So you want to have the best real estate site n your area? I am sure you understand the basics but here are some hints to get you there.

1. Information Everywhere:
Engage a service (or build your own) that controls all of your property data in one place and build a tool set that makes it easy for you distribute that data via XML data feeds. Any developer worthy of the name ‘developer’ could do this – however there aren’t as many who say they can do it that can actually do it. The second thing you need to do is join sites that you can distribute the data to. There are many that cost money, but there will be more and more that are free.

Here is a list of National sites for Australia and New Zealand:

Fee Based Services:
1. http://realestate.com.au (au)
2. http://domain.com.au (au)
3. http://realestate.co.nz (nz)
4. http://realenz.co.nz (nz)
5. http://allrealestate.co.nz (nz)
6. http://homehound.com (au) (FREE)

Here is a list of FREE worldwide classified services

7. http://base.google.com
8. http://expo.live.com (coming soon)

Be ready for more, I know of at least 5 new developments (including mapping systems) so have a system to store and distribute your data or you WILL be left behind. (or will spend all of your time updating all of the different sites)

Good agencies may pitch that they are on realestate.com.au and domain.com.au but when your competitor is on 6 or more sites you will find you will lose vendors, particularly once these sites gain popularity.

Remember, the reason all the big guys own all of the major realestate, jobs and car websites is because they want control of your advertising, so make sure you do not rely on one source. Control = bigger costs, so make sure you take control of your Internet marketing

2. Develop your site in a standards based environment.

If you use Macromedia Flash or Java get rid of it (or plan to), it is a waste of your money and a waste of your visitors time. The standard based environment will be imperative and you will see why when the new Internet Explorer comes out later in the year!

Features you will need……

3. RSS Feeds
This is now a revolution and it will not stop. Currently if you use Internet Explorer you probably don’t know about it, but with Internet Explorer 7 due out later in the year, this will change quickly. How it works is simple. Every time you update a page on your site any person who has subscribed to your site via the RSS feed icon will be notified in their browser/messenger program or RSS reader, whether they are at your site or not! This means people do not have to subscribe by their email address and can view new listings via their browser/reader/messenger program and decide whether or not they will visit your site and see more information, if they do, they will just simply click on the feed and this will take them directly to the page the listing is on at your website.

RSS feeds can include basic listings, videos (video casting) or audio (called podcasts) but at this stage the most popular form is just data. Make sure you prepare for this as it will be huge ( I know you have heard this before), but this will be because all of the control is with the user.

4. Mapping:
Over the next few months you will see at least 3 new national sites taking advantage of FREE mapping services from Google. I know at least one of these will be FREE for real estate agents to send their property data to. You should make sure you have a system that can take advantage of this.

Examples:
http://maps.google.com (zoom around globe to find Australia)
http://local.live.com/

Both these services are free and I will think it safe to assume that this will place pressure on http://www.whereis.com.au to open up their systems for free, which a company like Sensis would not enjoy doing.

5. Virtual Tours ( I mean real ones)
We will see the types of Virtual Tours available today become obsolete and replaced by actual video tours. This may take longer, but by 2010 movies/tvshows/listings will be beamed directly to consumers TV sets by companies like realestate.com.au and domain and you want to join in on this, all you will have to do is subscribe and your listings will be sent to their main servers and from there, depending on whether a consumer chooses listings from your area, this will be beamed to their TV set top boxes for viewing at their leisure…. Pretty cool hey!

6. The threat to the majors…
We will also see companies like Google, Yahoo and MSN getting into online realestate in the future as it is an area that has been a huge driver for property buyers and one of the major reasons for the Internet’s commercial success. Real estate was one of the first industries to go commercially online and will be a huge driver in the future.

Companies like realestate.com.au and domain.com.au will be placed under pricing pressure as their models for increasing pricing each year will hit a ‘tipping point’ (an over used phrase I know) that will make agents question the long term value. These sites will survive but will have to look elsewhere for revenue growth.

If you look at the pricing of today for a basic subscription to realestate.com.au which is $379.00 per month, at the current rate they increase subscriptions each year it will be $515.61 per month by 2010.

Although many may argue that it is relatively inexpensive ( and I do too) compared to traditional advertising, to me the Internet is not about that, many of these companies make allot of money out of the fact that agents list their properties and Google, Yahoo and Microsoft know this.

Google for one don’t care about making money from people contributing information – they want to make money from advertisers that want to be seen alongside this information.

I think it safe to assume that Google, Yahoo and Microsoft will offer FREE real estate listing services in the not too distant future and you can bet if one does it all of the others will follow.

In the short term this will not effect portal pricing, but in the long term that is another story.

How it could pan out.
First Step: Agents – Imagine if Google offered a FREE global real estate listing service and just about all agents joined this service (as I suspect most would)

Second Step: Consumers – Their is no secret to Internet success, you need the content and then you need the eyeballs. Once Google had the content, they have proved they have no problems getting the eyeballs. There are a number of obvious reasons for this, but one I like to point to – to Google’s advantage is that just about everything they do is not obtrusive to the user. That means you don’t have advertising in your face, pop ups, banner ads (Ninemsn is getting so annoying) . That is the one of the major reason’s for their success (Google), time and time again they develop something that is a joy to use and they think of the user. Established media players who buy into Internet space make the same mistake time and time again by thinking of advertising dollars first and consumers second and consumers will depart them given a choice.

So I have no doubt Google, Yahoo or MSN would develop something that would be well received by the consumer. If this is done correctly major portals would have no choice, either reducing costs for agents or offering it as a free service.

So you can decide to either site back and just wait for new trends or take control of your destiny now. Next time you develop or re develop your site, think of the future and engage your users!

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