Last week we took a look at Domain. Today we will take a look at MyHome.com.au
Overview: MyHome was announced last year as the latest real estate portal to come into play. PBL and Microsoft formed a partnership to bring a new and exciting real estate portal to the market. Many in the media panned the idea and told of delays and delays in getting the real estate portal live. But the truth be told there was not one PBL announcement of a launch date and it was more about media trying to protect and more than likely humiliate a new rival. Not forgetting that media I mean newspapers and both major newspaper chains in Australia own Domain and REA, so nothing new there.
Humiliate they didn’t, in fact they didn’t need to, MyHome self destructed on launch because of poor use of technology, little understanding of the market and an interface design that said MyHome Circa 1997. I can remember the day before the launch. I stayed up very late, excited to know that they would set it live sometime during the night early morning to make sure all was working fine. I remember just sitting there shell shocked at what I was witnessing. How can these two large companies create such a disaster? I wrote about it and blasted the whole development.
Little did I know that it really had nothing to do with the people working on the project and more to do with the half wits in charge. Note that these half wits have now moved on and we have a fresh team trying to repair the damage. These half wits are now more than likely sitting on a board of another large IT company or using someone else’s money to bring us something at least as catastrophic. John Howards’ Workplace Laws should include branding these people like cows so that no one else gets burnt the way MyHome has been. I can still see that photograph of these people sitting around a desk like they were Steve Jobs look a likes!
As for the Microsoft involvement, rumour has it no one has ever seen them around the MyHome stables and it is more of just putting a name to it.
So that was then and this is now.
MyHome do have the same problem going forward as Domain REA and that is the impending arrival of the large new entrants such as Google, Yahoo and MSN entering with their FREE classifieds websites. Domain are in bed with Google (well sort of) but big decisions are not made locally for this behemoth (Google or MSN) and we will see some holding of hands in some areas and competing in others.
Another problem is continued rumours ( I get calls and emails) that they are being shopped around to be sold by Bell Potter or somebody like them. I doubt there would be a buyer, but then again I have been wrong many times before. I did speak to a person at MyHome and they told me they have heard nothing of this, so who to believe?
So let us assume they are not being sold.
As for the current website, I have to say that it has improved considerably but still needs a real designer to come in and give it some spark. I have got a quote for them as well from one of the worlds leading interface designers and it comes in at $7,500. This would actually make the site a lot sharper to look at and immediately show they have a quality product. I am happy to provide them direct access to this person.
A look under the hood and it performs quite well. There is still usability issues as you go deeper but over time these things should (emphasis) be solved. They do need a usability expert to come in and clean up a few things but again this will not cost too much.
Screen space could also be used more effectively but yet again the problem with all of these sites are the fact that they have to accommodate 3rd party advertising and that just makes them look ungainly with white space all over the place, white space is fine if it looks clean but on this site it is white space waiting for advertisers. I really cannot stand to look at this site – it really grates me.
Finally they have dumped the 180,000 listings in all advertising – but will not tell me how many they have simply stating they have a policy of not publicising these numbers and confirming they are less than 180,000. Well I have less than 180,000 clients, I have less than $180,000 and less than 180,000 girlfriends (possibly tied to having less than $180,000)
Threats: REA and Domain will take them seriously publicly but privately the joy these companies must have shown at launch would have been interesting to note. Add all of the struggles with franchisers and talk of legal action, it really has been a bumpy ride. They will never eat into Domain and REA whilst they continue to charge fees to agents whilst they are still yet to show any real results. Things will get worse for them. Google, Yahoo and MSN are all looming large with their FREE classifieds offerings and this will have an impact on annual agents revenues. They also need to either quash the rumours of the sale or announce that they are on the market.
Future: MyHome only have one choice. Speaking with them they truly believe that they are doing a good deed for agents and trying to help them save money. They see Domain and REA as expensive and interested in the bottom line only and I am sure they market this way. My problem with this is that the owners are not warm and cuddly people, they are in business to make money just like Domain and REA. If the companies visitor numbers were reversed would MyHome still be the cheaper alternative? Not a chance in a hot place! REA and Domain charge fees they know the agents will pay, they increase fees because they know the agents will pay, I trust MyHome are the same and the only way they can prove they are not is by going 100% free.
Let’s face it, MyHome will have to be 100% free in the next few years anyway (Google Yahoo and MSN classifieds), so why waste time? Why take too long to build up listings and in turn visitor numbers? To my understanding property listing have gone down considerably since the fees were introduced.
With a new interface, a few tweaks here and there and a free listings model – MyHome could grab a big slice of this pie. If PBL are serious about this site then they will at least invest the money needed to bring the site a more professional feel, and if they have any idea about building this up they will offer it for free. Let’s face it, it is either finished or flourishing, that is what is at stake here. By being a free portal that eventually brings results to agents they will get their support and will actually really help bring competition pricing down.
This is all about what PBL are made of – so let’s see what PBL having ticking inside their hearts here. Owning a site they can be proud of building up and succeeding here after a rocky start or just giving up and selling it to someone else!
Next Week: The Others – Many of Them