relocated. As sales started to climb as the year rolled on another problem has reared its head and that’s a lack of salable stock. The listings are just not coming in fast enough for most agents.

Google openly shares some of its search analytics which provides us with an amazing overview of the levels of real estate interest on the web. Traditionally real estate interest on the web has 4 separate peaks every year. The biggest in January, then another around March, another around the end of the financial year and then there is the all important Spring peak. Its the spring peak where appraisal and listings numbers soar that stocks the larder for the post Christmas rush.

Here is the Google Insights graph for the Real Estate Category and as you can see the 2009 year is very different from past years.  There is no peak around March and even worse the Spring traffic actually dropped!

Web-Search-for-Real-Estate


But that’s the industry as a whole.. what about realestate.com.au’s actual performance?

As any agent knows every month we get an update from the company with a new and added spin on why realestate.com.au is performing better than the past and better than their opposition.

The topic of Realestate.com.au stats was raised again in August and kicked off some interesting debate. During many phone calls Realestate.com.au was adamant that their figures were monthly uniques and even “suggested” that I run all articles I post on them  through their office for checking first…. YEAH RIGHT!

At the heart of the matter was realestate.com.au (and others) changing metrics they receive from their analytics company and renaming them as “Property Seekers”. This implies that these are people when nothing could be further from the truth.

After repeatedly asking for confirmation on their position to be provided in writing the realestate.com.au PR machine eventually provided me with an email that claimed  ““We report on monthly unique browsers, not daily unique visitors.”

Now it got interesting… as Neilsen’s themselves decided to wade into the mix and confirmed that “the official metric that Nielsen uses to determine rankings in Market Intelligence (our cookie centric product) is actually “Average Daily Unique Browsers”.

One of the big problems I raised with the figures was cookie deletion caused figures to be exaggerated. Neilsen’s also commented on this with “That is not to say we do not report the monthly unique browsers for clients (for some it is an accurate figure due to their low frequency of visitation which means cookie deletion doesn’t have an effect) it is just that we acknowledge they are potentially overstated (especially in websites that have frequent visitation) due to cookie deletion and use from multiple locations”.

So in short,  Neilsens official metric is worked on Average Daily Unique Browsers  but they also do provide monthly figures however in websites with frequent visitation the monthly figures are potentially overstated.  Which one realestate.com.au change to be “property seekers” is still not clear  but if it is monthly as they contend then Neilsens has confirmed that the higher the number of repeat visitors the higher the overstating of the figures would be.

Regardless of what figures are used I contend that the use of the word “Property Seekers” is misleading and pure marketing spin. During a phone call I received from a realestate.com.au PR rep I asked why they changed the name to “Property Seekers” and the response I got was that stats needed to be “dumbed down” for agents to understand.

It should not be any surprise that agents can’t trust the portals own performance statistics.  In our area we have 11 local agencies and over the course of the last 12 months 8 of those agencies have claimed to be the market leader.  Puffery and boasting is one thing, I would just like to see better transparency on offer for the statistics they quote. Dumb them down but refrain from twisting the definitions and  provide the full data for those that don’t need the simpler version.

So how is the performance of realestate.com.au really going right now?

Using Google Trends for Websites we can see that not surprisingly realestate.com.au traffic has dropped significantly over the past 12 months.

realestatedotcom-trends-graph


In fact it looks as though the traffic figures are down by as much as 40% from last year alone.  I should say that this is typical of the industry and most of the portals will show similar drops.

Another metric that comes into play is the number of enquiries that the portal generates but that is not an easy figure to get a hold of.  Each office should look at their own enquiry levels  but I would think that with the industry traffic down and realestate.com.au’s traffic down that the vast majority of agents would also be experiencing drops in the number of enquiries from all portals including realestate.com.au.

So What Increase Can They Justify?

Realestate.com.au have been rolling out a few changes recently but nothing adds value and in fact many people will argue that their feature set has gone backwards.  Agents contact details are no no longer on display so when a potential buyer prints the browser page there is no easy way to contact the agent and those agents with a standard subscription now no longer have their salespersons details on display.

In fact the whole concept of a premium subscription has gone out the window with 85% of agents now on premium.  This means that premium is now the standard and this has created that many feature properties in popular suburbs that when combined with the 200 property limit for searches  and high levels of property under contract it is possible for a non feature property listing to last only a matter of days in suburb based searches.

The changes made to the phone numbers are trying to detect when a visitor looks for the phone details. It does not take too much stretching of the imagination to see that realestate.com.au is going to use this information to justify the next price increase.

Many people will probably argue the should not increase their subscription fees at all … but costs go up.. so I could understand an increase up to the current inflation levels but if we see an  increase with double digits like previous years I would not want to be one of the realestate.com.au account managers on the frontline.  Life for them will get real difficult real quick as they are the ones who often bear the brunt of agents frustrations. Maybe they should be given danger pay!!

Still, all in all I am pretty sure they will not hike the price as much as Domain tried on us this year. We cancelled our Domain subscription when they wanted to increase their subscription for our office by 170%… and that’s not a typo. That’s an INCREASE of 170% so nearly three times what we were paying before.

portal performance, price freeze, price rise, REA, Realestate.com.au, subscription fees, subscription freeze

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About Glenn Batten

Glenn Batten is the General Manager at First National Real Estate Nerang and Principal at the First National Real Estate Upper Coomera office and has over 20 years real estate experience and a passion for technology.

