Every year since 2004 I have been adding my own dumb and dumber awards. Usually is it a hard slog getting so many out the door, but why was 2007 different? Anyway sit back and have a giggle at some of the dumbest moments in real estate and technology for 2007.
PBL & MICROSOFT
1. It was without doubt the most anticipated launch of 2007 and is without doubt the worst major real estate website in Australasian history. I still cringe when looking at it. How could two major companies, Ninemsn and Microsoft get something so drastically wrong? Agents found themselves subscribed to a site they had never subscribed to, with listings sold years earlier. Agents also found that agents who no longer worked at their agency were listed alongside listings no longer under their agencies control.
2. MyHome struck a cord with only themselves and thus will fade further into oblivion in 2008 unless someone steps in and makes some radical changes. MyHome incorrectly perceived themselves as pretty cool. The standout memory for me was Senior Management in the Applesque (Steve Jobs) photo pose splashed in newspapers across the land. Soon, after all senior management had gone, the site tried in vain to claw back some respectability.
3. What do you do when you have a website with only 30% of your competitors’ listings and exactly the same data within that small percentage? What do you do when statistical data tells you that people stay on your website for less time than it takes to boil a kettle? It seems MyHome’s idea was to spend millions of dollars just telling everyone about it. When will it run out? Well, as soon as the people paying the bills ask one very simple question “What are we getting in return for our money?”
1. Has any one company spat the dummy so many times in the past 12 months? Good ol Sol knows a good monopoly when he has one and will do anything to maintain the status quo. Many developed Nations have real broadband and laugh at us whilst we still pay ‘line rental’ and have local and national call rates, we will continue to be held to ransom by Telstra until there is real competition. Telstra have tried in vein to make the public warm to them, however the majority of Australians have an immense dislike of the company after many years of being dictated to and so are eager to move on to other offerings such as Naked DSL . (No need for telephone lines here and free local and national phone calls including broadband for one monthly fee.)
2008 will be an absolute shocker for Telstra unless it can get what it wants.
1. Fairfax Digital are one of the most progressive technology companies in Australia. However even big boys forget to pay their bills. One overzealous accounts department person from Web Central decided to suspend the domain name www.commercialrealestate.com.au for non payment of an $88.00 invoice. The site was down for a number of days. Of course News Ltd Newspapers made the pain last longer with many articles on this most basic of blunders.
2. Websites go down, but Domain seems to be down more and more. The reason? Who knows, from my experience it comes down to too many developments slapped on top of other projects until something simple fails and brings the whole deck down. Let’s hope it is all behind them as it makes no difference to agents invoices and only costs them potential business.
3. Adore may have had a big launch and may have had some enthusiastic backers. However, it was just another website for chest thumpers and has been slowly whittled away to nothing more than an expensive exercise. Another example of an executives idea of making more money out of agents. If the data is the same that is on a main website with all the listings then consumers will simply not bother, no matter how pretty it is.
1. Justlisted.com.au noted as one of the worst real estate sites ever in Australia’s big business history went for a revamp early in the year. A notice was sent out that they would be closing over the New Year and performing maintenance on their website. Some 14 days later the website was up again resplendent with all of the changes you would expect from such a significant outage– Absolutely Zero.
2. Many wondered what the hell the people at Sensis were thinking when they built a website with, well, exactly the same information as that which is on Domain.com.au. Granted it is a nice little idea, but can someone tell me why I would visit a site to search for listings which just sends me to another website to view those listings when I could have just gone to the destination site in the first place?
3. Maybe they were scared because big boy PBL got it wrong, maybe they thought it was just too hard, but by giving up on Real Estate, Sensis has become a lightweight of the Internet. With so many other web based services that are successful you would think a slow building national real estate portal would be a feather in their cap. Instead we have – well I am still not sure what we have with Just Listed.
4. I still wonder why agents spend so much money on massive ads in the Yellow Pages, I really do not know anyone who uses the print directory any more. I am sure their are hundreds of thousands who still do, but the Yellow Pages print version is destined for oblivion. Well, I thought that was the case, until a Yellow Pages executive posted a comment to my article on business2 touting that the directory was responsible for $61 Billion worth of sales to advertisers in capital cities alone! Now that is around 1/20th of our GDP. If this was the case the directory would be filled to the brim with advertisers and would need to be delivered by forklift. Of course it was internal research. So how is this done? Well just grab a calculator and multiply heaps of numbers by heaps of numbers by heaps of numbers—Easy hey!
FEDERAL STATE & LOCAL GOVERNMENTS
1. As everyone tries to find a way to get first home buyers into the market, not one government, local, state or federal have put forward one initiative that will actually make a difference. Whilst we have governments either too scared to act or too dumb to know that the crisis will grow worse year by year until a time when agents will be selling properties only to the 20% of Australians who will be able to afford them and renting real estate to the rest.
2. Thanks to the relaxing of media ownership laws we now have the competition we all dreamed of, more newspapers, television stations, radio broadcasters and lower advertising rates. Wait….no we don’t! The big boys just keep buying up other big-but-not-so-big boys.
1. Around this time last year many sites starting touting the benefits of mapping and a few sites added mapping or were about to hit the horizon with mapping solutions. The CEO of Real Estate.com.au Simon Baker was having none of this, so he quickly tried to discredit mapping (to a degree) by referring to some research completed in the USA which stated that “that 88% of respondents wanted multiple pictures and slide shows, 86% wanted virtual tours, and 84% wanted neighbourhood profiles. However only 43% indicated they wanted maps and directions and only 24% cared about online mortgages‘ thereby telling us that people did not want mapping and how this research aligned with REA’s own research. Result? REA added mapping solutions and now tout the benefits of their own mapping system over their competitors. REA took an each way bet and continued with the Google Maps and is now one of the largest mapping sites in the world, their own mapping systems have taken a back-seat to the Google Maps platform.
