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With property portals, gaining traction can be a double-edged sword; We need to break the cycle of over-crowding
Let’s take a look at the numbers.
Eighty-five per cent of all consumers in Singapore do research online before buying a home. And it usually starts with a simple search on Google. In fact, we have grown so accustomed to going online for information that 66 per cent of all real estate sales today actually starts online.
With statistics like that, it’s no wonder why in recent years, property portals have begun to sprout like wild flowers in Singapore. From PropertyGuru, to 99.co, to SRX and countless others, we have yet to witness a revolution, but we are definitely witnessing a rise in popularity for ‘proptech’.
Success: a double-edged sword
With the global rise in proptech, it is increasingly difficult to ignore the fact that many of the new property portals in Singapore have retained the same fundamental business model. Each may possess its own uniqueness, may vary in certain features, but the underlying vision is broadly similar: provide an online “’classifieds’ platform for advertisers, be it a real estate agent or seller or landlord to advertise, and to charge the advertiser a fee to post his/her listing.
At the onset, the biggest challenge for every new property portal would be to acquire real estate listings and to build up web traffic. As it gains traction, few recognise that its success is also a double-edged sword.
A budding property portal would likely have fewer real estate agents than an established one. For these few agents, this means their listings stand a better chance of being seen, which in turn improves the chances of lead generation. The only downside is that these sites tend to have much fewer visitors than bigger ones.
Sometime down the road, these portals begin to gain traction and generate good traffic to the site. More and more real estate agents start turning to these sites to advertise on them, not recognising that at the end of the day, there are only a finite number of home buyers and tenants visiting each online property portal, viewing a finite number of listings. This is true even for market leaders like PropertyGuru.
The best listings or the most recent ones, make it to the top and are seen while other listings are pushed further and further behind. Without a doubt, this creates an air of frustration amongst real estate agents who are paying to post their listings and feel that they are not getting their monies worth. Most will even consider spending more money reposting their listings just to get it to the top.
To overcome this, most real estate agents will also seek out alternative property portals, even newer ones which are beginning to gain traction but have yet to reach the plateau where success and its fast-growing base of listings becomes a problem.
Some may also revert to traditional media such as flyers, brochures, newspaper classifieds to supplement his/her reach when online property portals become ‘overcrowded’. But all this is only a short-term solution.
For property portals, with the same fundamental model, success and traction may just be the onset of a longer-term overcrowding problem.
Breaking the cycle
To crack the long-term overcrowding problem faced by property portals, these first need to break the equation wherein the reach equals the number of visitors on its site each month. It needs to find a way to reach people both on and off its site, so that agents are not competing for the finite number of people who visit the site, who may spend 5 to 10 minutes on average on each site.
One startup, DREA.sg, believes that the way to do so is by making sure real estate listings are not just on its own property site, but virtually everywhere, even other property sites.
This allows real estate agents to reach home buyers and tenants, not just for the limited time that they spend on a single property portal, but even when they browse away from the site to visit social media platforms and websites such as Facebook, Instagram, news sites, shopping sites and literally, every other website.
To do so, real estate agents can leverage on digital marketing platforms to place their ads virtually everywhere, ideally through an automated process. Automating and consumerising digital marketing for real estate agents is a relatively new and unseen practice within Singapore. For agents, this provides them the opportunity of capturing a portion of the 4 million Singaporeans online daily, in a targeted manner, and converting these views into potential leads.
As this start-up seeks to break the monotony of the property portal, it is possible to vouch that this could be a step in the right direction, particularly in helping real estate agents overcome the limitations of existing digital solutions and to make the full shift in terms of marketing, from traditional channels to the digital realm.
Whether this form of real estate online advertising will replace the current business model (of property portals and traditional media) will be proven in due time.