Here we go again with another lighthearted look at the content being produced, endorsed or syndicated by property portal companies around the world. Every month my inbox and RSS feed filters get clogged up with the sheer volume of this stuff, so it only seems right to analyse some of it because just about any property portal with a pulse is producing something they want to be shared, linked to or covered in the media.

 

Boomin - 'Reinventing' YouTube

An upstart property portal company claiming that it is going to "reinvent the YouTube channel for property" is about as squarely in the middle of this column's wheelhouse as anything has ever been, so let's take a look...

The recently-launched British portal has been working hard at its PR and generating a lot of headlines in the industry press, not least because of who its founders are. The idea behind the company's recent TV ad campaign and this tilt at YouTube reinvention is clearly brand recognition and, as Boomin's selection of video host shows, they are especially targeting a younger audience.

The channel's flagship video sees YouTube influencer WillNE and his girlfriend have a look around a mansion in Surrey, commenting on how the other half lives. Looking at the 6 other videos the channel has put out over the last month, millennials gawping at big houses they'll never be able to afford seems to be something of a theme - and to some extent, it seems to be working.

Although a comparison is made difficult here by the fact that no other British property portals are into creating viral YouTube content, it seems that Boomin's channel is doing well enough in terms of views. Between the two Boomin videos they appear in, WillNE and his girlfriend have generated 272k of the channel's 291k views so far. Whether this represents value for money or not depends on how much it costs to have a YouTuber appear in your video and whether the generation targetted by this content is old enough to have enough savings to be realistic home shoppers and not just property portal perusers and voyeurs.

In any case, portal company's moving into viral video content is something that seemed a bit far fetched before but now seems like an inevitability. I'm sure we'll see more of them going down this route in the not too distant future.

 

Zillow - Reading the Political Playbook

There is a theory in politics that to win an election you need a simple, clear message and you need to repeat it over and over and over again at every opportunity. It doesn't matter if you're sick of saying it and journalists are sick of covering it, each voter may only get to hear your slogan once or twice.

Ever since CEO Rich Barton referred to the pandemic-induced desire for people to move house as 'the great reshuffling' on a Zillow Q2 earnings call in August 2020, the company has been trotting the phrase out to the media at every given opportunity. As someone who covers Zillow I am pretty tired of it, as industry insiders who read OMP you may well have read or heard the phrase several times but 'the great reshuffling' may have only trickled down as far as the average American homeowner just the once, and that's the point.

This month, Zillow COO Jeremy Wacksman was on an Axios podcast taking the company line about the housing market for a spin and refuting the idea that the market is in a bubble. He's not the first Zillow exec being wheeled out for media duties recently and he won't be the last to mention reshuffling either.

 

PAP.fr - Sharing Insights for Some Good PR and Thought-Leadership

The French FSBO portal De Particulier A Particulier is seen by many in the industry as the bad guy. The company is playing the good guy this month though after releasing a study into the housing tribulations of a neglected demographic when it comes to property: students. The portal is particularly strong among France's student population a fact which is reflected in a sample size for its report (nearly 15,000) which is much healthier than I suspect many portal reports are based on.

PAP.fr's report (covered here in mysweetimmo.com) delves into student home hunting habits and makes some interesting points around how many students search alone, how many don't have any income and the average budget among students. All of these stats might well be useful to competitors and all of them could have perfectly easily been kept in-house. The good PR, domain authority and the thought-leadership that reports like this generate are clearly worth externalising some marketing demographic data points for, however.

 

Zillow, Lamudi, EMPG, REW - CEOs Putting Faces to Names

This month there seems to have been a trend among some of the content that property portals around the world are putting their name to. Either giving quotes (in the case of Zameen), giving interviews (in the case of Zillow), giving explanations (in the case of REW) or writing columns (in the case of Lamudi Mexico), CEOs are have been popping up all over my content feeds recently.

Trust is the name of the game here. Human beings trust faces not corporations and having a named person who happens to be the leader, and therefore in the public eye also the embodiment of your brand values, deliver your message either explicitly or implicitly can only be a good idea. Company CEOs are typically a pretty well educated, effusive and engaging group of people who make excellent spokespersons and proxy brand ambassadors.

If you're a property portal company, you're no doubt looking to cultivate a brand that is friendly and trustworthy. If you've got a CEO who's as smooth and (apparently) affable as Rich Barton or as good on camera as Simon Bray is in the video around the launch of REW's new REW.one product, your content and PR people are probably going to want them in front of a camera or microphone as much as possible.

 

Thursday - The Best Day for ALL Content

In the content marketing world, it is generally accepted that for most types of content the best day of the week to publish and distribute it is Thursday. At Online Marketplaces we have found this to be the case with our content and have long suspected that the same goes for housing listings as well - Thursday seems to be the day that we drift off onto our phones or to other tabs on our browser.

Our theory seems to have been borne out after a report from Zillow this month found that:

"Homes listed on a Thursday sell faster and are more likely to sell above list price than those listed on any other day of the week"

We knew it!

This column started out last September as a response to the constant stream of housing market reports being created by property portals and ending up in my inbox. In only a few short months since then, it seems like the volume of content being commissioned by property portal companies has grown exponentially and there is barely a portal out there that is not collecting data, analysing it, writing about it and asking journalists to cover it.

At Online Marketplaces, we might not be interested in the average commercial property occupancy rate in Melbourne or the mortgage approval fluctuation in Sri Lanka, but we find the way all this content is produced and used for branding fascinating. These are some of the highlights from the world of property portal content this month...

