A Property Portal – My Way

5 minute read

With Myhome soon leaving the local landscape soon I came to thinking of what would make the ultimate portal. I know Peter has posted on something similar before but I thought I would throw my hat in the ring and mockup what I believe would be the perfect portal from my perspective as an agent.

Keep a familiar navigational style similar to current portals however utilise the latest web 2 technology to improve functionality without sacrificing usability. Don’t try and reinvent the wheel, just make it better and go faster.

Bandwidth and storage is cheap these days so the site would feature high resolution photos and full screen slideshows.

Create an upload centre offering multiple ways for an agent to upload their to the portal properties including an api, xml feed, and even the option to scrape the agents site as a last resort. Individual agents would be encouraged to petition their data pushers to connect to the system.

The portal would create an industry schema for the transfer of real estate property data. The schema would be openly offered to anybody who wished to use it and other industry players would be invited to assist with its improvement.

Sharing with Consumers
There is so many options to share data on the web these days. I would create plugins for use with all range of social networking sites and internet tools. Things like Plugins for Myspace and for Facebook, Widgets for Google Desktop, Google Maps content, Gadgets for Windows Vista and Customisable RSS feeds so the public can plugin to whatever hardware or software they want.

Sharing with other Websites
Create an API so other websites can plugin content to their own sites. As an example a webmaster running a community portal can copy and paste some code and now serve up properties from my portal. These plugins will still show advertising from the site.

Extra Features
You will not be able to pay to be ranked higher. You will not have to pay to get any extra service. What is available for one shall be available for all except for maybe beta testing of upcoming features. Third party companies would be encouraged to provide extra services to agencies capitalising on the data with the only proviso that it enhanced the solution to the agent rather than detracted from it.

Agencies will be given no warning before penalties are applied for cheating the system. No preferential treatment shall be given to any office no matter their size, listing numbers or franchise affiliation. If duplicate properties are detected then the agency shall first get a warning with further detections resulting in an escalation of penalties resulting in a total ban. Far too many infringer’s are let off because the represent the best part of $200 per week in income.

The model would revolve around charging companies who wanted to advertise to the visitors to the site rather than charging the data providers. Agents would not be charged unless they wanted to pay for specific advertising on the site. An agent could pay for ads on the index pages promoting themselves to sellers. They could not promote themselves on specific properties. The ads will be minimal and aesthetically fit into the design of the portal.

The ad system would allow advertisers to geo target their advertising down to the level of suburb and advertisers will be charged only a on successful per click basis. A building and pest inspector, solicitor or financier working in just the Hamilton area of Brisbane could have his adverts shown just on property for sale in the suburb or district. A company could also equally choose to target to whole regions or states as well.

The advertising module would provide the flexibility so that advertisers could self subscribe to the advertising with monthly budgets and automatic charging of credit cards. The advertising would allow for the use of fixed size images or text.

Negotiations would be held with all the major data providers to provide agency data, but there will be no salespeople on the ground trying to flog advertising or subscriptions. A minimal operations team with virtually no salesperson ensures costs are kept at a minimum. Minimal staff requires virtually no executives or sales team salaries, bonuses and ancillary costs. No regional managers, state managers and national managers. No cars, travel, telephone, accommodation and expense accounts. No convention sponsorships or industry panels to fund.

The rollout process until launch would remain very tight lipped with no fanciful claims setting expectations too high and providing ammunition for competitors to feed upon.

Initial and ongoing promotion would never involve costly traditional media. No newspaper advertising billboards, tv shows, tv adverts or anything similar. Viral marketing techniques would be built into the system encouraging visitors to pass on and share the website and specific properties with friends via emails and social networking tagging such as del.ico.us, digg, stumbleupon, google bookmarks and others.

Free advertising coupons (lets say for $50 worth of advertising) would be provided to potential advertisers on a limited basis. Only so many would be released with every successful person able to invite 5 or 10 other people to also get a free coupon.

All agents would acknowledge that their properties would be promoted though numerous means (as already mentioned) including gadgets, plugins, rss feeds etc etc but at no time would agents data be resold to third parties.

Everything would be tested, tested tested, and trialled with focus groups before releasing. Nobody wants to release another Myhome that whilst being a vastly superior site on a technology level, it was a site that visitors hated with a passion.

Now here is the big question! Would such a portal work in the current landscape? How much would it cost to create?

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  • Peter Ricci
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 12:15 pm 0Likes

    Glenn, the amazing thing about successful real estate sites, is they are simple. Yes you need the technology and systems and the right model, but a simple little site that allows users to get to the information, take in the information (nice clean layout) and contact the agent is a simple recipe for success.

