The Auckland Quarterly Property Review - Q2 2019

by Alistair Helm in

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If you want to have a bit of fun at the next quiz night then ask someone what they think will be the likely median sales price in Auckland in July or August of this year as well as the likely number of sales? You don’t need to be a expert in such matters as the likely answer will be $850,000 in the case of the median sales price and for sales volumes look no further than the July and August sales figures from last year (1,777 and 1,837).

The fact is the Auckland property market is stuck in that ever repetitive syndrome known as Groundhog day. Whilst just last month I thought I could detect some signs of an upturn in the clearance rate as a lead indicator of market sentiment and activity levels, the hard frosts of winter seems to have killed of those spring buds, leaving us back waking up again on another Groundhog day!


Total property sales in June across Auckland were 1,819. Last year the June sales were 1,879 and back in June 2017 they were 1,822. You get the picture, the Auckland property market is stagnant. Just for fun let’s remember the time back in June 2003 when in that same 30 day period we saw total sales of 3,441, that is 1,622 more sales than this past month. Back in 2003 we had no commentary of a housing shortage and the city’s population was around 1.2 million. Today it’s home to more than 1.6 million people. We are simply not transacting as often as 16 years ago. Investor activity has scaled back massively and the banks are way more circumspect about lending, even though interest rates are so low.

This stagnation of property sales can best be seen in this chart of the moving annual sales for the past 10 years.

Auckland moving annual total of property sales June 2019

The current level of sales over the past 12 months at 21,069 is down 38% as compared to the last peak of sales back in 2015. The stagnation began in December 2017 (18 months ago) when annual sales hit 21,854 and stopped falling. These past 18 months has seen sales hover at or around 21,000 with barely a movement although the past 9 months has seen some further weakening as that total looks to be heading below 21,000 sales per year.


It will come as no surprise that just as sales volumes have stagnated over the past 18 months so have median sales price, although the stagnation has been going on now for over 3 years. It was in August 2016 that the median sales price across the Auckland region topped $854,000 and for the next 3 years prices have hovered around that level with never a clear, consistent and sustained trend to see a rise or a fall.

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Not since the GFC has the Auckland market sustained such a prolonged period of nil or negative price movement. In fact in April, May and June the median sales price has been identical to the same month last year - no price movement year-on-year for 3 consecutive months.


This is the metric that I believe best highlights the emerging leading indicator as to the health of the property market. Last month I judged that we were seeing a brighter indication of future activity in the Auckland market as clearance rates were ticking up. It appears as ever that that forecast was premature as the past 3 months has seen that trend curtailed.

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The current clearance rate of 54% for June is not rising and after a false-start earlier in the year, it seems as though the strength in the market is not sustainable, and it is unlikely we will see much change as we head into the second half of the year. As can be seen from the 11 years of this data set, clearance rate is not a seasonal factor in the market it is the underlying metric that looks to examine the proportion of new listings-to-sales ratio as a true measure of supply and demand balance in the market.

Quarterly Property Review for NZ outside of Auckland - Q2 2019

by Alistair Helm in

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The NZ property market when you factor out the influence of Auckland is most certainly active and not as yet showing a downturn. This is in marked contrast to the Auckland market where stagnation persists as it has done now for close on 3 years.

Whilst sales of property across the country are stable and undoubtedly down on the peak of activity a few years ago, the pace of the market is lively and as a result median sales prices continue an upward trend, closing the gap with the Auckland market.

Below is the fuller analysis with details of volume sales, median sales price and clearance rate to provide rich insight.


In the past 12 months to June of this year, total sales of property outside of Auckland rose 2.3% as compared to June last year with a total of 54,348. This total is well up on the 10 year average of 47,000 indicating an active market. As the chart below shows the current level is down 15% on the peak of sales in the recent decade of August 2016.

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As to the likely trend in sales volumes the chart below tracking the variance in monthly sales as compared to prior year shows that the recent period has seen a shallow fall in sales volumes but with the June sales down just 4% as compared to last year the cycle would indicate that sales volumes may well strengthen in the coming months.

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The median sales price for NZ property outside of Auckland continues to show a trend of steady and inexorable rise. This is so different to the Auckland market were prices languish a repetitive cycle anchored around $850,000. In June the median sales price for the country excluding Auckland was $485,000 which is up 5.4% on the figure in June last year.

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The chart very clearly shows the steady rise which began in November 2011, nearly 8 years ago when median sales prices had just reached $300,000. In this time the monthly sale price has shown an unbroken run of year-on-year increases taking it to the current level of $485,000 representing a 56% increase over the past 8 years. The chart below very ably reflects this unbroken run of year-on-year rises.

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The tracking of the clearance rate for property sales as a ratio of listings continues to support the view that the property market across the country outside of Auckland is strong. The current level of 73% is edging close to the peak 3 years ago of 74%. This leading indicator is a valuable surrogate for true property demand as it indicates the extent to which listings are matching the demand of buyers and visa versa. It is so interesting to contrast this level of clearance to Auckland were the current level is 54% down from a peak in 2015 of 76%.

Screen Shot 2019-08-03 at 6.35.41 AM.png needs to rethink its decision on listings metrics

by Alistair Helm in

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I know I may appear to be constantly bemoaning the decisions (or lack of decisions) made by, but the latest decision notified by the CEO in an email today, to my mind is not smart.

The decision they plan to make effective from the 5th August is to stop displaying the count of page views on individual listings, and instead only report the metric they term ‘reach’.

Let me be clear as to what these metrics mean, where they are displayed and why they are important. Take as an example this local listing seen in the screen shot below. On Trade Me after 24 days on the market this property has been viewed 3,625 times and on a total of 1,721 times. This common metric to both sites is the number of page views, the number of time a person has viewed the listing, that is the full listing page on either the desktop / mobile browser or on the mobile app.

This metric is vital; not so much in comparing the relative number of page views between Trade Me and, but in comparing differing listings in the same suburb to identify relative interest for a property on the two websites. I often provide advice to vendors by comparing their performance of page views on after 21 day to the average of all listings in the same suburb, this way I am able to demonstrate the value of the marketing campaign they are paying for.