 

Fotocasa and idealista - Spain

These two have featured on almost every month's edition of this column since I started writing it, and with good reason. As the recognised #1 portal in Spain with its own news section employing several specialist journalists and churning out 10+ pieces of content per day, idealista could be said to be leading the charge when it comes to property portals using content.

Fotocasa has also had a dedicated news section of its website for some time, but until recently the output was not up to the same level. That all seems to have changed recently. The Adevinta-operated portal seems to have made the decision since the start of the year to go all-in on the content it produces. Judging by the sheer volume of press releases in my inbox announcing new content (in the graph below), the resources spent on production have gone up considerably and the Barcelona-based company has even made a high profile appointment to make sure its content and the brand get as much coverage domestically as possible.

As a journalist on their distribution list, I am now receiving almost one press release per work day promoting content from these two portals. No other portals in the world come close to these levels of content production at the moment!

While articles such as 'The Most Expensive Discotheques For Sale in Spain' might not be relevant for everyone and the 'quality over quantity' maxim may have gone by the wayside in some cases, as someone who also sees the value of content production I have to applaud both of these property portals for seeing the value that written content can contribute to a brand.

 

Domain - Australia

It would seem logical to assume that the more people are searching on property portals, the more houses are getting sold in the market. Having done a few preliminary searches into this myself, it seems that there has been very little written about this over the years and no real studies linking property portal searches to closed transactions.

A new report from Australian portal Domain in collaboration with e-conveyancing firm PEXA seems to have gone some way towards filling the void here according to Domain CEO Jason Pellegrino:

"There has long been an assumption that buyer search activity is correlated with actual property settlements and for the first time, Domain and PEXA can not only validate this correlation, but also establish an accurate leading indicator of housing activity."

Many portals around the word have proprietory metrics produced by their data department with snazzy names conjured by their marketing department. The fluctuation of these metrics is sometimes touted to journalists as a proxy for how the housing market is going to behave without necessarily having any data tying the brand name metric to any data on how many sales actually occurred.

The report written with PEXA makes that link to real sales data and lends legitimacy to Domain's proprietory 'Domain Buyer Demand Indicator' metric. We can probably expect more reports from this collaboration and perhaps more similar collaborations between portals and closing companies around the world in the future as well.

 

Zillow - USA

Zillow's Research department has had plenty of praise in this column over the last few months, and it's going to get some more this month.

Often the content produced by portals falls into two buckets: clickbaity content written for end-users looking for an angle that will generate social media shares and data-driven content often produced for agents or for super-engaged housing market enthusiasts. Zillow has teamed up with fellow portal / marketplace company Rover.com to produce a piece of content that is both data-driven and has all of the signals which mean that it will doubtless get good traction on social media.

As a portal for dog sitting and walking services Rover.com collects data on where its users are. Crossed with Zillow data on listings with dog-friendly features this makes for a nice little article ranking the most dog-friendly cities in America. Data from two parties always makes these things more legitimate and the article has a ready-made network of proud pet owners from the top cities who are motivated to share the content.

 

Fotocasa - Spain

We've already established that Fotocasa has upped its game and is now churning out a lot of content. Sometimes this is good content with real merit and sometimes it isn't. This month one example of each of these scenarios caught my eye. We'll start with the not-so-good...

As someone who sometimes has to commission and has even had to try to produce a short explanatory video, I know that they are far more time consuming than you might think. Fotocasa's 52 second video accompanying an article exploring factors that bring foreign nationals to the Spanish housing market seemed a bit out of place and didn't really illuminate the subject or provide any additional information. Maybe it was an experiment not to be repeated (in which case, fair enough I suppose).

On the other hand, the company's report into Spanish salaries and how much of their salary the average Spaniard puts towards rent was both an interesting read and another good example of a cross over with third party data adding legitimacy and insight to a data-driven report. I wouldn't be surprised to see more content combining data from different Adevinta-owned portals crossing verticals in the future.

Property portals know that their success depends to a large extent on the strength of their brand. It's not enough to simply have more inventory or just have a narrowly better user experience than your competitor. Being 'top of mind' and top of Google's search results is everything, and every piece of advice gleaned from occasional missives from the search giant for the last few years have all hinted that big brands need to build trust by showing why they are a relevant source of information.

Releasing the numbers they collect and positioning employees as housing experts makes perfect sense for property portals but, as we've seen in previous editions of this feature, doing that is the bare minimum for portals these days. For a property portal brand to truly enter a national zeitgeist (as Zillow proved it has), it needs to be almost omnipresent in the media. The way some companies are going about this is fascinating...

 

Fotocasa - Spain

In Online Marketplaces' adopted home city of Madrid, the regional elections are almost upon us and are being hotly contested. One of the big bones of contention among the 6 parties disputing the elections is that of housing. Adevinta-owned Fotocasa is taking advantage of housing being at the top of political agendas in the region in a big way.

Why it made the list this month: A press release was circulated to journalists along with a blog post this month saying that the property portal would not only be sponsoring a debate among the six main political parties but indeed was organizing it and broadcasting it on its YouTube channel. Perhaps the portal is making the most of its new appointment of ex TV News Anchor María Matos. This is the first time, that we know of, a property portal has not only sponsored but created and broadcast political content.

For anyone interested in the debate, it's being broadcast on Fotocasa's YouTube channel tomorrow (27th of April at 12:00 local time).

 

idealista - Spain

The Madrid elections are really causing a stir in the housing market. Fotocasa wasn't the only portal company to release some interesting content that caught our eye this month...

