The rise of the internet has made the world a smaller place and has revolutionized the way we conduct business, not only in the real estate industry, but in nearly every facet of our lives. Through the internet; we can communicate and share information as never before and companies are able to distribute software products globally with ease, creating client bases which may consist of many different cultures, languages and transcend a number of time zones.
These changes in software implementation and increased access of software via the internet give rise to the need for many companies to also revolutionise their technical support processes to meet the changing nature of their client base. Traditional technical support via telephone may no longer be sufficient enough to cater to the needs of clients who may be half a world away.
The global-wide distribution of a product demands software companies to develop new, innovative ways to cater for their growing, multicultural clients. At Brightfox, we recognise the changing needs in our industry and have implemented a number of innovative ways to assist our ever-growing base of international clients.
Our flagship product, foxEnterprise, comprises of a comprehensive Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) database which is accessible to all users through the program itself. Brightfox also maintains a password protected help website complete with instructional videos for foxEnterprise clients. Through these mediums, foxEnterprise users all over the world are able to gain the information they need at their fingertips.
foxAdvantage 2007 boasts a support section comprising not only of a searchable FAQ database and training videos but also a number of other features which further streamline the technical support process for our clients and increase communication with our clients. Clients may lodge a support case directly from foxAdvantage 2007 and can track the progress of any active support cases they have at the click of a mouse.
Brightfox understands the changing needs of our clients in an increasingly global marketplace. We strive to meet these needs by applying new, innovative technical support methods alongside traditional technical support models to produce outstanding results for our clients across the globe.
You may have noticed websites popping up with ‘RSS feeds’ on their site. RSS basically allows someone to link not just to a page, but to subscribe to it with a notification every time that page changes. For example, news websites have taken this on board with top news from various organizations feeding into one website.
RSS can push all kinds of information from news articles to blog entries, stock quotes, weather data, photo availability and more.
One such website has been developed by Brightfox, which is called PropertyMash. It embraces the new ‘mash up’ technology and is applied with a real estate focus. What this means for those in the property industry is the ability to access all real estate news and information in one spot. Visit it here…www.propertymash.com
We’ve also created an iframe application, so organizations can have live real estate news from property mash on their website for free. This has already proved successful for some of our clients as they obtain more visitors to their site and demonstrate the importance of market intelligence to their clients. Visit the PropertyMash site for more information.
More Web 2.0 information coming shortly…
Another common web 2.0 ‘feature’ is the blog. While this concept has been around for many years, it only seems to be a recent feature for businesses. A blog is an online journal of commentary and chat, and usually people have written blogs regarding social ideas and life in general – for example travel blogs. However the corporate world has now taken up blogs as an innovative way to promote their company, products and services.
The best thing about a blog is that it enables organizations to build an informal dialogue with their clients and prospects. For example, General Motors runs a blog that discusses topics ranging from auto racing to car design. In the property industry, individual real estate agents are using blots to promote their experience in the market, property developers are keeping buyers in touch with new developments and so on.
Brightfox has built several websites recently that have incorporated the blogging feature, which enable the agencies with limited technical knowledge to blog for themselves as a way to keep in touch with their clients and maintain a leading edge.
Businesses from a myriad of industries are setting up their own Facebook profiles. Facebook is a social networking site with over 64 million users worldwide and specifically designed as a way for people to keep in contact with their friends. However businesses are seeing the potential and are hoping to delve into this market. While the business benefits of networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace are yet to be seen, property developers and real estate firms can still embrace the idea of social networking and apply it in a more business sense.
An innovative method is the communication with clients and/or business partners via secure portals. Portals are one of our specializations that are becoming more frequently requested by our clients. They allow real estate agents, property developers and project marketers to connect online more intimately with their clients and each other.
For example, a property developer that has a large number of external agents working to sell their stock ultimately spends a lot of time emailing and faxing out updated stock lists, pricelists, construction updates, marketing material and so on. But via an agent portal – an external agent can logon to a secure website and access all this information in a live format, as well as viewing their buyers contracts and any commission owing to them, all uploaded by the developer at the click of a button.
Other innovative portals include vendor portals, where vendors can view all activities and inspections conducted on their property by the real estate agent. Another solution is for project marketers to enable developers to view the progress on the sale of their developments, activities and advertising…the possibilities are endless.
Web 2.0? Who? What?
This subject is one of much debate among IT experts, but the general consensus is that web 2.0 is more of a concept than an actual tangible change. You have probably heard new jargon popping up at the meetings over the water cooler such as Facebook, MySpace, tagging, blogging and social networks – these are probably the most widely recognized aspects that are changing the internet – and being defined as ‘web 2.0’.
The ‘idea’ of web 2.0 involves the ability for internet users to generate and distribute content, often with the freedom to share and reuse. It does include a largely social element – but before you disregard this as your colleagues posting drunken nights out of themselves online, consider the economic potential for businesses – after all, word of mouth (albeit ‘virtual’) is an incredibly powerful sales and marketing tool.