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This here is the announcement made today via an email to agents:

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So will allow the listing agent to view the count of page views but not display this metric openly on the site. Instead they want to focus on the metric they call reach. To be clear Reach is the sum total of listing page views and search result views. This latter metric is the number of times the listing appears on a screen on any web pages. So if the listing is displayed as a showcase listing it will appear at the top of a search result page and if the user scrolls down and it is displayed in the search results, both of those ‘displayed listings’ will count towards search views and add to the total of reach despite the fact that the user may not have any interest in the property. Reach is simply a measure of how effective is in displaying listings and bears no relevance to how engaging a listing is.

So going back to the above example propose to state that after 24 days this listing has had a reach of 7,793 - made up of 1,721 page views of the listing and 6,072 times the listing summary has appeared in search result pages.

I recognise that in someways there is a correlation between reach and page views but why change. Listing page views have been the metric on and similarly on Trade Me for over 13 years and is recognised and accepted by the industry and the consumer. Reach is such a meaningless metric akin to counting the number of people who walk past a shop rather than the number of people who come inside.

There is only one reason I believe that this action is being taken (in my opinion) and that is a naive fear that the page views on are lower than Trade Me and therefore the use of obfuscation in creating a new metric which is larger, will in some way make seem more valuable. This is dumb - everyone knows Trade Me delivers a larger audience than and has always done so, this fact has not stopped the industry and the consumer seeing value in and supporting it over the years. I have to wonder did anyone at speak to their customers and ask how they used this metric of page views and if they found any value in the metric of reach? - i think not and that is why I have highlighted this issue.

I implore the team at to re-think this decision. If this is the best initiative they can think of to implement after years of inactivity and poorly executed product development, they I fear that their relevance to this industry (consumers and customer) is fast diminishing and the competitive threat of OneRoof will likely sweep them aside.

Just how different is the Auckland property market to other major cities?

by Alistair Helm in

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The past week, the news wires have been a buzz over the Bloomberg assessment that New Zealand was identified along with Canada as among “most vulnerable economies to a correction in house prices” based on measures of house prices to rents, income, real house prices and household debt. The unanimous view of the NZ journalists have been that this pronouncement is nothing new (we have heard it before) and it is not likely to happen.

Such articles always seem to pique my interest to wonder as to how unique our property market really is? and how much we are out of step with other countries. This thought was precipitated when I saw this chart on Twitter tracking London house prices.

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It got me thinking how very different are the circumstances effecting the London property market as compared to the Auckland property market. For one thing the UK is seriously mired in the Brexit malaise, with all the uncertainty and economic dampening that has caused. Add to that London’s top end property market over the past decade has been fuelled by a significant number of overseas buyers squirrelling away millions if not tens of millions of pounds in properties that they then don’t live in; prompting calls for a vacant property tax.

How different then, the Auckland market where immigration has been the major driver as well as ever present investor activity added to which has been the continuing shortage of new properties under construction to support a city growing by around 120 new residents every day.

This is not to say that there aren’t commonalities between these two major cities, both of which are the epicentre of the respective countries and thereby tend to attract talent and drive demand. Both economies over the past decade have enjoyed low mortgage interest rates - the UK sub 2% for 2 to 5 year fixed; New Zealand more like 4% to 5%.

So set against this background the question I was intrigued to investigate was, how similar would these two markets, separated by 18,000kms be in terms of trends in property prices.

The data source

The above chart of London prices is sourced from the House Price Index from the UK Office of National Statistics - this data is provided in an excellent open data format and used the stratified methodology of property price reporting which best manages the issues inherent in property sales stats borne of compositional volatility over time. For NZ we are fortunate to have mirrored data provided by the Real Estate Institute in the House Price Index which was developed with the Reserve Bank and is the best data source for true price movement analysis. One advantage we enjoy in NZ is the timeliness of data a full month ahead of the UK data.

The analysis

The mapping of these two comparable data sets representing the house price index for both Auckland and London covering the period from January 2005 to date produces this revealing chart when tracked on a split axis.

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The clear conclusion I draw from this chart is that whilst these two markets may be so very different in so many ways, the hard truth is that the trend in property prices in these two markets over the past 15 years are clearly aligned. The Auckland market has appreciated at a faster rate than London (a 15 year rise of 134% as against 98% for London), but the tracking of the key events of the period are very clearly aligned.

Looking in more depth at some of the key periods of the past 15 years; the following 3 charts help to reinforce this alignment.

Global Financial Crisis

The impact of the GFC was clearly felt in both major cities with London property prices falling 17% through the 18 months surrounding the crisis before prices stabilised. Auckland faired slightly better only falling 11% over the period.

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Post GFC recovery

As the two major cities began to recover after the GFC so began a period of property prices that over the course of the ensuing 7 years saw a trough-to-peak of 86% in London property prices, with Auckland more than doubling over the same period to show a 121% rise.

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The most recent 3 years

The two markets both slowed in mid 2016 and since then have seen stagnant property prices, London slipping by 2% based on the latest data for May 2019 whilst Auckland is showing a 1% fall.

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OneRoof gaining in presence and relevance

by Alistair Helm in


OneRoof, the new challenger in the property portal space has made some significant gains over the past 7 months since I last reviewed the site. As I predicted at the time; I foresaw a steady rise of this portal’s ascendancy in the minds of consumers and the real estate industry. The latest data certainly shows that to be the case.


Let’s start by looking at the key metric of audience. As highlighted in my November article I’ve been using the services of the free web tracking analytics tool SimilarWeb to record the progress of OneRoof and the other portals of and Homes. The service cannot track Trade Me Property as it is not a discrete domain name. As noted at the time, the absolute traffic numbers detailed on SimilarWeb may not actually reflect the true audience numbers, however the trends and comparisons should be judged to be a reliable data set for analytics.

So in terms of top line audience, OneRoof has made significant steps forward. As at the latest data for June, OneRoof recorded a total audience of 1,120,000 as compared to at 1,560,000. This places the audience of OneRoof at the equivalent of 72% the traffic of

The audience growth over the past year for OneRoof proves the value in the eyes of the consumer of the platform. From a position, a year ago when traffic was less than half that of to now being at 72% of its scale is a significant improvement.