Why it made the list this month: Portals are now overtly political and are even fact-checking politicians in blog posts. When Pablo Iglesias (leader of the left-wing Podemos party) claimed that rent prices in Madrid have risen 57% in the last five years, idealista countered the claim with its own data suggesting that the figure was 23% for the city and 33% for the region.

The fact that a property portal run by very rich people might be against left-wing housing proposals is not really a surprise, but being openly political on a company account is a rare thing.

 

Inmuebles24.com - Mexico

Mexico is a good example of a market where portal companies have started to dedicate resources to content creation but also a good example of one whose incumbent property portals have yet to really reach the levels of more developed markets when it comes to execution and use of data. Navent-owned Inmuebles24 is one of two leading portals in the country and has its own news section filled with advice articles and articles about the houses of celebrities among other things. For now, content built around data is slightly more hard to come by on the site.

Why it made the list this month: Inmuebles24 deserves some praise for trying to build out some content backed by numbers. This month the portal carried out a questionnaire of its users which asked if they were looking to move house, and if so, what were the reasons behind their decision. Articles from the portal's news section are often picked up by Mexican real estate publication CentroUrbano, and in this case the online magazine latched onto the results of Inmuebles24's questionnaire and wrote it up with the anodyne headline "A questionnaire revales that most people are planning to move".

Unfortunately, aside from the glaring issue around asking people who are on a property portal if they are looking to move house, there was no mention of the number of people surveyed and an infographic that was too small for anyone to see. The version of the article on Inmuebles24's own site was not much better and was pretty tough to find either in Google's results and on the site itself. Gathering data and making infographics are great, but the rest of the content process needs some work.

 

Realestate.com.au - Australia

The Aussie market leader has been praised in this column several times and is now firmly establishing its content as the gold standard for property portals around the world. Always well researched and excellently presented, other content departments are bound to be taking note.

Why it made the list this month: Realestate.com.au's blog posts have always been well written and backed up by well-presented data, but now many of them are featuring a video commentary from the REA Insights' Editor John Healy complete with TV level background production. Two excellent examples published this month include this report on prices in student areas and this one around price increases in out-of-town suburban areas.

 

OnTheMarket.com - The UK

OnTheMarket has a long way to go to unseat the two incumbents at the top of the ladder in the world of British portals. Refreshingly, the company's new CEO knows this and is not afraid to admit it in an interview.

Why it made the list this month: Having a well-known, friendly, independent interviewer ask you some tough questions to which you give honest answers just seems like a good idea for any business, especially one whose customers might be starting to doubt its credentials in the wake of new market entrants. Jason Tebb came across as an enthusiastic, honest and, most importantly, agent-friendly portal boss in an engaging interview with well known UK industry figure Peter Knight this month. Other portal PR departments would do well to suggest a similar strategy.

The content marketing strategy was just right as the video was designed specifically for agent customers to see rather than the general YouTube frequenting public and the tone set by the interviewer and interviewee found the balance between friendly and examining.

 

Wondering where we get to see all this content produced by property portals around the world? It's all on our regional property portal Twitter lists which you can follow via the links below:

European portals, Asian portals, North American portalsMENA portalsAfrican Portals, Latam portals and Oceania portals.

Property portals are putting increasing importance on and resources into the creation and dissemination of all types of content. This week Spanish portal Fotocasa announced the hiring of a notable TV anchor to front its studies program and be the public face of the property portal in the press. Getting media coverage is more important than ever for property portals and from what we're seeing they are going about it by creating more diverse content and thinking cleverly about their content marketing.

In last month's edition of the feature, we decided to expand the coverage to include any and all content produced by property portals, not just housing reports. We have been richly rewarded by our expansion decision this month as there are a few excellent examples for us to look at...

Realestate.com.au - Australia

The Newscorp-owned Australian market-leader has an excellent insights section which I got to know well before interviewing REA Group's Economic Manager for Economic Research last week (stay tuned for the publication of that one later in the week). They regularly publish really smart looking, well-researched reports and like an increasing number of property portals around the world they employ staff to write a serious property news section as well.

Why it made the list this month: I see a lot of reports produced by property portals around their domestic housing markets and, usually, I am not interested in reading them all the way through. REA's March report on the Australian commercial property sector was exemplary and had me reading until the end. They use some excellent data visualizations which, although they slow down the page, really jump out at the reader and still look great on mobile. The word count is just right and the data was insightful enough without giving anything away.

Snazzy Data Visualization

Snazzy data visualizations are always appreciated on this column

Housing.com - India

Until recently, perhaps because of the paucity of data on house prices, Indian property portals hadn't leaned into the content drive as heavily as some of their counterparts from around the world. Housing.com has gone down a different route to get its name in the press this month by compiling a comprehensive white-paper on the state of the PropTech industry in the country.

Why it made the list this month: Housing.com's parent company Elara Technologies (which itself is part-owned by REA Group) has clearly spared no expense for the production of the report and has even commissioned a YouTube video to promote it. Someone behind the scenes has clearly worked out that there are a lot of investors interested in the nascent Indian PropTech scene and a gap around content to introduce newcomers to the industry and give an overview.

Zillow - United States

The American market leader regularly makes an appearance in this feature simply because of the high percentage of hits it gets on our news filters. As you might expect for a leading property portal in a country as big as the USA Zillow generates a lot of headlines whenever it does practically anything, but recently the number of headlines has gone up still further thanks to what people in the content business call 'distribution multipliers'.

