Some changes at HubOnline from realestate.com.au

My apologies for not posting in some time. Today, I do have some news to share.

Rather than make business2 readers wait until this seeps out publicly, I’m going to give you a heads up on two things that are happening at realestate.com.au today.

I’m sorry that I probably won’t be able to participate in the comment stream today. But, I didn’t want that to keep me from telling you about this.

In the first change, the company’s Agent Solutions Group (which provides the HubOnline Software) is making some changes that will be of interest to anyone using HubOnline.  Here’s the email they sent to HubOnline 1 customers today:

Over the past three months, REA have had a number of projects to investigate and understand what HubOnline customers (as well as customers of competing real estate Customer Relationship Management packages) need, use and value in their solutions.

As a result, we are announcing a roadmap for making some important and meaningful improvements to the version of HubOnline that you are currently using.

We intend to release improvements to HubOnline over the coming half-year. These will include:

  • Simplifying the application to improve the user experience and reduce training requirement
  • Improved performance speed of the CRM application
  • Improved speed for vendors and buyers viewing your website
  • Improved system stability and availability
  • Improved disaster recovery and protection of your data

Some of you know that we have had an R&D project underway that would have eventually resulted in a newer version of HubOnline on a different platform.  Based on the user research we have done, we have determined that this is simply not the best way forward for the majority of our customers who want a simpler CRM solution, rather than a more complex one with advanced features.  The research tells us that most agents want easy-to-use and reliable software that provides an agent website, export to multiple portals and services, good (but basic) contact management and reporting.  Therefore, our intention is to focus on making these improvements to the current product.

We believe that this will get you more improvement in a shorter time-frame, and will ultimately meet your needs better, than the more complex solution we were building.  Again, this is not just our opinion, but is based on the feedback we have received from our customers and the customers of other Australian real estate CRM applications.

What do you need to do? Nothing.  Because HubOnline is offered as a “Software As a Service” over the internet, you will receive the benefits of these improvements as they become available.  We will communicate improvements beforehand, and as is our normal practice, will design and release them to minimise disruption.

Thank you for being our customer, and we hope that you will see these improvements as a net benefit to your business.

The HubOnline team made another announcement, too. Here are some excerpts from the letter mailed yesterday to customers of the Trust Accounting product lines–including Clarke Computers SalesTrust and RentTrust.

REA has agreed to sell its Trust Accounting product line to Rockend Technology Pty Ltd (Rockend). This means that from December 12th, 2008, your contract for the Clark Computers products will be assigned to Rockend. Rockend will also provide future services and customer support. You can reach Rockend on 1 300 657 700.

We have selected Rockend to take over your customer relationship in respect of trust accounting services because of its experience in trust accounting. Rockend has been recognized by the Customer Service Institute of Australia (CSIA) with both state and national awards for its excellence in supporting customers.

We believe that this change is in the best interest of our Trust Accounting customers as Rockend has proven its commitment to the excellent customer service and support.

Rockend have informed us that it is their intention to continue supporting these products for the foreseeable future, and over time to help customers make an easy transition to the core Rockend products. You do not need to take any action for this change to occur and there should not be any disruption to your support services, although the team will be physically moving to the Rockend office on December 12, so responses may be delayed on that day.

I would like to thank you for being a trust accounting customer of the REA Group. We look forward to continuing to provide you with our range of other services.

hubonline, Portplus, Rockend

SEO For Real Estate
Listing Leads
Agentpoint Real estate

About Dave Platter

Dave does PR in real estate and technology.

37 Responses to Some changes at HubOnline from realestate.com.au

  1. craig pontey December 9, 2008 at 2:43 pm #

    Too little too late……….

  2. Glenn Batten December 9, 2008 at 5:26 pm #

    Because a client says they want it easier to use, does not mean they want less features. If they really did not want those CRM features they just would not use them.

    Interesting to see that this version that I was previewed in this article http://www.business2.com.au/2008/02/11/a-quick-look-at-hubonlines-crm-capabilities/
    has been dumped on the scrap heap. It had potential, but it’s CRM was lacking and thats why there were going down the SugarCRM route.

    So in summary.. the newer version is useless because after all this time and money invested it still can’t compete in the market place so we are tarting up the old version .. but ………… before we send it back out we cant do trust properly so we gutted it even further and flogged that off for a few bucks..

