How many Portals are enough?
Real estate agents must be asking themselves this question.
As everyone reading propertyportalwatch.com knows, there is a proliferation of real estate portals. Each of them (should I say, "us"?) has its hand out for a share of the real estate marketing dollar.
Even in markets with an established, dominant portal player, there is constant activity as new portals launch and grow. The best of these new players focus on niches where they can develop a stable customer base without directly competing against the dominant player in their marketplace.
In the US residential market, for example, you have realtor.com, but you also have zillow.com and trulia.com, as well as smaller but still significant niche players like rent.com.
In the UK, you not only have rightmove.co.uk. You also have zoopla.co.uk, primelocation.com and nestoria.com. Still lower down the ladder, there are the more narrowly defined firstrungnow.com (for first time buyers), periodproperty.co.uk (for historic homes) and many more.
In Australia, leaders realestate.com.au and domain.com.au have a gaggle of growing niche players biting at their heals. For example, there are stayz.com.au, realestateview.com.au and farmbuy.com.
Then, there are the international portals, which propose to market agents’ listings to overseas buyers. Among these is my portal, Juwai.com, the No. 1 international real estate portal for Chinese buyers, by number of listings and editorial resources.
That is a lot of portals. Is there an oversupply? Are we all competing for smaller and smaller shares of agents’ marketing dollars?
I don't believe so. On the contrary, I believe agents are spending more online now than just a couple of years ago. They will continue to increase their online advertising spend in the years to come.
Online is rapidly becoming the de facto medium of the real estate industry. We provide big advantages over other media and are taking market share away from print in nearly every country of significance around the world today. Even in companies that produce both online and print products, the greatest future growth lies on the web.
As consumers and agents shift more of their activity online, the online portal market is fracturing. Dominant portals need not fear they will lose their leadership to this change. They do need to accept, however that they may pocket less of the new money flowing into the sector.
Room is opening for new specialised portals that target small niches. These can profitably operate with just a small share of the growing overall market.
Nor do niche players have to fear being squashed by the biggest portals in their marketplaces. Specialist has a marketing advantage over their bigger rivals. Consumers instinctively believe that a specialist knows its niche better than a generalist does.
Rather than gnashing our teeth at the increasing number of portals, we should celebrate. Each new portal helps expand the total online market, bringing new agent dollars and more real estate consumers to the web.
We have seen this in our own business, at Juwai.com. We are growing at 150% of the rate we projected in our pre-launch business plan. (Before we beta launched in December, we feared that our plan was too optimistic).
Far from feeling threatened by us, portals in many countries have embraced us, forming partnerships with us or asking about investing in Juwai.com.
Now, let's finally answer that question we started with: “How many portals are enough?”
There are never enough.
Editorial contributor Andrew Taylor.
Andrew Taylor is Founder - CEO of Sales & Marketing for Juwai.com, the No. 1 Chinese real estate portal for international property. Andrew has over a decade of online and media experience, and a half-decade providing online services to agents.