Now, as I stated the actual scale of the audience is not the key number, it is the relativity by comparison to that is most important. At the same time the composition of the audience to the site is also very relevant. As I highlighted back in November, a large proportion of the traffic arriving on OneRoof was actually internal traffic from the NZ Herald website where all the property related stories were hosted on the OneRoof domain name. At that time this referral traffic amounted to 62% of all traffic, that’s nearly two thirds of all traffic viewing pages on OneRoof were actually drawn to the site to read property news stories and not drawn to viewing listings.

The good news for OneRoof executives (and possibly the bad news for executives) is that this reliance on this referral traffic from the NZ Herald website is diminishing as the chart below shows.

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As of last month referral traffic has now fallen below search traffic at just 36%; compared to 63% at this time last year. OneRoof is clearly winning in the key arena of search engine optimisation and paid search, which now represents close to half the traffic to the site. That is impressive, as largely this traffic will be looking for property listings.

As I analysed back in November, I like to make an adjustment to the monthly audience figures for OneRoof and excluded the traffic from NZ Herald. The chart below tracks this adjusted traffic to show that for last month the traffic to OneRoof drawn to the viewing of listings is approximately half the scale of the audience to, still a strong performance for a new entrant in the market and clearly still growing.

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As a further comment as to source of traffic, the chart below compares the performance of OneRoof with and Homes vs. the same time last year. This ably demonstrates the success OneRoof has achieved in securing search traffic, placing its percentage source at very similar levels to the other sites.

However the mark of a credible and sustainable business online is undoubtedly the direct traffic created from users bookmarking or choosing to go directly to the site. Over the past 12 months the proportion of OneRoof traffic coming direct has risen from 10% to 18% but still languishes below the performance of at 47% and Homes at a staggering 62%.

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Listing Page Views

Whilst the overall traffic to a property portal is critical in assessing the value of the offering provided by the company, there is no escape from the fact that aggregation of traffic numbers is not the real value proposition. What is key is individual listing views. Like it or not, what the property portals need to do is to provide agents and their clients, the property owners; with an audience, a very focused audience of potential buyers - active or passive buyers. Therefore the true measure of a portal is page views on individual listings.

Now this is where I have a major complaint of OneRoof. They do not provide open stats on listing pages of the number of views that have occurred on a listing. Something that Trade Me provide, provide and almost all portals worldwide provide. Why should OneRoof choose not to do this? Surely not something they forgot? So from a casual user (or potentially a vendor) perspective it is really hard to see how many times the listing page has been viewed.

Thankfully though OneRoof has built an excellent agent portal to provide such stats of page views for agents listings. I therefore chose to work with some of my colleagues and come up with a sample of relevant stats for listings on OneRoof over recent months. I selected the data of page views over the first 7 days and compare those numbers with the same period on Trade Me and The first 7 days are without doubt the most relevant marketing period representing more than half of all-time traffic to a listing.

The results details in the chart below are revealing. Whereas Trade Me averages 1,669 page views on a listing in the first 7 days, OneRoof only managed to deliver 70 page views, at the same time over those first 7 days delivered an average of 315 page views. On this basis Trade Me is 20 times more effective than OneRoof and 5 times more effective than OneRoof at delivering exposure to prospective buyers. Clearly the value of OneRoof has yet to be seen in true buyer engagement.

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Just for clarity the 11 selected properties are not a random sample. They were all listed in Devonport over the past 6 months. They were all been promoted extensively online across the 3 portals using premium products. Adjacent to the actual page views for each group of listings is the average of the 11 listings - on Trade Me being 1,669 and 315. The other adjacent highlighted number - 1,420 on Trade Me and 315 on is the average 7 days page views for all Devonport listings over the first 6 months of this year (129 listings). Naturally as noted above no such data is available from OneRoof as there is no open data for listings page views.


A property portal has a single task, that of providing consumers with access to view properties for sale or rent. Content is king, and always has been in this digital world.

Back in November I estimated that OneRoof had around 80% of the listings of I judge that this level has not significantly changed in the past 8 months. To come up with this estimate, I did a somewhat crude assessment by selecting random regions and suburbs to see how the comparison with plays out in the inventory war.

Based on this sample and using a simple weighted average I would say that at this time OneRoof has around 80% of the inventory of The same position as 8 months ago.

The conspicuously missing franchise brand from OneRoof remains Harcourts. To be clear there are Harcourts listings on OneRoof, however they are few and far between as the total franchise is as yet not fully listing on the portal. Rather than an integrated API feed of all listings, individual offices and agents are listing manually to derive presence on the site.

This situation has such a sense deja vu for me. Back in 2008 Harcourts were the last of the franchise groups to list fully on Trade Me. At the time the pressure coming from the salespeople was enormous and despite the deep principles of the executive team of Harcourts who wanted to support the industry owned site of, the franchise eventually made the decision to list on Trade Me.

Then again in 2013 amid the pricing fiasco by Trade me, Harcourts again were the most vehemently opposed to the proposed pricing change and fought to encourage agents to boycott the platform, with some degree of success; although that boycott has all but slipped into history.

Whilst I admire the deep principle of the Harcourts executive team to hold out from listing on OneRoof, I sense the time for the strategic decisions to list or not was at least a year ago and now that the other major franchises have acceded to the support of OneRoof there is little to be gained in holding out.

How relevant is the CV of a property?

by Alistair Helm in

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The government valuation of a property, otherwise known as the rateable value or sometimes known as the CV in the case of Auckland, is the automated process whereby a value is applied to every address (comprising a land value and an improvement value) in an effort to fairly apportion local government rates. Like it, or hate it, rates needs to be levied on property / land owners and the method most commonly used is apportionment based on value.

As to the value or relevancy of this automated valuation in relation to the market price of property for sale, that is a subjective debate. Especially nowadays given the freely available automated valuations from the likes of Homes, Trade Me Property Insights and MyValocity. These valuation assessments are updated at least monthly whereas the process to establish rateable value is only undertaken on a 3 year cycle.

That being the case you would assume that the notion of a rateable value had become somewhat obsolete, relegated to the museum, much like Imperial measurements. That’s far from the case as the media is awash with references to RV / CV and no conversation with prospective buyers at open homes is complete with the question as to the property’s current CV.

The fact is that whilst recognised as being out of date as soon as it is published, the CV / RV of a property is a benchmark, and one anointed with the officialdom of local government which is why it perpetuates.

So now to some interesting analysis. In years gone by and especially in the most recent property boom of 2011 to 2016 and most especially in Auckland, the question has always been how much over CV were properties selling for? Was it 30% … 40% … or even 50%, such had been the accelerated inflation in property prices over the course of just a few years.