Why it made the list this month: Perhaps the best way to get a piece of content shared exponentially these days is to personalize it to a geographic area. There are more than a few local news networks out there who are more than happy to multiply your message, especially on a slow news day. Thanks to its broad appeal and easy comprehension, keyword use data is often a go-to for property portals looking to get their name across the media. Whereas we often see headlines like "The Top 10 Features Home Hunters Search for in name of country", Zillow has gone granular and calculated the most popular keywords for every city in the country, leading to headlines across local media like this one.

Zameen - Pakistan

As property portals increasingly prioritize content creation in an attempt to keep their brands in the media and in home-hunters' heads, they are branching out in terms of content format and distribution methods. They are also on some occasions rubbing up against unfamiliar themes including politics, or at least domestic housing policy.

The decision to extend the UK stamp duty holiday saw more than a few property portals pass comment at the beginning of 2021 and Spanish property portals are producing plenty of content at the moment around the proposed rental control law with no clues needed as to where their sympathies lie.

Why it made the list this month: The leading Pakistani property portal caught my eye this week after a headline in Emirati English language newspaper Khaleej Times which read "Pakistani housing shortage a huge opportunity for investors". The article's first line neatly sums up the point here by saying "Zameen.com says Pakistan's housing shortage needs an investment of $250 billion". The necessary investment guesstimate here is backed up by what are vaguely cited as Zameen "research estimates".

The piece is a great example of the fact that you don't need watertight figures to be a thought-leader, just a friendly journalist and a big brand. While Pakistan's government is on board with the message here, the fact that Zameen recently branched out to signing deals with developers of affordable housing is hardly a coincidence and it's unlikely that the appearance of the article in an Emirati paper which has links to the Pakistani cement industry is a coincidence either. Portals are big stakeholders in government housing policy and the closer their ties with the media become the more they can be expected to flex their influence.

99.co - Singapore

Sponsored content is something that more and more portals have been experimenting with over the last 12 months, and why not? There are a plethora of companies in auxiliary industries such as moving, finance and insurance out there that would love access to the audience that portals have captive.

Why it made the list this month: Singaporean property portal 99.co teamed up with personal finance research firm ValueChampion to produce a reasonably broad appeal piece about the livability of one of the country's most disparaged neighbourhoods which delves into its property prices. Although the article is maybe missing a few quotes from residents, a few images and a bit of insight in general, it doesn't feel too 'selly' and is a nice example of sponsored content done well.

Eagle-eyed regular followers of this feature will have noticed that the name has changed this month. Quite honestly we at OMP have had enough of commenting solely on property price reports from around the world. Since some bright spark at a property portal board meeting presumably first came up with the idea of using all the data they had to produce branded housing reports there has been a pretty underwhelming amount of innovation around how to deliver the seemingly perennial message in every market around the world that: "Guess what guys, house prices are up again and most of you still can't afford one".

Companies have increasingly expanded what they report on (we honestly got a press release from a portal this week about the profitability of garages) and the type of content they produce for attention (remember the house price game made by a portal that we covered in December's edition?). That's what we'll be commenting on from now on in this feature: content. In whatever shape or form the portal marketing departments deem fit to produce it in.

Let's dive into some February gems then...

 

Private Property - South Africa

I spent a very pleasant but distracting half an hour last week trying to find the property listing being referred to in Private Property's excellently named 'Sherlock Homes' property riddle game. Users are given a riddle and must find the property listing on the portal that it refers to. If they find the home they might win a prize, and if they get all of the 12 weekly properties correct they are in with a chance of winning a mysterious grand prize.

Why it made the list: As we know, snooping around on property portals is a legitimised new hobby for many in lockdown. Why not do like Private Property and engage these window shoppers in something useful like a promotion? We're sure that if Zillow did something similar it would go viral fairly quickly.

 

Adevinta - Spain

Now, this isn't the first time we have featured Adevinta Spain as an example not to follow on this column, but if they aren't willing to change, neither are we. If you were wondering who sent the PR about the garages, yes it was them.

The company hosted a webinar for journalists this week around the trends in online behaviour in the country (a nice idea) for which they wheeled out several C-level big guns to give presentations. There are some interesting conclusions and stats in the content produced, but it's the presentation of that information that's lacking.

Why it made the list: Several reasons. Firstly, the page of the blog post that covers the report ranks 6th in Google when you put in the name of the report itself, a fact which is at once a pat on the back to the PR people that got it coverage in quite a few news sites and also a hint to the SEO team to maybe change a few things.

Moving on to the blog post itself, apart from the fact that the right-hand side of the screen has enough content tags to fill half a dictionary, the author has committed two cardinal sins. Firstly there are a lot of words and a lot of numbers without any sort of visual break for the reader. Secondly, the best way to read these things is on a pdf (as seasoned property portal report readers will know) links to which on this particular blog post are inconveniently located at the bottom of the page, an area that few readers make it to.

 

Airbnb - USA

Since the start of the vaccine rollout, the idea of holidays have been prominent in many people's minds. As a newly-minted public company that sells holidays and whose brand has already attained nirvana by ascending to verb-status, Airbnb is very well placed to talk about how holidays might be when they come back. The company's new report entitled 'From Isolation to Connection - Travel in 2021' commits the sin of not having pretty graphs to show readers its data, but it does a good job of making life simple for journalists.

