As we all know, the internet has changed the sales industry forever. It’s an unlimited resource of opinions, information and outlets. Now I’m sure by now, most of you are comfortable with buying a pair of socks, or an oven mit off the internet – but what about buying a house? We’ve seen the online move from selling smaller more menial items to higher-end luxury and big-ticket items. So what’s next?
Real estate is an industry that is quickly taking over the web. Property developers are constantly pouring more money into online ads and agents are signing up for multiple portals to gain access to new clientele. Since buyers have become unlocalized, traditional means of media promotion are slowly being put on the back burner. I mean, a newspaper ad only reaches so far. If you were to look at the international property market 7 years ago, the show was run by proper brick and mortar companies like Knight Frank, Jones Lang LaSalle, Colliers International, etc. And even though they still play a huge role, the rules of the game have changed. This new and improved ruleset simply states that now, there are no more rules. And that means that the big boys no longer get to dictate the way information flows or who gets to see it.
Dawning is the age of the property portals. Online property search is exploding in markets all around the world. And in many cases, big time brokers are left picking up the scraps left behind by these web-based behemoths. But even more interesting than that, is the fact that now, big portals are starting conversations with localized brokers (many times skipping the big boys) – to start making money on both the advertising as well as the transactional side of the product. This reversal of roles could slowly make obsolete, companies with large overheads and big pricing schemes. Even more so in markets that are still emerging and maturing (such as China), due to the purely competitive and commission based structure of the business.
In the past, the problem that online property portals faced, was that they were too far removed from both the development being promoted as well as the potential buyer who was searching. Making them interesting, but not actionable. But like I mentioned earlier, the trust for online interaction has grown exponentially in the last few years, creating tangible demand for markets that once were only used as informative additions.
Now the portals may be taking over, but this phenomenon has sparked a trend within itself. That is for websites that aren’t currently in the property game, to turn their currently loyal readers into a potential pool of property purchasers. Take a look at your local newspaper’s website, chances are you’ll find a real estate section littered with promotions, covered in project advertisements, and direct links to any number of realtors and brokerages. Same goes for magazines, blogs, and even entertainment sites. However I feel that this explosion of bandwagon-ers is only going to perpetuate the problem, and in the long run, make life a whole lot easier for the big portals. Given that their entire potential customer base is currently being educated about how easy it is to search for property online, and all they have to do later is swoop in and pick them up.
But there is a catch. In the places where the international property trend is growing the fastest, you also have a strong tie between buyers and facilitators. What I like to call, the relational factor. And this factor is the linchpin for property portals looking to expand in the developing world. The next few years are going to be very telling for those of us in the online property game — walking a tight line between. But ask yourself, “how do you find property, and who do you trust for information?” Some portals own the traffic, others have mastered the brokerage side and relationships. But those who can balance both will own the golden hen.