The fact is that by the time of the 2017 re-valuation process, Auckland CV’s generally were out of touch with sales prices by as much as 48%. That comparison to the CV by the time of the re-valuation was also the same during the prior period of 2011 to 2014.

The chart below tracks the median sale price in Auckland during the elapsed months from the re-valuation tracking the 2008, 2011 and 2014 re-valuations. The 2008 revaluation which is tracked in the chart from 2009 onward (as new CV’s are published in November) was noteworthy for the completely flat market during and immediately post GFC.

Now, if we add in the data for the past 18 months since the new CV’s were published at the end of 2017, the picture is revealing. At May of this year with the latest data from the Real Estate Institute we see that the median sales price of property in Auckland is running at a 5% drop compared to CV and heading on a trajectory that is well below the post GFC period of 2009 to 2011.

The question will soon be asked as to the re-valuation due to be undertaken a year from now in Auckland as to whether the re-evaluated CV’s might be lower than the 2017 figures. That would come as a shock to many, I suspect.

Is it better to rent or to buy?

by Alistair Helm in

Photo by   Pixabay   from   Pexels

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

This is a simple question, but unfortunately it does not have a simple answer.

I was prompted to try and answer the question when I was contacted Susan Edmunds a journalist working with Stuff. I personally love to be asked these type of questions as they prompt me to delve into the data and seek out trends and insights.

The reality is .. it depends. It depends where you live, if you have a deposit, if you intend to live in the property for any length of time, how much you want to do to maintain the property, if you care about what place you live in, and so on. The provisos are endless and that is partly why there is no simple answer.

However you can apply a simple logic to the available data on sales prices and rents to at least provide an insight and that is what I have set out to do.

The approach I have taken is to keep it as simple as possible. I’ve posed the question, for a particular region of the country how much would you have paid in annual rent for the typical average property at a certain time over the past 19 years, and compared that with the pure cost of interest for a 2 year fixed term mortgage based on the median sales price for a typical property in the area at that same time. I have made a consistent assumption that the cost of buying the typical property would be with a 20% deposit. Sure this decreases the interest costs but as I have said I have tried to take a purely hypothetical and simple approach. I’ve then expressed this rental cost as a percentage of the mortgage cost. If the rent is less than the mortgage cost then it’s cheaper to rent and visa versa.

As a reference to the source of data. I have used the median sale price of all properties each month in each region based on the sales data from the Real Estate Institute of NZ. I’ve then applied the 2 year fixed interest mortgage rate from the Reserve Bank of NZ data, and I’ve used the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment who track the weekly rent based on bond data.

I know this methodology is way too simplistic, there are far more accurate calculations that would factor in the interest earned on the same deposit if you chose to rent, naturally also the value of any capital appreciation matched to maintenance and enhancement costs. Then there is the disturbance factor allied to the uncertainty of tenure of rent. I’ve also used large aggregated data sets whereas in a suburb the specifics of buying a 2 bedroom house as compared to renting a 2 bedroom house may well be massively different to the typical house within a city or region. As I say there are as many different ways to calculate this decision as there are rental properties.

Detailed below are the analysis of 13 regions of the country, all spanning the period from 2000 to 2019. The results are in someways surprising (I am not sure quite what I expected to find) and certainly interesting.


Starting at the top of the North Island with Northland the situation in April 2019 is that it is 4% cheaper to buy than to rent. The currently weekly rent is $388. The total rental cost per year then is $20,176 this compares to the current mortgage at 4.8% of a median sale price property of $507,000 equating to an annual interest charge of $19,469 - 4% cheaper to buy than rent.

Over the past 19 years the situation has certainly changed with the period from 2003 through to 2012 favouring renting, however since then the cheaper option has been to buy.


It probably comes as no great surprise that the Auckland market favours renting. At this time it’s 11% cheaper to rent than to buy, with the median weekly rent at $561 equating to an annual rental cost of $29,172 vs. the interest component of the mortgage for a median sale priced property of $850,000 equating to $32,640.


The Waikato region is currently hovering around the mid-point indicating that it’s a tough call based on the median weekly rent of $401 equating to an annual rental cost of $20,852 vs the mortgage interest cost on the median house price in April of $550,000 resulting in an interest cost of $21,120.

Bay of Plenty

Whilst the past 3 years has seen it cheaper to rent than to buy in the Bay of Plenty the last few months has seen this bias to renting decline as house prices hav plateaued and rents have continued to edge up. In April the median weekly rent of $440 equating to an annual rental cost of $22,880 vs the mortgage interest cost on the median house price in April of $600,000 resulting in an interest cost of $23,040.

Hawkes Bay

The Hawkes Bay region is pretty consistent in its data showing that it is cheaper to buy than to rent. This has been the situation for most of this century with only the period in the early years of the 2000’s when house prices rose on the back of relatively high interest rates. Since the GFC the low interest rates have favoured buying.

In April the median weekly rent of $399 equating to an annual rental cost of $20,748 vs the mortgage interest cost on the median house price in April of $465,000 resulting in an interest cost of $17,856, making it 16% cheaper to buy than to rent.


As of the data for April it is 21% cheaper to buy in the Taranaki region than to rent and this bias to buying over renting based on this simple method of calculation has predominated for most of the past two decades.

In April the median weekly rent of $344 equating to an annual rental cost of $17,888 vs the mortgage interest cost on the median house price in April of $385,000 resulting in an interest cost of $14,784.

Manawatu / Wanganui

For most of the past decade, post the GFC the benefits of buying over renting have been in then order of a 20% difference, at one time around 2015 it was a 50% cheaper option to buy than to rent.

In April the median weekly rent of $320 equating to an annual rental cost of $16,640 vs the mortgage interest cost on the median house price in April of $360,000 resulting in an interest cost of $13,824.


There had to be one region of the country that was unequivocally in favour of renting and that is Wellington. Aside from literally one month in March 2016 before property prices started to rise significantly it was 2% cheaper to buy than rent. Today in April 2019 it is 3% cheaper to rent than to buy. This seems to fly in the face of the often reported state of the rental market in the Capital where demand always seem to outpace supply.