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 12:32 pm 0Likes


    Changes to accepted navigational systems are very tricky things to attempt. It is easier to mimic something that works and that users/visitors are use to. Add to it and tweak it a little, but as you say, keep it simple.

    Look at Microsoft.. a huge amount of research and testing went into changing the office platform to use the new ribbon system and even though it is vastly superior to previous menu based navigational system somepeople still hate it because thats what they are use to.

  • SSSR
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 1:14 pm 0Likes

    Glenn, good article. Agree this would be a good portal.

    Still not for the faint hearted though. While a model like this would be signifcantly cheaper to run (relative to ongoing costs of the current incumbents), set up costs would not change, as a custom built quality website and inital brand awareness is still an expensive exercise. Not sure the ‘long tail’ market has enough critical mass to sustain this model yet… only a matter of time though as traditional media is left behind.

    Lots of reaseach, a decent sized bank account, a more mature long tail market and a good niche and you have a great future portal.

  • PaulD
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 2:06 pm 0Likes

    Seems like a lot of the things you would like in a property portal, fit Google

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 2:53 pm 0Likes


    Google is indeed a powerful influence and a perfect example of a successful internet based company covering various industries. Many of my concepts would fit Google but they would also fit other companies as well both inside and outside the real estate sphere.

    Google being the most successful out of the bunch is the first one that jumps to many peoples minds, however there are other companies that have applied many of the same principals in markets outside of Australia. Have you heard of companies like Trulia or Zillow? No doubt these companies were influenced heavily by Google as I am by all three but I also added in other stuff in my mockup of “my” portal from other sources entirely.

  • Nick
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 6:12 pm 0Likes

    Some bloody nice ideas there – yeh.

    Are people still banging on about Google? Last I checked they couldn’t even list Australian properties in currency other than U$. Its a freaking nightmare trying to list properties with their XML feeder, and their customer service is Bop-Bawwwn…

    Granted, Google make a good Search Engine, Awesome Mapping System, Sensational Desktop Search, Sexy Traffic Metrics… but seems to me Google Base has a long way to go yet before it can crawl out of the BETA lab, sprout wings and fly… till then…

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 7:05 pm 0Likes


    I have to agree, Google Base has a long way still to go but if it comes to Australia you can bet every man and his dog will get their property on there because it is free. Will it be perfect, not by a longshot.. but since its free to agents the price per enquiry will beat a few others automatically.

    The biggest hurdle for new portals is data however I dont think that will be Google’s issue. I know of at least 50,000 properties that are ready right now to be sent to an Aussie Google Base within hours of them opening. The connection has been programmed and is sitting idle. Given there is already 20,000 on there plus other groups that will feed them virtually immediatley as well they cant help but be at least somewhat successful in the real estate enquiry delivery business overnight.

    One thing that Google would bring to the table that “my” portal would not is the ability to integrate actual property for sale right into the search results page. We dont get to see this here in Australia but I and Peter have posted and commented on it before. In the US Google inject listings from Google Base into the search engine results. If you search for las vegas real estate, at the top of the page will be a special search box to show property for sale in the las vegas area.

    Even if nobody ever goes to the google base site, listings appearing in SERP’s would still be huge and worth uploading to Google.

    “My” Portal is not Google Base, it goes far more than that, but obviously one of its strong influences as PaulD has pointed out is of Google. Actually a range of
    Google products..

    I have had a bit of positive feedback off site about the post throughout the day so thank you all for those that have called. One thing I want to make clear… “My” Portal is not a free portal. Not by a longshot. It has a different perspective thats all. In the model I have suggested Real Estate agents are simply data providers.

    Lets use the Google example because everyone is familiar with it at least. Google is not a search engine company.. They make very little from being a search engine (they sell a few search appliances to corporate customers.. thats all).. Google is an advertising company pure and simple. They collect, process and serve data in many formats (search, email, groups, etc etc etc) that people want to see and when they attract a large audience the sell ads to that audience. Virtually all of their income is from advertising… not search. Search was simply their first, and still their largest method of attracting an audience for their Advertising.

    “My” Portal would concentrate on improving visitor numbers so as to sell more ads. Increased visitor numbers has a secondary benefit in that it probably results in more enquiries for the agents which ensures they continue to feed it data. “My”Portal is interested in the agents experience in so far as it needs the data to continue to gather the audience to sell the advertising to but its clients are the advertisers, not the agents.

    Think of it another way… “My” Portal pays real estate agents for their data in the form of enquiries to their property.

    REA on the other hand concentrates on charging agents for delivering them enquiries. Sure they sell ads, but most of their money comes from the agency subscriptions.

