The industry 'circles the wagons' around

by Alistair Helm in

The real estate industry has been rallying around their industry owned website since the radical price change implemented by Trade Me Property a year ago, in a manner somewhat akin to circling the wagons. 

The resultant boycott, although somewhat patchy on a regional basis, has seen the relative strength of Trade Me Property slip from what must have been 100% of licensed agent’s listings to around 75% - a figure that does not seem to have changed much over recent months.

The real estate industry may judge the initiative a success. However the messaging within the industry around the role of the industry owned website may need some refining as a recent video by a loyal and passionate real estate licensee shows.

The video entitled “Support !“ is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek news alert to fellow real estate agents which uses the analogy of “not putting all your eggs in one basket”.

Here is the script of the video:  

Hi, I’m Dave Umbers, I’m a real estate agent, salesperson, licensee, principle. Short message for you all today.

Our industry needs your support, our industry is, these eggs here they represent our listings, if we give them away to someone else to look after we loose control of those eggs. So, keep our own eggs in our own basket by putting them all on Your business will flourish, our industry will have a future, and everybody will be much much happier.

I’m Dave Umbers, please, please I urge you, this is our website It’s the goose that lays the golden egg.

Whilst Dave Umbers begins the video with a statement that “This message is unsolicited” the intention is clearly to spread the word widely within the real estate community and seek unified support to bolster the standing of the industry site. 

I find his analogy of the egg basket very interesting. To suggest that placing listings on Trade Me Property is in someway akin to putting all your eggs in one basket is in my opinion naive at best. The real estate industry continues to try and convince their clients that the print media publications from the Christchurch Press, to the NZ Herald and from the Dominion Post to the Property Press are the best form of advertising flies in the face of this characterisation of Trade Me Property. Either the real estate industry genuinely believe online is the best form of advertising or they don’t - they should not speak with forked tongue!

I further find the reference to “loose control of those eggs” equally fascinating. These ‘eggs’ as Dave describes them are adverts for their clients listings, nothing more, nothing less. Adverts that are created under an agreement with those clients to act in their clients best interest to successfully sell their home. So how do they ever imagine that they are “loosing control” of these listings as adverts. The agent has a legal contract in the form of a listing agreement providing them surety to exclusively provide services to their client in the sale of their client's home which includes among other things advertising. So could they possibly think that Trade Me Property is taking control and endeavouring to null and void that agency agreement?

The video somehow portrays the website of as some form of industry foundation using the phrase the “goose that lays the golden egg”. I am sure many in the real estate industry know full well that is not a charitable foundation. It is a private company and its shares are held in part by individuals or companies who are not the subscribers or customers of the website and who one day may well decide to profit directly from the website in the form of profits or sale. So the phrase “the goose that lays the gold egg” may well be prophetic as it may turn out to be the nest egg for some of those shareholders one day to the exclusion of the likes of Dave Umbers and others of his colleagues across the country.

The final reference made to the benefit of placing those listings exclusively on providing the industry with a “future” is fairly dramatic. Does the industry really fear their own viability as a result of an advertising platform changing its pricing model? Does the industry not believe that they deliver value to their clients beyond the choice of where to advertise a property for sale? I do. I believe that real estate agents deliver significant value, unique value in the aspects of market knowledge and intelligence, skills of facilitation, negotiation and that persistent ability to work tirelessly to deliver a positive outcome for their clients. Choosing where to place an advert and worrying about the cost of that advert at $149 pales into insignificance as compared to the overall service they collectively deliver 75,000 times a year.

Sure having an industry website is great. Many of their colleagues in other countries around the world wished they had an industry website, but those colleagues are not fearing their business future over a website platform and how much they charge. Advertising whether in the form of print media or online has always been a part of real estate. Whilst I was not involved in the industry 20 years ago but I am sure there were times that agents were up in arms about the annual increase in fees charged by the NZ Herald, The Christchurch Press, the Dom Post and Property Press. I am sure they felt blackmailed by the then media at the time. Equally I am sure in 20 years time the real estate industry will be up in arms about a media cost for reaching an audience. In that future it may not be Trade Me Property, it maybe Facebook or some future media platform, who knows?

The key thing to remember here is that buyers need to find out about property for sale. Agents need to represent their clients' properties to as wide an audience as possible. To reach that audience they have a professional duty of care to use all and any media that can deliver that audience. In today’s world that is online and for NZ online has to include Trade Me Property as well as My view would be never put all your eggs in one basket when it comes to advertising whatever the colour of the basket. Always provide clients with options of different advertising platforms.