Why it made the list: A company with as many clever people working for it as Airbnb probably understands that when huge market-leading companies make bold claims about the future in bitesize, easily-quoted sentences in a big, well-publicised report, these claims will probably become a self-fulfilling prophecy. After stating that he won't be making any big predictions at the start of the report, CEO Brian Chesky goes on to predict that:

"Once people feel safe to travel, they will. But it will look different than before the pandemic. Travel will be viewed as an antidote to isolation and disconnection. People don’t generally miss landmarks, crowded shuttles, and lines and lobbies packed with tourists. Mass travel is really just a different form of isolation"

You can bet that this narrative will filter its way via news outlets into the public consciousness and in doing so propagate Airbnb and Brian Chesky's reputation as an industry thought-leader.

 

Realtor.com - USA

The US #2 portal's content people have done some good work and have been praised in previous editions of this feature. They are in the bad books this time though, but not because of the quality of their content. At the beginning of the month, Realtor tapped into its data to publish some good advice for home-buyers:

 

"Act Quickly" said the headline of the Realtor.com report released on the 4th of February...

Why it made the list: You may have already guessed it, but Realtor's "act quickly" advice was rendered hypocritical by the fact that rival portal Zillow had published almost exactly the same report on the 3rd of February.

 

MovingSoon - The UK

MovingSoon is a small specialist property portal founded in 2010 which in its own words is "on a mission to make affordable housing more accessible". Finding accommodation that accepts government rent aid can be tough for tenants and those that rely on this kind of help have often had to scroll through a lot of listings on many of the big British portals to filter out listings whose landlords do not discriminate against them. Paul Malone and the MovingSoon team have created a portal to surface properties that accept government aid as well as shared ownership opportunities that can take advantage of the 'Help to Buy' government scheme.

Why it made the list: To quote a press release Paul sent us:

"Help to Buy is a home ownership scheme which started in 2013 aims to help first-time buyers onto the property ladder in England by providing an equity loan of up to 20% of the value of a new-build home. Research from UK based affordable homes website, MovingSoon.co.uk, shows nearly half of people surveyed would prefer to buy a second hand home rather than a new build property with Help to Buy."

Using your property portal platform (relatively small though it may be) to highlight what could be a relatively easy fix to a government affordable housing policy gets you in the good books on this feature.

 

 

If you have any content that you think would make a good fit for this feature, send it my way or tag us in (@PortalWatch) on twitter or Linkedin.

Whether its to inform buyers, maintain thought-leadership or just to give their data and content teams something to do, more or less every property portal in the world now produces some sort of content based on data they collect. For the past few months we have periodically been reviewing some of this output to see who does what well and who doesn’t.

In December we saw how Funda and PropertyGuru were using data to target agents rather than users and how Twindig used data to get users hooked on a property game. Portal content teams around the world have been hard at work since then and these are the reports that stood out in January...

 

New Zealand

Real Estate Institute of New Zealand: The agent association which owns the realestate.co.nz portal has a veritable treasure trove of reports thanks to which it gets a lot of coverage in national media.

Takeaways: This month the institute used a blog post to highlight the fact that the number of properties sold for more than $1 million around the country was up by 68% in 2020 with Auckland leading the way.

Notable for: What caught our eye this month was the very media-friendly headline finding of REINZ’s latest report: “Number of million dollar plus properties sold in 2020 reaches new record levels according to new REINZ data”. We’re not sure if the marketing department was leaning over the shoulder of the data department or whether the data department is just media-savvy. Either way the report with the pre-written headline got some great national pickup.

 

Spain

Fotocasa: The Adevinta-owned portal’s data and communications team have been trying to keep pace with idealista’s output for some time and are now producing and sending press releases for at least two reports per week.

Takeaways: The report in question ‘La rentabilidad de la vivienda en España en 2020’ is another in the genre of yearly portal real estate profitability report. Key among the findings is that the profitability of real estate in Spain was up to 6.8% in 2020 from 6.5% the year before.

Notable for: As someone who has spent many hours trying unsuccessfully get a content management system to display complicated images, I have some sympathy with the content department at Fotocasa whose efforts to get the all-important images and graphs to display on the portal’s blog post seem to have failed both on desktop and mobile and on various browsers. 

 

Peru

Properati: Being part of a big multinational classifieds operator like OLX Group means that Properati can afford its own subdomain-hosted blog and specialist data section much like most other major portals. However the portal also goes directly through national publications such as Gestion.pe to get its message, data and brand out there and maintain thought leadership when it comes to Peruvian property data.

Takeaways: In this case, Gestión uses Properati data to back up a listicle-style article with a series of fairly unremarkable 2020 real estate trends such as the solidity of prices over the year and the increased appetite for second homes.

Notable for: What is really interesting here is that there is no mention of any specific Properati report and there is no hyperlink to anything on Properati’s domain. Publishers and marketers are starting to understand that Google knows when a link is placed as a favour or for commercial reasons and when it’s actually placed because the publisher genuinely believes in and wants to recommend something. 

Some influential SEO experts believe that Google may soon value brand mentions in text as much as hyperlinks.

 

USA

Redfin: We know Redfin is not strictly a property portal, but it’s as close as an agency brand is ever likely to get to being one and the brand’s website is the first port of call for a lot of house-hunting Americans. The Seattle-based brokerage also has a data game to rival most portals which nurtures a steady stream of pretty interesting and useful content.

Takeaways: Redfin regularly commissions companies to run questionnaires, and these in turn often have some useful conclusions. In this case, the company found that a third of homebuyers would consider relocating if remote work became permanent. 

