Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Local portals and niche agents - do we need mainstream property portals?

I saw a recent comment from brightmove on the EAT which indicated that a property portal which paid agents for property would be 'cool'.

Although said in tongue and cheek, it begs the question: does the user actually need a portal?

I wrote a long time ago about local search and the possibilities of local agents getting together and building a local portal for their area. It strikes me this may have some merit, but could you take it one stage further?

As a user, I will have made some preliminary decisions as to where I want to move, i.e. South coast around the Southampton area as I will be working there. I am prepared to travel no more than 20 miles to commute. Using established portals I can filter the parameters of my search, but with so many portals can I be confident that the majority of property is on there? Are there hidden gems in small agent offices that are feeding to other portals I don't know about or not using the portals at all.

If I therefore come across a local portal that claims to have all the agents in and around Southampton along with local content, information on schools etc, I am going to be tempted to explore.

But how have I found this local portal? Perhaps through advertising, but more than likely through a Google search and to weed out the other portals I may have been more specific with my search. To this end, I am already searching a niche and if I find an agent matching my search criteria it is a strong possibility they will have a property fitting my description. Does the future therefore lie with niche agents and local portals?

As an agent, should I just pursue one market, for example, village property, or go one step further and dominate the thatched cottage market for my area and perhaps a little further afield?

If I undertake this course, there is argument to say I don't need a portal. Indeed, I am already reducing my marketing spend and if I corner the thatched cottage market and excel in my seo/sem why should I need a portal?

Perhaps now is the time for Google to enter the space and allow agents to self market without the need for portals

I believe that it is only be challenging the existence of our business and asking such questions we can improve and offer services both the user and the agent needs.


Mike Carter at Zoomf said...

Good points but a couple flaws that I can see:

1. Google is already in the space. It is a go between for all. If they enter it formally, then they re competing with their advertisers which they will not do. Not to mention, mighty Google is not interested in the sliver of revenue from this sector. (don't forget the listings product, Google Base failed)

2. The 'freemium' model employed by Zoomf and Globrix should give consumers the full view. That's the theory. If it's free, you then attract everyone.

3. Small portals. Now you're getting crazy :-) If it's so difficult for an agent to put together a decent website (there are some horrors out there), why do you think they'd be able to do it as a group? Even with the fact that it's easier all the time to produce web content, I am very skeptical of this happening in the correct manner to attract traffic. Property is still behind the times when it comes to the internet.

Matthew at SPF said...

Interesting point 3 from Mr Zoomf.
I run a very successful region portal which has over 200 branches and 10k properties and 60k visitors pcm. Our agents comment that we produce as good a quantity and quality of leads if not better and at a fraction of the cost of a national
Example: R'Move:£17.50 V £0.73 SPF per lead 3 month average!.
With over 87% of home movers moving within 35 miles, over 95 % of what is on a national portal is irrelvant to the user.
Please have a look at our site be interested to hear your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Google and the like have already entered the market within the states:

I like the idea of local portals as will agents I suspect. In fact again it's a model we are seeing more and more in other sectors i.e. Google local results appear at the top above normal search listings

Intersting post!