Friday, June 20, 2014

Online, the hottest real estate turf... but has anyone thought about the client?

Both traditional and social media has been buzzing in the real estate world this week, as (REA) released their pricing structure for the new financial year.

On the 1st July, REA is rolling out changes to the way clients will be charged for listings on their site. Clients will soon be charged different amounts for their property to appear on the site according to which suburb the property is in.

This new structure has become a red hot topic and caused PLENTY of controversy in the real estate space Australia wide. CEO of and REA's biggest competitor, Antony Catalano, added fuel to the fire in recent communications sent to Domain clients. The piece called on real estate agents to 'unplug REA' and revealed a potential 60% price rise to display properties on REA, depending on the area you live in.

Tension has run high, with social media providing a platform for individual agents to rally against - and it appears to be gaining momentum. The Facebook group 'Real Estate Agents Rebel - Enough Is Enough' was created last week and in less than 3 days received over 2,000 followers – all joining in on the conversation.

But are frustrated agents missing the point? Agents are involved with REA's product because every day of the week we are out selling it for them, yet we have absolutely no control over the offering, which can be frustrating. And yes, REA have a track record of changing the rules and can be extremely 'heavy' in the way they approach issues, which can also be frustrating. Notwithstanding these issues, I do believe the current pricing hysteria is unproductive and not what agents should be focusing on..., like any business, has the right to charge what ever they like for their product. It's their business and it's up to them how they run it. But, it will be the customer, I believe, that will ultimately determine if they continue to support REA or not. If the customer sees value in REA's product, at whatever price, they will be the ones who decide if they want to purchase the product or not.

The big question to me is... 'Who is REA's customer?? - Is it the Agent? Is it the vendor?'

I have a theory: With the REA pricing structure changes, whereby the property determines the price paid, REA's customer essentially switches from agent to seller. The agent needs to back out of the way, and let stand alone. If a seller wants their product, then they can have it. If not, then no problems - just like advertising in the paper, the seller gets to make the choice.

Surely, our job as real estate agents is to provide the best service and advice we can to our clients, not get hung up about things that we can't control. Our job is to know all the marketing options available to our clients and when to use them. Agents need to understand and explain options clearly, outline benefits and effectiveness and then work together with clients to construct a cost effective marketing campaign that's most appropriate for their particular home. This may or may not include, The Advertiser, SALife or one of the many other options.

REA's differential billing puts sellers in the driver's seat, the cost now depends on where they live, and it's a whole new ball game. As online products and prices become significant costs to the seller, the time has arrived for online platforms to be seen as a serious investment in the sale process, and should be treated just like the decision on newspaper advertising. Online portals need to earn their right to customers' property, and no longer just be a given.

This price change and online shake up couldn't have come at a better time for us, given Toop&Toop are well down the track of our own exciting online innovations. We have seen this coming. Our clients will have more options than ever before, cost effective and sophisticated selling, giving a serious advantage over competing properties.

Marketing is our thing, sellers and landlords, you are our customer...we think about you all the time, so leave the worrying to Toop&Toop... and let us make the process as simple as we can for you.

Genevieve Toop

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