In April the median weekly rent of $529 equating to an annual rental cost of $27,508 vs the mortgage interest cost on the median house price in April of $737,500 resulting in an interest cost of $28,320.

As a slight side note the data set used for Wellington covers the wider Wellington region including the Hutt Valley and Kapati Coast and here would be a case of using a tighter geographical data set may well change the outcome for the decision.


At this time the data shows that in Nelson there is no difference between renting or buying. Since 2016 the trend has been moving in favour of renting, however the majority of the past decade has been fairly well balanced between renting and buying.

In April the median weekly rent of $396 equating to an annual rental cost of $20,592 vs the mortgage interest cost on the median house price in April of $540,000 resulting in an interest cost of $20,736.


In contrast to its neighbouring region, Marlborough region clearly from the data shows it is cheaper to buy than to rent and has been the case for the vast majority of this decade. At this time it is 24% cheaper to buy in Marlborough based on median rent and median sale price.

In April the median weekly rent of $390 equating to an annual rental cost of $20,280 vs the mortgage interest cost on the median house price in April of $427,500 resulting in an interest cost of $16,416.


At this point in time based on April data it is 17% cheaper to buy in Canterbury than to rent. The median weekly rent of $396 equating to an annual rental cost of $20,592 vs the mortgage interest cost on the median house price in April of $460,000 resulting in an interest cost of $17,664.

Again as stated in reference to Wellington the Canterbury region is large and diverse and not wholly representative of say the Christchurch city or specific suburbs, this is where the data across a whole region can only provide an insight not the basis for a specific decision as to buying or renting.


Since 2011 the data clearly shows that the cheaper option across the Otago region is to buy rather than rent with the April data showing a 30% benefit.

In April the median weekly rent of $443 equating to an annual rental cost of $23,036 vs the mortgage interest cost on the median house price in April of $463,000 resulting in an interest cost of $17,779.


Outside of a short period running up to the GFC when interest rates rose the data clearly shows that the cheaper option across the Southland region is to buy rather than rent with the April data showing a 28% benefit.

In April the median weekly rent of $283 equating to an annual rental cost of $14,716 vs the mortgage interest cost on the median house price in April of $300,000 resulting in an interest cost of $11,520.

Leveraging digital property data to enhance the role of an agent

by Alistair Helm in ,

Photo by  Lukas  from  Pexels

Photo by Lukas from Pexels

Things have become busier over the last month or so in my role as a real estate agent. I’ve started to leverage the extensive property database I created 18 months ago which tracks all property activity in my target market of Devonport, providing me with unique insight and perspective on market trends and buyer behaviour online.

In addition, I’ve found real value in the data reports for the various listings I have worked on. This has been hugely satisfying both from a personal engagement perspective, working with buyers and sellers; but also allowing me to deep dive into the data to surface valuable insights that have given me the opportunity to demonstrate a new level of professional engagement with sellers and buyers. This I believe is the point of difference I want to establish and leverage.

When it comes to data reporting, there is really only one reliable and meaningful source, and that’s Trade Me. does provide a weekly listing report on page views. However it’s not customisable and limited in data content and analysis. OneRoof has an excellent platform in their agent portal OneRoof Advantage, however as yet the data is not of value due to insufficient traffic to individual listings. Trade Me has OneHub; an excellent resource offering an agent facing portal for profile marketing and unique data analysis and reporting of listings.

This is where I feel I need to make an appropriate disclosure. I was an employee of Trade Me Property from 2014 to 2017, in that time as Head of Product I was responsible for the development and launch of OneHub, the agent portal provided by Trade Me. I ‘m proud of this product and the team that built it, however in the past few months I have become even more enamoured with it in a way I probably didn’t anticipate. I’ve started evangelising about it among my colleagues. So, this is in a small preamble to set the context in what I want to share. To be completely clear I am not in any way incentivised by Trade Me to write this article. I do though, maintain good alumni contact with people at Trade Me. That’s got the disclaimer out of the way.

OneHub provides at this time two primary products that are free to all agents. First, is an agent profile which allows any agent to build and manage their own profile with its unique page on Trade Me, as well as being featured in the search directory for agents. This is an invaluable profile opportunity for all agents. The Trade Me digital platform is massive and from a search optimisation perspective it’s gold. In my opinion all agents would be mad not to build a profile on Trade Me.

Second, is the ability to create customised marketing reports for all your listings. Sounds good, but the question I often get asked is “but so does” and now OneRoof, or the page view stats get imported into my office system. Yes, but the key word here is ‘custom’ and the added fact that OneHub reports are insightful when you dig into them. Really insightful, and if presented in the right way in my view offer an excellent means to enhance the reputation of the presenter.

I think it is worthwhile to recap on the unique value of these reports.

1. Custom time period – OneHub reports can be created at any time based on any time period. The last 7 days / the last month / the first weekend / the full period of the listing. Any date range can be chosen. Each custom report is created as a downloadable pdf. The report details the daily activity of page views, as well as the number of Trade Me members who have added the property to their watchlist. Additionally, it shows the number of click-to-reveal telephone number reveals on the listing page and the number of email enquiries sent to the agent. Such insight is far more valuable than the competition, especially given the scale of the audience on Trade Me – by reference in my area of the country, Trade Me attracts around 3 times the page views of and 7 times the traffic of OneRoof (the latter is based on a very small sample of monitored properties as the site does not publicly detail page views on listing pages).

2. Insight of watchlisters – OneHub reports track not just page views but also the number of members of Trade Me that save the property to their watchlist. This stat is a critical measure of engagement. Sure, the reason for people saving a property to a watchlist can be varied from the most logical – they want to see this house and may be buy it, to design junkies and also let’s not forget the smart agents who watchlist their own listings and competitive listings in their area. However, whilst the absolute scale may not completely reflect the true level of buyer interest, the relative scale will. If a property has 105 watchers after 3 weeks and another property has 40 then there is an inference of greater engagement as a surrogate for ‘interest’ with the first property.
The watchlist data is so important and unique as Trade Me users cannot use the watchlist feature unless they are logged in. The watchlist button is so intuitive for the Trade Me user; whereas for users of other websites saving property requires creating an account – a higher hurdle of engagement.

3. Regional insight – the Onehub reports drill down way deeper than just page views and watchlisters. They are able to detail the aggregated location of where those people live who view or save details on a property. This is invaluable in helping the vendor understand where interest in the property is coming from as a function of the marketing – local interest or out-of-town interest.

