Online property portals on the rise

Local websites cashing in on the red-hot real estate market

The strong property market in Singapore has now moved beyond real estate and spread into virtual space.

Rising demand for property has spawned several online property portals, which offer their visitors thousands of property listings to help them buy their desired homes.

While most Internet start-ups would be dependent on online advertisement revenues to survive, these property portals have taken a different tack: Most sites have minimised the number of advertisements to add ease in navigating the site.

Their main source of revenue comes from subscription fees paid by property agents to advertise the properties they are marketing.

Property agents typically pay a package fee of 50 listings for about $300 a year, to 100 listings for about $1,600 a year to advertise the properties they are marketing on the websites.

Depending on the number of listings provided in the package, each online listing can cost about 5 to 8 cents a day. “This is much cheaper than the traditional form of advertising the property on newspaper classifieds, which cost $35 a day for a small ad of three short lines,” said Mr Steve Melhuish, chief executive officer of the three-year-old propertyguru.com.sg.

Online property listings are also accessible internationally, giving the sellers more options from foreign buyers, he added.

With plenty of properties on sale, as well as approximately 30,000 real estate agents in Singapore, there is definitely money to be made for these websites, market players said. Although Mr Melhuish is unwilling to disclose exact figures, he said propertyguru.com.sg’s revenues increased by threefold last year.

Propertyguru.com.sg has approximately 1.7 million visitors a month, with each visitor viewing an average of 15 listings on the website.

“About 70 per cent of our revenue comes from real estate agents; the remaining 30 per cent comes from property developers in Singapore as well as overseas who want to promote new project launches to those home buyers,” he said.

The success of the online property advertising subscription model has inspired the creation of other online property portals – a quick search on the Internet rounds up at least nine of such websites.

The latest portal to be launched is the month-old proprietary website propmatch.com. The website has approximately 50 agents registered to advertise their properties for sale.

Propmatch.com was founded by Mr David Zhang, a former employee in a multi-national firm, and Mr Cheo Ming Shen, co-founder of blog advertising platform Nuffnang.com.

Mr Zhang believes that the property portal business is entering a new wave, with the Singapore property market more robust than before.

“This is one of the reasons why propmatch.com was set up – to capture the interest in property in Singapore and the increasing online search patterns that consumers are showing,” said Mr Zhang.

Another property portal H88.com.sg has decided to differentiate itself through rampant social media marketing as well as original but tongue-in-cheek property commentaries.

Its property advertising service started only a month ago, said one of H88.com.sg’s creators Mr Sandy Yeo, as a result of requests from its online community of about 7,000 members. H88.com.sg charges property agents $300 a year for 50 listings.

“Our community consists of home buyers, potential home buyers, agents and developers,” said Mr Yeo, who runs a digital marketing agency full-time.

Source : Today – 3 Dec 2011

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