Glenn has been writing from an agents perspective on industry issues and covering a range of topics on Business2 since 2007.

54 Responses to Price Freeze Over: Can Realestate.com.au Justify a Price Rise?

  1. Rachael Lord December 10, 2009 at 1:42 pm #

    Very interesting article Glenn.

    Over the past 12 months we have really been focusing on our teeny tiny independent website, putting a bit of money and lots of manpower into its development through SEO, blogging & tweeting.

    Last month one of our properties had twice the number of hits on Beach & Bay than it did on realestate.com.au & domain.com.au

    Agents need to focus on their own sites to scare these major portals into offering us something worthwhile rather than charging ridiculous subscription fees because there isn’t an alternative!

  2. Robert Simeon December 10, 2009 at 1:57 pm #

    Rachael, so very true and you guys are doing a great job on your SEO as I watch your business model with great interest.

    Glenn, fabulous research on this and REA remind me of the recent Westpac banana fiasco. Our online enquiries from REA are nothing more than an occasional reminder that we actually have properties listed there. I believe we are that not far off leaving them and many agents have said exactly the same to me.

    Customer service has never been a priority over at REA as we know.

  3. Sal Espro December 10, 2009 at 2:26 pm #

    Company culture is difficult to budge, especially when you profit from it. Simon Baker established a reaming culture, didn’t he! Get to work on your own websites and optimising your use of Google real estate, folks. And in true Ozzie fashion, shove it up ’em!

  4. Courtenay Farquharson December 10, 2009 at 2:30 pm #

    Glenn, what a great article and research, its great to see real estate evangelists such as yourself get a handle on the real estate online world and take a stand. Social commentary benefits the online community enormously, helps users decide to use the best service and puts everyone on a level playing field.

    I think realestate.com.au need to realise what online trends are emerging and fit their business model accordingly. The online world isnt run sucessfully by large corporates anymore, but by services who listen to their consumers and clients alike. Esculation of price with increased benefit in service will lead clients and consumers to services which have more value for money.

  5. Steve December 10, 2009 at 2:42 pm #

    Fantastic read!

  6. Craig Smith December 10, 2009 at 2:56 pm #

    Great article Glenn, there are definately no improvements with the Realestate.com.au enhancements. I am even starting to get some negative feedback from Vendors regarding local voices comments on their properties. Quite often the reports are very inaccurate, one local voice expert had posted over 150 reviews spanning all over Australia, I don’t know how he can rate public transport, shopping etc. Now it is going to cost me more to employ someone to write reviews on every street in my local area.!

  7. Dave December 10, 2009 at 3:15 pm #

    Great article Glenn !
    Keep them coming and keep sticking it up REA.

  8. Lisa Smith December 10, 2009 at 7:31 pm #

    Good research and article Glen. If a head count was done I wonder how many agents would dump REA given half a chance. We’re frantically working on a transition for our own site. Then it could be Sayonara!

  9. Vic Vendor December 10, 2009 at 8:54 pm #

    I don’t know what you guys are going on about. I’m a vendor trying to sell my house, and all you do is charge me a ‘mysterious’ figure for “online advertising”.

    What do you care if domain.com.au or realestate.com.au put up their prices – you’re not paying. We are!

  10. Peter Ricci December 10, 2009 at 11:26 pm #

    Hi Vic, thanks for your comments

    Online advertising includes many things directly, the cost of advertising on multiple platforms, the cost of formulating the copy for the advertising, possibly the cost of hiring a photographer.

    Indirectly affecting the cost – then as a business agents need to pay costs of hiring staff, paying staff, training staff, office equipment, office lease, state taxes, local government taxes, federal government taxes, telecoms, power etc.

    So your ‘mysterious’ figure may include items you at first did not consider. You should ask your local agent what the costs entail.

    Remember Vic, if you are not happy with the disclosure of these things from your agent, you can choose/move to another agent who is prepared to explain things in detail with you.

    I have a theory with businesses I deal with, if I am not happy with the service, I go elsewhere.

    I moved to Google Documents, when Microsoft did the wrong thing by me. I moved from Telstra when they tried to sneak by extra charges. I never fly Jetstar because they ‘chose’ to leave me stranded in a country airport because I got there 27 minutes (not 30) before flight time, even though the plane ended up being delayed by 20 minutes and we were waiting in a tin shed and I left my girlfriend because my dinner was cold when I got home from work.

    You see we all have choices in life, sometimes we complain with our keyboard when we should with our wallets!

    PS: That last one was a joke!

  11. Glenn Batten December 11, 2009 at 8:07 am #

    Vic Vendor,

    Have you actually asked for an accounting of what this mysterious figure is for?

    My experience is that the vast majority of vendors are not charged anything for portal subscription costs. One the main reasons is that because it is a fixed cost it is very hard to determine exactly what each vendor is responsible for and agents are not allowed to profit from advertising. A few agents will charge a nominal fee but fixed costs like professional photography, ebrochures, feature properties are a lot easier to account for.

    Listings number fluctuate on a daily basis as do listing statuses.

    Earlier this year I asked REA reps here in Queensland to approach fair trading for the benefit of all their Queensland clients and ask how an agent could calculate what to charge vendors to cover the subscription costs and still remain inside the provisions of the act. The whole thing just got too difficult and no answer ever resulted.