    I wonder if there is a third letter coming for Hubonline customers about upcoming prices rises?

  3. Sale Espro December 9, 2008 at 5:46 pm #

    Surely there is more to this.
    More cost savings, like the REA portals being shut-down globally, non-renewal of NineMSN contract, etc

    Is Hubonline open to HUGE client churn now?

  4. PaulD December 10, 2008 at 1:22 am #

    I am really disappointed. I recently changed to Clarke. The only reason I changed is because of the arrogance of Rockend. I had to deal with the salesperson from Rockend, who was a rank amateur, and the only thing he could do was to bag the opposition. These people think that they are so f”#k^@g good, and they want to charge a fortune to use a chicken sh;t piece of software. How come I pay a once off charge to use the Microsoft Suite of products, which is about ten times as good, and these wankers want to charge a fortune to use their kindergarten software at over $4000 p.a. It’s time you agents out there voted with your feet, and told these software providers that all they have to offer is just that — Software — not king Solomons Mines. Any software providers out there who are reading this – there is a good earn in providing Property Management Software in Australia – state based.

    Get out there and write a Property Management software package and you can make some money. Get too greedy, and no one will buy it. Undercut Rockend and you will make some serious money. There are about 8,000 agents in Aus – and about 85% of them deal in Property Management. Come back to this website with a proposal, and you could guarantee yourself a business. If you grab the Property Management business, and it is the right price, and bug free – you will have an assured income. The current providers are becoming way too complacent.

  5. Ananda@Brightfox December 10, 2008 at 10:57 am #

    Interesting to know that REA is listening to thier end customers.

    I guess they are going through a stage where they have to decide what they do best and remove the rest!

    PaulD, you have a valid point and there are quite a few software providers out there in the property management arena. However only a handful are worth their salt. However, the reason why Microsoft suite of products only cost as much as they do – is because of the sheer volume of sales they do. The R&D spent by the company can be split between millions / billions of people.

    Unfortunately, we don’t have that luxury in Australia. As you said, there is only 8000 +/- agents in Australia and capturing even 50% is very difficult. All that means is the cost of real estate software is not going to come down any time soon. But you can always vote with your feet, if the service is not upto the standard that you require. That’s your choice..

    Interesting times ahead, don’t you think??

  6. Greg Vincent December 10, 2008 at 2:39 pm #

    What’s the plan that will simplify the user experience & reduce training required – bring back the ‘3 x 5’ card? I’m with you on this Glenn.

  7. tom kentwell December 11, 2008 at 9:04 am #

    HubOnline – Yesterday

    MyDesktop – Today & Tomorrow

    The ultimate in Client Relationship Management, Bulk Up-loading as well as Data base and email marketing.

    PLUS your not locked into a subscription.

  8. Phil McGuinness December 11, 2008 at 9:24 am #

    snip[ If you grab the Property Management business, and it is the right price, and bug free – you will have an assured income. The current providers are becoming way too complacent. ]

    There is a move to consolidate this space by wiping out the alternatives. We know with 4 offers over the years to go. We have provided Trust Accounting systems for just on 29 years for Residential, Commercial, Holiday and Sales and Sales + Marketing systems withe S.O.L.D. Pricing is sensible and affordable. We provide websites with both Sales and Property Management uploads and have been in the holiday booking market since 1980.

    Property Management departments are paying way too much and we have a very small sales force and strong development and support area. We have conversion systems from Rockend, Console and Clarke and about 12 others. One client with 660 rentals paying $1100 a month license and our fee $300. Wow what a rip off.

    Last month we moved 3 times the units than normal from nothing else than word of mouth and Google.

    Good service, the right prices does give guaranteed business.
    The problem for some is the lock in contracts and yet the same companies claim they do not have lock in contracts.

    The phones have already started to ring from Clarke sites looking to move on ASAP and this was to be expected but we have a steady steam of new clients wanting to get away from wild pricing. One client with 6 rentals with a competitor license fee was increased to $180 per month.

