Why are Harcourts not yet on Trade Me?

There’s a fun discussion happening over on the Unconditional Blog – which if you have not found it yet is well worth following. I commend Alister Helm for not only his writing, but also for balancing the real estate industry (and their archaic ways) and the dot com approach to things.

However Alistair write a post on Harcourts that was just a wee bit too fluffy for my sensibilities – so I asked the question “.. are these change leaders <Harcourts> even on Trade Me yet?” (I knew that they are not – and they are missing out on 600,000 browsers each month)

If you go to that post now then stop reading – I’ve just copied and pasted. Indeed join the conversation over on Alistairs blog raher than starting s new one here.

To his credit Alistair gave a comprehensive reply, but it does not fly with me.

1. Realestate.co.nz – the most comprehensive single property portal in NZ – 95% of all listings by real estate agents are featured, the site receives 370,000 unique browsers per month with over 120,000 of these from overseas. This single portal provides the most comprehensive source of real estate – test it on Google which is were the majority of real estate searches start – type in “property in …” on Google NZ.

2. Harcourts.co.nz – the number one company website with over 160,000 unique browsers per month, close to double the web traffic of any other company website.

3. Google adwords – the opportunity to promote property online with pinpoint accuracy and cost effective visitor traffic.

Harcourts have never used Trade me property for all of their listings, they are not alone. At this time realestate.co.nz would have over 20,000 more listings than trade me property. As well there are over 200,000 unique browsers a month who go to realestate.co.nz who do not visit trade me property. (these are all Nielsen Stats)

Harcourts judge that their clients properties would not be presented in the best manner on a website that focuses on second hand goods auctions after all do real estate agents in Australia or US use eBay? – certainly not. Harcourts have adopted this strategy and it has not effected their market share – their share is growing.

I would judge that Trade me is not the sole answer to advertising anything in NZ – just look at jobs, Seek is still the number 1 jobs website – some high value items like jobs and houses may not long term fit the image and profile of trade me – cars, beds, shoes, CD’s and mobile phone – certainly core for Trade me.

My reply was as follows:

Realestate.co.nz had 354,357 UB’s in April, of which 145,000 odd also went to Trade Me. Another 621,080 went to Trade Me and not to Realestate.co.nz.

Harcourts.co.nz had 161,891 UB’s in April, of which 83,500 also went to Trade Me. Another 679,945 went to Trade Me and not to Harcourts.

These are total traffic figures- I should have used domestic, but actually from memory the total numbers make realestate.co.nz look better. I would say though that the impact of those overseas browsers is pretty minimal – after all how many houses are sold each month to overseas buyers?

While UB’s are over-counted (e.g. I have multiple browsers and computers so count many times) this is still a pretty compelling market that Harcourts misses out on. There must be more to it.

And there is – Realestate.co.nz is partially owned by Harcourts, and the Harcourts CEO is the chairman of Realestate.co.nz. Isn’t this a more likely reason for them not to list on Trade Me?

Almost every other real estate agency on Realestate.co.nz is on Trade Me. The last hold outs were/are the shareholders in Realestate.co.nz.

I have no problem with Harcourts holding out, but the reasons are clear, and they are not based on statistics but on ownership.

There are 365 Harcourts listings on Trade Me right now – placed, I understand, by individual agents. If I were a Harcourts agent I’d be pretty annoyed that 600,000 Kiwis were not able to view my listings, and I can understand why they would do an end-run behind the corporate policy.

Meanwhile Barfoot’s have over 2000 listings on Trade Me. Do we think that Harcourts are looking at Barfoot’s recent success in Auckland and wondering just how much of that relates to their presence on Trade Me? Remember that Trade Me attracts sellers, not just buyers.

Actually I’d love to see a chart of sales by agency versus number of listings that month on each of the sites. It would make interesting reading for the entire industry. I suspect you’d better be on both main sites to maximise your chances of a sale.

I do believe there is a place for both Trade Me and realestate.co.nz, but if Harcourts are really scathingly positioning Trade Me as a 2nd hand goods market then they show a very poor awareness of what exactly Trade Me is to Kiwis.

eBay is a poor cousin to Trade Me – they never figured out how to do Motors or Property, and certainly not Jobs. In Australia the market for cars is pretty fragmented, but is mainly on independent listing sites. Similarly the market for property is all over the place, without one dominant player (it varies by region and realestate.com.au is pretty good).

Not only are 40% odd of Trade Me’s items on sale new, but Trade Me is the marketplace for cars and bikes (due to poor online competition back in the day), getting close to the same for property (where realestate.co.nz is good competition), and still in progress for Jobs (where Seek was a very strong incumbent).

As an aside (and red herring) – what happens to the other 5% of real estate agent listings that are not on realestate.co.nz? Are they listed anywhere?

Disclosures: none – I have not worked for Trade Me for quite a while, and I know both Alistair from Realestate and Brendon from Trade Me Property, and they are both good guys.

About Lance Wiggs

@lancewiggs
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5 Responses to Why are Harcourts not yet on Trade Me?

  1. Lance,

    Very much appreciate your comments and value the challenging questions, as you will see on the flow of comments I have again responded to your comments! – very entertaining

    Thanks for the disclosure – equally I can tell you that I have used Trade me for over 5 years and have a rating of I think 46 transactions – clearly though as you would appreciate only household items to which they offer an excellent service – far superior to any eBay site

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  2. Steve Biddle says:

    Oh the irony.. The property was for sale on realestate.co.nz and has already hit $20k more on TM and hasn’t closed.

    Surely that’s the proof in the pudding?

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  3. That would be the proof only if all properties were advertised on Trade me with $1 reserves! – clearly I trust people are smart enough to appreciate the media attention and 15 minutes of fame factor that has driven this one-off auction.

    It will also be interesting to see if the winning bidder completes on the deal.

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  4. FYI as of today (5/10/10) All Harcourts listings in Canterbury are now on trade me! It’s been a while coming but I think it is a good move. We may not sell a whole lot of property through it but it will be great brand exposure to paint Trade me Blue!

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