    So for the most part agents are stuck with covering any prices rises to basic subscriptions. However even if there are a few agents passing on a part or all of the cost, we have a fiduciary duty to our clients so the issue is still relevant to them. Maybe you would rather agents just ignore the value equation when booking advertising for your properties?

  12. Susan Realty December 11, 2009 at 10:31 am #

    The so called ‘price freeze’ did not apply to our business as our contract was up for renewal 1 month in the wrong direction.

    Our issues with REA go back a year prior when we negotiated our renewed contract….our account manager left and our renewed contract did not reflect our agreement.

    Naturally attempts to rectify fell on deaf ears and a few months later we were hit with an astronomical increase because I did not sign the contract.

    A Debt collection agency was engaged by ‘them’ so I subseqently cancelled our business association with REA forthwith. I cannot abide bully business!

    Our business did not collapse without REA in the ensuing years as we use our Institute’s portal realestateview.com.au and another.

    A decision certainly not regretted and in hindsight should have left ‘them’ earlier!!

  13. Vi. Hughes December 11, 2009 at 5:32 pm #

    Hi Glenn,
    It is a shame you did not state the full circumstances regarding canceling your Domain subscription.
    Why didn’t you give credibility to your story by advising that you had not renewed your subscription for 2 years and you had been paying over 70% below the current rate over that time?
    You actually canceled your subscription because you refused to pay the same rate that other agents were paying in your area (which was still a heavily discounted price).
    I am sure that Nerang First National did not charge their clients 70% below the standard commission during this time.
    It is fine to air genuine grievances, but if you are going to comment on such issues we request that you simply state the true facts and let other judge fairly.
    There was NO PRICE RISE and in fact you will recall that you were still being offered a substantial discount to rate card.
    Other agents in the Nerang area understand and respect that they are treated fairly and appreciate the discounts that I have offered.

  14. Charlie December 11, 2009 at 10:09 pm #

    I spoke to an agent today that was so hacked off with REA (over a similar issue like you had Susan), they cancelled their subscription, went on another portal instead and all is fine. No net bad result in business as far as they could measure. Maybe the old security blanket of the newspapers (which is fading) will also fade for REA, especially if they, as Peter says, annoy too many with their tactics, behaviour and price rises.

  15. Glenn Batten December 12, 2009 at 10:32 am #

    Vi,

    Great to see you commenting on the site. A lack of REA staff on the site despite heavy monitoring alludes to a policy of only letting approved people comment. Domain must not have the same restrictions.

    We had not renewed our subscription for two years??? Surely your kidding… Why would we go out of our way and sign a new contract that locks us in when nobody from Domain ever bothered to come and see us. That does not make sense. What agent would voluntarily lock themselves into a contract if they did not have to.

    As to not mentioning we were on a discount. I think that was pretty well implied. I doubt anybody reading that would have assumed otherwise. There was no way that we could have been issued with a 170% price rise on our subscription unless we were. I did point out it was just for our office because if it was the full subscription rate then your can be assured it would have rated far more than one paragraph.

    You make it sound we were getting that discount alone.. NOT TRUE. Domain was throwing discounts around like lollies for anybody who at least ASKED in Queensland and there were offices getting rates below ours. The good thing for you was that there was a lot of people who did not ask.

    Domain do deals all the time. When we cancelled the subscription for poor (virtually lack of) performance several years ago Domain made it clear it wanted our business because they wanted to rebuild their numbers in Queensland. I analysed the results that Domain was generating directly against the REA cost and results and showed that in our area at least Domain was worth somewhere under $200 based upon REA value. I cant remember the exact figure but should be able to get it.

    Domains initial response was “no way”. I pointed out a number of other offices that were under $200 per month for their subscription rates. There was excuses offered as to why everyone I highlighted was on that low a subscription and how that would not apply to us. I rang a couple and found out that in at least those two cases they cancelled their subscription and were offered a special rate to keep the Domain subscription active. We continued with out cancellation because Domain was not willing to extend the discount to our office. After about a month or two Domain contacted us and offered us the same discount applicable to other offices which was close to what I had calculated you were actually worth to our office.

    There was no special favours asked. We wanted a rate that Domain was WORTH and that OTHER offices had been given. I could not tell you if other offices in Nerang are paying the “rack” rate but if they are they should IMHO stop as it is impossible to justify.

    When you finally contacted us again (was it really two years??? I get the REA rep in every two or three months) you mentioned that you had to a get new contract signed. The 170% price was not even mentioned until I read the fine print before signing. I advised that we would not accept that. Through accepting those discounts for Queensland agents you were in effect confirming that was all your subscription was worth. Since your performance in Queensland has not improved….. and infact dropped, we would not renew at the new rate. I contend that you knew we were going to have an issue with that sort of rate increase and you chose to remain silent in the hope we would sign it without realising the increase in price.

    I believe the excuse offered for the increase was some new manager wanted a flat rate for everybody like realestate.com.au did and no discounts from now on. I respect that and it certainly might work in NSW but to charge Queensland agents the same is in my mind unviable so we chose not to accept the 170% rise up to the prevailing full subscription rate.

