The debate around subscription costs of listing portals continues to blaze as the industry calls for a common-sense solution.
Last week Real Estate Business reported on REA Group’s new flexi subscription fees that offer agencies the ability to advertise all of their property listings on realestate.com.au within the one subscription cost. However, an additional fee is charged per listing.
Soon after the story was published agents began demanding the need for a free portal to rival realestate.com.au.
According to Mark Shannon, director of Winning Edge Solutions, a company that works with Real Estate Institute of Victoria (REIV) and Real Estate Institute of NSW (REINSW), while a free alternative to realestate.com.au may sound promising the industry must consider the costs in running such a portal.
“It’s fine to suggest a free industry site, but the following questions need an answer: Who is going to pay for the initial site and ongoing costs to operate it? Who is going to pay to promote the site to the public? Who will provide service support and sales to the industry?" he said.
“These sites need ongoing support and service, even if it is on a cost-only basis.”
As recently as January last year, View Property Australia was touted as a possible industry-owned listing portal that could eventually rival the commercial websites. This project appears to have stalled, however, with the most recent press statement, from March 2012, highlighting a “last minute trademark challenge’. The 1 300 number on the website is no longer connected.
Bill Hegarty of the Real Estate Gallery in South Yarra said in order to create an industry portal, the site must be an even playing field for all agents.
“If the state institutes fully owned their own internet portal, charged estate agents a membership fee that covered free internet advertising (of a set standard) where every advertisement and agency was treated equally, where the institutes retained all of the sales and rental information and supplied free rental and sales forms for all of its members,” he wrote to Real Estate Business, “the members could supply the advertising reach to consumers by promoting the site through their boards, brochures, listing authorities, offices etc. If this happened then all of a sudden the industry could control its own destiny.”
On the other hand, Tim McKibbin, CEO of REINSW said realestateVIEW.com.au is a viable option for agents.
“We are in a venture with realestateVIEW.com.au and we encourage our members to support it. This venture came about because we share the same views. I am constantly approached by numerous parties over the ever increasing costs of online advertising in the real estate market,” he told Real Estate Business.
“The key is to have a portal owned by the industry and controlled by the industry. REIV and REINSW are not-for-profit so we do not have stakeholders to answer too.”
Mr McKibbin conceded, however, that realestateVIEW.com.au is part owned by REIV and other investors, although he does believe the site was created and shaped with the industry's best interest in mind.
“Those people who have invested in the site ultimately want some return in their investment, of course,” he said.
“Those people who have invested in the site are agents themselves, they are inside the industry.”
REA Group, owner of realestate.com.au, declined to comment further on the matter. However, a representative of the company told Real Estate Business that they would speak directly with REA customers about any queries they have in relation to the subscription changes.