I was interested in the recent commentary on Inman News regarding the fact that NAR doesn’t allow Realtor.com to have a Chief Economist. At the recent special meeting of NAR to discuss the proposed changes to the operating mandate for Realtor.com it was stated that :
The idea of a chief economist for realtor.com, which sources say Move has advocated in private discussions with NAR, was not discussed at the meeting
Clearly NAR does not want Realtor.com to become a spokesperson on the property market – a role that NAR naturally wants to retain. However what this statement does say very clearly in my mind is that portals need to be very focused about being commentators of property market economics. Property economics and a media-savvy Chief Economist employed by a property portal are in my book a recipe for brand enhancement.
Property Portals hold significant amounts of critical data that is of great interest and vital importance to the wider economy and that is why all portals should employ economists. The leading portals in the US being Trulia and Zillow both do and garner significant media coverage through their respective Chief Economists Stan Humphries at Zillow and Jed Kolko at Trulia.
Outside of the US the adoption by portals to front a Chief Economist has been somewhat less. Rightmove in the UK provides market commentary through Miles Shipside, Commercial Director. Searching Google though fails to surface any such commentary and media profile from the likes of SeLoger, ImmobilienScout24 or Realestate.com.au.
An economist as part of the marketing and management team of a portal can build a strong media profile as a credible and trusted commentator on the property market leveraging unique data accessed as a function of the content on the site and the interaction of consumers with the site.
Examine for a moment the range of data that can be liberated from a portal:
- New listing numbers
- Days to sell / time on market
- Asking price
- Sale price to asking price
- Demand indicator
- Agent numbers
- Number of leads
- Promotional effectiveness of online marketing
- Rental rates
- Investment returns
- Rental demand
- Rental inventory
- Holiday rental activity
- Regional movements / relocations
- Social engagement / sharing
- Design trends
- Mortgage enquiries
The list goes on, as all of these data sets can be analysed by time and location as well as by type of property, price band of property and marketing strategy of property. Another core aspect of data from portals is timeliness. Any report, irrespective of the complexity can be produced and published within hours of the collection period, no need to collect submitted reports from agents or customers, real time logs of website activity and database interrogation can be undertaken at the click of a mouse.
As well as employing economists as the credible trustworthy spokesperson and analytical interpreter of this data all portals should produce a frequent property report to engage the media and drive brand presence and credibility around market knowledge and insight – attributes which can never be established through other forms of marketing.
I speak from personal experience, for when running Realestate.co.nz in New Zealand I developed a monthly NZ Property Report which presented the monthly supply view of the market. I very much borrowed the idea from Rightmove’s own House Price Index . The NZ Property Report was published monthly on the first day of the month from data just hours old. The report enabled our portal brand to grow and develop a media profile which established it as knowledgeable, informed and insightful part of the property marketplace.
Interestingly as a industry owned portal we came across the same issue that Realtor.com faces in that the industry body in New Zealand (the equivalent of NAR) The Real Estate Institute (RIENZ) wished to be the only commentator on the property market and as a shareholder in Realestate.co.nz it created some challenging debates.
The value derived from the analysis and insight as extracted from the rich data of a property portal is not only of value for marketing and brand profile; as I found the NZ Property Report became a vital source for the Reserve Bank of New Zealand which incorporated the data into their econometric modeling. Additionally trading banks would reference and comment on the data. A key part of facilitating this was to publish the raw data, which would allow their economists to undertake their own analysis. Be open with the raw data and encourage others to undertake analysis.
Portals hold a powerful position in the property market at the intersection of the demand and supply side of the market with the consumer and the industry, observing and witnessing key trends. This can provide a vital opportunity to build trust, credibility and profile to leverage this knowledge and grow business.
This topic and the related aspects of big data is one of the key sessions for the next PPW conference