REA Hypocrisy?

Giving Private Sellers access to list their property on realestate.com.au has been a very hot topic recently. I first posted about the issue back in April and Realestate.com.au issued a Private Selling Policy on the 28th of May which further defined the rules and which Peter posted on.

In this policy, REA state that their “business model focuses upon licensed real estate agents as our primary customers”. It also states the “entity does not obtain at least the range of agent services set out above, REA will consider that such a listing is a “private listing”” and that “REA has made the decision not to allow private listings on its website”

However this is where the Hypocrisy starts as one hand forgot to tell the other what it was doing. REA forgot to tell Hubonline just what the rules are and even though REA owns and operates both realestate.com.au and hubonline they are working against each other.

Hubonline created the website for www.myhomeisforsale.com.au which in turn uploads and continues to upload their listings to realestate.com.au but these listings are in clear breach of realestate.com.au’s “Private Selling Policy”.

From the website of www.myhomeisforsale.com.au – “My Home Is For Sale is a professional property advocacy company which holds a real estate license.  We work with you to sell your home, providing you with the tools to sell your home without paying agents fees.”

When you see realestate.com.au’s sister company is guilty of flouting the rules, you can understand why nobody else in the past seemed to have been forced to follow the rules and stop uploading private sales.

So what does all this mean..?? First of all, let be clear… you can’t blame websites like www.myhomeisforsale.com.au and the others. They are just trying to make a buck and if REA does not enforce its own rules you can understand why they continue to upload private sellers to the system. In fact given that it was hubonline that built their website you could argue that it was given some sort of implied approval at least. In fact, if that website turns out to be pointless for their business model I reckon they should be able to ask for their money back as Hubonline should have known the concept breached REA’s rules.

A few of the comments in the other posts have focussed on the ACCC getting involved with this whole issue based on anti-competitive grounds. Till now I personally thought that was stretching it but when an REA business builds a website that is outside of the rules of another REA business, then there may be an anti-competitive case to answer after all.

One things is for sure….  Websites like www.happeningrealestate.com.au and www.place2live.com.au which I mentioned in the first article have had to change their offerings substantially. There products they offer are vastly different that those they promoted in April. They are now marketing themselves only as discount real estate agents and are not offering a service for private sellers. From this I can only conclude that realestate.com.au is now actively enforcing the rules right around the country but to be open and fair they need to have their own people follow the same rules or else someone might argue that it is anti-competitive!

Naturally this issue polarises opinions especially when you have some serious money involved. Real estate agents watched their impact on realestate.com.au being diluted with more and more private sellers popping up every day. REA had $1,000  per month per client on the line. Just  www.myhomeisforsale.com.au had over 200 clients being charged $295 up front and then $79 per month so private sellers represented a fantastic income stream for those online agents. No wonder the FSBO sites were so upset!

REA made its bed with an agent only, no private sales policy and in the end they had to lie in it because agents helped to create realestate.com.au where it is today. The moral and right thing to do was to start properly enforcing their own rules again, which to their credit they did.. after a push, a shove and a nudge.

I suspect that this issue highlighted has fallen through the cracks and will be rectified shortly,  as they seem to have fixed the problem with the other companies. Whilst they may not have cleaned up every incidence just yet it is probably well on the way.

The issue of private sellers on realestate.com.au will probably raise its head again one day. As an agent my preference is that private sellers be kept off the portal.. but IF it was ever to change, I really dont think it will make that much of a difference. Some.. but not much. I know many agents will consider that as blasphemy but lets look at it another way… Google’s entry (Where the bloody hell are you?) could mean that they become a major player in presenting listings to prospective purchasers and anybody can upload to Google Base.

This all got me thinking about what everyone’s preferences would be over the matter…How many would agents would accept private sellers if www.realestate.com.au decided to allow them? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Feel free to forward this around via email/twitter/facebook etc and ask real estate agents and salespeople to complete the poll.