Now let me share a couple of examples of how I have used these reports and what I see as the real value.

Scenario 1 – Additional promotional products

The reality of online marketing on property portals is that there is a natural decay of viewing. This is something I have written about over the years. Thankfully all of the main portals offer a product to effectively ‘jump back up the search results’ – the Refresh product from and Boost from Trade Me. Actioned whenever, and repeated as often as needed, this product is well priced to be included in most marketing campaigns.

The power of the product is best showcased when seen in the viewing stats. The product drives incremental traffic and engagement on the day it is actioned and in the subsequent days as the listing profile is enhanced being higher up the search results.


Scenario 2 – Event based activity

Recently, as much a function of the more challenging property market, asking prices have been placed on listings, if after the initial auction or tender campaign has failed to uncover that critical unconditional buyer. Such events are so easily judged through the daily traffic to a listing covering both views and watchlist activity. This is so valuable when providing feedback to vendors in regular reports to be able to show the impact of such activity.

As an added benefit Trade Me undertakes email alerts to people who have watchlisted a property which has a price reduction, this again as an event based activity is easily tracked on the custom reports on OneHub.


Scenario 3 – Comparative analysis

I’ve benefited recently in assisting with a number of properties on the local market at the same time, through this I’ve been able to provide real insight for vendors to help them appreciate the level of interest and engagement of their property compared to other properties on the market at the same time.

This data engages clients in some encouraging and challenging conversations. It’s great to be able to showcase the scale of audience and level of engagement for a vendor when their property is performing ahead of competition and the market. Equally it’s great to have meaningful conversations where the data is clearly showing that their property is simply not engaging buyers. This is often in my opinion the better conversation as it leads to the question – have we got the right message to the market? Is that message wrapped up in the right price expectation? Have we really demonstrated the best attributes of the property – should we re-promote it and change the headline and photos to shift the focus of the target audience?

This is where I feel most valuable in my role as an agent. Able to use data and insight to assist vendors to really feel a part of the process of marketing. Managing their expectation right through the process even if it means telling them the truth “your property is not attracting buyers.. certainly not at this price expectation!” I fear all too many vendors are sold a marketing campaign and then are left in a state of limbo ‘hoping’ the marketing is working such that on the deadline date the property will be sold. I am not disparaging the work of the thousands of real estate agents out there in the market,

I simply want to showcase how data can be such a valuable tool to really engage with the client in the selling process and ensure that you can show that you used every resource at your disposal to market the property to the best effect. At the end of the day the agent does not decide to sell, only the vendor makes that decision as to whether they are prepared with the offer presented on the day. The agent’s role is to bring these parties together. Bringing buyers and sellers together may be the outcome, but the hard work is targeting and communicating with the buyers and that’s where smart marketing and analysis are proving so powerful, and enhancing credibility.

The Auckland Quarterly Property Review - Q1 2019

by Alistair Helm in

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The Auckland property market is exhibiting the classic symptoms of a market uncertain as to its future direction.

The latest 3 months to March, point to a flat market with no perceptible rise in sales activity, with prices edging down. However I believe there is cause to believe that signs of a recovery in the property market may be emerging. The lead-indicator of the clearance rate points to this possible improvement as this year progresses.

Examining the three key data points of sales volume, sales price and clearance rate in more detail should help to explain this summation.


In the first 3 months of 2019 there were a total of just over 5,000 property sales across the Auckland region, this compares to just over 6,000 for the same period last year, as has been the story for the past 2 years as property sales have slowed. What is more significant is the fact that in relative terms the total sales in Auckland in the past year is actually half the actual sales volumes of the mid 90’s and the mid 2000’s. Let me repeat that statistic. Half the sales volumes. The ‘relative terms’ to which I refer is sales per head of population.

In 1996 the population in Auckland was just breaking through the the one million mark, by 2004 it was growing by over 2,000 a month as it reached 1,240,000. Today with that growth rate accelerating, the population of the country’s biggest city stands at 1,657,000.

Back in 1996, the annual sales of property stood at 31,927, this equated to 32 property sales per 1,000 population. By 2004 sales for the 12 months to March of that year was a staggering 40,170, equating to 32.2 property sales per 1,000 population. Now compare that with the latest 12 months to March of this year. With sales of just 24,301 it represents just 14.5 property sales per 1,000 population. Half the relative sales per head of population than those two other periods. This really puts todays Auckland property market into context compared to prior periods.

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In relative terms less transactions in Auckland today than at anytime since the darkest days of the GFC - the result of what?

Certainly market price is a key factor, back in 1996 median sales price was $230,000 and by in 2004 it was $320,000 whereas today it is $850,000. Certainly the appetite from investors has diminished from what would have been the hay-days of 1996 and 2004; and certainly access to funds from banks is far tighter today than in those prior periods, although perversely the interest rates on mortgages has never been lower.

There is simply no getting away from it, property sales in Auckland are not breaking any records any time soon. As the chart shows the variance in monthly sales vs prior year has been consistently negative since November 2015, with the brief exception of the early months of 2017 - all of those comparative gains are now being reversed.

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As sales volumes remain flat, so do the sales price. The latest month of March saw a median sale price for Auckland of $850,000. This is $2,000 down on March last year and $30,000 down on March 2017, but is $15,000 up on March 3 years ago - property sales prices in Auckland are flat and losing value to what is benign inflation.

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With neither sales volumes nor sale prices showing anything of positive outlook, it’s left to what I judge is a key lead-indicator of the market to point to the future, and the rest of 2019 and into next year. The clearance rate, that being the sales volumes as a percentage of new listings tracked on a 12 month moving basis which is now showing a consistent and healthy increase.

If the clearance rate is edging up then a greater percentage of properties brought onto the market are selling and as the historic chart below shows there is a correlation between clearance rate of sale price. A natural and predictable correlation. If properties are selling faster than the rate of new listings and inventory of new listings is declining, so it speaks to greater demand from buyers which in turn feeds into price inflation; although the lag can be many months.

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The clearance rate in Auckland in the past few months has edged towards 60% which is certainly a healthier rate than this time last year when the rate was bumping around the bottom of the cycle at 53%, certainly a long way from the frothy market levels of 2015 at over 75%, but much healthier than the GFC days of 2008 at just 33%.

