With so many print guides on the market maybe it is time for a complete re-think over the roles the Real Estate Institutes of Australia play in the current advertising marketplace. The Internet has become such a powerful communications medium for agents and many would say a more effective medium both in reach of information and cost effectiveness that it is time for a nationwide consumer education program.
Real Estate Agents across Australia and New Zeeland are pretty much dictated to by the major media companies. Many of the nations newspapers have area monopolies. I only need to talk to agents to understand how much pressure this places on them. Prices rise each and every year and nothing seems to change this.
The Internet has become such a power yet we see more and more traditional guides come into the market place by media companies hungry for increased revenues.
What the Agents need now is the Real Estate Institute of Australia and their state partners to begin an education blitz to consumers. This education blitz should be helping consumers to understand the importance the Internet plays. Traditional Real Estate Guides are now seen by many consumers as pointers – pointers to them wanting more information. Before the Internet came along a consumer would get the paper real estate guide and ring the agent for more information. This gave a certain amount of control to the agent. But today consumers read the paper based guides and then head off to the real estate sites (portals) for more information. Why is this? Well the first reason is because paper based guides are expensive and therefore real estate agents cannot simply place too much information about a property, the more information, the higher the cost.
The Internet however gives consumers so much more information (if used correctly) it costs only a few extra cents (data costs) to place unlimited photos, virtual tours, floor/block plans etc online. This gives the consumer all the information they need to make an informed decision as whether or not they pursue the property further. This means agents are more likely to get a call from a “hot” prospect rather than someone who just may be interested but needs more information.
So why is it that there are more traditional paper guides entering the marketplace? Money Money Money and bucket loads of it. It is simply a massive revenue stream that until recently has been mainly shared amongst two companies.
What the agents world needs now!
The agents need someone to take the lead, every agent should put their hands in their pockets and work with the real estate institute of Australia to get an awareness campaign happening and not through papers but on TV and nationwide. Tell consumers the benefits of advertising their listings online, what to look for when choosing an agency, how properties are presented online, the quality of the photography, the presentation of text content (copy) and the reach of an agents online marketing.
Do this and consumers will be more willing to consider online marketing as a large part of their advertising spend. I do not know for how long I have been advocating for the Institutes to get their act together and suggest fee structures for agents online advertising spends. This should be flexible, because their are new real estate portals popping up all over the place.
It should value not only popularity of sites but what the sites allow agents to do at a basic subscription level, are there photo restrictions? What are their fee structures? Do they allow for VR tours etc.
A big problem for me has always been the fact that real estate institutes know less about the Internet than most consumers and this will make it difficult. However they are starting to get the message.
The Internet for agents need not be owned by major media players, it is a question of control. Recently when News Ltd controlled realestate.com.au purchased property.com.au (for a cool 9 mill in cash and shares) many within the company thought it was game over. Now they have an impending nationwide launch of Just listed and something interesting in the wind with propertypage.com.au
Then you will have the rise of regional (locality based) newspaper portals and specialty portals such as commercialrealestate.com.au
Will it ever end? No and a good thing too, agents need to take control of the last advertising frontier they CAN control and that is the Internet. This will be the brand differentiator of the future and you can already see who are going to be the big winners and that is agents who are investing in their online future now.
Real Estate Institutes should be showing them the way. Every single Institute across Australia should be shedding their preferences for portals through website sponsorship deals and working for the benefit of their members. They should also be ditching once and for all the one sided seminars that some of these major portals are giving agents with the backing of the Institutes.
Every single institute across Australia should have a position available for an Internet Advisor, someone agents can call for impartial advice.
“The times they are a changin”