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Homehound re- launch

4 minute read

Homehound.com today relaunched a new site with a real Web 2.0 feel. I actually like many features of this site and some I do not like at all. Whilst there is nothing new, it is the first portal of note to actually launch a front line offering with this technology. The site looks a little basic, but I think this is deliberate and it is clean!

Quick Peek:
Type in an address, suburb or postcode and the server returns results from the database to do some more searching. Nothing really new, but the way it is done deserves a pat on the back. You can then select either sales or rentals and receive your search results. Maybe they should tell the user what to do next as you have to then click either sales or rentals.

Search results come to the left hand side and a map appear to the right – well sometimes, I tried a few searches and the map did not appear. The results are clean and you can view very small thumbnails of listings before jumping to the actual property page. The map unfortunately does not scale as you increase the size of the page.

I would really like someone to do this as many Internet users have large screens and this is where portals can take advantage as it is my belief that most people with larger monitors are more than likely more Internet aware and have more money.

Ok, so we go further and click on an icon on the map and get a little pop up, again you can scroll through images (tiny) which is a great little innovation. You can also save your favourites and view them later (but I cannot find where I click to see these.)

You can also view full details in a new window or by clicking on and going to another page and then going back. I would like to see view listing in new window as default and more prominent because it makes more sense to users rather than having to go back and forth.

Advertising on the site is at a minimum but it must be said this may well be because not many companies want to advertise on the site. Will be interesting to see if advertising increases with popularity.

All in all a lovely little development, clean and crisp, fast enough with only a few minor quibbles to begin with.

These Web 2.0 sites are in their early stages and this site has shown you do not need to overload the site with cool stuff. Just give the user what they want and quickly and no users do not go to real estate sites to get quotes on home loans or to view pop overs/unders of ads crawling across the page.

The site is no blow away winner but I know they have a small budget and credits must go where credits are due…But they must get more agents and then tell Australia about the site.

I think homehound.com will only ever be a fringe player as it is owned and operated by major franchise groups and PPL and that pretty much means most (not all) private agencies will not get involved. The site also makes no mention whether it is FREE forever and has no policies on competition for listing placements in their terms and conditions.

Please Note: homehound.com.au is a partnership between Property Page Pty Ltd (PPL) and the Independent Print Media Group.

PPL is a company owned by the real estate industry’s major franchise groups. The shareholders are Century 21, L.J. Hooker, Ray White and Raine and Horne – all members of the National Real Estate Franchise Association (NREFA).

Please Note 2: I only spent around one hour on the site and I am sure their will be a few more issues. But have a look for yourselves and let me know what you think.

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17 Comments

  • Craig
    Posted May 30, 2007 at 10:12 pm 0Likes

    My first impressions are that it is pretty nice. A few of the cool Ajax technology could have been extended further to make a slicker user interface. MyHome should take a good hard look at this as how they should have done it.

  • Stephen
    Posted May 31, 2007 at 10:51 am 0Likes

    The latest reincarnation of Homehound is uncannily like the Realestate.com.au beta site property.com.au and shades of Zillow. Both are modelled on Google mapping and I really do like the spatial representation rather than just a thumbnail list, this will be very appealing to users and is so logical. The home page list of recent searches is helpful as well.

    Unfortunately in my experience speed is very slow and photo image quality is appalling (their techs will have to fix this as many agents spend up big to get quality images only to see them destroyed unnecessarily and cop heaps from the vendor who is paying). Obviously only properties that include their address will show on the map thereby giving those agents an immediate advantage. I do not like the fact that office logos do not show on the thumbnail strip.

    It is hoped that Homehound finally get their reporting act together and actually measure and report on all aspects of site usage iuncluding property views and emails.

    I agree with Peter, the site will never be a major player in internet real estate marketing and lead generation in Australia unless they can attract more Agents and spend a great deal on advertising.

  • Paul Kravyen
    Posted May 31, 2007 at 12:04 pm 0Likes

    I have to be honest I had never heard of homehound until i found this blog 🙂 I like it although I think property.com.au layout is nicer and cleaner.

  • Adam McWhinney
    Posted May 31, 2007 at 5:25 pm 0Likes

    At least they haven’t got a stoopid “beta” label on there! 😉
    Every website is (or should be) in a perpetual state of evolution and improvement.
    At least it shows they are doing something about building a better customer experience.
    I have to say the way the homepage reflects my activity is fantastic! The site is about me, my searching and what I want to look at (and have looked at or saved) rather than what *they* want me to look at. I think that is a very interesting approach to it.
    I like it. 🙂
    I have to agree they need a few more listings, but it’s more pleasant experience that the noise on REA, the constantly (and slowly) re-loading domain and the overly tricky myhome.

  • Sam
    Posted May 31, 2007 at 7:38 pm 0Likes

    It’s refreshing to find someone who is easily satisfied with any old piece of junk, perhaps there’s a future for MyHome too ?

  • Elizabeth
    Posted May 31, 2007 at 10:24 pm 0Likes

    Dear Sam,

    with the franchisors involved with both myhome and homehound, I giggle when I read your last post.

    Perhaps anything involving the franchisors uses the word HOME in its title.

    Still there was a snippet in the paper earlier this week that said the franchisors are trying to dump homehound in favour of myhome. With the launch of homehound, a much cleaner and more user friendly site, you have to wonder just what they are thinking.

