Three’s a Crowd

Disclaimer: These comments are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the current opinions and policies of the Real Estate Institute of Western Australia.

There’s little doubt that digital advertising of real estate is the preferred method consumers use to search for a property to buy or rent. In Australia, about 70 per cent of all properties that come to market find themselves listed on a web portal. This is extraordinarily high compared to other countries where in the USA, for example, less than 5 per cent of properties are listed on publicly accessed classified portals.

The public’s embracing of digital classifieds over print has been swift. By way of example, in 2005, my business spent about $250,000 on classified advertising in The West Australian, last year I spent zero.

The current digital classified space is dominated by the Murdoch majority owned http://www.realestate.com.au. Last year it made about $700 million in profit from its Australian operations (about 10 per cent of which comes from WA). It has an estimated capitalised value of about $7 billion.

In WA, http://www.reiwa.com the member owned portal of the Real Estate institute of WA punches well above its weight. Widely supported by its members (95 per cent of agents are members of REIWA), the listings you’ll find on reiwa.com are the same as those found on realestate.com.au but without all the distracting “house & land” package ads and with richer, more informative WA-based information about property and the market. It’s much cheaper to advertise there too and the site is filled with unique mapping and suburb information that you can’t find elsewhere.

The third major player here is http://www.domain.com. Part of the Fairfax group (think The Age and Sydney Morning Herald) Domain has tried hard to penetrate the WA market with limited success. Somewhat desperately they bought the naming rights to Subiaco oval. More recently, they’ve entered the real estate services market by buying existing service providers and flogging them to agents. CRM system, My Desk Top, data application, Price Finder and the newly ventured Domain Academy (training, awards, etc.) are all part of their plan to provide services otherwise provided by not-for-profit Real Estate Institutes.

Domain is answerable to its shareholders and it continues to push into the WA market, encouraging agents to list their properties on their site. It’s mostly still free to do so but I recall a time when listings on realestate.com.au was relatively inexpensive. Nowadays, listing on realestate.com.au sees agents or their vendors spend about $500 for a mid-tier listing every 30 days.

Realestate.com.au have done well to capture such an enormous slice of the market in such a short period but there’s room for small, value-add enterprises such as reiwa.com. In Queensland, for example, where there’s no viable not-for-profit run portal as a competitor, it costs sellers three times as much to promote their property on-line.

by Hayden Groves
REIWA President
REIA Deputy President

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