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...
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.
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'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.
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.