1. April 1st 2007. Google buys REA! One of the bloggers decided to spend a little time and create a page with a press release that Google had purchased REA. I tried to call someone from REA but did not get a response. So I did what any hacker journalist would do and put up a press release and waited. It didn’t take long before I was banged to right and forced to eat humble pie, much to the delight of many.
I even received a few direct emails telling me that I got what I deserved and that I should take a course in journalism to understand the checks and balances that these journalists go through for each story they publish and how bloggers were a blight on ‘journalistic integrity’. I ate my humble pie but kept those emails just for laughs, as I love how seriously some people take themselves!
1. Real Search, yes another ‘Google of Real Estate’ – decided to launch a site and promptly sent press releases everywhere and anywhere. The site basically mined other websites for property data and presented it without the authorisation of the sites it was mining. Result? Companies started sending legal notices from everywhere and anywhere and the site was taken down within days.
Real Search has now re-invented itself and wants to hug all independent real estate agencies and help them to play on a level playing field with franchises. Funny, I thought many well run independents actually did better than franchises. We now have a countdown for launch which I am sure has changed a couple of times and around three agents across Australia are closely monitoring.
HOME PRICING WEBSITES
1. I takes me hat off to all of those house pricing websites advertising on major real estate portals. These companies basically ‘help’ people by sending their details to any agent who is willing to pay money for their information. Heaven help us if any one of these sites becomes massively popular (which they will not, especially with this business model) as agents will eventually pay through the nose for these so called ‘leads’.
The day will come when we can rid ourselves of these junk sites and concentrate on real information and real benefits for real estate agents. I am sure the real estate portals are working on their own solutions but don’t hold your breath as I am also sure that they will have some pretty juicy pricing models for themselves.
NEW REAL ESTATE PORTALS
1. This is a collective award to all of the new ‘Google of Real Estate’ portals that launched in 2007, the result being that none of them have made a difference. One day someone will release a portal, get it right and slowly build a market share without spending any money telling people about it until they get that market share. Out of all the new sites, only MyHome has a chance at this stage but they will need a brain transplant if they are ever to challenge the big boys.
These real estate portals need to go back to school or concentrate on specific areas of real estate, such as land or waterfront listings. We need something fresh and we need something that all real estate agents will embrace. Free is not free if it requires work from agents or their developers. Cheap means absolutely zero if agents do not get genuine leads.
PROPERTY GUIDES – MAGAZINES
1. Yes some of these are gorgeous to look at, but a day will come when agents say, what are we spending our money on and where are we getting a return? The result is we have more and more magazines sitting on the streets, outside empty shops and more often than not, quickly ending up in rubbish bins.
Yes, there is a place for property guides, but these companies are going to face some big hurdles in the future if they continually just dump magazines on lawns, on top of letter boxes or deliver (in my case) double the amount of guides for the number of apartments. Agents more than ever understand that these are just marketing guides for their companies and really do not do much to sell properties.
VANITY YARD SIGNS
1. A message to all of those agents who charge vendors for yard signs and then place a life-size picture of themselves on that sign with very little real property information. Clever? Maybe, but I for one would ask one very simple question.
Am I paying for you to promote yourself or for you to promote my property? Vanity signage is becoming more and more commonplace. Having a sign that tells me “I will love this place” with a big picture of a smiling person and a whopping big logo may be cheaper to produce but they do nothing for the vendor.
I pine for the good old days where a sign told me how many bedrooms, livingrooms, bathrooms, car spaces and so on and gave me a little insight into what was actually on offer and I am sure many other buyers and potential tenants do also.
1. Oh how the Internet is hurting advertising revenues! We now have every TV network advertising business luminaries such as Gerry Harvey and John Simmons with their ThinkTV campaigns. Yes TV is still powerful (albeit shrinking). They even have their very own model of ratings (just use that calculator again) and about 3% of Australian businesses that can afford to advertise on TV!
TV is on the decline and will not be able to survive in the long term unless it gives the consumer what they want, when they want it. The only hope I see is the streaming medium whereby businesses can have their TV ads appear in certain regions for a massively reduced price. But while eyeballs are moving onto the Internet and mobile phones, if all the TV networks can do is try to hold the fort – they will die a very slow death.
1. Get your DVD, CD’s, Magazines and Souvenir editions with any newspaper! Read about Jennifer, Brad, Brittany, Kylie and any celebrity scandal you can think of (just get a photo and make up a story). Try as they might to grab some ‘Generation Me’ they continue to fail, despite trying really, really hard. Perhaps keeping the loyal readers might be an idea for long term survival.
Newspapers need to do what they do best and that is pure journalism instead of trumped up headlines and smut peddling (we can get that elsewhere thanks). They have made some great inroads online and I am sure they have a few years left until of course they have to bite the bullet and become FREE!
Here we have a bank that really knows how to sell! Firstly they repossess a home and then put it on the market for auction. Now this is one feature the new owners definitely did not pay for – a complete mummified corpse of its former owner, who had stopped making mortgage payments six years earlier.
Apparently the body, was preserved by the salty air in the Spanish seaside town of Roses and was found by, you guessed it – the buyer!