As ever property cycles are notoriously hard to predict and are really best viewed through the rear view mirror. Later this year it will be clearer as to whether there has been a recovery beginning or simply another erratic bouncing around with no clear cyclical upturn on the horizon.

Quarterly Property Review for NZ outside of Auckland - Q1 2019

by Alistair Helm in

Quarterly Review logo.png

Whilst Auckland continues to experience a flat property market, the rest of NZ keeps trucking on, although there are signs that the party may now be coming to a close. It’s been a very long party. As the rest of the country has tried to keep up with the Auckland market, the rest of New Zealand has managed to keep going long after Auckland ran out of energy and exited the party.

It’s quite staggering that the median price of properties sold outside of Auckland has been rising consistently for over 7 years straight, that’s 90 consecutive months of price increase. It was back in November 2011 that prices started to edge upward after the GFC and the likelihood that this run will head into its 9th straight year is high.


The last 3 months has seen sales volumes across the country outside of Auckland fall by 6% as compared to the same time last year at just under 13,000 sales. On an annual moving total basis the picture as displayed in the chart below shows that sales volumes are coming off the boil at 54,539.

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Total sales for the month of March at 4,932 was down 11% as compared to March last year and this represents the 4th consecutive month with declining sales volumes compared to prior year. The chart below tracks the cycles of these sales volume movements over the past 20 years. The regularity of the pendulum-like rise and falls is certainly evident. The likely trend in the coming months is for sales volumes to continue to weaken.

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The latest median price of property sales outside of Auckland continues to edge ever closer to the half a million dollar mark. Interestingly this half million dollar mark is fair more likely to be broken some time soon, and certainly well ahead of the much anticipated million dollar mark expected to be broken by Auckland two or three years ago but stubbornly failed up until now. In March the medan sale price for properties outside of Auckland was $491,000 up 7% as compared to the same month last year.

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As noted earlier this year-on-year rise follows a consistent increase unbroken over the past 92 months since way back in August 2011 when the median sale price for property outside of Auckland stood at $304,500. That unbroken run has seen median price rise 61%.

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Just as the latest quarterly report for the Auckland market is showing some signs of recovery when examining the clearance rate, so it is with the rest of the country, except that the trend is the opposite.

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The first 3 months of 2019 has seen the clearance rate (the lead-indicator of sales to listings ratio) begin to fall, having peaked in November last year at 73%. As the correlation between clearance rate and median price movement is fairly close, it is likely that the future increases in median price for property sales outside of Auckland will continue to slow. However given the strength and consistency of the price increases over this extended period it is not likely that actual median prices will fall anytime soon based on historical trend analysis.

Are apartments showing much capital gain?

by Alistair Helm in

Photo by  Francesco Ungaro  from  Pexels

Photo by Francesco Ungaro from Pexels

The NZ apartment market is highly polarised around one city, and one district of that city. I am of course referring to Auckland City. Out of the total of 3,900 apartment sales across the whole country in the past year, more than 2,000 of them were in this tight geographical district.

Apartments, just as with all other segments of the property market have witnessed strong sale price growth over the past few decades. In the past 15 years the median sales price for apartments in Auckland City has risen from $220,000 to $545,000. More than doubling. However, that’s not quite keeping pace with the overall housing sector, and certainly not attaining quite the same capital growth.

An Auckland house bought in 2004 for the median sale price at the time of $342,000 would if sold in December 2018 at the then median sale price of $911,000 have gained $447,692 allowing for inflation. Equating to a 130% return on investment.

An apartment in the Auckland City purchased back in 2004 for the then median price of $220,000 would if sold in December of last year have gained $246,965 allowing for inflation. Equating to a 112% return on investment. A healthy return, off a lower initial investment.

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However as the above chart ably demonstrates such capital gains can be misleading when judging median sales prices over different time periods. For within this 15 year period there were significant periods when the gains were minimal and others where the gains were significant.

The first 7 year period of 2004 to 2011 through the GFC saw median sale price for Auckland City apartments rise and then fall so that the notional capital gain over that specific 7 year period was zero. Similarly though if you bought in 2011 at the then median sales price of $215,000, just 5 years later the median sale price had risen to $575,000, a rise of 167%. However over the most recent 2 years there has seen no rise in median sale price.

In many ways this volatility of capital gain is one of the core variables of the apartment market. It’s a market influenced to a far greater extent by supply and demand factors than the wider property market. Auckland city apartments experience very ‘lumpy’ periods of new supply which through their composition can significantly impacts median sales prices. Additionally such surges in supply naturally effect prices of existing inventory competing in the market at that time.

My interest in this category of apartments was peaked by a note sent to me by Simon Green from Queenstown who when reading my recent article on the comparison between the notional capital gains from Auckland houses as compared to those of Sydney and Melbourne over the past 15 years. He wanted to see how the apartment market was was fairing in those cities and also if I could look into the Queenstown apartment market. I must admit I had not in the past thought to examine this specific market, but questions like this always interest me. So for Simon’s benefit and others here is what I have uncovered.

The analysis of the apartment market comparing Auckland, Sydney and Melbourne is undertaken based on a model developed by Domain Group in Australia, one of the large digital property portals in Australia. Their analysis tracked the notional capital gain (adjusted for inflation) for time periods over the proceeding 15 years, based on the purchase date for an apartment sold in December 2018 at the then median price. So by example for an apartment bought in Sydney in March 2009, after inflation, that property would have netted a notional capital gain over the past 10 years of A$222,735, that would compare with the same time period in Melbourne of A$58,646 and in Auckland NZ$258,601.

The charts below track this 15 year notional capital appreciation of the 3 Australasian cities.

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Directly comparing these 3 cities on a common NZ dollar basis over the 15 years produces this summary of the very different markets.

Auckland Sydney and Melbourne apartments capital gain 2004 to 2018.png

There is without doubt a similar trend albeit with differing scale of capital growth over the 15 year period. It is surprising to me the lower levels of capital growth seen in Melbourne as compared to Sydney and then again the much higher capital growth for the Auckland market of apartments bought in the 2010 to 2013 period vs the current median price.

All markets are though clearly experiencing a recent 3 to 4 year period of negative growth over this near term.