    We track every portal view on every property because we graph it for our owners along with the source of every enquiry so it was easy for us to compare the value of REA and the value of domain for our office. Domain was delivering less than 20% of what REA delivered. Maybe more agents need to analyse the performance of their portals when it comes to renewal time.

    So our decision to cancel had nothing to do with what other agents were paying in Nerang or anywhere else.. not in the slightest. In fact if agents in Nerang are paying the full rate (giving everyone the same discount means there is still a flat rate) I would suggest that they do their own value analysis when it comes to renewal time because our cancelling had to with the lack of value at the rate you wanted to charge. Nothing more.. Nothing less…. and as the client in that relationship we decided to end our subscription.

    As Peter so eloquently put it above.. we were not happy with the business so we chose to end our business relationship and went elsewhere.

    Just so its crystal clear. Since Domain’s performance at or under 20% of realestate.com.au in Queensland and certainly for our office then that is all we are prepared to pay. At the full rate the same investment in other solutions like Google Adwords or even REA premium add ons would generate far more value than Domain could deliver.

    I genuinely envy the NSW agents because at least there you offer an effective competition and value for money.

  16. PaulD December 13, 2009 at 1:39 pm #

    I notice there’s no mention of the agents in NSW that get Domain for FREE if they advertise in the local Fairfax newspaper. I’d like to hear more about that one !

  17. Robert Simeon December 14, 2009 at 8:23 am #

    Paul, we advertise in both print and online (Fairfax Media) and there are no special rates that I am aware of – they did however send me an umbrella and the 2010 Good Food Guide for Christmas. Does that count 🙂

  18. PaulD December 14, 2009 at 1:21 pm #

    That’s nice Robert, however I know agents who get Domain for free, and I was just adding to Glenn’s information that they wanted to jack his subscription up by 170%. I suppose that wouldn’t matter if you were getting it for free in the first place. I guess you don’t get it for free because they know you will pay pretty much whatever they ask. The people who pay, subsidise those who don’t, would be the moral of that story.

  19. Glenn Batten December 14, 2009 at 1:58 pm #

    PaulD and Robert,

    What is the criteria for an agent to get a Free Domain Account do you know..?

    Is it available to all agents who advertise at a certain level or is is more special treatment for certain agents ?

  20. PaulD December 14, 2009 at 2:11 pm #

    Glenn, I understand that in areas where there is a competing paper, that they have to guarantee a minimum spend. One area that I am familiar with, they have to have half a page per week ( approx $600 cost) and they get Domain for free. It’s mostly regional areas where Fairfax competes with the likes of APN and other regional papers. Strangely enough ( well maybe not) in the majority of regional areas in NSW Fairfax and News rarely compete in the same towns. The provision of Domain for free is generally a tool to eliminate the competing publication if they advertise real estate, as far as I can see.

  21. Sal Espro December 14, 2009 at 3:35 pm #

    1. Vi, you should be sacked if you *are* from Domain, for divulging personal client details. What a shocking, shocking indictment on Domain! I can’t beleive you did that! Seriously, nothing short of sacking should be considered for your actions! Ps Don’t bother calling us as an abusive tirade may offend!

    3. Couldn’t agree with your sentiments wrt measurement of media value, Glenn.

    2. PaulID, I can confirm the rural FREE Domain offer if you buy a newspaper deal. e.g. With The Land rural paper.

    Sal 🙂

  22. Sal Espro December 14, 2009 at 3:37 pm #

    That should be ‘couldn’t agree more…Glenn!

  23. Glenn Batten December 14, 2009 at 5:02 pm #

    Sal..

    Vi is certainly from Domain and yes whilst her response is an interesting one indeed I have nothing to hide. In fact because it involved our office specifically there was no value in an article on the subject but since she kicked it off I have no problem providing the details 🙂 I actually would like more involvement with portal staff as long as they are open about it as many have been caught in the past posing as members of the public and as agents. But unfortunately it’s because of posts like Vi’s the portals will keep a leash on them.

    I checked back on the actual numbers and it turns out it was a 137% increase not a 170%. I was still a damn lot and it had a 7 in it.. what can I say 🙂

    I can only assume that Vi must have responded at least with some sort of approval of her superiors because she said “we request that you simply state the true facts and let other judge fairly.”

    Interesting reference to full facts and the she provides a whole pile of rubbish. I said that they wanted to “increase their subscription for our office by 170%” and despite Vi’s statement I never said there was a price rise by domain at all.

    As far as I know Vi cannot read minds so the only way she knows why we cancelled was what I specifically told her in my emails which is why I found her comment interesting – “You actually canceled your subscription because you refused to pay the same rate that other agents were paying in your area (which was still a heavily discounted price).”

    She totally made that up as we never discussed the subscription rate of any other office in or outside our area. In no communication did I ever refer to the subscription level of another office as a reason why we were leaving Domain and to suggest that we did is misleading at best and a outright lie at worst. I believe that someone reading Vi’s response would think I asked for special treatment (maybe because of my involvement with this blog) and insisted I get a better deal than our direct opposition because of that. That is pure BS of course and I take offence at and since she was so keen for me to share the facts so others can judge fairly here is some of our communications.

    The relevant sections extracted from my email to Vi are
    **********************
    “Unfortunately as you would have notice the cost per enquiry metric for domain has dropped significantly recently and ideally the fee should have reduced on an apples to apples basis with realestate.com.au. At best with the dramatic reduction in Domain enquiries and property views we can at best only just justify the current subscription level.