Notable for: While a lot of portals seem to think that the only way to get primary data upon which to build an interesting conclusion and get coverage is to use data they already have in their servers from user interactions and listings, Redfin is not afraid to simply ask their customers straightforward questions. Using questionnaires to get data means not only that you can customise the scope of what you want to find out, but also that your brand looks like it cares what people really think and what drives them. 

 

Portugal

Imovirtual: Most big European property portals now produce housing reports at least once a year. OLX Group-owned Imovirtual is no exception, but it seems that although the data department and content departments did their job for the 2020 version, the graphics department wasn’t available.

Takeaways: The average price of properties advertised on Imovirtual for sale in Portugal during this year maintained a variation of 1% during all periods, with the exception of the period of confinement where there is a slight decrease of -0.11%. In January, the average price was € 344,417 and in December € 348,223, an increase of 1.1%.”

Maybe it’s just me as a visual person, but it seems like if a property portal wants anyone to actually read their housing reports stacked with so many numbers hidden away in prosaic paragraphs they really do need to go the extra mile and get some infographics.

Notable for: For a company that, according to its social media, has put resources into things such as a new digital magazine for real estate consultants, a podcast series and having a university professor on one of their videos, the lack of any kind of graphics or eye-candy on Imovirtual’s annual report was odd.

Property portals clog up our inboxes and news feeds with so many reports around every aspect of real estate that we decided a few months back to start reviewing some of them to highlight the best and worst of the portals’ use of data in their marketing efforts and the content they put out.

Back at the end of October we looked at innovation from ImmoScout and Bayut, SeLoger’s “if you write it they will come” approach, and OpenBrix’s British street naming conventions. Plenty of time has passed since then and we have seen dozens of portal housing reports; some interesting, others not so much…

 

The Netherlands

Funda: Like many big European portals, the Dutch market leader has its own data and analysis section and employs a Head of Data among others to keep the section populated.

Takeaways: The latest edition of the ‘Funda Index’ tells us that after a downturn in the number of houses coming to market, the supply in The Netherlands is increasing. Buying confidence has fallen but search intent remains stable.

Notable for: Usually we see a lot of these housing reports aimed at the end-user. Funda appears to be targeting the agents with this report as I imagine most consumers aren’t interested in things like the “behavioural index”.

 

Malaysia

PropertyGuru: We have criticised PropertyGuru on these pages before for what appeared to be a lack of joined-up-thinking, but this time they are in the good books. PropertyGuru Malaysia has written up a neat little report around the best times to post on the portal and the areas its users are looking in.

Takeaways: The best time to post a new listing is on Mondays between 1-3PM. KLCC is the most popular neighbourhood in Kuala Lumpur. 

Notable for: Simple, actionable, well-presented advice for agents based on data unavailable elsewhere. An easy win for the data and communications departments.

 

The UK

Twindig: The many British challenger portals and alternative property platforms have to be inventive to capture the imagination of their users and, perhaps more importantly, the agents and press that can get their name out there. Founder Anthony Codling and his team have come up with a winner for the property obsessed British public and media alike in this playable house-price guessing game.

Takeaways: Not so much a report with takeaways as much as a way to pass the time and put your knowledge of UK house prices to the test.

Notable for: A novel use of data that uses gamification as an effective branding exercise.

 

Spain

Fotocasa: Apart from the UK, Spain is the country whose leading property portals are responsible for most of the clutter in my inbox. Fotocasa is perhaps the main offender here. The portal's reports and accompanying blog posts are regularly distributed via press releases and social media, but are often just overly wordy articles without much to say or any way to present data to engage either passing users or agents. 

Takeaways: In this article from the start of December we are told that the property market in Spain has re-awakened after the country’s lockdown, climbing 39% in February and 43% in March. Not massive news and it's delivered a bit late to be of much use.

Notable for: The spartan looking blog page around the data the with a big 0 on the shares-counter proudly displayed in big letters and the bland copy is symptomatic of the reports I see from the Adevinta owned portal. In this case, they have some potentially interesting data and quotes, but are not presenting them in an engaging way.

 

USA

Zumper: The American rentals specialist has gone down the glossy pdf route for its 2020 Annual Renter Survey. Its findings are based on a decent sample size of 14,000 users who took part in the survey.

Takeaways: The report has several interesting and 2020-relevant conclusions. Perhaps most news-worthy is that 18.4% of respondents claimed to have signed for a property that they had virtually toured.

Notable for: The report itself is just the right length and goes into just the right depth with just about enough insight to interest housing data aficionados while not put off casual users. The fact that it got reported on in Forbes by a friendly journalist is also a testament to the “if you write it the links will come” rule of housing reports and an example of why portals ought to play nice with the press if they want their content to get good pick-up.

Look out for our interview with Zumper President and COO Vishal Makhijani as part of our Rent 2.0 series coming to you in January...

A couple of weeks ago we started to look through the many many housing market reports and articles produced by property portals, which it seems, are the new real estate data companies.

The average return on investment of buy to rent properties in Vancouver or the average time on the market of 2 bedroom apartments in Lagos might not be of interest to us, but the way in which these reports are conceived, presented, and used as marketing collateral by property sites is increasingly so.

There have been so many reports blowing up our feeds that we decided to bring you the best of portal housing reports every month. Here are some of the more notable ones from October...

 

The UK

OpenBrix: As one of a handful of British challenger portals, OpenBrix (whose CEO Adam Piggott we interviewed in July) has to find an angle for producing housing market research that will get covered which others might not have looked at. OpenBrix’s look at the relationship between street names and house prices got some decent pick-up.

