Private Property CEO Simon Bray will tell delegates at the 2016 Property Portal Watch Conference in Madrid how the South African site achieved a 70 per cent listings growth by ending its disruptive business model.
Bray says Private Property, launched in 1998 started as a for-sale-by-owner website that aggressively competed with agents for sellers; “the last partner the South African real estate market wanted”.
But re-alignment of this strategy in 2009 brought about a significant transformation.
Making the change
“All portals ultimately rely on the support of their agent advertisers, the higher the level of support the better the metrics across the business,” Bray explains.
“Portals can secure this support through extortion or partnership.
“We embarked on the partnership route because the political dynamics in the South African market would always leave the door open for disruption from our own clients.”
Bray says the team also studied the industry-owned business model adopted by Funda in the Netherlands which points to the sustainable (and profitable) relationship a portal could have with its clients.
Despite having reasonable representation from several partners prior to reaching out to them, Bray says listing share strengthened further to a near 98 per cent once relationships had been formalized.
Partnership route pays off
This helped drive a 70 per cent overall growth in listings over a 12-month period and increased lead volumes by more than 35 per cent over the same period..
“If portals want to grow deep and offer real value to consumers and service providers, then they will need the buy-in and alignment of key players in the property value chain,” Bray says.
“Our partnership philosophy is as full-circle as it gets, if we can embrace the industry then I’d suggest any portal could.”
An entrepreneur who cut his teeth in the property development industry, Bray founded ‘Fusion’, an SAS business for the property market which is now the leading real estate management system in Southern Africa and a subsidiary of Private Property.
He says it was the sale of Fusion to Private Property that got him involved in the portal industry just over four years ago, first as head of product overseeing a complete system re-architecture, then as chief operations officer and more recently as CEO.
“The South African portal market has seen an exciting period of consolidation as the top two portals pulled away from the others and began competing fiercely with one another for the marketing dollar,” Bray relates.
“Real estate print advertising has survived longer than in other markets but the cracks are beginning to show.
“Marketing budgets in SA look poised to tip to digital over the next couple of years as agents have realised the value of competing for lead share on the portals."
Bray adds a local market quirk is the strength of the real estate brands, which have significant market share and political sway.
“Private Property has partnered with these brands to enhance competitiveness and unlock value chain opportunities,” he says.
Company culture the key
Bray sees his company’s differentiator as this philosophy of partnership and inclusiveness.
“We have worked hard to grow our business and our influence through engaging in the right partnerships including software, feed platforms, media relationships, content partnerships and the real estate brands,” he says.
“This approach is unique in what is usually a business environment fraught with hidden agendas and personal egos.
“A key driver of this market approach is our company culture. We are a group of passionate, down to earth people and I think this is the ultimate differentiator.
“We need to create a vertically-integrated platform business that leverages the strength of our many partners resulting in the best property search experience for our customers. We want Private Property to be a loved, household brand by 2020.”