Turning then to the Queenstown market for which I had no real perspective of the scale of the market before diving into the data. What I found was very interesting. Annual sales of apartments in the Queenstown Lakes district have averaged 116 with a peak in 2006 at 260 and a low in 2011 of 72. As far as the notional capital growth for apartments bought over the past 15 years as compared to the current median price the chart presented below is somewhat different to the main Australasian cities.

Queenstown apartments notion capital growth 2004 to 2018png

I recognise I am ill equipped to offer a commentary on this market trend so I take the opportunity to share the perspective of a local expert - Simon Green who furnished me with this response when I posed the question to him to provide background to the data.

“The data does actually make sense to me and I don't think there is necessarily any change in composition. It is a small dataset as the really are only a dozen or so major complexes in town and most of those were sold off plan pre-GFC with the bulk settling 2006-2008 so that part makes sense. There was also a large complex of 89 apartments that settled in 2009 which held pricing up as they had been sold a few years prior at top of market. From there we went into GFC proper - no buyers in market, a large number of mortgagee sales and and other "stressed" sales as income was very low in comparison to purchase prices.

Prices continued to fall for most part through to 2013 and has been recovering well since then due to improved income performance - but equally has been pulled back by a number of complexes now leaking.

Volume of sales remains fairly low compared to '06/'07, but has been due in many ways to owners being happy with their income and not really seeing any better investment opportunities. However, for the past 18 months or so buyer activity has dropped significantly. Prices have softened slightly, but the quality stock should hold its value as there isn't anything for sale and while income will not continue to grow the way it has over past 5-6 years, it shouldn't drop - so value.

So data does seem to reflect the market fairly well.”

The future looks bright for Trade Me Property as it casts a darkening shadow on

by Alistair Helm in ,


“Someone should never take part in a fight unless they know they will win it”.

This was the opinion voiced in an article by David Hargreaves on in February 2014. Over 5 years ago. The article expounded the view that the real estate industry had more to lose than Trade Me, over the then, bust up over increased fees being introduced by Trade Me at the end of 2013.

Five years is a long time in our fast-paced digital world, yet the prophetic view expressed in the article is coming true all these years later, only not quite as imagined. The view then was that the real estate industry’s very business model, could in some way be impacted by the squabble with Trade Me. That has not eventuated. However, the real estate industry has lost in their ability to control the digital marketing platform. A loss far less financially significant, but none the less a squandered opportunity.

I have written at length over the years on what I see as the problems of, and its ever weakening position against Trade Me in the competitive arena of digital marketing, including an impassioned address to the Real Estate Institute AGM last year. Sadly time moves on, and with it, the ever growing strength of Trade Me Property; and for its rival, as the title of this article states, things look bleak.

The half year results of Trade Me published last month stated “The performance of Trade Me Property is exceptional and should continue into the second half of F19”. Not only is it exceptional at $22.3m, it is also sustainable. Trade Me Property in my opinion has found its sweet spot and for now the future looks bright. This result and optimistic outlook are the direct result of two significant successes that have yet to be fully realised. But before I examine these two matters, let’s pause a moment to look at Trade Me Property revenue over the past 4 financial years as reported in financial investor reports.

The most recent 6 months to December 2018 is outstanding, and follows what has been a fairly average performance over the prior years with revenue growth barely hitting double digit percentage growth.

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I am no financial analyst, but I would hazard a guess (as I have done in the above chart) based on my experience and knowledge that the second half of the FY2019 year is likely to see year-on-year growth of 30% resulting in a full year revenue of over $48m, up over 80% on 5 years ago when things went so wrong for Trade Me.

So to what do I ascribe this remarkable performance of Trade Me Property. Firstly a smart and highly successful new product launched last year – Premium Listing.

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This product works exceptionally well, Satisfying the needs of both the vendor and agent. The standout presence of this large listing creates impact in the search results and delivers a markedly high level of page views, not just on web browser pages but also on the Trade Me apps. This is significant, as up until the launch of this product there were no premium listings on either Trade Me Property or that delivered a premium impact on the mobile apps in standard search results. The product design is loved by agents as it incorporates the agent and agency branding to great effect. Priced at a significant premium to the existing offering of Super Feature, the new Premium Listing has achieved a high penetration rate in the key markets of upwards of 15% of listings. This product is likely to benefit from the power of the virtuous circle. Agents love it, they include it in marketing budgets, the results are a delight to agents and vendors, other agents see the power and brand influence and they become adopters and for the buyer searching for property the design is as ever from Trade Me beautiful.

So that is one of the powerful drivers of this new rejuvenated and growing Trade Me Property business. The other is inventory.

I reported back in October last year that Trade Me had then surpassed in terms of total listings of property for sale (including private sales). This was a key milestone as it destroyed the long standing cornerstone of marketing by that they were the leader when it comes to inventory of listings. Subsequent to that turning point Trade Me has powered ahead and as of this month they have surpassed a new milestone.

Trade Me Property now features more property for sale from real estate agents than any other website. This is significant, really significant. Five years ago things went wrong for Trade Me over the price changes and the real estate industry endeavoured to boycott Trade Me. Today more of the industry support Trade Me than support - the property portal that is owned by the industry. The charts below highlight this recovery by Trade Me, firstly for all listings and secondly for agent only listings.

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For Trade Me Property to be displaying significantly more agent listings than on the website today (28,483 vs 26,277), means that real estate agent office are questioning the value of For the past 5 years the industry has rallied around the industry owned site seeking to consolidate support to make it the critical asset that it had the opportunity to be.

Sadly the industry, whilst well intentioned and principled as a body, is in reality a loose aggregation of over 600 independent business owners and over 15,000 independent contractor-status agents. They all think and act, first and foremost to their own best interest. Trade Me is a marketing tool, just as is the Property Press and the newspaper supplements, as well as and when individual agents select marketing campaigns for their clients’ property what matters most is results. Those results are judged in page views and enquiries, as well as agent profile and presence, and this is where the rubber hits the road. Trade Me is winning this battle and likely to press the advantage even harder in the coming months and years, leaving the events of late 2013 to be a distant memory.

Disclosure: I have over the past 13 years been a senior executive at both and Trade Me Property.

I am not at this time involved in either company through any role or investment. This article, as with other similar articles are written based on published information combined with insight gleaned from studying the property portal marketplace internationally over the years.