Takeaways: Road names with the word “Saint” are the most popular among UK home buyers. Roads with the word “Whistler” have the most expensive housing.

Notable for: Where some might see a man getting distracted from work and having an idle look through land registry data after a question pops into his head, we see a genuine niche piece of research that the big-boy portals haven’t already covered and something that has potential to go at least semi-viral.

 

The UAE

Bayut and Dubizzle: Since EMPG’s deal with Dubbizle’s ex-owner OLX Group these two have been set to dominate in the Emirates. The two are now sharing data and collaborating on housing reports it seems and producing some slick content.

Takeaways: Prices in Dubai have remained competitive throughout the quarter. Neighbourhood level insights got extensive coverage in the local media.

Notable for: Last time we extolled the virtues of the humble infographic to accompany portal housing reports as they let users see everything without having to read long paragraphs replete with stats. Bayut and Dubizzle have gone one step further here and created an infographic video to show even more information at a glance for further dissemination on social media.

 

Germany

ImmobilienScout24: It’s immediately obvious on seeing the German portal’s reports that they put a lot of resources into presentation, and even if the takeaways are somewhat generic and obvious, they are targeted at the general public rather than real estate geeks like us here at OnlineMarketplaces.

Takeaways: All of the properties in Germany cost €56,386,198,61. That is, if you had bought all the houses, apartments and land offered on ImmoScout24 this month, you would have had to pay more than 56 billion for them.

Notable for: We praised the German market leader last time for some expertly presented data, and this time we spotted a feature we think is really neat: a code snippet for webmasters to paste into their source code and display the branded map animation on their site. We won't hold it against them that I spent 15 frustrating minutes trying to insert the code snippet here below without seeing it render in the preview of this article.

 

France

SeLoger: Okay, so here we have to admit that the report in question is not exactly the most interesting one we’ve seen, but that’s not the point here. The Axel Springer owned portal makes this list because it was referred to in a nice little piece of journalism we read this week on ‘ghost-villages’

Takeaways: 1 in 4 Ile-de-France residents want to buy in the provinces.

Notable for: 'If you publish it they will come'. Although SeLoger didn’t get that all important ‘follow link’ from the journalist this time, they got their name out there in a piece of investigative journalism. This is easier said than done for some smaller portals, but larger nationally-important portals are bound to get these sort of mentions if they just keep building up a volume of reports and data.

 

USA

Realtor.com: A lot of the housing reports produced by property portals are dry. The ideas behind them come from data people and the writing that accompanies them is written by a third party. With Halloween approaching Realtor.com commissioned a survey about whether potential buyers would be put off by haunted houses and if their current house is haunted.

Takeaways: There are a few interesting tidbits here, perhaps the most interesting being that 56% of Americans who believe their home is haunted have not considered moving. I disagree with them. I'd be straight out of there.

Notable for: Firstly this report gave me an easy piece of content to put in the “...and finally” section of my Friday roundup email. Secondly, it turns out that Realtor.com has covered the subject of haunted houses before around this time of year. It’s obviously a formula that gets good pick up on social media and elsewhere.

As Juwai IQI Chairman and occasional Online Marketplaces columnist Georg Chmiel said in a recent article, “portals are the new real estate data companies”. Hardly a day goes by without a new report released by a property portal full of insights based on an ever-increasing pool of data which property portals are becoming better and better at managing, interpreting and ultimately, using as a marketing tool.

While the price of a two-bedroom flat in Spain or the average profitability of buy to rent properties in Singapore might not be interesting or relevant for everyone, the way in which these reports are conceived and used by property sites is increasingly so.

Every month we’ll be bringing you the highlights of housing market reports produced by property portals from across the world. For now, here are a few interesting reports we’ve seen. 

 

Spain

Idealista: No country’s portals clog up my feed with more house price reports. Spanish portals have definitely realised the value of producing house price data reports, and more importantly of writing them up well, making infographics for them, and sending them as natty little press releases to get maximum coverage. And here we are covering this one from idealista.

Takeaways: Return on investment for residential property in Spain has dropped over the third quarter of 2020 and now stands at just 7.9%. Industrial and commercial properties, offices and garages have not seen a drop in profitability.

Notable for: We’ve always been fans of the humble infographic, and idealista almost always accompany their reports with infographics to show you what you need to know at a glance.

 

Malaysia

PropertyGuru: PropertyGuru has a news section of its property portals in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. They pump out as many as 4 or 5 stories per day. In this case, Malaysian Country Manager Sheldon Fernandez has released a statement to the press based (we presume) on the portal’s data.

Takeaways: Property prices in Malaysia are stable and may recover faster than expected despite the impact of the global pandemic

Notable for: This statement from a country manager did not appear on PropertyGuru Malaysia’s own website, only in third party press stories which struck us as odd.

 

USA

Zillow: The biggest portal company out there was hardly going to miss out on this trend. Zillow is perhaps the most prolific of report releasers among the world’s property sites and releases a ‘Market Pulse’ every few days citing third party and Zillow data as well as one-off reports, publishing them in their own special Zillow Research section.

Takeaways: In their latest report, Zillow partnered with Yelp to produce a report which concluded that Sunrise, FL, Lancaster CA, and Temple AZ are among the 10 most affordable suburbs with a city-feel.

Notable for: Very much on-trend, the report was looking at a very specific topic that has sprung up since the pandemic. Well written and formatted and bound to get coverage in the local press of all 10 of the suburbs on the list. Clever.

 

Germany

ImmoScout24: The German market-leader has used its data to produce its latest report named ‘How Germany Buys’.

