3 minute read

I firmly believe that niche real estate portals can be successful and fill a gap which the major players Domain.com.au and Realestate.com.au don’t cater for. There is no better example than Farmbuy.com which targets a niche very relevant in Australia…rural properties.

Farmbuy.com launched in October 2009, it has grown from approx 4,000 unique browsers in the early days to now consistently achieve around 30,000-31,000 unique browsers per month (their stats). Currently they have approx 450 offices uploading – they include major franchises like First National, Ray White, Elders, PRD Nationwide and also a number of smaller independent rural agents.

I asked founder Philip Sondhu what he sees Farmbuy’s strategic advantage being:

  • Farmbuy.com’s key focus is complimenting and enhancing our agents rural property marketing (something which appears that nobody else is doing well)
  • Our site also incorporates a number “rural specific” tools, the main ones being the ability to search by weather district & land size, but more importantly once the buyer has found a property the user can run a number of farm income / production calculations to help work out the production and income capability of the property.
  • By focusing on a niche we provide agents a qualified audience to market their rural properties to buyers solely interested in rural property. They’ve also found that by adding farmbuy.com to their suite of marketing tools it also helps them to win over vendors who like the fact that there is a dedicated / specialised online service in Australia.
  • Lastly, this qualified audience has helped us gain 3rd party banner advertising from the likes of Commonwealth Bank, Rabobank, Suncorp Bank and John Deere who can leverage our site to reach the Agribusiness market. Farmbuy.com would now be one of the bigger online Agribusiness websites in Australia.

Philip also indicated that through the demand from the site audience another niche has emerged.

It is also of note that we now allow lifestyle properties to be listed on the site which was largely due to the demand coming out of metro areas.

A further example highlighting that web browsers are looking to begin their searches at content which is already relevant to their needs. What are your thoughts?

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  • andy
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 10:27 am 0Likes

    You know where we stand on that one!
    I know where i would go if i was a farmer or wanting to be one!
    Niche is “the”, or at least,” a ” future for real estate marketing.

    -by the way, We cant wait to launch our next generation site…its even more niche than before!

  • Dave Platter
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 10:46 am 0Likes

    Great post, Ryan. I agree with you that niche is the only way for new Australian portals to establish themselves.

    Do you agree with me that domain’s biggest mistake is that they try to be a better version of realestate.com.au, which makes them irrelevant except where by luck they already have great customer loyalty?

    And that, instead, they should find a different position to stake out?

  • Ryan O'Grady
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 11:54 am 0Likes

    Yeah that is a fair point but somebody needs to do this, otherwise realestate.com.au would run wild! However, there is always an opportunity to deploy something left field but if its a success you’ll find that REA will soon duplicate it. Don’t you think?

    Also, with a large organisation like Fairfax they tend to aquire sites like Farmbuy rather than start them.

    Loyal Clients – REA give agents many reasons to dislike them so Domain is the next best choice.

  • shane
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 12:34 pm 0Likes

    create a website for a niche audience

    generate web traffic to a level where the big 2 portals notice

    entertain a $$ figure from news ltd or fairfax which is too good to refuse

    sell website and where back to square one complaining about the big 2 portals on this website.

    Que comments below stating how you if you created a website you wouldn’t do the above! – Bull!

  • vic Del Vecchio
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 2:57 pm 0Likes

    It has always amazed me that new portal start ups go for direct competition with the majorsie The Home Page, Real Estateview, on the house and the emerging Propertyview (out of the West) and Propertynow or with a niche which already has 90% of the market such as GetRealty taking on All homes.

    Not knocking those for having a go but any marketing school will tell you clearly that unless their is an intention to knock off the market leader you should go for a niche.

    Farm buy is doing this and will suceed.

  • Ryan O'Grady
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 3:01 pm 0Likes

    Who wouldn’t want to knock off realestate.com.au and become the number 1 portal.

  • vic Del Vecchio
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 3:50 pm 0Likes

    Every one wants to Ryan, but no one has deep enough pockets- that’s the reality. 🙂

  • Dave Platter
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 7:23 pm 0Likes

    Right on, Vic. That’s exactly right.

  • Shane Dale
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 9:07 am 1Likes

    Its a great site – and dedicated to a worthy sector – but its not easy – they have clearly kept the effort up long enough to gain momentum and make it work.

    I dont think any portal is able to instantly grow in listings or in traffic, its a commitment over time.

    The challenge is not to exceed the start up capital resources and to achieve revenue and cashflow asap.

    Looking at their visitor numbers, you can see why the big portals dont chase it, because niche is too small for their revenue or visibility requirements, and I suspect the work level for them to achieve the niche portal is about the same as for a large portal, due to their method of doing anything – they need a head of department, a PA, a marketing exec etc etc etc

    Regarding buying these portals, I suspect the same applies as above – revenues too small, and if the big guys buy them, they have to integrate their teams or make new teams, and its all too hard – so niche is a valid and reasonable way to make a portal, but will not be a bonanza in the same way REA is.

  • vic Del Vecchio
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 10:26 am 0Likes

    Have to agree with you on this Shane. I think that too many new entrants are looking towards a big buy out or foolishly expecting to compete with the market leaders. Sticking to a niche need a dedicated approach to a long term committment to OWN the niche. This means having a goal to monetize firstly to a stage of exceeding costs, being prepared to pump all revenue into content gathering and marketing for searchers.

  • MAC
    Posted December 19, 2011 at 7:57 am 0Likes

    Quite agree Vic Del & Shane. May have been a buyout possibility if Fairfax rural was independent like the ‘old’ days of the rural rivers of gold. But it ain’t anymore. And at $50-100/mth per agent / 450 agents there’s no river of gold for Farmbuy after expenses. Australia is such a small market, that’s why groups try to get-in on REA and Domain and avoid these tiny costly niches. Now if you’re talking USA with 380million popn – 1% is still 3.8m!!!

  • NeilSells
    Posted December 19, 2011 at 7:56 pm 0Likes

    Interesting site guys, well done.

    All good points, I don’t think this is a substitute for REA or Domain.

    Like the article says I think I see sites like this as a way for Agents to be seen as covering all marketing bases for their vendors.

    I suspect this site would also weigh heavily on banks etc to provide a revenue channel.

    Not a world beater that’s for sure…but as the title says its a “niche” in a relevant market, and without knowing costs and head count probably not a bad one.

  • Aaron Clausen
    Posted January 4, 2012 at 10:05 am 0Likes

    Totally agree with Vic here re: working towards and focusing on owning a niche over the long term rather than being greedily dazzled into taking on the big boys straight out.

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