EDIT: It seems that the deadline for the updated Private Selling Policy is still to come which goes a long way to explain why www.myhomeisforsale.com has not been updated. I think we can expect to see policy enforcement very shortly … Glenn  26/7/09

fsbo, hubonline, private sales, Private Sellers, REA, Realestate.com.au

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About Glenn Batten

Glenn Batten is the General Manager at First National Real Estate Nerang and Principal at the First National Real Estate Upper Coomera office and has over 20 years real estate experience and a passion for technology. Glenn has been writing from an agents perspective on industry issues and covering a range of topics on Business2 since 2007.

19 Responses to REA Hypocrisy?

  1. Peter Ricci June 25, 2009 at 7:33 am #

    I have made it clear that I have no problem with portals allowing agents to do whatever they like. If an agent wants to list a property for $1 commission then the market will dictate whether this agent survives. As long as the agent is abides by state and federal laws in relation to acting as an agent – which it seems many of these sites do not.

    I DO have a problem with Domain or REA setting rules for licensed real estate agents on how they market or price their services.

  2. Peter Ricci June 25, 2009 at 7:34 am #

    PS; We hoped to have a poll up for this post , but I am having some issues with this plugin.

  3. Brett Clements June 25, 2009 at 7:53 am #

    Our business rests on Agents promoting our services to sellers. Our stance is if we’re approached by a Vendor directly, the production costs triple, as the time spent dealing with emotion-charged ‘Clients’ is triple that of working with a professional Agent. Plus, there’s a loyalty factor here.
    Our business was built by Agents. Without Agents, we wouldn’t be anywhere. At Platinum HD Propvid Queensland, we would rather lose a job than short change our integrity.

  4. Glenn Batten June 25, 2009 at 8:36 am #

    As Peter points out we wanted to run a poll which had three questions, each with a range of answers. In summary it asked what your connection was with the issue (ie. agent, salesperson, work at a portal etc etc), what your preference is relating to private sales on realestate.com.au and what you would accept as a last resort. What you would accept without serious protest.

    For the record and to kick us off, I am a real estate agent. My strong preference is that REA continues to keep a private seller free portal no matter who wants to list it, licensed agent, fsbo company or sellers direct.

    Should the private seller policy change in the future then I believe that they should only be allowed on realestate.com.au if they are controlled, edited and censored by some sort of aggregator… either a FSBO company or preferably a licensed agent.

  5. Mike June 25, 2009 at 9:56 am #

    I think it is the case when big business can do whatever they want. They should either stop receiving listings form myhomeisforsale or change their policy. Not sure how agents feel about private sellers using realestate portal for their listings.
    “Unfortunately” lots of clients use realesate.com.au. Agents still have advertise listing on realestate.com.au. I think big portals are their changing to attitude towards agents.
    Agents needs to try improve their own websites and become more independent on portals.

  6. Greg Vincent June 25, 2009 at 12:55 pm #

    I’m a Real Estate Coach, Real Estate Agent & Industry Service Provider.

    Glenn, in the past our company has been approached by numerous Private Sellers to use our Individual Property Websites product. Under our User Terms we do not sell the websites to private sellers.

    Realestate.com.au shouldn’t allow Private Sellers for similar reasons that we don’t.

    1. Loyalty:- to the real estate industry.

    2. Product Reputation:- Real Estate Agents have legal requirements about not misrepresenting a property. If the private seller misrepresented a property they may have a case to answer but if an agent does it then they not only have a case to answer but the reputation of their whole business is at stake.

    Nowadays, many people buy real estate over the internet without physically inspecting the property. The opportunity to misrepresent the property on a one-off sale by a Private Seller could potentially become a concern for online buyers & affect the overall reputation of the website.

    3. Quality Control:- The agents that use our sites promote their properties professionally. ( Note: On REA there are still some agents that need help with presenting properties professionally, but the majority of agents upload good quality content.)

    4. Exposure:- The majority of agents do a lot more online/offline marketing than a Private Seller would normally do.

    Whilst it took years for realestate.com.au to build the site they have today, REA need to remember that the Private Sellers only want to be on realestate.com.au because of all the marketing that agents have done to help build realestate.com.au over the past 10+ years.

    Opening the flood gates to Private Sellers on REA would be the biggest slap in the face to real estate agents & would mark a major turning point for the real estate industry.