    The problem I see with the REA model is for the money they charge agents they are effectively only in the enquiry delivery business only. They do a few websites for offices, but at the end of the day all they do is get you enquiries and charge you for it. They know most of those enquries are not even handled properly. About half of them are not even answered. For most agents they do not provide any value added service beyond delivering them enquries.

    If another solution (or two.. or three) comes along and delivers good quantity of enquiries to agents for free…. their value to the agent diminishes rapidly. But I reckon there is a thick file somewhere at REA with Google on the front that sits in a Disaster Plan filing cabinet alongside plenty of other scenarios that they are prepared for. If not.. someone, somewhere is not doing their job right.

    The free portals that exist in Australia today are for my mind generally free because they cant justify charging anything. That is not the same as “My” Portal.

  • Nick
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 8:20 pm 0Likes

    Hmmm, I don’t really agree with this part. I loved the Technology, Sharing and Data ideas… but as for revenue model…

    REA have already got as much market share as they can possibly get using their model, and as much audience as they can possibly get in Australia. They leverage that into ad revenue anyway… on top of what they get from Agents –

    For arguments sake lets say there’s 10,000 of them in Australia. REA is charging each one MINIMUM $400(ish) a month. That’s just REA’s bread`n`butter.

    God knows how many of them are on Platinum Plans, Real Commercial upgrades, Featured Agents, Featured Listings, Yadda Yadda Yadda… That’s all creame on top…

    Then there’s ad revenue from Home Lenders, etc, paying for sponsorship, not to mention the 2-3 $35CPM media slots they have on every page… Thats the glazed cherrie with a sparkler sticking out of it and a couple of cocktail umbrellas thrown in for good measure.

    And all that pudding sounds like a bouty until you consider the agents paying REA are making minimum $20k for every sale REA feeds them, and getting so many leads they can’t even be bothered responding to all of them (apparently). why wouldn’t you charge them to advertise? Even google would auction top listings…

    I don’t understand why you’d give away the bread and butter, and all the creame aswell, when all you’re left with is a salpeter covered peice of dried up stone-fruit.

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 9:33 pm 0Likes

    Nick… It certainly works for them today and their is no argument here. Australian agents have funded their plans of world domination for quite a few years now. It is more about what is going to work in the future for another portal not what works for them now.

  • Michael Fredericks
    Posted May 23, 2008 at 5:36 am 0Likes

    Peter, Glen and Nick

    Glenn’s comments about a free content driven model such as zillow.com are valid in my view. It is a model designed with both agents and consumers in mind. Zillow does not charge agents a penny because agents provide them with very valuable content. Zillow also displays sold property information to consumers and agents for free which allows consumers to conduct research on property values online. They cover the whole market, including private sales. Consumers want that content so Zillow traffic has grown aggressively. The model works.

    Traffic means revenue.

    I am one of the founders of onthehouse.com.au. We launched in March. Our model is comparable with Zillow but designed for the Australian market.

    It costs agents nothing to list on onthehouse.com.au. We provide sold property information for free on the site. That information is licensed from State and Territory governments and provided to consumers and agents for free. Unlike our competitors we do not look to agents or consumers to pay for that content. Content drives traffic. Traffic means revenue. We do not charge agents to provide us with content.

    Agents can and are paying to advertise next to sold property data. It is regional in nature (ie street report, suburb report) so agents can advertise directly to consumers in their regional markets who are undertaking research into home values in “agent’s markets”.

    Onthehouse.com.au pulls together the property listings market and sold property information markets online in Australia so you will not need to go to 2 websites to find this information.

    I have made this self-promoting post because an Australian company already exists providing many of the features Glenn you and Peter have raised in your recent posts. Whilst we are young and building content, Hitwise April results tells us we are doing something right in the second month since our launch in Brisbane (in March) and Sydney (in April), coming in number 14 on pageview traffic behind homehound at number 10, realcommercial at number 11, LJ Hooker at number 12 and RayWhite at number 13.

    We role out other states soon. We appreciate however that we have a lot of work to do.

  • SSSR
    Posted May 23, 2008 at 10:20 am 0Likes

    From what I can gather of Google, I don’t thing that they are necessarily going to be the White Knight that some people think they are. I agree that they will react a change in the industry that will lead to it being significantly more competitive than what it currently is, but it will be more of a long term shift rather than an overnight success.

    Realestate.com.au have the market dominance to carry them forth for some time yet, even when/if Google base decide to come to Australia. We cannot forget the consumers in all of this, habits are hard to break and whilst properties appearing in SERP will create some good traffic, in Google’s quest to drive relevant results, you aren’t going to see pure and focused property listings always appear.

