Australia's population of 22.6 million people - 10.4 million of whom were online at the end of 2010 - are often described as "real estate obsessed." According to the Internet Advertising Bureau of Australia, real estate was the leading category for classifieds advertising expenditure for the 12 months ended 30 June 2011, taking the biggest share of the AUD$580 million online classifieds market.
The property portal that dominates this market is REA Group's realestate.com.au, which has remained on top for a number of years. Fairfax Media's domain.com.au is in second place, however the traffic gap between these two portals is considerable.
Along with these two major players, Australia is home to a number of smaller portals including niche players, free-to-list offerings, websites run by local real estate institutes, FSBO websites, and vertical search engines. Google Maps also launched a real estate search option in Australian in mid-2009, and managed to form an alliance with one of the biggest real estate agency franchises in the country, however this was scrapped in January 2011.
REA Group's realestate.com.au is a subscription-based property portal covering sale and rental listings. The portal brand was first launched in 1998, and listed on the Australian Stock Exchange a year later, when News Limited purchased a majority shareholding in the company. By 2011, REA Group was able to report that realestate.com.au had a 95 percent share of the agent market, with monthly average revenue per agent up 15 percent from $1,267 in June 2010 to $1,456 in June 2011.
In terms of traffic, REA Group's most recently reported total was 9.2 million unique browsers to its Australian network in May 2011, up from 6.7 million in May 2010. realestate.com.au is the flagship site for this network, and Nielsen statistics published by REA Group from January 2011 suggest realestate.com.au had a unique visitor total of approximately 7.5 million for the month - 4 million ahead of domain.com.au.
realestate.com.au also has a sister portal - commercial property website realcommercial.com.au, which had a reported unique visitor total of just under 400,000 in January 2011. Until recently, REA Group's Australian portfolio also included holiday rentals portal realholidays.com.au, but this was sold to US-based vacation rentals company HomeAway in April 2011. realestate.com.au now links to homeaway.com.au from its remaining portals.
Traditionally, realestate.com.au does not accept listings directly from home owners. That said, in June 2011 REA Group announced a change to its private listings policy. "[W]e have recognised that the minimum services requirement outlined in our Private Listing Policy – prescribing a required minimum range of ‘usual’ real estate agency services that agents must provide to their vendors – is out of step with the market and industry regulatory practices," the company said in an email to agents.
domain.com.au is owned by Fairfax Media - the operator of a network of Australian websites spanning area such as news, personals, travel and weather. Like realestate.com.au, domain.com.au is subscription-based for agents, and links to a commercial portal at commercialrealestate.com.au. Fairfax Media also runs a vacation rentals website at stayz.com.au.
domain.com.au holds second place among Australian property portals, with its unique visitor totals at approximately 3.5 million for January 2011, according to Nielsen statistics published by REA Group. Those statistics also show that realcommercial.com.au's monthly unique visitor total was around 100,000 for the same month, however April statistics published by free-to-list Australian portal thehomepage.com.au paint a different picture, with 3,015,426 unique visitors for domain.com.au, 762,414 for stayz.com.au, and 371,669 for realcommercial.com.au.
Unlike realestate.com.au, domain.com.au has accepted listings from For Sale By Owner websites such as buymyplace.com.au.
Real Estate Institute Websites
Alongside Australia's top two real estate portals are a number of websites maintained by the country's real estate institutes, such as realestateview.com.au, which was established by the Real Estate Institute of Victoria, and the Real Estate Institute of Western Australia's reiwa.com.au. realestateview.com.au began listing properties from reiwa.com.au in July 2010. A year later, reiwa.com.au began a joint venture with Seven West Media to launch westrealestate.com.au - a new portal covering real estate in Western Australia.
"We are committed to providing consumers with real value and an alternative to the media owned portals," said realestateview.com.au general manager Petra Sprekos after striking the listing deal with reiwa.com.au in mid-2010. According to Nielsen figures from April 2011, reiwa.com.au was the sixth most popular real estate website in Australia at the time with a total of 251,916 unique visitors for the month.
While the Australian property portal landscape is dominated by realestate.com.au and domain.com.au in most markets, there are some areas where niche players have the advantage. One example is in the Australian Capital Territory, where allhomes.com.au is the go-to portal for residents. Other examples of niche players include farmbuy.com, which launched in late 2009 to cover rural properties, and watersidepropertysales.com.au, which first came online in June 2010 and passed 10,000 listings in March 2011.
Perhaps the most popular free-to-list website in the Australian online real estate market is gumtree.com.au, which lists property alongside other classifieds and accepts private listings. When it comes to property-specific websites, free-to-list options are more limited. thehomepage.com.au is a relatively new player in this space, having launched in May 2011. homesales.com.au - the real estate offshoot of top cars classifieds site carsales.com.au - launched a free-to-list option for agents in July 2011, however it still charges home owners for private listings.
As mentioned above, gumtree.com.au is a popular option for people who want to list real estate ads for free, however its listings are not focused purely on property. Australia's true FSBO websites include buymyplace.com.au, which charges private sellers between $270 and $599 to list their home, and propertynow.com.au, which markets real estate agent and agent-assisted property sales for $290 per month.
Vertical Search Engines
The final pieces of the puzzle in the Australian online real estate market are vertical search engines, which allow users to search listings from property portals and link back to the original listings in their results. This space currently includes nestoria.com.au, which came online in March 2010, along with the Mitula-powered modernsearch.com.au, and Trovit's Australian website.
Disclosure: Classified Ad Ventures – the owner of Property Portal Watch – owns shares in nestoria.com.au and has an interest in Mitula.