Jennifer Duke | 12 December 2013

Newly launched listings portal aims to shake up the industry

Homely.com.au is here, and it's creating a bit of a stir already, despite facing stiff competition from the other big real estate listings portals and other startups.

Looking to maximise on user experience, by providing a more functional search system, as well as an innovative marketing platform, Homely is supposedly the fresh alternative to the current listings sites.

Jason Spencer, co-founder of Homely, said that they've created a way to discover property through simple design without banners ads or page turns.

With more than 500,000 suburb ratings, reviews and conversations, they're hoping it will give property buyers a chance to look at the very local information.

 

The founders are of StreetAdvisor.com.au fame. 

Local expert profiles and office showcase pages are aiming to build engagement and brand loyalty, while providing another way for real estate agents to market themselves. The site says this will help make choosing an agent like choosing a restaurant. How they intend to tackle fake reviews that have been seen increasingly online remains to be seen.

They note that at launch they have more than 1,700 real estate offices and 100,000 listings, including Ray White, LJ Hooker, Harcourts, Starr Partners, Belle Property and RT Edgar - with more expected next year.

Principals pay for their entire office, so there are no individual listing fees attached.

CEO of Starr Partners, Douglas Driscoll, said that recent research about the costs attributed to property portal advertising finds that Australia is the highest in the developed world.

“The exponential rise in these costs can mainly be attributed to a lack of genuine competition in the digital space. With the full support and backing of the industry, Homely could offer homebuyers a viable alternative to the traditional portals whilst helping agents keep their advertising costs to a more sensible level," said Driscoll.

When using the portal, a slick map appears to the right hand side, which allows buyers to quickly see where the property is located and how the suburb is situated.

The portal caters for both buyers and renters, the site is currently in Beta.

Suburb profiles are quite illuminating with reader comments. For instance, for Sydney's stigmatised Mount Druitt, the following are on the site:

"I owned a unit in Hythe St Mt Druitt for 3 years, renovated it and sold it for much more then i spent on it. In the 3 years i was there although i kept to myself and spoke to no one, I was still threatened constantly just because my only language i speak is English. Police respond quickly and work hard to keep the area safe but there is only so much they can do. Kids dont play in the street, they scream profanities, throw rocks at cars passing by, steal your mail, light your letterbox and bin on fire, key your car, kick a ball at your car, ask you for money or smokes, scream at you for not providing money or smokes and so on. Mt Druitt has bad traffic, people in Mt Druitt have absolutely no ability or skill behind the wheel of a car..."

"I've lived her for 12yrs and I love this place. It's cheap and affordable. Only 45mins away from city, airport and beaches. Great public transport. Over the 12yrs I've been here I have never once experienced any negative outcomes. Of course you hear the odd arguments, people yelling profanities and witness some fights amongst people but you can see and hear that anywhere. My kids go to a great local primary school, Dawson Public School. But I will be spending the money to make sure they get the best high school education that we can afford. There are great high schools here and we will be sending our kids to the one that we think will better them for the future. We have worked hard to have what we have, to provide everything for our kids. It not the place that makes you but what you make of yourself. I've wondered the streets plenty at night and have never been robbed, assaulted or raped."

The experience on the actual portal with its current number of listings is pretty good - with an easy, fast-loading interface that has a modern feel to it. Again, taking investor-favourite Mount Druitt as the sample suburb, there were four properties found on the portal for rent. There were 180 on realestate.com.au. There were seven for sale on Homely, with 313 on realestate.com.au. 

In order to get property buyers using it, they're going to need an uptick in these numbers fairly quickly. 

This is the latest of a number of property listings-related startups emerging.

NextForSale was recently being touted as the next best thing - a site allowing property owners to share their intention to sell. Observer Cameron McEvoy recently discussed the website as well.

Investorist is an off-the-plan search engine to be used by advisers and agents. 

The heavily-discussed myfun.com (for mandarin speakers looking for Australian property) is also set for launch. 

Housenet.com.au, the social media listings site, was also launched this year.

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