    Perhaps they should promote homehound? it seems to have far more appeal.

    Does anyone know how much money it would take to promote homehound?

    E

  • Peter Ricci
    Posted May 31, 2007 at 10:32 pm 0Likes

    Hi Elizabeth.

    The only way Homehound can advertise is through its own newspapers (oops going) or through the Internet and also icons on all of the pages of the major franchises. Any other advertising would be just too expensive.

    They could also build tools (API’s) that developers could plug into and display Homehound listings on other sites (cool geeky Google factor) and also advertising on major search engines.

    Search Engines advertising real estate are crowded spaces these days and really cost a lot per click as it is competitively auction priced (highest bidder goes to top)

    I would imagine the last one would be their best choice and for an Australia wide campaign year in year out would cost 100’s of thousands of dollars per annum.

    The thing is, the tough thing is, why would a buyer go there when REA and Domain have many more of what buyers are looking for. Yes a great clean user friendly site will woo some, but buyers go to where the listings are and they want them all in one place.

    People often tell me to put my money where my mouth is and build one, but as you can see it is just not possible unless agents say ok, we are in it for the long haul.

    With that in mind you also have to ask why? Because when Google, Yahoo and MSN enter it will make it very very hard to make a buck out of agents.

  • Sam
    Posted May 31, 2007 at 10:57 pm 0Likes

    It’s not just how much money Elizabeth, it’s know how and these people don’t have it, only REA and domain know how to get a site visible enough to work.

    You can throw all the money you like at a site but it won’t work unless the operators have the required know how.

  • snoop
    Posted June 1, 2007 at 7:40 am 0Likes

    Its a two horse race now.
    Maybe Google can be the disruptor but REA and Domain are the only games in town from a subscription payment vs value point of view.

  • Sam
    Posted June 1, 2007 at 10:34 am 0Likes

    I agree snoop and you’d have to include realestateview.com.au in Victoria as it is very visible as it’sco branded with many Vic agents.
    To even consider anything else is worth using is folly, My Home could have been ok if Mr Packer understood the Internet or how to source people that do, he can spend as much as he likes on that dog of a creation and I’ll give you a written guarantee that it will sink like a stone anyway.

  • Elizabeth
    Posted June 2, 2007 at 4:36 pm 0Likes

    Good Afternoon,

    Young Adam, you would not be the same Adam McWhinney who came to a homehound christmas presentation on homehound.com, for agents at the then Fox Studio’s?

    I remember listening to an Adam McWhinney tell us all about homehound.com and how we all had to be on it in order to advertise in the Wentworth Courier, but also pay money to be put in the Homehound.com magazine.

    No wonder you like the new homehound!

    E

  • snoop
    Posted June 3, 2007 at 7:17 pm 0Likes

    Interesting comment Adam
    RE the beta comment.
    I think its a nice flag.
    Not all users are web developer knowalls.
    It sends a clear signal to a consumer that the site is in test mode,and having good ways to feedback user experience should be prominent.
    Of course sites never stop development (except rea) …

  • Adam McWhinney
    Posted June 4, 2007 at 6:48 pm 0Likes

    Hi Elizabeth,

    Many things have changed since I worked on homehound, mainly homehound! 🙂
    My comments posted here are personal and genuine, otherwise I would have dislcosed my work background as I have done in the past on this site.
    Regardless, I still enjoy homehound from a users perspective.
    Just for the disclaimer record I currently work for News Digital Media.

    Snoop, take your point about the beta sign and consumer feedback, I suppose I am just all “beta’d out”! 🙂

    Cheers,
    Adam

  • Calvin Brodie
    Posted June 8, 2007 at 6:17 pm 0Likes

    Hello Peter,

    Thank you for your review of the new homehound.com.au website.

    As you have quite rightly pointed out, we made a conscious decision to provide users with a clean interface. Basic it may look, but that

  • PaulD
    Posted June 9, 2007 at 10:52 am 0Likes

    – Calvin,

    Just a tip for floorplans. Get rid of jpeg floorplans and use gif format. The plan reproduces better and looks SO much better on the screen.

  • Elizabeth
    Posted June 9, 2007 at 3:26 pm 0Likes

    Good Afternoon,

    Calvin, can you clarify your position please?

    ” I believe that we can also now claim to be the only viable national, free, non-media company owned property portal in the market.”

    Then a bit later on…

    “For the record, the site is run on a day-to-day basis by IPMG Interactive independently of the PPL partners, however, they are certainly partners in the overall scheme of things and are actively involved in development discussions and consulted regularly. ”

    Knowing what we do, that PPL and IPMG are partners in the site. Further that IPMG IS a media company. How can you claim that homehound.com is a “non-media company owned property portal in the market”?

    Simply – Homehound is a joint venture between the formerly 3rd largest Print company in Australia, and the top 4 franchisors.

    To spin it otherwise is misleading.

    E

  • Calvin Brodie
    Posted June 13, 2007 at 11:55 am 0Likes

    Hello Elizabeth & PaulD,

    I don’t believe my comment was misleading – the recent sale by IPMG to News Ltd of the FPC publishing business pretty effectively moves IPMG out of being a mainstream large scale media company, wouldn’t you agree?

    PaulD – thanks for the suggestion. We use & display floor plans as supplied to us by real estate agents. If we get a gif then we display as a gif. It would be unwise for us to alter an image format from that which has been supplied to us.

    Regards,

    Calvin.

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