The last 12 months has seen significant discussion around international listings. Many portals have implemented or are implementing international sections as well as offering their local agents and developers international marketing opportunities.
This article looks at what all the fuss is about and whether there is any value for property portals in focusing outside of their local market.
Is there Demand for International Listing Search and Marketing?
In their 2012 Profile of International Home Buying Activity report, the National Association of Realtors in the US estimated that overseas buyers invested US$82 bn in buying US real estate. This accounted for 5% of all transaction. The international buyers came from nearly all over the world, but 55 % of the buyers are from Canada, China, Mexico, India and the United Kingdom.
The same story can be seen in many other countries. In some countries, like the US, there is a strong demand from overseas to buy houses while in other markets, there is a strong demand from locals to buy property in other markets. A good example of this is the UK where locals invest a significant amount in overseas properties.
At the recent Real Estate Connect Conference in San Francisco, a panel was held to look at opportunities for US real estate agents in overseas markets. One of the panel members was Chris Vulovic, the CEO of ListGlobally, the leader in international listing syndication services. One of the subjects discussed was what motivates people to purchase listings in foreign markets.
“Relocation is a strong driver of international investment and rentals. The 2012 Global Relocation Trends Survey indicated a 64% increase between 2012 and 2013 in people looking to relocate overseas.” said Chris.
“Some investors are looking for ‘property for sale’ in economies where domestic buyers don’t have the money to spend.” Chris explained. “International cash buyers can often achieve significant discounts just by having cash readily available.
“Other investors are looking overseas motivated by the political unrest in their own countries” Chris continued. “Countries like Spain and Greece are extending visa opportunities for overseas property purchasers to help stimulate their own market. The investment in a tangible asset overseas also provides a safeguard for their money in economies where the value of their liquid assets can change dramatically.”
All of these new realities in global real estate investing are occurring in addition to the traditional reasons for investing like relocation and secure, highly appreciating markets. “Real estate investors are still placing their money on a safe bet like London where Savills states that the strength of demand from overseas buyers that has driven up prices in central London boroughs and underpin this market” Chris explained.
Clearly there is an opportunity for property portals around the world to cash in from the desire of locals to search for international property and from the desire of agents and developers to reach a broader international market.
Current Online Approaches to International Marketing of Property
Almost all property portals have built their business by focusing on the local market. For example Rightmove dominates the UK market, Zillow and Trulia go toe to toe in the US market, and Immoscout24 clearly leads the German market. They have built strong local businesses and are looking for ways in which they can further monetize their consumer and advertising audiences. That is where offering international marketing services creates an opportunities.
Links to Other Sites
Some portals have established a network of sites that they link to. For example Property Guru in Singapore has an 'international' link at the top of the page the redirects the visitor to others sites – some are owned by them while others are just marketing relationships. This approach attempts to provide the consumer visitor to the site with access to a broader range of content but has a number of issues:
Some portals have implemented an international section within their current site. The objective is to offer visitors in their core market the chance to search for listings in other markets. They monetize this through charging advertisers or making some extra money from display advertising.
One of the best proponents of this approach has been Rightmove who has an international section with 183,000 visitors a week, generating 5m international property searches per month and generating GBP 1m per year in revenues.
However having your own international section has a number of challenges:
There are a few sites that have emerged to market international listings to one market. Juwai is a good example of this. They market listings from around the world to the Chinese market and make money by charging the advertiser to be on the site. These types of sites have to offer the additional service of translation from multiple languages into Chinese to ensure that the local reader can fully interact with the advertiser.
The big challenge for these sites is building a strong global reseller network that promotes their advertising packages.
Cross Border Promotion
Finally, some sites are promoting international marketing to their local agents. An example of this is realestate.com.au in Australia that sells advertising on its sister site in Hong Kong (Squarefoot.com.hk) to Australia agents and developers.
ListGlobally is a business that has been incubated by Classified Ad Ventures, a company associated with the author, Simon Baker.