Online Real Estate
Anyone trying to use the internet to narrow the search for a residential property without having to go to endless numbers of "open homes" will quickly find a proliferation of New Zealand sites.
Wednesday, June 6th 2001, 10:11AM
by Jenny Ruth
And even though all agree the industry would be better off if they consolidated into a single site, that doesn’t look like happening any time soon.
The trouble is, each site operator seems to think their site should be the only one.
Web usage measurer Hitwise tracks visits to 50 different real estate sites, but even so, to this reporter’s knowledge it’s missed some. Hitwise calculates its real estate category received just 0.183% of all traffic in the week ended 26 May.
Hitwise rates realenz.co.nz, the Real Estate Institute’s site, as the most visited site. While just about everybody quibbles about how accurately the Hitwise data reflects the true picture, Nielsen//NetRatings also rates realenz as the most used.
REINZ general manager Ross Barnes says there are about 150 real estate sites for New Zealand. He says one of the problems is that some of the franchise chains want to keep their customers to themselves and squeeze out the independent operators.
He acknowledges many agents criticise realenz for being too expensive but says that reflects the success of the site and the huge telecommunications and server costs of running it. "It’s the difference between advertising in the Kapiti News and the New Zealand Herald," Barnes says.
The realenz site gets 20,000 unique visitors a week and lists in excess of 45,000 properties, he says.
Under the Hitwise system, realenz rated 29% in the week ended 26 May. The most-visited of the franchise chains’ sites is harcourts.co.nz. which rated only 4.8% that week.
Information technology manager Jason Wills says the Hitwise figures are misleading because they don’t include Xtra subscribers who make up the majority of the harcourts site visitors.
Nielsen//NetRatings ranked the harcourts site as second most popular with about half the number of unique visitors as the realenz site in April. Wills says harcourts got about 45,000 unique visitors last month.
He says having its own site is part of the Harcourts group’s branding strategy.
But the chains are also dissatisfied with the realenz site, saying it doesn’t offer all they facilities they would like, Wills says. Because of that, the chains have got together to create a rival collective site, realestate.co.nz which was launched in February.
Mark Thompson of Barfoot & Thompson is realestate’s chairman. He says realestate’s costs are about 90% cheaper than realenz’s. One example of the problems with realenz is that until recently realenz wasn’t capable of taking listings electronically, he says.
The realestate site lists more than 30,000 properties and represents about 60% of the industry, he says. If that can be raised to 80%, realestate would effectively become THE New Zealand site, he says.
For the time being, Hitwise and Nielsen//NetRatings don’t even rate realestate.
Thompson says that’s "extremely misleading" and the site is getting about 30,000 visitors making detailed viewings a week. That’s up from about 12,000 visitors a week in February, he says.
His firm’s own site, barfoot.co.nz, is getting about 600 visitors a day who on average look at about nine properties each and spending about 15 minutes doing it, Thompson says.
Ranking well above all the other realenz challengers is open2view.com. Hitwise ranked it 13% in the week ended 26 May and second only to realenz in each of the previous four weeks.
But open2view business development director Peter Tye says he also has problems with the Hitwise figures. "We’ve been doubling our traffic every month for the last four months," Tye says. Yet the site’s Hitwise ranking has fallen from 23.5% in March.
He won’t say how many unique visitors the site gets nor how many properties it lists other than that it’s "thousands and thousands."
Tye says open2view is the only independent real estate site in New Zealand, taking listings from both agents and individuals selling their own homes. He says a big difference between open2view is that it starts by asking what the consumer wants and tries to provide that.
The agent-controlled sites are all geared to keeping agents in control of the industry, he says.
Tye also claims open2view is technologically superior.
While other sites use outside contractors to develop their sites open2view has its own dedicated team, he says.
Other sites require individual agents to organise their own photos for their listings but open2view has a team of 55 photographers who take up to 20 images of each property, more than any other site offers, he says.
He also claims the site is the largest provider of virtual tours in New Zealand. Certainly, the site appears far more attractive than the others to the casual visitor.
Tye’s view is that a major revolt against realenz is underway. Its Hitwise ranking has fallen from 65% in February. And the industry is "having a connipition" over open2view’s success since it became up and running six months ago, he says.
"We’re the guys they’re trying to knock off now. We’re a prime target. People are blatantly copying our site," he says.
|« Confidence in houses soars||PSIS extends home loans »|
Commenting is closed
|Printable version||Email to a friend|