Well its seems everyone wants to have your money folks – I don’t think it will be long before Sensis announce something as well, maybe similar to their announcement 3 years ago of an impending national portal.
So here is what I think is important when building a national portal that agents could embrace.
1. Listings come first. A user visits a real estate portal to view property information. They do not visit a portal to have pop-up pop-overs or ads all over the place. Build a site for visitors first. Make is easy to get the data they want.
2. Make it simple for a user to contact an agent, form to email at the top of the page, contact numbers clearly displayed. Why do some portals have these forms hidden away?
3. One type of listing only: Each agency gets the same priority as other agents, none of this platinum, premium, super platinum, super duper titanium type membership packages. The difference between you and your competition is in the presentation of the property, the photography, the tours, the text content, the videos, the sound commentary, this is what sets you apart from the others, not getting more visits to a listing because you are at the top. This is just money making gone mad and gives agencies no benefit except for a bigger bill………….. and anyway if all agents in the same area are on these super plans who benefits?
Note: If I am buying a property in St Kilda – Do I only look at the first few? They might get more page views but this does not mean they sell any quicker than others?
4. 3rd Party Advertising: Yes, portals have every right to have advertising alongside listings – but in my mind only if it is complimentary. The Mortgage Calculator can be sponsored, an Insurance Calculator can be sponsored, but lets get one things straight – the property data comes first. The rest of the ads are just pure money making on the back of your listing – someone please show some initiative and build an advertising system that does not annoy the user.
5. Create an Open Standard for Measuring Visitor Numbers: Only the big end of town can afford Nielson Netratings and Hitwise etc. I would like to see an open standard for measurement. A code that we can all put into our site. There was one many years ago but it was purchased by one of the big measurement companies and then shut down – how nice!
Nielson Netratings rates all the most popular real estate sites in Australia – but only about 15 sites are measured, so Joe Bloggs real estate could have 1 visitor (from his mum) and say he has one of the top 20 real estate sites in Australia, yes it may be reasonably accurate for the top 2 or 3 but it is useless data for the rest.
6. Yes you are FREE now, but what are the ongoing costs once we start paying, do you have a set price rise per annum? CPI or 2% seems fair to all concerned. Agents should have it in writing from the beginning, if they are going to make you popular (and then allow you to make millions from 3rd party advertisers alongside their listings) then they deserve this in writing from the beginning.
7. RSS. Full RSS Features for members of a site to be able create their own unique feeds of listings and have them delivered directly to their browser/vista desktop or Outlook 2007.
These are just some floating ideas – tell us what else you think is important, how else can these portals get closer to providing a positive solution for agents and consumers? I wonder if the Real Estate Institutes had asked these questions from the beginning on behalf of agents instead of supporting one or another portal simply because they gave them money – if things would be a little different now…..