What portals are out there and how do I choose the best for my business?
Property portals are a vital part of any marketing strategy for an estate agency. But, as with any marketing strategy, it will cost you money. Property portals are fast becoming one of the highest priced but essential means of advertising property. So how do you pick the right portal for your business needs as well as your budget? We have gathered information from the top property portals currently on offer to make your decision a little easier:
IOLProperty is a joint venture between Independent News and Media (INM) (60%) and an estate agents’ consortium (40%). The recent purchase of the shareholding by the estate agents’ consortium is intended to be an open initiative by the industry, so any estate agent can buy shares from the above-mentioned 40%. Of the top three portals, IOL is the youngest, having launched in January 2009. It has hundreds of thousands of visitors each month, but traffic-wise the most notable aspect is the growth rate. Last month IOL had 20% more visitors for that time of year than any previous since its launch. The leads it generated were also up by a similar amount.
Site Redesign for Simplicity
The real reason for the growth is the launch of its new site earlier this year. The company went back to basics and redesigned the site with a single goal in mind: To make it easy for buyers to find their ideal homes as quickly as possible. Everything else was stripped out, making the experience for the user simple and streamlined. With the purchase of INM by the Sekunjalo Consortium, its Internet strategy has changed dramatically and online is now seen as a major priority. Grant Leigh, general manager of IOL, has no doubt that the company will greatly benefit from this new focus.
On the company’s future outlook, Leigh says: “We are a fully self-sustaining organisation and our growth is and always has been organic, that is, any profit we make is reinvested in the business. This approach is unusual for large property portals where a very large upfront investment and marketing push followed by a period of consolidation is the norm. The organic approach meant we were relatively quiet for the first couple of years, but we’re past the hard part and we’ve ended up with a solid business that is now growing fast and has great prospects. So the future is bright.”
They are in the process of expanding their estate agent product offering to help estate agents better market their listings, and the new set of products, for example videos/virtual tours launched in July, aims to do just this. As the digital age gains more and more traction in the property industry, it becomes more important to craft a digital plan to suit core customers. The new products are part of a broader revision in client strategy. Visit our IOLProperty and take a look at the property portal and rates.
Private Property has also upped the ante with a new look for its property portal, taking into consideration that mobile devices are being used more and more every day. In fact, says Simon Bray, Private Property’s COO, research shows that mobile property searches increased by 120% in the past year. “People are spending more time on their tablets and smartphones instead of laptop computers, especially when researching property. In particular, late afternoons and evenings are seeing a marked increase in mobile traffic.” Accordingly, Private Property has released a responsive version of its website. Says Bray: “We decided to step up to the challenge and deliver the best property browsing experience available in South Africa. Never before has a property website been optimised like this for mobile devices.”
Essentially, the platform utilises Private Property’s migration onto the Microsoft Azure cloud platform – an industry first in South Africa – to enable a seamless user experience, no matter the device being used. Now, when a browser navigates to www.privateproperty.co.za the website recognises the device’s type and screen size, and responds by giving the best possible version of the site for that device – whether it is mobile or not. Features unique to mobile devices, such as touch-screen and swiping functionality, are built in while information-rich features like geo-location search (which enables a browser to press one button and find properties in the vicinity) are also inherent. Image-rich results enhance the personalised experience; and aspects like changing the resolution and repositioning buttons happen automatically to generate custom experiences across all devices. All of this ensures that no matter the size of the device your customer is viewing on, they will get the best user experience.
The Private Property portal also received an International Media Award (IMA) in the ‘Lifestyle’ category recently with a score of 478 out of a possible 500, with content and functionality scoring 99% and 98% respectively. Private Property’s CEO Justin Clarke says: “These are extremely challenging awards to win. We are proud that the IMA recognises our high standards of planning, execution and overall professionalism. We have all of South Africa’s best properties in one place for buyers and renters to peruse. Estate agents, banks, developers and landlords all list with us to give our browsers the widest variety of properties to be found on any South African portal.”
Visual and User-Friendly
In January 2014, Private Property delivered more than a million quality leads to its advertisers and it hosts around a million page impressions daily. Bray says that the website’s design — both visual and its underlying code – is significant in that it presents a market-leading innovation in the South African online property market — the interface is interactive, intuitive and inspirational. As if an award and a user-based mobile version of the property portal weren’t impressive enough, the company also has an app for the Private Property Portal. Released on 1 June 2013, this second version of Private Property’s iPad app sat at the top position of the South African app store’s free ‘general’ category within a few days. The app allows house-hunters to find their next ‘pad’ via a text, location based or suburb navigation search. The team designed the app to enable browsers to access their favourite tools from anywhere in the app using the nifty all-new slide menu. Bray says that the technical design gives browsers easy access to Private Property’s estate agents and landlords by means of an in-app feature that not only provides contact details and allows direct messaging, but also enables browsers to easily search for an area’s top agents with the ‘Find Agents’ feature.
Bray says: “I am delighted to see the response. With distinct design changes to an interface that is familiar to many users, there is bound to be a period of adjustment, but our objective in every area has been to improve the overall user experience. We want buyers, sellers, renters and agents to be engaged and enabled.” He also points out that users have quick access to their most recent searches directly off the app’s home page. “You should be inspired when looking for your next home and so we’ve found ways to make the whole process easier. Whether you’re planning to buy or rent, the Private Property iPad app will inspire your search and ensure that you find the home of your dreams.” An android app with equal functionality is soon to be released. All of Private Property’s listings are detailed and up-to-date with comprehensive photo galleries, and most have walk-through videos and 360° virtual tours – features that are supported on the app. The iPad app is free to download and use. Simply search for it in the app store. Log on to www.privateproperty.co.za to browse the completely redesigned and re-engineered site.