  7. Sal Espro June 26, 2009 at 2:47 pm #

    What a crock, Greg!

    You say, “..agents have done to help build realestate.com.au over the past 10+ years.”
    Property.com.au went-out with true entrepreneurial smarts and missionary zeal and got the real estate Industry online (In fact, it was the first national portal across the commerce spectrum!) REA followed-up and continued the effort. As with anything they do, agents only used these mechanisms because of the benefits they received. They paid and continue to pay, for services received. Nothing to do with altruism for the industry.

    Peter Ricci and Glenn Batten have a much better perspective from a broad experiential base.

    Still old and gnarly.
    Sal 🙂

  8. Greg Vincent June 26, 2009 at 5:14 pm #

    Sal, I’m sorry you feel that way. Of course the majority of agents want the service provided by REA. That’s not what this post is about. It’s about whether agents want Private Sellers allowed on REA.

    No offence, but I’d be more interested to hear your stance on this issue rather than a history lesson about what Property.com.au did or didn’t do.

    With regards to my statement

  9. Sal Espro June 30, 2009 at 2:35 pm #

    Greg,

    There is no argument that agents using REA promote it. My comment was that agents are paying for services received and REA does not owe them anything more. This doesn’t mean I think it would be commercially sensible for REA to fly in the face of their best clients!
    I will gladly *restate* my opinion on this topic (as I did in the post you questioned). REA is the largest public real estate media outlet that I think is on very thin ice with the ACCC if it bans anyone from advertising. Besides, who cares whether ‘private’ sellers are allowed or not. They account for such a small percentage of the market e.g. ~2% (?) In the USA ~ 5% and I think such listings are good prospecting fodder for good agents. And yes, I have a personal interest in an agency business.

  10. Simon Baker July 7, 2009 at 2:34 pm #

    How does the industry reconcile their joy at the entry of Google to the market with the ability for private sellers to freely advertise their listings on Google?

    Is it ok for Google and domain.com.au to do this but not realestate.com.au?

    Should be an interesting point of discussion.

    Check out our thoughts on Google entering the market over at http://www.propertyportalwatch.com.

    Simon Baker

  11. Glenn Batten July 8, 2009 at 9:55 am #

    Simon,

    Good points.. As you know there is no animosity by the industry to Domain over their accepting private sellers and the only one to raise the issue relating to Google has been yourself.

    So whats the difference… The simple fact that REA promoted so heavily that there will be no private sellers on the portal. Agents took them at their word and want them to uphold that promise. Both Domain and Google have never made those claims so their not backpeddling on any promises.

    Nobody likes a welcher…. especially in Australia… and even more so a corporate welcher is often seen as the worst kind because they are welching to clients.

    As I have stated, my preference is that REA not display private sellers, but to be fair.. thats my preference for all portals and website.. thats because I am an agent. But if it was to come to pass one day I don’t honestly think it will make that much of a difference. For my mind the biggest issue will be that REA breaks its long held commitment to agents, not so much what that commitment actually entails. . You can expect many many agents to be upset with that.

  12. Glenn Batten July 8, 2009 at 10:02 am #

    As an update on the http://www.myhomeisforsale.com.au matter… This site is still advertising private sale properties from right around Australia on realestate.com.au … see http://bit.ly/Xttsi

    Their defense to REA ?? We are now a full service real estate service!!!

    Look.. there goes a pig at 10,000 feet!

    Why is this account not suspended till its brought into line? Is it because the site was created by Hubonline? Is Hubonline customers being given special treatment? If this site was hosted by Portplus or My Desktop would it still have all its properties on the site by now.

    If the rules are no private sellers, and thats what they say is still in place then these breaches have to be removed asap.

    Visit their website and make you own mind up. Then contact your REA rep and request answers.

  13. Paddy July 11, 2009 at 1:27 am #

    Is DOMAIN purposefully manipulating Business2?

    I find it incredibly difficult to understand how with all the talk, discussion and contribution lately regarding B2 stories on Google… that articles (way in the past) involving domain are all at the top of ‘most popular searches/content’.