    Phil McGuinness – CEO – Sherlock Software (0418) 441304

  9. SMEG December 12, 2008 at 7:57 pm #

    Many questions here:

    1. If the recent market research indicates one way, why then did REA develop something completely different to what the market wants/wanted in the first instance? How many millions of dollars would it have saved? Maybe then there would have been no need for the recent price increases?

    2. Feature Rich/Complexity and Simplicity/use-ability are not mutually exclusive qualities. eg: Google – the search algorithms are complex and advanced, yet using them is child-proof.

    Anyone in the CRM game knows that Training in using systems is all part of the deal. The training is as much about how to use the system, as it is about educating users to put in quality data.

    So maybe Hub Online will now have an interface with Dot Matrix printers? After all, who needs the ability to print high quality colour photos, when a simple image generator is all which is needed?

    3. The CEO of Australia is a former Vice-President at SalesForce, a major global player in CRM applications. It is interesting to note that what REA is doing with HubOnline is in stark contrast to SalesForce.

    A bit of a worry when you think about it.

    Salesforce feature rich and market leader, then come to REA and gut the features out of HubOnline, flog off trust accounting and there you have it, the CRM for the real estate industry.

    What the?

    At the end of the day, innovation is no longer a word to be used with REA.

    The HubOnline announcements point to either dramatic cost cutting, a lack of understanding of the market, or worse still, BOTH.

    I wonder what is next?

    http://www.realestate.com.au cutting back on search parameters? After all, who needs the ‘complexity’ of choice?

  10. Sale Espro December 13, 2008 at 10:31 am #

    Gee, never seen such blatant self-promotion anywhere on the web!
    As far as I can see both My Desktop and Sherlock are pretty-well similar to everything ‘out there’ despite their non-paid ads in this blog. (And I don’t want your pathetic reply sales pitches – I’ll call if I want to hear from you!)
    C’mon Dave, Peter and Glenn, give us a break and bust these try-hards out of here! Please!

    Sal 🙁

  11. Peter Ricci December 13, 2008 at 1:20 pm #

    Sal. Thanks for your comment. I make it clear that we do not allow blatant self promotion. In most cases this gets very negative responses anyway. However Hubonline are used by many agents in Australia. I make it clear that you should test and try all competing products and provide links to them.

    I can assure you Sal, I do not accept any monies at all from anyone and have never done so on this blog.

    In fact they are a competitor of mine.

  12. Robert Simeon December 13, 2008 at 1:39 pm #

    I have a hunch that REA are actually cleaning out their dusty cupboards with a view to launching a more strategic and less convoluted business models. Something that would be much more appealing to agents and more importantly something that would hopefully encompass a closer long term relationship with real estate agents. Yes – they have significantly reduced costs but my hunch is that these savings could well be going into a new online platform.

    Maybe the G word has been moving the deck chairs and plugging all their leaks. Time will tell – but I have a hunch 🙂

  13. Phil McGuinness December 15, 2008 at 9:31 am #

    Mr Sale Espro

    Everything is similar to something and I do not see your negative comments on other companies pointing out points of difference or commentary. Times are a changing and the 10 year boom is over and there is going to be a lot of leveling out in the market place. Innovation will be the key and not me-toos and locking the clients into contracts or buying up the competition.

    I actually prefer this market place.

    Self promotion .. thank you and informational and factual.

    Phil McGuinness

  14. Glenn Batten December 15, 2008 at 9:38 am #

    Robert,

    I think there are a few factors involved…

    G will be one of them.
    The current economic climate around the world will be another.

    But lastly I think the new CEO will be trying to justify his existence. It’s like when you buyer asks his solicitor to check the contract before signing. They will always (and I mean always) ask for a change to the documents so as to justify there involvement.

    Of course for the board to sack his predecessor like they did the board certainly had changes in mind when they hired him.

    This can all be good thing or it could be bad and we will only know in the fullness of time I suppose.

    It always amazes me how many times you see a new owner purchase a highly successful shop, cafe, restaurant. They pay a fortune to buy a great business then they go and change everything to inject a little bit of themselves into it, thus making it not so special anymore. Business drops and it becomes an average performer again. The other forces in play make the reality of it a whole lot more complicated though. Imagine taking over a new restaurant just as everyone stops eating out and a larger more efficient chain restaurant opens up next door.

    Everything he is doing seems focussed on cost cutting which given the current climate appears to be a good thing.

