You may not have guessed it, but Australia has one of the most exciting and profitable real estate industries in the world.
Our job at Online Marketplaces is to collect and analyse data on real estate portals around the world. We thought we'd put some of that data together to bring you the ultimate visual guide to real estate portals in Australia...
Australia is one of only two markets that we know of (along with Sweden) where the seller is responsible for paying the listing and advertising costs involved in publishing their property on a portal. Meanwhile, agents are effectively the advocates for the portals as they are responsible for explaining portal benefits to vendors.
This all makes partnerships between portals and agents incredibly important and means the dynamics between the two parties are slightly different to how they are in other markets.
Because agents don't foot the bill, they aren't as resentful of portal price increases as agents elsewhere! As Sadhana Smiles (CEO of agent group, REIP) told us in 2021, agents are heavily reliant on portals in Australia:
By our count, there are 23 property portals currently operating across Australia.
Some, such as retirement focussed Downsizing.com.au, focus on a particular niche, while others including Canberra-based portal Zango are purely regional real estate portals.
There are two major players in the Australian property portal market, with a couple of interesting challengers...
REA Group—A multinational property portal operator with a market-leading presence in Australia (Realestate.com.au) and India (REA India) and a significant stake in the market leader in Southeast Asia (PropertyGuru) and the #2 player in the USA (Realtor.com).
Similar in stature and profits to UK and US market leaders, Rightmove and Zillow, respectively. REA Group achieved revenues of just over A$300m from July-September 2022 alone.
Domain—Australia's number two portal operator. Innovative, highly profitable, and popular. Domain recorded net profits of A$55m in 2022 and rewarded shareholders with a 6-cent dividend for the year.
Homely—Australia’s largest industry-backed portal. In other words, it is part owned by the agents who use it. Homely is an impressively fast-growing business and is well-liked by customers for its user-friendly experience. Homely recorded a 58% increase in revenue for the 2022 Australian financial year.
Realestateview—Realestateview has lofty ambitions under owner View Media Group (founded by ex-Domain CEO Antony Catalano and billionaire Alex Waislitz). The portal's owners have been public in their desire to challenge REA Group and Domain on a national scale.
The company has secured a number of high-profile acquisitions in 2022 and is expected to continue its expansion plans in 2023 and beyond. And with a reported A$100m war chest to invest and backing from powerful media group 7 West, this is a portal operator worth keeping an eye on.
REA Group-owned realestate.com.au is the faraway market leader in Australia, with more than triple the monthly website visits of its nearest rival Domain. Challengers Realestateview and Homely are still some way off.
The main Australian real estate portals emerged in the mid-1990s, with two notable challengers in the 2000s.
Interestingly, there aren't any "legacy" CEOs in-situ—none of them have been in place for more than 9 years. Our study of real estate portal CEOs from August 2022 found that 43% of portal companies around the world are still led by their founders.
In Australia, real estate sellers pay the portals to advertise their properties via a real estate agent—so the short answer is that portals make money out of people selling property! This means the seller is paying for the property to be listed, for photography, floor plans and sign boards—everything involved in marketing a property.
Selling a home can become incredibly expensive for the seller—with the only upside that they will typically go through this process only two or three times in their lives.
But while sellers are the ones stumping up the cash for each property listing they publish, the agent continues to do most of the grunt work. And in most cases, agents have the choice to upgrade to paid subscriptions and will ultimately pass their costs on to the vendor.
Homely is a "free-to-list" platform, but it has a Homely Plus offer for agents who want to advertise their stock more prominently.
Meanwhile, popular platforms including Realestate.com.au (REA Group), Domain and realestateview.com.au run regular auctions, from which the portals will take a fee. Agents must subscribe to their services before being able to list. Once subscribed agents pay listing fees and any extra marketing on top of that.
Another interesting example is Listing Loop, an alternative portal that offers a "no-sale, no charge" pricing model for sellers. Listing Loop will attempt to sell the property strictly off-market (without public advertising), with the seller only paying if Listing Loop finds a buyer.
Find out more about Listing Loop in Online Marketplaces' interview with CEO Rhett Dallwitz:
We published a report the user experience on real estate portals around the world back in 2021. For this article, we went back and re-collected the data for some of the Australian portals (below) and it turns out that very little has changed since we released the study.
It seems that, in particular, the draw-your-own search area feature that has become very common among portal sites in North America and Europe is still very rare down under.
Homely has had a busy year as it takes on its two giant rival portals. The company has made a number of significant investments including a partnership with CRM provider Proptech Group and a further strategic partnership with data specialist National Property Group, the industry-first "Comments on Collections" feature and a partnership with Queensland real estate group Ray White.
Domain made a massive, A$180 million acquisition of marketing campaign management platform Realbase in April. The vast sums involved in the deal did cause a hit on Domain's financial results for the year, but CEO Jason Pellegrino said the acquisition "meaningfully increase[s] the scale and impact of Domain’s Agent Solutions unit and strengthens our position as the leading provider of end-to-end agent workflow solutions" in Australia.
REA Group smashed through the A$1 billion revenue milestones in August, while the Group has also invested in the Indian portal market with "REA India" and one of India's leading portals, housing.com. The Group backed up its commitment to dominate the Indian market by announcing that housing.com will hire up to 200 people in 2023 to scale the business into an outright market leader.
Read everything you need to know about the world of property portals for free on Online Marketplaces!