“Online technology plays a crucial role in real estate marketing, which is why we have invested enormously in developing a digital advertising platform for the industry that pairs high performance with cost efficiency,” says JP Farinha, CEO of Property24. “We believe in offering the industry genuine value and return on investment, and we ensure this by reducing our listing fees for any agency if we’re not delivering the leads that we promise. We strive to be the most cost-effective source of buyer leads in the industry and our competitive packages give agencies of all sizes the opportunity to make the most of buyers looking for property online.”
Building Brand Focus
According to independent digital measurement platform, SimilarWeb. com, Property24.com is the largest of South Africa’s property portals. With consistent investment in television advertising, a large focus has been to build a strong brand in the consumer’s mind when it comes to buying property. The results of this are evident in the company’s numbers, with over 80% of Property24.com’s audience looking to buy property, rather than rent, according to SimilarWeb.com. Property24 also enjoys an unrivalled position in both paid and organic search traffic on Google, ensuring that it engages with potential property buyers at their first point of interest.
Additional Property Publishers
In addition to its focus on attracting quality for-sale leads from its own platform, Property24’s impressive partner network adds extra value to its real estate customers by publishing its listings on News24, MWEB, Mail & Guardian, SA Hometraders, SA Rental and an additional 36 regional sites. “It’s imperative to us that our customers’ listings reach homebuyers anywhere they may be thinking about buying property,” says Farinha, “which is why, given the immense growth in mobile traffic over the last 18 months, we have an unfaltering focus on mobile technology.” In addition to a tailored mobile site, Property24 is the only portal that offers mobile apps for all leading mobile operating systems, including Android, iPhone, iPad and Blackberry. A week post-launch, their new iPad app shot to number one in the South African iStore ‘Lifestyle’ category and number five overall.
Lead Guarantee Reduces Listing Fee
Property24 believes that when it comes to choosing which portals to advertise with, it is essential to know that you are spending your marketing budget effectively. Their dedication to offering value is evident in their unique ‘Lead Guarantee’, which means that if customers don’t get the leads they are promised, Property24 reduces its listing fee by up to 78%. Property24’s Standard Listing Package includes unlimited for-sale listings on Property24.com, a free listing on its Partner Network, the Property24 ‘Lead Guarantee’ (a reduction in your monthly fee if you receive fewer than 30 leads per month), and free listing and agency management software, PropCtrl. To find out more, go to Private Propery website.
“Online technology plays a crucial role in real estate marketing, which is why we have invested enormously in developing a digital advertising platform for the industry that pairs high performance with cost efficiency,” JP Farinha, CEO of Property24
PA Media, the largest publisher of property advertising in South Africa, with regional publications in all major metros under the Property Junction brand, formed a joint venture with the Times Media Group in 2011 and released propertyjunction.co.za as part of the suite of Junction sites along with careerjunction.co.za and autojunction.co.za. Although still considered the new kid on the block as far as property listing portals are concerned, PA Media has, in the three short years since launching, managed to position the portal as a firm favourite among its estate agent clients. Backed by the property industry, which advertises in PA Media’s print publications, the portal has focused on the integration of print and online advertising to ensure that the property buyer or seller experiences a seamless transition from browsing for properties in the print publications to finding the properties online where they are able to access more information and enquire with the relative agents marketing the property.
This has helped to shape the company’s strategy as far as how it approaches the market. Dave Asher, executive manager of Property Junction, says: “It is a known fact that there are only approximately 15 000 property transactions monthly in South Africa, with the majority of these properties advertised in our publications and simultaneously on our website. This means we are attracting the buyers and sellers who are actively participating in a transactional environment at any given time, be it buying or selling a property, thus ensuring that we only generate quality leads for our clients.
“We believe estate agents are actually suffering from ‘lead fatigue’ in that they are having to follow up on more leads than they can handle in a day, with a large majority of these leads amounting to nothing more than speculative interest from an individual who is not ready to transact. This results in genuine buyers and sellers being overlooked by agents as they are too busy dealing with the high volume of unqualified leads they receive,” says Asher. “Unfortunately, this in turn reflects negatively on the estate agency and unfortunately most are still not fully aware of this.”
A Portal with a Difference
What makes Property Junction different from other portals is that it features properties advertised each week from all of the group’s print publications. This ensures that the focus for the visitor remains on properties that are actively on the market with all old properties automatically removed. Where to next for Property Junction? “As far as technology is concerned, it is a known fact that mobile search volume is fast overtaking desktop, so our plans for the near future include an updated website that will allow for a device agnostic browser experience for our visitors. We are also placing emphasis on providing digital marketing opportunities for our estate agency clients that will increase their effectiveness in the communities they serve by establishing a local digital presence. We firmly believe that the industry will benefit further by taking a more active role in the area in which they operate. We are therefore in the process of rolling out a business model that sees ownership of our portal’s presence at community level transferred to the agents within that community. We already have a very successful model in our print business so it makes perfect sense to align the online business accordingly.”
Visit www.propertyjunction.co.za or for more information or contact Dave Asher on 021 447 7130 or firstname.lastname@example.org. With so many portals out there to choose from, it is important to think of who you are targeting and which portal best suits your clients’ and your business’s needs. Every portal has its strong points and it is an industry that is growing fast and constantly changing to be better, making sure that the property industry is one of the leaders in using digital technology to meet clients’ needs. If you haven’t thought about using a property portal yet, IOL, Private Property, Property 24 and Property Junction are setting the bar high when it comes to property portals and will more than meet your needs.
- IOLProperty: www.iolproperty.co.za
- Private Property: www.privateproperty.co.za
- Property24: www.property24.com, email email@example.com
- Property Junction: www.propertyjunction.co
- Dave Asher: 021 447 7130, firstname.lastname@example.org
Words: Angelique Redmond