    Obviously a proposed price increase of 137% (***Prices Removed***) is totally out of the question. Unfortunately If Domain has to increase our subscription rate we will not be able to accept and will have to reallocate the funds elsewhere. Until you advise one way of the other we will continue on the current month to month arrangements. ”
    ************************

    Extracts from Vi’s response :-
    ************************
    “Whileemail enquiries from domain.com to your agency did fall during May, average cost per qualified lead since Xmas has been $3.20. And that doesn’t take phone calls into account. Many other agencies on the Coast have indicated to me a much higher cost per lead from our competitor.”

    “Because of this success, I am no longer empowered to offer the price level that you have enjoyed. Yes, a 137% increase does look high. But coming from such a low base, so would any meaningful increase. You are virtually the last Gold Coast agent still on “honeymoon” rates – to leave you on the same price is untenable. However, the various pricing options that I have offered Jacinta still represent substantial savings off rate card.”

    “I have been instructed to desist from any continuance of month to month subscriptions. Our offer for renewal is available until close of business on June 30. With no contract in place thereafter, you will automatically be invoiced at casual rate – which is $620+gst per month for an enhanced subscription. Additionally, I will no longer be able to honour what I put forward to Jacinta. You may of course cancel your subscription by giving 28 days notice in writing/email. However, if your subscription is cancelled and you decide to return to us at some later date, you would be re-signing at full rate card, less any nominal discount I am authorised to offer new subscribers.”
    *************************

    So judge fairly and make your mind up yourself. Do you read into Vi’s comments what I do?… and if so do you think they are fair?

    As far as I am concerned we cancelled because of the value to our office. Nothing more, nothing less and when they represent value again we will reconsider taking them up but I don’t think that will be with Vi as this is not the first interesting experience I have had with her. Unfortunately for Domain it seems that REA headhunts most of the better Domain staff up here in Queensland.

  24. Glenn Batten December 14, 2009 at 5:21 pm #

    Just to top the matter off.. Domain is insisting on charging us 90 days notice in writing and continued to charge the company credit card despite Vi clearly advising 28 days notice in writing more than once in at least two separate communications to us. So far they are not refunding the money they owe us. This of course just rubs salt in the wound!!!

  25. Sal Espro December 15, 2009 at 8:57 am #

    Vi at Domain must definitely be sacked! A client’s information should never be divulged in a public forum in this manner! And I would think it probably borders on the illegal! Shame. Shame. Shame!

    Sal Grrrrrr

  26. Robert Simeon December 15, 2009 at 9:35 am #

    Paul and Glenn,

    I have never before heard of Domain offering anything free. We pay full rates for Top Spot and Agent Gallery Mosman + priority placements. If we let them go there is a long list of agents in line to takeover these online functions – which I am not prepared to release. We monitor this closely and in my opinion (whilst not cheap) we do get value for our monies spent as we use this to further enhance our online position on this (Domain) particular portal as it is the best performing in our market demographic.

  27. PaulD December 15, 2009 at 1:55 pm #

    Copy of my post just over a year ago

    PaulD
    28th November 2008
    That goes some way to explain why they are giving away subscriptions for free in some areas. This is happening in areas where there is a competitor in the local print arena, and they give the subscription away for free, if the agents advertise in the local Domain publication. Mainly regional areas where they have bought into the local media, Rural Press etc.

  28. Glenn Batten December 15, 2009 at 1:57 pm #

    So technically its not Domain.com.au giving away free subscriptions, more the Fairfax newspapers offering a Domain subscription for Free with a minimum spend. I know they are all owned by the same group but there is a technical difference.

  29. Robert Simeon December 15, 2009 at 2:04 pm #

    Problem solved – although the way print is going they won’t have to give them out for free. Just read an amazing article on http://www.businessspectator.com.au

    Murdoch’s paper-thin pay wall
    Recent Bartholomeusz
    Unconventional upside Dec 15
    Murdoch’s paper-thin pay wall Dec 15
    The consequences of Westpac’s aggression Dec 14
    AXA’s phoney war is over Dec 14
    Virgin Blue’s Pacific solution Dec 11

    TOP News
    Australia hints at Kyoto compromise in Copenhagen?2:54 PM
    RBA says rates decision ‘finely balanced’?2:51 PM
    Chevron finds more gas at Carnarvon Basin?12:08 PM
    Citigroup, Wells Fargo to repay US govt funds?2:45 PM
    New housing starts rise 9.4% in Sept qtr?1:22 PM

    The Spectators
    Bartholomeusz: Unconventional upside
    COPENHAGEN CALLING: Greening Australia
    Bartholomeusz: Murdoch’s paper-thin pay wall
    Kohler: Who cares about super?
    DEALS TV: Passing the pallet

    The initial, very early, results from one of the bolder experiments in erecting pay walls around online journalism are in. At face value they aren

  30. Glenn Batten December 15, 2009 at 2:21 pm #

    The problem with those stats is that they include visitors who run up against the paywall but dont proceed beyond it as well which is why the pageviews are down far more than the visitors. They are still counting people who visit the site and decide not to pay to subscribe.

    In fact to even find out how much the subscription is you have to click through an extraordinary amount of pages which to me seems an artificial way to generate pageviews and thus minimise overall page view losses.

