August 27, 2011

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In this interview, CEO Alistair Helm gives us some frank answers on what he thinks real estate agents need to do to get ahead in the online marketing game.

What are the top three things you think agents need to include in their listing to get it noticed?

1. Photos

Seems so simple, but in NZ, as in so many countries, the art of taking/commissioning photos of a property seems to be forgotten at best and completely ignored at worst. I still, to my horror, see listings with no photos or photos of the bathroom or the couch as the first photo. So little time is taken to make such a major impact. It really frustrates me to see the abdication of responsibility. I often see better and more insightful photos taken for a $20 item on eBay than I see for a $300,000 property.

Having said all of that we do see the average number of photos per listing growing all the time. Back in 2006 it was less than four, by 2008 it was just under 10 and today it is over 16. Many are taking advantage of our policy of no restrictions and we have many listings with in excess of 80 photos.

[With poor photos] not only is the property and thereby the agent’s client is being poorly represented, but the agent is doing themselves such a disservice. A smart vendor checking out the capabilities of prospective agents will make fast work of eliminating agents that fail at this very first hurdle. The sad truth is these agents get away with it because they will spend proportionally more time composing, reviewing and proofing a single half page advert in the newspaper - an advert potentially seen by a fraction of the audience of the online advert.

2. Address

It’s a property they are trying to sell, so why not share the most basic of information?

Only 60 percent of all listings on show the address on the website. Often this omission by four out of 10 listings is not because the respective agents don’t want to display it, but rather, as we found out the other day, there are still offices and companies that have a policy that the default for upload of listing data is to not display the address (even though we have the address in the data file).

The history of this tactic has been shared with me, as I am sure all in this industry will know, in that no address is thought to encourage the prospective buyer to contact the agent to find out the details. Well the world has moved on, and the consumers of today have a higher threshold expectation of transparency and so feel that the address should be there. Just as in the case of the photos, a prospective buyer not seeing an address will undertake to identify the address using whatever online tools they can - mostly Google Maps and Street View. If they, through this super sleuthing, find the address the question will be: how will that reflect on their estimation of the agent? Not that well!

3. Community Information

Agents are flush with a wealth of information and knowledge. They are by the very nature of this industry local experts. Their niche is the very small geographical boundary that defines their business area. They know so much about the houses, the schools, the transportation, the shops, the cafes (they are certainly experts there!) and the local amenities. This information is so vital for prospective buyers. It is valued and respected if the agents can get it across in a compelling and transparent manner.

The best advice is for agents to include snippets of this info in listings as sound bites and morsels that attract buyers to check out richer information curated on a personal blog. With websites allowing embedded html in listing details for blog links, this opportunity is a gold mine for agents that is seldom utilised.

What is the biggest mistake agents tend to make when listing a property?

Simply put, ignoring these key three points above!

To be more specific the critical importance of the first photo for a listing cannot be underestimated. It is the hero shot and has to work hard to really sell the appeal of the listing. As with poor quality photos, insufficient photos or no photos, choosing the wrong photo for the first place can be the criminal mistake agents all too often make. I have seen some horrible examples - photos of toilets, kitchens, untidy bedroom, couches - you name it, we have seen it. Even the use of an image of a view from the property can be poor choice. The mindset of the searching buyers is typified in having a brain hardwired to be evaluating property design types and looks. To throw in a view from a property is confusing.

Some agents tell me that this disruption to the regular type of photo is very successful in getting people to be inquisitive and get them to check out more photos. I cannot deny the logic of their argument, but as a marketer I disagree as intrusive, out-of-context images tend to allow the viewer to eliminate, as that is the core task of a search/refine process - people need to eliminate to refine down to a meaningful number of properties to evaluate in detail.

Another appalling error (which I am glad to see declining in incidence) is the tactic of posting a new listing with the heading “Just listed - too new to photograph”, often accompanied with insufficient or no information. The logic for this behaviour from those agents is the desire to “get the listing online” as fast as possible, of course not appreciating that no content means no value to the target audience and, going back to an earlier comment, blows the credibility of the agent. Added to the negative impact on the searcher online is the fact that all new listings are featured in the daily email to hot prospects - this one time medium is so powerful to target the listing to the right audience.

As I say to agents, miss that first day and you have almost blown the campaign. We did research recently on a sample of over 1,000 listings and found that over 40 percent of viewing for a property occurs in the first week with the majority of that on the first day. So it comes down again to “proofing” a listing with comprehensive information before posting it to the web.

Besides creating high-quality listings, what else should Australian and New Zealand real estate agents be doing to market themselves online?

Every agent has to have a profile page on the web. This page must be the number one link in a Google search for their name (with or without the reference to real estate in the search term, depending on the uniqueness of the name). Every agent needs to own this space. This is their reference tool 24 hours a day. Ideally the profile should be hosted on their own domain name, if not then on the domain of their company or as in the case of our site we offer profile pages. The benefit of a profile page on is that if the agent changes offices/company, the day of that change the profile page on our site changes, and maintains the same Google search page ranking, whereas the old profile on the old company website will still be there until the new profile gains ranking.

Step two after the basic web page is a website. This is the opportunity for richer information to profile the agent and feature all the success and unique propositions they offer prospective clients. A natural evolution to the website is a blog. Today the lines between blog and website have blurred to the extent that they are one and the same. The feature set of being able to add dynamic content to a website is critical for an agent to build a profile as a local expert, or as a subject matter expert. This is, or rather should be, the ambition of every agent. This is their calling card, their prospecting tool, and their letterbox drop all rolled into one.

As ever building the website is only the beginning. It needs nurturing and growing to attract an audience, it needs referral links in both on and offline references. This requires work, the use of social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as outreach to establish backlinks to other relevant and contextual sites in their community or business area.

It take time, but as with anything the investment will pay back, and the beauty of the web is that it keeps paying back 24hrs a day.


Related posts:

  1. What Makes a Good Property Ad
  2. First Week Crucial for Listings
  3. Listings on
  4. Photos Make a Dramatic Difference
  5. New Premium Ads and Listing Tips at
  6. Nestoria’s Tips for Great Listings
  7. Listing Checklist: Don’t Leave These Out
  8. Back to Basics: The Top Five Factors of Great Listings


  1. Yep, what he said!

    At The Property Market (NZ’s newest agency), we’re finding that the volume of stock and the slow rate of sales in some sections of the market mean we have to find ways to cut through the clutter and online is the only medium that allows us the flexibility to do that.

    Even if print media was still a viable option, the parameters for its use are so strictly defined that it wouldn’t allow us the freedom to be different and stand out.

    Go the web.

    Antonia Baker
    ([email protected])

  2. Sue says:

    NOT NEW. 1% Realty has been in operation for over 2 years. Check out Agents have over 10 years experience. Commission about 1/2 of others.

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