Last week all agents and agencies received an open letter from Antony Catalano discussing the price rises at realestate.com.au and emphasising the importance of advertising on domain.com.au etc.
I have sent off a reply (see below) to Antony Catalano this morning and if you are interested I am happy for you to publish it if you wish.
I own a small real estate agency that from its inception and way before its time has been an online business. I have owned and managed the business for 13 years and continued to be a selling agent (18 years) so I think I am qualified to respond to your letter regarding agents pulling the plug on our REA subscriptions.
I have always embraced any website that offers attractive, easy to view marketing of properties for sale at a reasonable fee. In fact I had my own website and mydomain.com.au subscription up and running weeks before I did my first Sutherland Shire Domain newsprint advert in 2001. I had just left an agency where whoever drew the short straw had to answer the “time waster emails” from realestate.com.au (weren’t on domain.com.au), forget the agency having its own website, that didn’t exist at the time.
What I loved about the internet was that being a small independent company I could compete on a level playing field. I could offer a competitive marketing fee to my vendors with internet advertising (I only sell for clients who are willing to pay for their own marketing).That was not the case with newsprint where Fairfax (the local paper in my area) charged discounted rates the bigger you were, or the longer you had been an advertiser. The internet gave me a level playing field and I embraced this and have always kept my business ahead of the game with online developments.
But then both domain.com.au and realestate.com.au started to go head to head in increasing subscription fees and making more and more expensive products, selling more advertising space so that the small independents were hit with bigger standard fees and we were forced to subsidise vendor advertising to stay competitive. Basically the major 2 portals were no longer providing a level playing field. So each year we braced ourselves for the “sales pitch” to support the watered down product and the higher fee.
So last year was crunch time again and while a few of us rang around to see what the other was doing, we all have subscriptions ending at different times and while we attempted to jump up and down it fizzled out as different levels of urgencies prevailed.
How do we seek the support of other agents who we compete with on a daily basis? It is also hard not to give away marketing strategies when you team up.
It is very hard to tame the competitive, cut throat nature of the real estate industry so that agents can come together to fight something like this. It goes against our very nature to work as a team.
I will give you a case in point. 2 years ago I sold a property to a fraudster, it turns out he had bought 3 or 4 waterfront properties in a 1km radius to the home I sold and no agent had given me the courtesy of a heads up. He caused untold damage to sale prices, and vendors across several suburbs in the prestige market lost thousands of dollars. I spent a month after this experience ringing every real estate agent and solicitor in the area to warn them about him. Would you believe that the same fraudster was discovered buying a property in the same suburb 18 months later but the agent who was dealing with the sale thought he was a better agent and could get it across the line?!
Realestate.com.au last year offered a 30 day pay per listing fee plus the standard subscription fee. The ad was bigger than domain and they said they would get more traffic than domain. They show lots of fancy graphs and statistics, they even have stats you can see on your internal page and can show vendors showing how you compete with other agencies but interestingly you are not allowed to print this (probably because they are not that accurate but let’s not go there).
So I find myself again at a crossroads. Last year and the year before I tried to rally the troops but everyone was too busy, their subscription was not due so I decided to trial the 30 day highlighted property and I have managed to sell it to every vendor. But the 30 day thing is a total pain and I don’t see the value in now paying $1250 for the Cronulla suburb for the same product.
I can ask my vendors to pay it but my problem is that I don’t think it is worth it. How can I ask my vendors to pay for something I think is a complete rip off?
But what happens if I end my subscription with realestate.com.au and many of us do and then domain.com.au decides to go down the similar path? How do we keep you 2 oligopolies competitive?
If we all say to realestate.com.au – enough is enough, how will you treat us domain.com.au?
Yes as agents and agencies we need to get together to fight this situation but we also need more from you, domain.com.au, so that we can return online marketing to a level playing field for all agencies big or small and most importantly, so our vendors, who we work for and we wouldn’t have an industry without, can reap the benefits of cost effective online marketing.
BEACH & BAY REALTY
Managing Director, Licensed Real Estate Agent, Auctioneer