    What’s this about a hunch… you have more than a hunch and you know it 🙂 I don’t think the new platform will be anything massive to rival realestate.com.au revenues but it should add a new diversified income stream for them if it pays off.

  15. Robert Simeon December 15, 2008 at 10:33 am #

    Genn,

    Given what is currently happening on the World financial stages is obviously seriously impacting the Australian property markets. The major property portals would be well aware that under the predent conditions they stand to lose as much as 20 per cent of their income with agencies either closing down and or deciding not to renew their subscriptions.

    So word is that REA will be offering agencies a free basic website should they decide to stay on (Xmas party talk) which would explain the Hub on line decision. Obviously they need to adapt a more closer working relationship as against their previous treatments of clients.

    Another interesting point – we were recently at an industry function where the most interesting property portal question was raised and here it is :-

    What percentage of online enquiries from property portals that are answered then receive a reply from the person making the enquiry?

    The answer :- 99.9 per cent never received another response 🙂

  16. Craig December 15, 2008 at 11:46 am #

    “What percentage of online enquiries from property portals that are answered then receive a reply from the person making the enquiry?

    The answer :- 99.9 per cent never received another response”

    There is good reason for this. 99.9 percent of enquiries are about information that should have been on the add such as price or open for inspection times. The consumer is not looking for a discussion.

  17. Robert Simeon December 15, 2008 at 11:51 am #

    Craig – you are 99.9 per cent correct 🙂 As what we also try and do with these online enquiries is to re-engage these buyers by adding them to our database and newsletters so we can go direct with them. The discussion we want with them is an online one and I agree that they don’t want the verbal engagement with agents.

  18. PaulD December 15, 2008 at 12:32 pm #

    Ah ! – The numbers !!
    I agree with Craig about a lot of that 99.9%. What I REALLY wonder is why the response rate (i.e the number of emails received per 100 UBs is continually dropping) Our UB numbers are as strong as ever, however the email response rate is now 30% less than it was 3 years ago. I know all the reasons behind the financial crisis etc. but statistically, I would have thought the ratio would have remained the same.

    There are two possible scenarios, in my opinion. One is that people are still looking and have become complacent i.e. the wallpaper effect.
    The other, is that the numbers are wrong, and there are really not that many UBs, or the ones that do look, are the other agents in the area.

    Nevertheless the genuine enquirers have dropped in accordance with the drop in the volume of property sales. That statistic makes sense to me.

  19. Glenn Batten December 15, 2008 at 1:47 pm #

    Only around 40% received a response at all. Thats the real problem. One of the REA girls told me they were looking for a property themselves and sent away 11 or so requests.. Only one agent responded within 24 hours. Another could within a couple of days. One agent responded about a week later and the rest never responded at all.

    That level of service is shocking and I believe is the real reason why enquiry levels per UB’s has reduced. Why bother typing out a question if last 5 times you did you never got a response.. better to just pick up a phone.

    It has got that bad that nobody noticed when thousands and thousands of emails were stuck in the REA servers for up to 10 weeks. I think from memory it represented 13% which is a damn lot of enquries. That was terrible by realestate.com.au but we as an industry should be appalled by the fact that the inquiring public thought that was such a normal practice that they did not complain on mass and it took 10 weeks and rea fixing the problem before it was found out.

  20. snoop December 15, 2008 at 8:05 pm #

    Been looking for a rental for my stepdaughter
    never had a response….ever!
    Like to see the breakdown between sales and rental responses.

  21. Phil McGuinness December 16, 2008 at 9:11 am #

    snip[ Only around 40% received a response at all. Thats the real problem. ]

    I had a similar response when looking for a new house earlier this year. Of the 12 enquiries I made via REA only 2 agents ever responded. Who knows what happens to the request. Does it get there.. is it ignored is it eaten by the firewall or spam filter.

    We built into SOLD a pull system to retreive the REA email enquiry directly and check the contacts existance and log the enquiry and follow up actions. At least the boss can see IF the sales person did their job.

    If you are paying a fortune for the service and nobody is acting on the enquiry then surely this has to be a management issue at the agency level.