Takeaways: The advice offered such as “The fewer competitors you have, the higher the chances that you will win” is pretty banal, but that’s not really the point of this report.

Notable for: Slick format with a nice interactive map and playful graphs make the presentation of data much more accessible to the average user.

 

Northern Ireland

PropertyPal: Although the portal only has properties in Northern Ireland and has a relatively small staff, one of those is a “Chief Economist” whose job it is to produce quarterly reports. The latest PropertyPal Housing Market Trends report is just as well produced and thorough as anything Rightmove might make.

Takeaways: To quote the report itself: “The post-lockdown housing market has displayed considerable resilience. House prices have increased, engagement on PropertyPal is at an all-time high and there were close to 7,200 properties sold in the last three months.”

Notable for: Even a regional player with as few as 14 employees (according to Linkedin) is dedicating enough resources to produce a 13 page glossy pdf quarterly report around the housing market.

It seems that no self-respecting modern-day property portal company in a mature market would be without some sort of index, report or other use of data to draw in users and generate headlines.

Earlier this month I wrote about the British property portal website OnTheMarket's imminent launch of its Property Sentiment Index which will survey the site's users to generate insights into the British property market.

This got us thinking about how real estate marketplace companies use data in their content. So instead of this month's Best (and Worst) of Portal Content column, we analysed the use of data in the content of 25 property portals from around the world.

 

What types of data do portals use to generate content?

We found that the most common type of data that property portals use to generate content is, unsurprisingly, price data which is much easier to collect, standardise, analyse and present than most other types of data.

These real estate marketplace websites are the obvious destinations for consumers to come for their informational needs around housing market prices and they naturally have an abundance of this data with which to satisfy that user intent.

Another type of data that we found to be a common basis for content among property portal companies was information around listings volumes.

In many cases, the precise number of listings is not given but used as a relative indicator to show the change over time - no need to let your rivals know how many listings you have unless you absolutely have to.

Less common, but usually very interesting is the use of behavioural data related to how the portal's users have been searching on the website.

Showing, for example, your agent customers, what your portal's users have been searching for and how this demand has changed over time is a win-win situation whereby you look like the good guy and your customers focus on the type of inventory that's most popular among your users.

The least common type of data - perhaps because portals don't just automatically collect it - is opinion data. Typically collected via a survey of users on the portal's website there are only a handful of portal companies that collect this type of data and produce regular content around it.

OnTheMarket knows this and has deliberately gone down the sentiment via survey route to differentiate itself from market competitors Rightmove and Zoopla which both use proprietary house price and listings data.

 

What formats do portals use for the content they create around their data?

There are several different formats that portal companies use to display the content they make with their data depending on their resources and goals for that content.

The classic format is the easily shareable blog report which makes use of the almost ubiquitous property portal blog section to convey the findings from the data. Australia’s REA Group has the best example of a well-constructed blog post around its data with just the right amount of expert commentary.

Often these blog posts are accompanied by a downloadable PDF document that goes into more detail. The PDF adds a certain level of legitimacy - journalists are much more likely to want to cover the release of a report than the release of a new blog post.

Some portal companies, such as Zoopla, put their PDF reports behind a sign-up gate but the majority of portal PDFs we came across - like Daft.ie’s excellent quarterly report - do not.

Some portals have areas of their sites dedicated to showing all the data they collect distilled in real time for their users.

The Spanish portals idealista and fotocasa are good examples here. While idealista shows all the information on a map on the main page of its data section, fotocasa has broken their information out into individual regions - presumably hoping to rank them on Google.

Recently, some portals have started producing video content to convey and analyse the information that their data shows.

While French market leader SeLoger has opted for the basic infographic video to accompany their blog posts and data, American portal company Realtor.com produces regular videos in which its resident expert analyses the housing market in general.

 

How often do portals publish their house price indices?

Not all of the companies we looked at publish regular reports or have a named house price index. Many prefer to release content around their data on an ad-hoc basis to make sure that the press sits up and takes notice.

For those who do publish regular reports, we found that most do so on a monthly basis.

The use of surveys and behavioural data seems to be done on a less regular basis. House price indices and the reports around them though tend to be monthly in the larger markets with big-name portals and more fluctuating markets (the USA, the UK, Australia) and quarterly in smaller ones (Ireland, the Netherlands).

 

Who is all this data-based content intended for?

This last question is a bit subjective, but as we analysed the content these portals put out we couldn’t help noticing the subtle changes in tone and presentation between content intended for different audiences.

While by and large most of the content we see is intended for average users - be they owners looking to sell, prospective buyers/renters or just curious window shoppers - some content is clearly intended for the press or for other companies in the value chain.

By way of example, Daft’s quarterly report openly says exactly who it’s intended for: 

“The goal of the Daft Report is to use this information to help all actors in the property market make informed decisions about buying and selling. In addition, because it is freely available, the Daft Report can help inform the media, the general public and policymakers about the latest developments in the property market”

Then there are reports such as the Rightmove House Price Index which have a large chunk of text and handy expert quotes upfront and whose publication is accompanied by a press release circulated to journalists.

In some cases - such as Russian market leader Cian - most of the data is kept off the blog site and monetised via bespoke reports for their agent customers.  

 

Findings in full and a note on methodology

The table below shows is an abridged version of our analysis of the data-based content of 25 of the largest property portal sites around the world as of July 2021.

Some of the research is necessarily subjective and if we couldn’t find something easily then we assumed that users would not be able to find it either and marked it absent.