    Other income streams linked to their subscription based paywall seem to include selling your details to their advertisers. The subscriptions also require US address details so they only seem to be interested in local subscribers now.

    What they dont tell us is the uptake rate on their subscriptions and if the numbers were good they would be yelling from the rooftops.

  31. Robert Simeon December 15, 2009 at 2:29 pm #

    Glenn, the reasons why they don’t offer that data is because (I suspect) that would paint an even worse picture. If they do bring it in here watch the ABC website quadruple its traffic.

  32. Mac December 15, 2009 at 3:59 pm #

    Yes, Robert. It’s funny isn’t it, why Murdoch et al want govts to stop supporting the BBC and ABC. Murdoch wants to stop our own taxes supporting us so we have to pay him for his ideologies. He seems like an old Chinese Dictator to me who is frustrated that the people are thinking and acting for themselves when he knows better! *L*

  33. Jason Rose January 3, 2010 at 2:25 pm #

    Realestate.com.au have it good. Try being a multiple office organisation. The terms & conditions stipulate that each office has to have it’s own subscription. Ouch.

    In my opinion, the reason that they have been putting up their prices, is that they have a captive market with the real estate industry. There advertising revenues from other advertiser on Realestate.com.au(not real estate agents) has been decreasing over the last 12 months with a lot of advertisers reducing the advertising spend. As a business, Realestate.com.au has to increase their only consistent form of revenue(from real estate agents) to sustain their income levels. After all they are a public listed company and any decrease in revenue & profit will have a dramatic impact on their share price & market capitalisation.

    Don’t you think that 2 of the bigger shareholders, John McGrath from Sydney & The Ray White Group, saw the writing on the wall, and elected to sell down their share holdings in late 2009.

    On another note, we have been tracking via google analyticals for the last 12 months, where our referral enquiry is coming from. Realestate.com.au is still number one. We are a Queensland based property management only company so we do not do any newspaper marketing. We also dropped our domain subscription over 3 years ago because we did not feel that we where getting the roi to warrant keeping the subscription.

    A couple of things that have been surprising over the last couple of months has been from google maps & facebook. Both of these sites have jumped into the top 10. Whilst i acknowledge that they do not bring the traffic that rea brings, we are now implementing changes to drive these to sources closer to number one. Facebook has been the surprising one, we have not had a company presence on facebook up until last month, yet it ranked no 5 referral source. Considering that facebook users are a key demographic for tenants, we will be focusing more on this in 2010.

    Rather than being held to ransom by Realestate.com.au, we as agents individually & as an industry have to do a lot more to gain back control. Whilst the consumers demands it(because of a lack of competition from other portals) we will still have to use the services of Realestate.com.au.

  34. Craig January 3, 2010 at 4:01 pm #

    Jason, you make good points. If agents are unhappy with realestate.com.au then it is within their control to change the situation. It is well known that with the co-operation of the agents re.com.au was built and if they feel they have been screwed over then they shouldn’t just sit on their hands. Unfortunately I think it just ends up in the too hard basket for most though.

  35. Craig Adams January 3, 2010 at 8:20 pm #

    Jason,

    From memory the Ray White folk sold their shares, all 12 million of them at about $5.95 at the end of June. Not too sure what price McGrath sold at but last week the price was about $9.70. Agree with everything you say about REA revenue’s except there was no writing on any walls.

    The decision to jettison REA shares had nothing to do with their lack of confidence in the share price standing up and more to do with investing back into their own business. They’d made a tidy profit based on their original investment but if they had sold last week it would have been another 40% higher just a few months later.

    The doomsayers and suburban speculators have been yapping on for years about REA falling over and the share price dropping faster than Roy Jones Jnr at a Danny Green fight.

    Until there is serious competition the REA share price will continue to rise. I’m tipping a price above $12.00 by July 2010.

  36. my Home is For sale January 6, 2010 at 12:56 pm #

    Glen if my subscription to Domain had only increased 137% or 170% i would be extatic. My subscription went up over 1000% overnight. This is no exageration. From $420 pm to an average of well over $5000 per month for one office. I have a business modle that has eaten into their private sale income which they didn’t appreciate.

    My subscription alone should allow Domain to give 20 agents accross QLD, SA & WA fee subscriptions.

  37. max February 2, 2010 at 5:15 pm #

    So your business model was to resell their service to other agents without permission?

    Other than that, Glen and Co, some very well formed writing here. Well done.

  38. Greg Vincent February 2, 2010 at 11:45 pm #

    I wouldn’t be complaining MHIFS. With your business model I can’t believe that Domain let you get away with paying only $420 per month in the first place.

    But now you only have to pay $5000 per month to offer your cheap service across every state of the country.

    Most agents that pay the $420pm to Domain cover a population of about 20,000 people within their service area.

    Your service area covers over 20 million people, so really if you want your Domain subscription to be considered on the same level playing field as other agents, the way I see it you should really be paying about $42,000/mth for your subscription.

