22/11/2016 - 11:38

Next evolution emerging in real estate marketing

22/11/2016 - 11:38

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Fresh initiatives are emerging in the world of online property advertising, as the sector embraces technology to effectively market residential real estate.

Next evolution emerging in real estate marketing
Greg Bader says Rent.com.au’s Renter Resume has the potential to transform how rental transactions occur online. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Fresh initiatives are emerging in the world of online property advertising, as the sector embraces technology to effectively market residential real estate.

Anyone who has ever tried to sell, buy or lease a house online would be familiar with how daunting the process can be.

There’s a plethora of websites providing similar information, and at a time when there are more than 15,000 properties listed for sale in the Perth metropolitan area, cutting through the noise is becoming more crucial on both sides of the real estate equation.

Two sites dominate the online property market in Western Australia – realestate.com.au, which was the first to offer internet property sales, and Reiwa.com, the online home of the Real Estate Institute of WA.

However, new players are making an impact as the market swiftly evolves from simply being an online version of newspaper classified advertisements.

One of those newer players is ASX-listed Rent.com.au, which has taken a niche approach to breaking into the competitive world of online real estate.

As the company’s name suggests, rent.com.au focuses solely on the rental market, and has no ambition to expand into property sales.

Chief executive Greg Bader joined Rent.com.au in July following the departure of incumbent Mark Woschnak, and immediately set about exploiting the company’s clear point of difference from its competitors.

Mr Bader said rent.com.au’s research showed there were 85,000 homes rented in Australia every month, with the annual market worth more than $90 billion.

Rent.com.au recently tapped the market for $5 million, through a rights issue and a share placement, which was heavily oversubscribed by investors.

Mr Bader said the funds would allow the company to accelerate the development of new initiatives, which he said had been moulded through customer engagement.

“Just speaking to our customers, the common theme we were getting from them is that the rental market is overly complicated; it can be a little bit demeaning and it can certainly be intimidating,” Mr Bader told Business News.

“It just felt like there were some things that we could do to make it better, so we started down that path.”

Mr Bader said rent.com.au’s adoption of Walk Score data, which indicated neighbourhoods’ walkability, was becoming increasingly popular with its customers, but the most important initiative for the company was its Renter Resume.

The Renter Resume compiles information about a potential renter, like rental and employment history, while also simplifying the application process for tenants and landlords.

Since Renter Resume was launched in late October, more than 7,000 people have lodged their details on the service, with the tool already having been used for more than 5,000 applications.

Mr Bader said research from the Real Estate Institute of Australia showed that 75 per cent of landlords would consider lowering their rent if they were guaranteed a good tenant.

“This is where we’re going to go,” he said.

“Renter Resume will have your history, financial relationships, tenancy history, feedback and recommendations from agents, so we can start to sort tenants from highly attractive to slightly less attractive.

“And why shouldn’t a person who is a professional renter, has been renting for many years and is a great tenant, why shouldn’t they get an advantage over someone that is potentially a higher risk – it empowers the tenant.”

Mr Bader said he would draw on his experience as chief technology officer at internet service provider iiNet to build on the Rent.com.au offer.

“The internet in Australia is better for the fact that iiNet existed – iiNet drove a lot of changes in that industry,” he said.

“Rent.com.au is going to do the same – renting in Australia will be better because of the fact that Rent.com.au exists.

“There is an opportunity to grow our business and disrupt the market.

“Disruption doesn’t have to be negative; it just has to change how things are done.

“Those are all very exciting drivers.”

For Real Estate Institute of WA president Hayden Groves, the big challenge in online marketing is tackling the dominance of first-mover realestate.com.au.

Mr Groves said Reiwa had improved its market share in recent times and was now the top-ranked real estate website in the state in terms of time on page.

“Part of the reason why we’ve done that is we provide additional information about the market, which is local, relevant and comprehensive,” Mr Groves told Business News.

“We’ve got rich information – you can find out where the sewer runs through, for example, relative to a property you might be looking at.

“Whereas you can’t get that information unless you pay for it from other sources.

“That’s our point of difference, and given that we are the institute we have community credibility.

“Other sites’ interest is to attract vendor-paid advertising or landlord-paid advertising; they want the highest possible amount that they can get in order to give the highest possible return to their shareholders.”

But that’s not to say old methods of advertising are being abandoned completely.

Mr Groves said the continued proliferation of real estate advertisements in community newspapers would remain an important part of agencies’ marketing initiatives.

“Community newspaper advertising is about agents advertising their wares as a brand and in a community, it’s not so much about advertising a property and pitching a property for sale,” he said.

“Yes you are advertising, but you are also promoting your brand, and in the online space it is hard to do that effectively.”

Nevertheless, the need to adopt new technology is also being felt by even the oldest of Perth’s real estate agencies.

Western suburbs-based agency Shellabears, which has been operating for more than 90 years, has increasingly been embracing social media as a key part of its marketing profile.

Shellabears principal Chris Shellabear said Facebook’s live streaming capabilities had provided the agency with a new way of marketing a property.

He said a recent Facebook Live session for a property in Cottesloe had given potential purchasers the ability to ‘walk-through’ the home (in a digital sense), without having to leave their office or their own house.

“For us, the use of social media is our disruptor to the large domains,” Mr Shellabear told Business News.

“It’s just being out in that digital landscape, and for us, change is ever present and we continue to work with the change, and hopefully it’s change that works for clients.

“By using social media and doing things like Facebook Live, you’re opening up another direct avenue, which allows you to get to your clients rather than going through a third-party domain.”

Mr Shellabear said he had experienced great success doing Facebook-only campaigns, while also notching up wins on photo-sharing platform Instagram.

“The videos that we produce are of great quality, and they are a little bit quirky as well – they are more than just a boring old walk-through,” he said.

“That’s what we try and do, we try and add a bit of the local flavour to our video presentations as well, which I think is important.”

Mr Shellabear said he expected virtual reality, which Shellabears already uses, particularly for marketing projects off the plan, would be the next big evolution in online marketing.

“It’s good fun, for me it’s like walking into a new business every week, because there is so much new stuff coming across,” he said.

“The skill is choosing what works and that’s a bit of trial and error.

“But stuff like Facebook Live and VR, particularly for project sales, is fantastic, because it immerses people into the project, so it’s a good thing.”

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