Pretty much everyone hated the realestate.com.au House Hunter videos when they were released but it seems that the launch of their recent realestate.com.au website found agents and consumers squarely in one camp or another. You either loved it or you hated it although I have noticed that many who originally hated the new site have swapped sides as they have learnt to appreciate some of the new changes .
I personally am a fan of the latest version and enjoy using it so much better than the old kludgy original. Despite this I have to say it is long overdue and finally provides features that other websites have being doing for years. Far from a revolution but something that we the agents and the consumers deserve. Of course realestate.com.au have promised a roadmap of new features at regular intervals so maybe thats when the real innovation will start. Till then we can only look at how it is today.
In the first couple of weeks I expected issues and I was certainly not disappointed. I just can’t envisage rolling out a full new site that generates that much traffic and has that many pages without some problems. All the planning in the world cant allow for every eventuality. During the first day most visitors would have encountered the “Crashed” page more than once. A misbehaving Varnish HTTP accelerator caused incompatibilities with a few isp’s which resulted in a hard to diagnose issue where all styling was dropped till they identified and fixed it.
But its been a few weeks now and all the bugs should be ironed out by now shouldn’t they?
So why is there reports by agents of missing buyer enquiry emails, altered saved searches, missing search alerts and dropped traffic?
I have received a number of emails recently covering each of these problems:-
Missing Buyer Enquiry Emails
Recently there have been a few agents complaining about emails going missing. We alerted the industry to this happening once before when technicians tried to release their email queues without alerting anybody to the problem. It seems that some agents are being effected again and agents are claiming that they are not getting all their email enquiries.
Robert Simeon from Richardson and Wrench Mosman is still waiting for email enquiries from realestate.com.au. After alerting them to the dissapperance of his email enquiries they ordered a “resend” of all those enquiries.
The problem is even those emails have not turned up as at the time of writing.
Altered Save Searches
Realestate.com.au allows visitors to save particular searches and have any newly arrived properties emailed to you. When the website was upgraded these updates would have required a changeover to the site.
Real Estate agents around the country have used this facility to keep updated with their “patch”. Reports are that some of these searches were changed during the conversion process. Broad saved searches on for all property suddenly change to only report on a specific property type such as studio apartments. Other saved searches are changed so so that they have no email alerts at all and others all have a sudden price range applied when one did not exist prior.
With around 800,000 searches saved the potential for this problem to have a wide effect is pretty high so I was dissappointed to read realestate.com.au official response to originally being notified by a very (and I mean very) high spending customer.
The email they received showed detailed screen shots of prior alert emails clearly outside of the current post updated alerts. In simple terms prior to the update the system said one thing, after the udpate it said something else.
This was part of the response:-
“With regard to your claim that your email alert data was corrupted, this is the only occurrence that has been reported. Your concern that this may be widespread, and have affected many consumers at the moment is unfounded. REA has over 700 employees who all have email alerts, and not one of them has any issues. If you even just include our circle of family and friends, you can quadruple that number. I think it would be reasonable to assume that this couple of thousand people who are most engaged in using the site would be the first to notice if they had experienced any problems. No other consumer from the over 800,000 registered subscribers has reported any issues with their email alert settings, so there is no reason to think this is a widespread problem.”
Missing Search Alert Emails
This is something that we have experienced at First National Nerang. In the past many of our salespeople have managed their own email alerts on realestate.com.au but with the new changeover I decided that the
agency would manage these notices.
I had a staff member setup a number of accounts to match farm areas that we have allocated to individual salespeople. We did it this way so that should an area be allocated to a different or new salespeople we just have to change the where those emails get delivered to.
When we set the accounts up we set them originally for weekly updates but a week came and went and no email alrts were received at all. So we logged into each account and changed the alerts to be sent on a daily basis. After nearly a week we have not had one single alert email arrive with regard to any of these accounts.
I originally thought they were being picked up in the spam filter but that proved wrong. We use a service by Google called Postini. Postini is an E-mail and Web security and archiving service. One of the most useful functions is the web archiving ability which stores all emails received our sent through our exchange server.
This archiving to a professional quality assured standard has paid for itself many times over whether it be an owner who claims to have emailed through he wanted to pull an ad or a tenant who claims they reported a maintenance issue. When you explain the archiving system is third party and that everything is retained and that the email is not in those archives then many claims have simply dissappeared.
So I can confidently say that I have checked and absolutely no email alerts have been received by us regarding these newly setup alerts. I have no idea why. The searches themselves are valid. I can click on each search and it returns the correct properties but we do not get any alerts at all.
Dropped Property Views
I noticed a pretty significant trend in property views that started exactly on the day the new website went live. In a comment on this blog I recently asked other readers to send me their property view statistics to see if this was isolated to just our agency or was it more widespread.
Thanks to those who have provided me with their figures from around the country. It would take lot more results to conclusively prove beyond any doubt that the traffic for every has fallen but the indications are certainly not good.
Everybody who has provided stats are getting dramatically less pageviews and that commenced immediately on the first day of the new site. Indications are that those with Domain subscriptions were not similarly effected and the views remained fairly consistent for that portal. This indicates that the change is not market driven and isolated to realestate.com.au
So why have the property views dropped off?
To be fair one reason could be that the new site allows consumers to search and find their matching or ideal properties more efficiently thereby reducing the number of properties they have to wade through. Buyers can view multiple photos in the gallery view allowing them to rule properties out whereas in the old version they had to click through to each property.
Alternatively it could also be the first three problems are more widespread and are having a fairly major effect. If just a percentage of the 800,000 are not getting the right alerts or none at all this could snowball in reduced traffic. At the moment we just cant be sure.
To put some perspective on the drop in property views here are the realestate.com.au graphs for 4 accounts each from a different state and a different marketplace. Each show a dramatic drop in views starting on day one of the relaunch. One agency show a drop of over 1000 property views per day!
It is certainly going to be interesting to see the Neilsen’s figures to correlate the reduced property views with the number of unique browsers.
Let’s be clear, I have no idea how widespread each of these problems are. There are certainly other issues being reported but these four have the potential to make the most impact to an agents bottom line. So we want to know if you have been having problems with any of the four issue above or another major issue please let us know here.
If you want to know how to generate the above graphs for your agency then follow these steps:
- Login to the realestate.com.au agent admin area
- Click on Vendor and Marketing Reports
- Click on Internet Reports
- Then change the Property Visits Report to show April 2010 and click on “view report”
Please share here what you find.