    Consumers seem to like features such as short lists and home alerts, along with other time saving features. Google are the kings of simplicity, no bells and whistles. I think that’s where a niche portal provides the difference to the satisfaction of some consumers.

    Therefore I see Google making this sector more competitive. I still see RE a force, albeit potentially less dominant, in a number of years time, but a force still nonetheless. And I see a number of niche portals, following the recipe you have outline above Glenn, that provide the consumers and agents with the choices that have meaning to them.

    Michael, question for you, does your portal compete with RE or RP Data or both? I see your slant towards a Zillow like operation, but it is not clear to me. Is your revenue model 3rd party advertising or DIY listings?

  • Craig Honeyman
    Posted May 23, 2008 at 11:36 am 0Likes

    A comment to Michael

    Firstly, it would be better to just make a valid point about this post rather than blatantly trying to plug your own business (which by the way goes against the term of use for this blog).

    I do agree that if an agent is providing the data to a portal that the agent should not have to pay for that privilege, especially if the portal is making revenue off that data from (third party advertisers).

    You have made it very clear in your comment that you offer a FREE service to agents to upload their listings, in my view; this means very little to agents these days unless they are receiving regular leads and a qulaity service and much more in return. The market is flooded and there has been more than one real estate portal that has failed in this realm, ones with big marketing budgets. To be honest, in my view, agents are tired of it. Clearly, the next portal to succeed will be one that is doing something radically different and one offer a total solution that is balanced and fair to all.

    The second point I would like to make is that your portal offers a service for private sellers whereby you charge a 0.5% commission on any sale, my question to you is – how is this in the best interests of agents seeing their commission (which they work damn hard for) is a lot higher than 0.5%. In my view, the moment you start charging a commission on any sale (irrespective of who sold it) is the moment you have entered into the sales realm of real estate and that put you in direct competition to the very agents you are offering the free service too.

  • MichaelFredericks
    Posted May 23, 2008 at 12:23 pm 0Likes

    Hi Craig

    As explained, the reason for the post was to identify the site as being directly in on point with a number of the previous comments. It was done in a transparent way.

    To address your comments though, we are receiving supportive feedback generally from the market, but as I mentioned, its early days.

    Our primary revenue source is banner ads. We cover the whole market without discrimination. We offer the service free to agents. We don’t extend the service free to private sellers.

    Private sales are a small percentage of our content (less than 0.3%). Generally the feedback we receive from agents is that they are not threatened by the private sales aspect of the model, it being recognised as a minor part of the market and an opportunity for leads.

    Domain of course offers private sales and charge a fee for that service.

  • Greg Vincent
    Posted May 23, 2008 at 6:23 pm 0Likes

    Just because Domain does it doesn’t make it the right thing to do.

    I know a number of agents who resent the fact that Domain do it & they refuse to subscribe or have cancelled their subscription over it.

    God help all agents if REA ever decided to be that stupid.

  • snoop
    Posted May 24, 2008 at 10:15 am 0Likes

    Perhaps you might enlighten us on how you intend to make this venture profitable?
    Not many listings on the site and huge promotion costs??
    not to mention operational costs in connecting to the vg data.
    Cant see this site getting into the top 5 sites
    Seems like another great way to burn shareholders funds.

  • AJ
    Posted May 24, 2008 at 10:55 pm 0Likes

    It actually appears to be a similar model to what REIA is attempting with realestatefind – Listings, data… industry support…

    Which is just another rehash of the realestateview model in Vic, and the fledgling realestateworld in NSW.

  • Dean Teasdale
    Posted July 14, 2008 at 8:52 pm 0Likes

    “a major failure due to a spectacular lack of understanding of competitive strategy in the online real estate market”
    Where was that sort of clarity when they needed it.

    “My” what a great debate is on here.

    I don’t place much importance on models that are based on NON-Australian property markets.

    Would I be right to say the US market is totally different to ours?

    Would I also be right to say that realestate.com.au occupies a one site market and that any other sites in the same space are just duplications and for that reason they lack exclusive content and therefore cannot compete for essentially what is the same visitor?

    Nothing too spectacular about that

    Is the market for real estate portals so driven to the distraction by one player that it has really totally lost sight of the fundamentals?

    I haven’t seen any offers to fund and host the “MY” site. Where’s all the venture capitalist? (Serriously)

    I think that i’ve come to a number of other conclusions about taking on the market for online property services that I havn’t seen replicated in the above. Some rather rubbery figures i’ve come with show a huge untapped market.

    Where’s my angel?

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