One such example is YouTube. An online video sharing website, not only does it include the quirky videos sent around the office for fun, but also includes a more professional side. For example, politicians such as Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama are campaigning via YouTube. So how can this affect the property industry? Already property developers and real estate agents are posting videos of themselves and their accomplishments onto YouTube. At Brightfox, a common feature we are now including for our clients’ websites are a video and news page where property firms can upload their YouTube videos onto their own corporate website.
Stay tuned – More information on Web 2.0 to come…
If you come protfrom Brisbane or Sydney you may have noticed the launch of a new real estate portal called www.onthehouse.com.au. Over the past three months they have been running a fairly extensive bill board campaign in Brisbane and have recently kicked off a similar campaign in Sydney. I recently spoke to the Chief Operating Office of www.onthehouse.com.au, Luke Ingham-Myers about how the new site was going. He said that the response was overwhelming and the traffic to the site had exceeded their expectations. A few of the stat’s that he shared with me are provided below:
Over 1.6 million pageviews for the month of April
Average time on site per browser over 9 minutes
80,000 Unique browsers for April to date
The key difference that www.onthehouse.com.au offers to the other portals around is that you can access historical sales data for FREE. So instead of having to purchase property reports from companies such as RP Data or Home Price Guide, you can now get this information for free from their website.
It is a real point of difference, and probably what is required to make a significant impact in the real estate portal business, which is now a quite mature market. Many other portals have come to market with essentially the same offering as realestate.com.au and domain.com.au but have been unable to grab significant market share, even without charging subscription fees. The simple reason is that the major portals attract the vast majority of website visitors, and without a significant number of visitors, even if your portal is free it won’t provide value to the real estate agency and hence will not be successful. A successful portal ultimately needs to attract a significant number of visitors to get advertisers excited. The stats that www.onethehouse.com.au are quoting a very good, and if they continue growing at their present rate then we very well may have another significant player in the real estate portal market in Australia. Something I am sure we would all like to see.
As we’re coming up to the end of April (where did it go?), so too is the latest monthly release of foxEnterprise.
Version 6.2 will have some really exciting new features and enhancements which we will be delighted to announce to our clients and Brightfox Certified Partners this week.
Brightfox took part in the annual UDIA National Congress this year, which was held in Melbourne’s Crown Towers in early March.
This has been the second event that Brightfox has exhibited this year. In February we attended the Dubai International Property Show which drew a crowd of approximately 30,000 visitors.
While the UDIA Congress involved fewer numbers, it made up for in the calibre of attendance. Rather than an out and out trade event, the UDIA Congress was a gathering of all industry greats to conduct an annual conference about urban development in Australia. It was a privilege to attend, and a great opportunity to meet our current and potential clients in both formal and informal surrounds.
We look forward to our next event, which will be the AREC convention in Sydney during May.
There have been a number of innovations to the traditional real estate sales model around the world in the last few years. There has been a signfiicant increase in the number of agencies that will sell a home at a fixed price, usually mush lower than prevailing commission % scales.
A very interesting model that is starting to gain significant momentum in the USA is a company called Redfin. They have been operating since 2006 and I think many realtors in the US thought that they would be a flash in the pan. They are however still going strong and by all accounts are growing.
The model is quite simple. They reimburse to a Buyer 2/3rd’s of the commission that a buyer would otherwise pay. So in circumstances where a buyer would pay 3% commission, 2% is reimbursed.
Buyers commission you might say! What is with that!
Well in the US it is very common for a real estate transaction to have up to 6% commission paid – 3% to a selling agent and 3% to a buyers agent. It is probably the highest in the world (certainly the highest in all of teh markets that Brightfox is involved in) for a standard real estate sale. You will have instances of higher commission paid on off-plan sales in places such as Spain, France and sometimes even in Australia, however this is always paid by the Seller.
So when looking at Redfin and contemplating the affect of a model like this in Australia you first need to realise that the US is starting from a very different place. I think we would all agree that there is a lot of space in 6% commission for some efficiency improvements / cost cutting.
I find the whole issue a very interesting dilema all round. There is no doubt that all property transactions should have a buyer and seller agent involved to best protect both parties. The concept that one agent can act for both parties is in itself impossible (the term ‘agent’ itself means to act on behalf of another party – with the law providing a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of that party. So how can a single agent act for two parties!) as well as being commerically unworkable. Both parties actually seek different outcomes (one a higher purchase price, the other a lower purchase price). However a 6% transaction fee on commission alone, not to mention stamp duty, legal fees etc, is simply not workable.
Without question the Internet is making it easier for buyers to determine a accurate purchase price for a property. Only a few years ago access to property sale data was the exclusive domain of property professionals. Now websites like www.onthehouse.com.au give it away for free. So I think that the advent of increasingly sophisticated anlaysis websites for buyers to use is perhaps the future for australian real estate rather than the Redfin model. We just don’t have that much ‘fat to cut’ to make the Redfin models commerically viable on a significant scale.