  39. Sal February 4, 2010 at 11:34 am #

    What is the reason Domain has given for this unfair treatment that will warrant perhaps a case for the ACCC? ie. Anyone used to be able to place an ad on Domain and be charged according to whether they subscribed or entered data per listing.? What is the distinction made for the basis of charging? e.g. I don’t see why Ray White can’t list all their listings through one head office address if they want. It wouldn’t do their individual offices and agents much good due to the lack of individualised locational branding, so they have taken the decision to not operate this way. So, what is the official reason and why should it be a case of unfair business practises by Domain? [Please don’t reply with the same old protectionist guff that just sticks-up for agents who cry ‘Wolf’ at every turn! Gimme some facts on this particular case please – if you have them.]

  40. max February 4, 2010 at 1:18 pm #

    Sal,

    Assuming you are talking about my home is for sale’s issue its pretty simple….

    You will find the major portals state in their terms and conditions that their services are sold to agents on a per physical location basis. And that reselling their services to other agencies or private sellers is not allowed.

    In the case above it seems MHIFS had taken a Domain agents membership and was charging private sellers a fee to use his/her account. Remember, Domain accept private sellers direct so it makes sense they would clamp down on situations like this.

  41. my Home is For sale February 9, 2010 at 3:53 pm #

    We don’t re sell domain.com.au or realestate.com.au service to other agents!!!

    We convert private sellers to our owner assisted model which provides most of the services of a traditional agency, including price negotiation and an apprasial. The only service we don’t provide is the open for inspection. This efficiancy allows me to charge approximatly 5% !!! of traditional selling costs. It was obvious to me that proactive owners would like the opportunity to be paid $15,000 to hold a few open for inspections, without comprimising their marketing exposure and have the support of a licenced agent through out the process. If we (agents) are honest it is the dominant industry portals that are generating almost all the enquiriy and without their dominance a huge number of unproductive and inefficent agents would go broke.
    You should show them more respect. Otherwise they might start actively promoting the My Home is For Sale model and half of you will be looking for a job.

  42. Greg Vincent February 9, 2010 at 4:22 pm #

    my Home is For sale, do you upload onto realestate.com.au? If so why don’t you display it on your website that you do?

    I noticed that you specifically only use the wording ‘Real Estate’ at the top of the list of portals you offer. If you upload to realestate.com.au surely you’d want to tell customers that upfront or can’t you say that because it might affect your ability to comply with realestate.com.au’s Terms & Conditions under your owner assisted model?

    “It was obvious to me that proactive owners would like the opportunity to be paid $15,000 to hold a few open for inspections, without comprimising their marketing exposure and have the support of a licenced agent through out the process.”

    This statement reminds me of Ryanair and the impact they had on the travel industry. Batten down the hatches agents if sites like these continue to grow in numbers.

  43. max February 9, 2010 at 7:17 pm #

    Greg, dont jump at shadows. Anreps and Co have been offering a similar thing for years and hardly made a dent.

    I dont begrudge MHIFS or and FSBO systems at all and think they all have their place. But as I said above, Domain have seen this a reselling their services to private sellers who may have normally be direct clients….so it makes total sense they would clap down on it.

    A domain ad for a private seller is $250 minimum.
    MHIFS was paying $420 per month for their membership
    So if you were domain, how would you look at it?
    Two private sellers lost to MHIFS that would otherwise have some direct means a loss for Domain….the kicker is they end up on their site anyway.

  44. Greg Vincent February 9, 2010 at 7:59 pm #

    Max, I’m not jumping at shadows. I understand that these type of sites have been around for years, but there are some things happening within our industry that could have some serious repercussions moving forward.

    A lot of agents are now providing a very similar stencil within their marketing programmes & if sites like MHIFS can offer a similar marketing campaign for approx. 95% less commission than the average national commission rate ( $9687 – source Best Practice Australasian Interfirm Comparison ) then our industry will find itself struggling to maintain the current level of commissions, remain relevant and could suffer a similar fate to that of the travel industry.

    Plus, when you consider that Go Gecko was featured in BRW as the 2nd fastest growing franchise in 2009, with their commissions capped at $5950 and boasting that they have currently saved $25,907,350.94 worth of fees for their clients, I don’t like the ripple in the pond that is starting to appear.

    Also, I have been conducting a Future Of Agents Commission – 2010 survey and the results to date have already been very interesting with almost 67.2% saying that Competing Agents Offering Discounts will have the biggest impact on their commission in 2010.

    I know discounting has always been an issue, but it seems to be rife within the industry & may stem from the shortage of stock or the survival strategies that agents were adopting back in 2008 to keep the doors open.

    BTW I’m closing the Future Of Agent’s Commission 2010 survey on the 19th of Feb & will make the results available within a Special Report shortly afterwards. If agent’s reading B2 would like to participate here’s the link… http://ow.ly/15n9o

  45. max February 9, 2010 at 8:31 pm #

    Interesting stuff Greg.. will be interested in the results.

  46. my Home is For sale February 10, 2010 at 10:42 am #

    Greg we do advertise on http://www.realestate.com.au and I have been asked by realestate.com.au not to use their trademak on our web site. This is another example of the portals trying to quash any threts to their revenue streams as there are hundreds of traditional agents doing exactly this. I am also unable to pay for banner advertising on either domain or realestate.com.au’s sites.
    Your right to feel threatened if your trying to protect the weakest agents.If your an agent thats sales stratigy is stick in on realestate.com.au and rame the first offer home then you don’t deserve to be paid 3%.
    In Canada 50% of all real estate sales are conducted privatly, in the UK and the USA its approximatly 15% – 20% in Italy it’s more like 80%. I estimate it is less tan 1% in Australia with is a direct reflection industry sites being dominant. If they lose their dominance the self sites will gain traction which is not in any agents interest no matter what their fee structure is.

