At the end of last month we held the 7th Property Portal Watch Workshop. We had over 80 people attend this event. One of the attendees was Peter Zollman from the AIM Group – the publishers of the Classifieds Intelligence Report. Peter recently wrote up his day at the workshop for the Classified Intelligence Report and I thought it would be good to reprint it here.
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Reprinted with Permission from the Classified Intelligence Report
SAN FRANCISCO — Between the Property Portal Watch Workshop and the Inman Real Estate Connect conference near Union Square and the Cable Car lines earlier this month, there was a lot to learn about what’s going on in real estate and at real estate advertising sites worldwide.
You should’ve been there, so we won’t do the standard “what happened” recap. My job is to hit the highlights, the lowlights (none of those this time; maybe next time), and to give you important takeaways. And then, as always, a few “notes ‘n’ quotes.”
Alistair Helm, CEO of RealEstate.co.nz, challenged me when I said “video, video, video” was one of the most important trends in real estate advertising today. “That’s bull,” he said, but being slightly more colorful. “It’ll never happen.”
It was a lively discussion. (More in a minute or three about my other five key trends, and about Simon Baker’s six key trends.) Helm’s point, a good one that I still disagree with, is that buyers want lots of pictures, they want a floor plan, and they don’t want to have to watch 10 or 20 or 30 videos to find a home or an apartment.
“Videos are linear, and they take time to load and to watch,” he said. “People want to move quickly.”
Someone else in the audience — I was on stage, so I didn’t get who — said engagement with properties on their site goes up 300 percent when there’s a video available. Pretty compelling. But other people said those are mainly for developer properties rather than resale homes or apartments.
And so it went. It was a pretty lively discussion, and my 30-minute presentation went on for nearly 45. Hey, Simon (the organizer) said he wanted give-and-take, and to “get the audience involved.” We certainly did.
Oh, and there was some vindication, the next day at the Inman conference, when I walked over to Helm. “I’ve changed my mind, at least a bit, about video,” he told me, pointing out two vendors on the exhibit floor — Videolicious.com and BlazingTours.com. “If those two represent the future of video, maybe there is a future for it.”
They’re two terrific vendors making video easier and easier for real estate agents to shoot and produce. Now if only sites encourage it, sell it, produce it and package it into their most valuable services, it’ll happen. Kind of like mobile was going to happen for 10 or 15 years and never did, until it finally took off.
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The evolution of vendors in both the video field and the floor plan field was amazing. I wasn’t much sold on the idea of including floor plans in real estate ads, except in limited specific cases, until I saw (a) how valuable they can be for people trying to envision what will fit where in a possible new home, and (b) how easy it’s becoming to build floor plans for publication online with a real estate ad.
Jeroen Bekkers of Floorplanner.com, a Netherlands company that works with many major sites like Funda.nl and Immoweb.be, said the company is creating 500,000 floor plans per month, and now has 50 affiliates worldwide. At Funda, 20 percent of all listings have an interactive floor plan and more than one in four houses going on the market are now putting up floor plans. All of those are paid, he pointed out, and the total ecosystem around their interactive floorplans has quickly grown to $4 million annually in the Dutch market alone.
One of the most popular tools in the I-app store, Bekkers said, is Magicplan. It lets people with an IPhone walk around a room, click on the corners, shoot photos, press a button in the app and automatically create a three-dimensional floor plan. Holy smokes! That’s amazing. And it’s free?!? … and to think like so many things, it’s just going to get better?
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Mobile? This is remarkable: ImmobilienScout24, the German real estate site, has about 15 active apps. It’s had more than 1.7 million downloads of its IPhone app, 1 million of its Android app, and only about 400,000 of its IPad app. But the IPad app is pretty new. “We’ve changed from being a Web-based [company] to having … a mobile-first view of the world,” said Christian Henk of Immo.
For now, the company isn’t including premium listings on mobile to make it easier. Henk said they want to, but it is difficult because of the size and space on mobile screens. Also, he said, “advertisers are not demanding it yet.” (But you can bet they will. Soon.)
Now, 26 percent of the visits to ImmoScout24 are on mobile devices. That was more than at some sites — but lower than at others.
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Simon Baker, organizer of the conference and executive chairman of CAV Investment Holdings, presented his seven “key trends in the property portal world” and I presented six. We didn’t compare notes before we presented. (We probably should’ve, but it may be more interesting this way.)
Guess whose were which:
- Revenue growth in mature markets slowing
- Emerging market revenue growth accelerating
- Large portals looking overseas
- Listings becoming a commodity
- Public relations becoming a great driver of traffic
- Mobile interfaces becoming more important
- Equity market still excited about business potential
And the other set:
- Consolidation of sites through merger and acquisition
- International spread: Multinationals like iProperty Group and Schibsted expanding into new markets
- Mobile access growth
- Ad placement by mobile devices, whether by property agents or owners / landlords
- Generation of revenue from data capture
- Video, video, video.
That wasn’t too hard, especially if you counted. Simon’s were first, mine were second. But I sure don’t disagree with any of his, and I doubt he disagreed with any of mine, which were based in part on info we gathered for our Real Estate 2012 annual report.
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Shaun DiGregorio, CEO of iProperty Group in Asia, has deployed apps in some markets but doesn’t especially like them: “With an app, you’re actually at the whim of a third party to determine whether a user can use your product. … We don’t want to hitch our wagon to a mobile app as the main point of access.”
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Helm has developed a monthly report about property in New Zealand, where “Kiwis are obsessed with property,” and is generating great free publicity with the report. (You can download a copy here or see the site blog here, along with a clip of Helm appearing on a national business television program.)
From that, the site has expanded to publication of a monthly report in each region it covers. “It’s incredibly useful for agents for credibility. … All is open (for republication) as long as we get attribution.”
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VivaReal of Brazil, which launched in Mexico and Columbia as well, decided to go “AAB — all about Brazil,” and is now focused on that country exclusively, according to CEO / founder Brian Requarth. Brazil’s now the world’s sixth largest economy and there’s about $2 billion spent in real estate advertising annually but only 5 per-cent of that is spent online, Requarth said. The company now has five active offices and is opening six more during the next six months.
“Brazil has become a central place around the world for investment,” Requarth said. “There’s a lot of interest in Brazil, and a growing middle class.”