    Phil

  22. PaulD December 16, 2008 at 9:35 am #

    Snoop, you mean how many rental emails we get per 100 UBs against Sales ? We get emails from the rental listings at more than four times the rate of sales. I think that number will vary on an agency basis depending on several things such as location, whether or not you are close to a University or other tertiary education institution (which we are) transport, time of year. etc. etc.

  23. Robert Simeon December 16, 2008 at 10:15 am #

    The problem as I see it is that unless the business owners receive each and every online enquiry it appears to breakdown from this very point. It would appear that the employee whom often is the recipient would appear to immediately file the enquiry in the delete bin.

    I know that our responses are 100 per cent and such enquiries are treated as *gold*.

    I also hear that REA are toying (in Christmas theme) with the concept of offering free bulk uploads next year 🙂

  24. Sale Espro December 16, 2008 at 3:25 pm #

    Now there’s a rort! What is it, $25 pmth to send REA listings on top of your mthly fees?! Iin yet another way, Realestate.com.au is an absolute disgrace!!!!!!!!!!!

    (As an old timer, I remember when a paper called the ‘Argus’ was dominant in Victoria. The agents got jack of being ripped-out blind for their advertising and moved across to The Age. The Argus disappeared and The Age became the Rivers of Gold through no fault of their own!)

    Sal

  25. TB December 16, 2008 at 4:17 pm #

    Sale, you are correct. $22 per month for Bulk Uploads to realestate.com.au. $110 upfront for a download of current property information (This upfront fee I can understand)

    This monthly fee is a disgrace.

    It is only levied against independent agents or agents who do not want to use their head office bulk uploaded. I can confirm that some of the major franchise and co-operative groups do not pay this fee. Once I left my group and became an independent agent, they hit me up for this fee. A fee I didn’t incur when I was with the group. I did not change website providers / bulk uploader. The only thing that changed was the design of the website.

    Why do they do it? Because they can!

    When you ask your REA account manager why the fee is charged, they can’t even give a valid reason. I think they too know it is hard to justify when the other portals don’t charge this fee!

    If realestate.com.au want to help ease relations with their customers, then the scrapping of this fee would certainly be a small step in the right direction!

  26. Rhino December 16, 2008 at 10:37 pm #

    Robert, this sounds very interesting. So does this mean HubOnline will automatically feed their client’s listings to Domain and other competitors?

    What about when Google finally launches a decent solution in Australia, will REA feed listings at no cost to Google? I doubt it, they will try and avoid it and say this incurs some type of administrative fee!

    Their goal may be to rebuild relationships with agents but this will always be overshadowed by their profit focused business model and aggressive monopolistic behaviour!

  27. Sale Espro December 17, 2008 at 9:04 am #

    Hi Rhino,

    We don’t use Hubonline. Surely you’re not saying they don’t upload to Domain etc?

    Sal

  28. Robert Simeon December 17, 2008 at 9:53 am #

    Rhino,

    I see nothing wrong with competitors offering bulk uploads to competitors given that this is business not a kindergarten. Very shortly you will be able to upload directly into Google so again it make sense for REA to offer this facility too.

    Their business model thrives on the agents being successful so one would suggest that anything that a portal can do in the best interests of their client is also self serving for their business model.

    Where the major concerns at present are is that it is being suggested (with strong argument) that approximately 20 per cent of real estate agancies around Australia won’t get through the global financial crisis. If this eventuates each property portal will experience declines and despite their magic traffic wands which produce amazing traffic monthly increases it will be inevitable that they will experience declines. Everything else is in decline!

    Google will be an instant hit which would explain why the property portals are looking at rapid consumer care implementation and REA would be most mindful given that they are at the very bottom of the polls.

    Given that this is just speculation it will be interesting to see what they come up with – which will be a complete about turn given they have a new CEO. If there is a significant move to Google there is a very strong liklihood that their current models will struggle to survive.

    A large proportion of people search properties on Google by address and that is where they find the REA and Domain links – so there is a pretty strong clue 🙂

  29. Greg Vincent December 17, 2008 at 8:46 pm #

    “A large proportion of people search properties on Google by address”

    Robert,

    Even though a large number of people search via the address, There is a bit of a dilemma amongst agents about including the address of the property online.

    I’ve spoken with a number of agents who don’t want to include the address of the property, simply because they feel that other agents are going to door knock their signs & undermine their listings.