    Max domain chages $250 every 28 days to private sellers in SA WA QLD & NT, they charge $500 in NSW and VIC. I also have a traditinal real estate agency that that has seperate subscriptions and domain only charges this business less than $370 pm because we have only reciently taken this subscription and traded for the past 10 years without it. Domain knows i would not pay any more. This business has 2-3 times the revenue of My home is For Sale which is charged over $5000 per month although the domain subscription has limmited benifit. If i was a shareholder of domain I would be happy here all this as they have obviously worked out how to squeese the most out of each customer.
    Even with the dificulties of promoting my model we are already selling 20-25 properties per week. Why? Becuse My Home is For Sale sell properties for the highest possible price for the lowest passible cost giving the best net result. Which should be the aim of every good agent.

  47. Craig February 10, 2010 at 12:40 pm #

    “The sooner that agents, franchise groups & institutes sit up and take notice about how to combat this type of business model the better.”

    The best way to combat this business model is to provide value for money. Based upon the average commission of $9687 I don’t think most people would consider this is good value for money. Even if it is good value, I think the perception is that it is not.

    I would be interested in hearing how much time is spent selling the average house. Based on a $10,000k commission I would expect around 80 hours work.

  48. Greg Vincent February 10, 2010 at 11:59 am #

    MHIFS I’m not trying to protect the weakest agencies, I’m trying to show agents, franchise groups and the institutes how they will be able to continue to remain as relevant as possible when competing against business models like yours. ( Prediction: More sites like yours are on their way ).

    Whilst private sellers may currently only be 1% of the industry, a 95% reduction in the average selling fee would be extremely attractive to a seller and could threaten to undermine the Australian Real Estate Industry as we know it.

    ‘Even with the dificulties of promoting my model we are already selling 20-25 properties per week.’

    20-25 properties a week is 1300 sales per year. Assuming that you continue at this level, your annual turnover for 2010 would be approx. $650,000.00 allowing for no growth.

    Now if your customers decided to use a typical agent instead (avge fee $9687.00) then approx. $12,593,100.00 would be paid out to agents. That’s $11,943,100.00 worth of potential sales commission taken out of the coffers of typical agent commissions.

    Now I know MHIFS that you said previously that you focus on targeting the private seller market & the commissions I have calculated above may not be going into agent’s hands in the first place, but I’m very concerned about the growth of your business model & the other sites that will naturally come in and offer similar services throughout the Australian Marketplace.

    Warning: Sticking the head in the sand & saying that it’s only a small percentage of the market is the last thing our industry can afford to do.

    The sooner that agents, franchise groups & institutes sit up and take notice about how to combat this type of business model the better.

  49. my Home is For sale February 10, 2010 at 1:24 pm #

    Most other industries have been able to use the internet to reduce the costs to the consumer by increasing businesses capacity to be more efficient and productive. Why should the Real Estate Industry be any different?
    How do you realistically think you will be able to stop entrepreneurs from creating links to do the job more efficiently? I’m surprised you are not one of the hundreds of complaints realestate.com.au has received about this businesses. Every hurdle they put up I have overcome and will continue to.
    The reason most agents think they have to get 3% to sell a home is they can’t see how the can achieve more sales with less time because the whole industry has been conditioned to only offer a full service full fee product.
    I don

  50. Greg Vincent February 10, 2010 at 2:14 pm #

    I can’t see realestate.com.au allowing this to happen for too long because it will have a long term impact on their subscriptions/revenue.

    Not that I’d like to see this happen, but MHIFS if your business model continues to exist within their site due to their legal obligation under their Terms & Conditions, one way forward that I can see is to allocate service area boundaries ( say 40 km radius ) for each subscription and charge agents an exorbitant fee for uploading properties outside of their service area.

    I can imagine that a 40km radius service area would have next to no impact on REA’s current subscribers. If it did, then they may be able to allocate larger areas for rural areas & the 40 kms radius for Metropolitan areas.

    I’m pretty sure it’s not something that REA would really want to do, but if your business model & similar ones continue to grow in momentum, they may not have a choice.

  51. Greg Vincent February 10, 2010 at 2:49 pm #

    Whilst it’s very obvious that discount services aren’t going to go away anytime soon…

    Real estate agents are going to need to focus on implementing ways that they can deliver a greater level of service, improve response times, adopt different marketing strategies, become more innovative and provide lots of evidence that they are worth every cent of their commission.

    Those agents that do will be able to thrive, regardless of who enters their marketplace.

  52. my Home is For sale February 10, 2010 at 3:07 pm #

    The reason I commented on this thread is it is humorous to me that the agents are attacking the portals and yet the portals are trying very hard to protect average agents from business like mine.
    It seems to me that some agents might be trying to jump from the coal face into the fire. If Google becomes the top portal and they allow and promote private listings they could grow the private selling market overnight and we would all be squabbling over 20% – 50% less business.It might be better to stick with the devil you know.

    What ever happens I will be in there swinging and will be nimble enough to react and prosper. Exciting times ahead.

  53. Frank September 22, 2010 at 1:07 am #

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  54. Investment Properties Brisbane October 7, 2010 at 4:00 pm #

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