    Are Domain that desperate for UB’s and branding?

    Robert?

    You are our resident domain fan… confess.

  14. Peter Ricci July 11, 2009 at 8:30 am #

    Hi Paddy

    This may be the case, but we this is an automated system, it resets at the end of each month. I might get this set to the end of each 7 days.

    It seems pretty random though, so I doubt it is being manipulated. We do not include latest articles as it would just double up.

    Thanks for your concerns

    Peter

  15. Robert Simeon July 11, 2009 at 9:49 am #

    Paddy,

    I have no involment with B2 other than commenting on blogs. I have been accused of some weird and wonderful happenibgs over the years – and this one is right up there. Oh – to have such power!

  16. Paddy July 11, 2009 at 11:56 am #

    Well Robert, I know you are connected everywhere, so thought that only you could pull this off.

    But seriously, there appears to be no logic what so ever, as to why stories about domain adore, would be so popular. I would guess that more people read that B2 story (if the stats are not manipulated) than actually using that site!

    And who wants to read about domain winning an award in 2007?

    Who would come to the site and search for that?

    Yep – only a domain employee or otherwise associated with domain.

    Still, perhaps this is all domain has left in the innovation bucket… driving brand awareness and a trickle of UB’s from B2.

    ahh Domain… you have done it again!

  17. Robert Simeon July 11, 2009 at 3:26 pm #

    Paddy – next I will be accused as being a Special Agent 🙂

    My understanding (as with my own site) is that we archive past newsletters dating back nine years purely for SEO reasons. The more pages attached to a website the greater the SEO – I think from memory we have approximately 1800 pages indexed/archived on our website.

    That to me would be answer – as I move back to undercover mode 🙂

  18. Paddy July 11, 2009 at 9:33 pm #

    Shaken not stirred?

    Yep – great seo bank – but these links are to the “most popular”.. implying people reading, searching for those topics, regularly and most recently.

    Makes you wonder though – domain boffins spending time to ensure they get the most links and brand awareness from B2… but will not put listings on google.maps/realestate.

    GREAT STRATEGY!

    Again, even more stupid, just look at the most recent update by the CEO of realestate.com.au on his blog.. 22nd July 2008 (era of Simon Baker).. just who is the new realestate.com.au CEO and do they know how to use a computer?

  19. Glenn Batten July 12, 2009 at 8:25 am #

    Paddy,

    You have been asking whether Domain have been manipulating Business 2 comments..

    I think the answer is yes and no… let me explain.

    Firstly Lets Deal with the Case for NO

    In relation to the “Most Popular Articles” section its pretty hard to think they have artificially boosted the number of comments in posts in previous years knowing that Peter would add the section to a site redesign in 2009. I just dont think they are that forward thinking This section simply shows the posts with the highest number of comments and those posts generated a lot of comments back then…. but there was no “Most Popular Articles” section.

    Now the case of YES

    I am sure Peter outed a few people/companies after they ignored warnings and continued to hide their connections. Domain employees were caught posting anonymously to the blog ramping domain and praising new initiatives a few years ago. In the back end you get to see the emails people register with and the IP addresses they post from. So when a bunch of people post that have never posted before, all using hotmail and gmail addresses and all coming from IP addresses at fairfax.com.au it is pretty clear whats going on.

    Domain was not the only one caught doing it and far more warning were handed out than companies actually named and shamed. Also, there is no way to know if they were company organised campaigns or just one individual. I am sure I heard a confirmation that one major portal sent a message to employees to tell them to stop which inferred that it was not co-ordinated.

    People will always try and hide who they are when they know their comments under their name might not get the same impact. I had an incident recently when the publisher of Sold! magazine decided to take a swipe at me and AREB magazine that i had written an article for. Of course he did so anonymously hiding who he was which IMHO made him look like a hypocrite when it was highlighted.

    So whilst I think it was impossible for people back in 2007 to try and manipulate total comment stats knowing that would be introduced in 2009, if there were any shady comments (which I have not actually checked but the time period is right) in these posts they would have helped them get to top of that list.

    So Yes … and No

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