    Yet, we have a huge number of consumers who search by address on Google.

    With a well optimised company website, I’d have thought that the property address would be absolutely critical to help drive traffic to an agent’s company website. Or at the very least help to by-pass some of your competitors listings on the major portals.

  30. Greg Vincent December 17, 2008 at 8:49 pm #

    Correction…I meant doorknock or canvass their listings (not their signs)

  31. Rhino December 17, 2008 at 9:17 pm #

    Sale Espro,

    There is no doubt HubOnline upload to Domain, I’m just skeptical they would be happy to do this at no cost to the client.

    But as Robert points out, as soon as Google launches a product in Australia which is geared towards agents REA will have no choice but to adjust their business model to provide grater value.

    Imagine if Google added a real estate button on their homepage which when selected provided the user with a drop down of search criteria for property. When a user entered their search criteria, Google scanned the Google.Base feed and results were made up of properties fed to Google by agents. Property results would link to agent’s websites rather than real estate portals.

    This would crush the real estate portals who for so long have been the middle man between agents and buyers!

  32. Sal Espro December 17, 2008 at 10:03 pm #

    I’m not holding my breath on Google Real Estate.
    This used to be available via search options on Google Maps til recently. But like most Google functions e.g. Apps, Collaboration etc etc it was VERY difficult to find and not an integrated part of the main page search 🙁

  33. Robert Simeon December 18, 2008 at 11:37 am #

    Greg,

    I would seriously think that the agents whom subscribe to the theory of hiding addresses to be listed as soon to be extinct. The one thing that the internet demands is an oversupply of information and in the quickest possible time. We have learnt first hand that consumers will bite you hard for holding back vital information as all this does is force them into contacting the agent to get the address.

    The internet is a brilliant exponent of the KISS theory that being Keep It Simple Stupid!

  34. Craig December 18, 2008 at 11:47 am #

    Sal, I tend to agree with you on Google. Many people may not be aware that Google already have a real estate site available in Australia to search for over 60,000 properties. But because it is hidden away in their myriad of other sites it gets lost. If for some reason Google decided to promote their RE offerings it would be different.

  35. Glenn Batten December 18, 2008 at 1:39 pm #

    Sal,
    I think the real estate search you are referring to on Google Maps was on the US version. Google Maps now detects your location and will load the Australian version which has never had real estate as a search option. Real Estate has been intergrated in the US version for a little while now and even though it had Australia on it, you use to visit the US version. The easiest way to tell was you use to have to put your state and australia when searching because by default it looked for that address in the states first if you just put a street, street number and suburb. Now its the reverse and the local version assumes you are searching in Australia first.

    Craig,

    I assume you mean the US (or even the UK) Google Base whereby some Australian Agents including the Harcourts group has uploaded their proeprties too. Google are doing real estate in Australia that is nearly 100% certain now. If like other countries they do it as part of their Google Base the traffic will be driven not by google base but the integration of properties directly into normal google search and google maps.

    So properties uploaded to Google Base in either the US or UK version are not being treated to this exposure. Australian users have no way of actually seeing these properties unless they happen to chance upon Google Base which is unlikely. There could be 200,000 listings on the US version it would not make a difference. Until those properties are exposed to Australians the result will always be the same.

  36. Sal Espro December 18, 2008 at 2:41 pm #

    Glenn,

    The Australian version of Google has certainly had real estate as a search option.
    It was populated by R.E.View listings i.e. Only R.E.View listings were on it.
    It has not been available for a couple of months and was ‘flukey’ at the time i.e. The R.E. search option was sometimes there and sometimes not. (My guess is they were probably ‘crawling’ R.E.View and testing it out).

    With such ‘invisible’ placement, Google real estate will certainly not be viable for Aus agents. A pity given Google rates higher than realestate.com.au for real estate searches.

    Sal

  37. Robert Simeon December 18, 2008 at 2:55 pm #

    Sal,

    I can’t agree with that given that shortly everyone will be able to upload directly into Google. I like many others believe that Google real estate will be a huge success here in Australia given the huge success it enjoys already as the numero uno search engine.

    Given the traffic it already generates it would become the number one property portal very quickly.

    Cheers

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