You are a savvy buyer!

by Alistair Helm in

Newspaper reading vintage.jpg

I should qualify that statement; you are a far savvier buyer than your parents. The fact is buyers and sellers in today’s property world are smart, well informed and able to make informed decisions far in excess of what previous generations could hope to achieve.

This is such an important fact to consider when you first start thinking about stepping onto the property ladder or taking a step up. Consider for a moment the things we take for granted today in the property buying and selling process that would have been merely a dream a couple of decades ago.

Twenty years ago say, there were only 2 ways to find out what properties were available to purchase. You would go visit the local real estate office. Not just one thiugh; you would have to visit them all to ask what properties they had for sale. Alternatively you would wait until the weekend to check out what properties were advertised in the local paper or property magazine. No such thing as email alerts or live updates of new listings then. You had to do the hard work, a regular visit to real estate offices to collect printed sheets of property for sale, if you were lucky the local property magazine was dropped off at your house.

Details on an individual property was sketchy to say the least. In the paper you might get a single photo – more often than not, a black and white photo. It was not uncommon to have just a few lines of description as properties were listed by suburb under general classifieds – pages of them! To get so see more of a property you had to visit the home. Yes open homes were, as they are today a valuable means of assessing a property. Alternatively you had to succumb to the company of your friendly local real estate agent who would drive you around a number of properties encouraging you to see this one… or this one… and maybe you should consider this one!

As for background information on recent sales prices or the current rating assessment from the local council, that data was safely locked up behind government departments with stern looking counter staff who reacted to official compliance request at glacial pace as box files were referenced to provide answers.

So every time you flick up a browser window, receive an email alert, click a smartphone app or download a property file give a moment’s thought to how lucky you are to have so much insight and information to hand to make you such a savvy buyer!


Advertising property for sale - online or offline - that is the question

by Alistair Helm in

I was attending the digital conference in Melbourne this week hosted by the Real Estate Institute of Victoria and

One of the speakers, Andrew Beecher the head of marketing for Realestateview and previously with made the statement that he had “a passion for seeing print media decline” he also went on to challenge the real estate industry that “2012 (or 2013) should be the year to undertake an online-only campaign for property”. The latter driven by first hand experience of selling his own house this year. These statements are completely consistent with someone who is working for a property portal and given the dominance of online for property searching in Australia.

I, in my usual manner was actively tweeting from the conference, keen as ever to share the insights from the speakers and both of these quotes I shared with my followers

Alistair Helm (alistairnz) on Twitter-1.jpg

With over 1,300 followers I have a good cross section of real estate people as well as technology people and “others” who are interested to hear my thoughts. However I was somewhat surprised to receive this tweet from one of my followers – a person who I shall not identify but is a key person in the NZ real estate market who runs a large real estate company. Have a read of the tweet:


I was very surprised to see this response; it was to my mind very defensive and clearly showed that I had hit a raw nerve!

Surely real estate companies recognise the power of the web. It is the most effective medium for buyers to locate their new home and the most cost effective medium for sellers to promote their property to buyers.

To say that “experts” have proven that property selling requires both print and online is inaccurate. Not because I dispute any such research; but because it can never be tested.

Statistically to prove a hypothesis requires a control, and in property marketing you can never establish a control. Let me explain.

If I were to say that online marketing can sell more cans of soup that offline then I would set up control environments. I would set up similar audience, similar competitive environment and do a test over a significant enough time period (say a month) at the same time in four discrete markets; one market would just have online advertising, one would have no advertising, one with print only, and one with both forms of advertising. A statistically valid sample size of buyers over a month period would allow a statistical confidence to be established to show that one form of advertising is more effective over another or not.

When it comes to property you cannot establish two simultaneous markets, let alone four. Every property is unique. Even two identical properties in the same apartment development are not identical as the small pool of buyers actually will skew the data. Equally the only way to establish online-only or offline-only advertising is in different physical markets, this is impossible with property as houses are only in a physical location and the physical location affects the appeal and demand.

Therefore I can say with complete confidence that there is no evidence that online-only property advertising is better than offline-only or that you need both. It simply cannot be proven.

What we do know from extensive research globally is that property buyers each year in larger numbers spend more time researching, browsing and enquiring online, whereas the numbers using and relying on print media is declining, with people spending less time viewing print media.

The real estate industry is trying to deny this trend; not because they don’t believe the research, no it is even simpler.

Online property advertising is not as effective a medium for real estate brands as print media and that is why real estate companies continue to pour $millions each year into print publications. Added to which the print publications incentivize such advertising – as any medium would do to ensure they don’t loose customers – especially as print media is in terminal decline.