As 2005 began I have seen a resurgence in Agents seeking an understanding in the future and more and more are looking at tying in the offline advertising with their websites.
We only need to look back a couple of years where most agents were happy to have a template site developed by www.realestate.com.au – one that was pretty much the same as many of their competitors. (save the logo and some colours)
This was a great strategy for realestate.com.au – to get as many agents to rely on their technology and more or less try to tie them into their platform, increase prices, add multi level memberships and increase revenues year on year. Clever!
These days Agents now understand that they can “OWN” the Internet and big media players do not necessarily need to control them like they have done in newspaper/tv/radio. More and more Agents now view their web site as THE major promotion platform for vendors properties and the agents that have continually invested in their website are now reaping the rewards.
Note – Some agents I speak to still think the newspaper guides give them the most buyer enquiries, but these are the minority. I only usually need to look at their website to see why!
There are some indications of some dangerous times ahead for the major real estate portals. With only 10,000 real estate agents across our land, by any measure we are not a huge market.
Major portals whose penetration has ‘topped out’ are now trying to increase their revenues by “soft selling” premium packages (offering one agent in a particular area a limited FREE period for a premium package) to one agent in a particular area and then going to that agents competitors and more or less ‘scaring’ other agents to upgrade or lose vendors to the one with a premium package!
This is a dangerous practice and could spark a revolt, especially when agents begin to understand the Internet better and realise that their own websites are the most important marketing tool going forward. Not only this but agents websites are becoming a large selling tool to win new vendors over competitors.
Note: If all agents in an area have a premium package then they are back to square one and there is no benefit!
New portals will continue to scatter the marketplace, but the biggest hurdle they face is winning over consumers. I mean why would you visit one site with only a handful of listings when you could go to www.realestate.com.au or www.domain.com.au and pretty much do all of your searching. The Sensis (Telstra) owned www.justlisted.com.au may have a chance when it launches nationwide, only because of the sheer size of their marketing budget. Other ‘national’ sites such as the Industry (and private agents) www.realestateview.com.au have been pummelled because of a lack of listings and outdated technology, although it does have some interesting features. However if they can pull off selling their portal to other state bodies then they may have a chance but they will need millions and millions of marketing dollars just to compete. Another new entry is www.homehound.com.au and this too is looking Interesting.
This is where we will see significant growth, portals which serve particular areas and have a good range of listings. It is an area that my company specialises and has some success in, although it can be expensive – if not done correctly! As most home buyers come from the same areas, regional portals can offer significant value to agents. Marketing these sites is always hard and is usually restricted to Internet Search Engine Marketing because newspaper advertising is prohibitively expensive and not very effective, especially for Internet sites.
With still over 70% of Agents across Australia relying on major portals for their own websites, I can see so many more agents developing their own futures with their own websites free from control from major media players.
Understanding this is simple – sites developed by realestate.com.au or domain.com.au link back to the portals through a frame, so that every visitor to the site that searchers for properties is not searching the agents site, they are searching the portals site and they get all the benefit. Not only that if a portal raises fees, then the agent has no choice but to pay the increased fees.
This gives no benefit to the agent because they simply can not see what users of their websites are doing and therefore cannot plan for the growth in the future. If cannot understand your customers behaviour, how can you understand your customer?