24/07/2007 - 22:00

Private sellers trapped as advertising net tightens

24/07/2007 - 22:00

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Homeowners who choose to sell their properties privately are finding themselves squeezed out of cyberspace as big industry players look to dominate internet advertising.

Private sellers trapped as advertising net tightens

Homeowners who choose to sell their properties privately are finding themselves squeezed out of cyberspace as big industry players look to dominate internet advertising.

It is understood Fairfax-owned domain.com.au has recently decided to stop accepting ‘for sale by owner’ advertisements, joining other property websites realestate.com.au, myhome.com.au and aussiehome.com to accept listings only from licensed real estate agents.

While many property owners and assisted private sale businesses can still post listings on their own sites, some feel the stance by the big online property players is anti-competitive and disadvantages prospective buyers.

Comfree Private Sales director Shelley Desel-Knott said her listings were suddenly removed from the domain site last week.

Ms Desel-Knott has owned the business for three years and currently has 140 listings, mainly in the northern suburbs.

“About a year ago they practically begged us to register our listings with them…what happened to representing the true marketplace?” she said.

“We’re a small independent agency and this gave our clients more eastern states exposure.”

Assisted private sales consultancies typically provide sales kits and signboards for owners selling their own homes, often at a fraction of the cost of real estate agent commissions.

Goprivate.com director Carl St Jack said he could understand why the big websites did not want to deal with private or casual sellers because they wanted to be seen as ‘wholesalers’, but suspected the real reason was to avoid upsetting agents.

Mr St Jack estimated the market share of private sellers in Australia could match that of Canada and the US, where it is believed private transactions make up 30 per cent of all properties sold.

 “They’re not giving visitors a fair go by showing them the full picture. We have problems with some local newspapers too, which are under pressure from agents,” Mr St Jack said.

There’s no doubt online advertising has become big business, not just for vendors but also websites, with $1 billion reportedly spent on online ads in 2006, a 66 per cent increase on the previous year.

Perth-based aussiehome.com managing director Charlie Gunningham said when the site was launched in 1999, it had to make a choice between accepting private sellers or taking agency adverts only, and chose the latter.

“It was clear we would have to exclude private sellers otherwise we’d be competing with our own clients – a recipe for disaster,” he said.

Mr Gunningham said studies had shown real estate agencies achieved a 17 per cent better price than private sellers, which more than paid for the real estate agent’s commission.

Realestate.com.au managing director Shaun di Gregorio said its long standing policy to only accept listings from agents was based on a commercial decision to create a product that catered to agents only.

“We focus on the industry, and capture 99 per cent of the market anyway. It’s often forgotten that many buyers don’t want to deal directly with the vendor,” he said.

Mr Di Gregorio said vendors who thought they could achieve a better outcome selling privately were taking a risk with what for many was their biggest asset.

Getting around the advertising challenges has proved relatively easy for long-running private sales consultancy ANREPS, however, with staff deciding to secure real estate agent licenses.

The company was stopped from listing on realestate.com.au about five years ago.

“We made the move because of the demand from clients for more services,” ANREPS director and co-founder Tony Wiles said.

“We still set people up and give them everything they need to do it themselves, but if they need us to be more involved we’re able to go that step further.

“People are indoctrinated by the real estate industry into thinking they can get a better deal through a licensed agent. We look after those property owners who know they need assistance with private sales. Our business is about taking that risk away.”

Domain.com.au could not be reached for comment.

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