Today, RealtyBizNews takes another look at how real estate companies utilize the world wide web. This week we examine the UK market, and take a look at the companies online for selected cities there. Just what can UK buyers and sellers expect from their agents? Not unlike their US counterparts, a brief examination reveals some missing links in British real estate business online. Let's have a go.
Just as we have analyzed many US cities to see where the digital divide is for "wired" and "unwired" companies, we took a look via Google at London's most visible property companies today. A keyword search for "London homes" returned the usual 10 results, some of which are, of course, paid ads. But, here's a brief rundown of the rest.
At first glance, Foxton's seemed a departure from the so called "cookie cutter" websites of American real estate, a green sheet of listings, all shiny and efficient. Or, maybe this was my impression of UK business in general? Whatever the case, Foxton's site proves the English (at least these ones) understand a few things Americans do not. First off? If you are selling a property for over $20,000,000 - listing it online, it is probably a good idea to have lots of big images. As you can see above, Foxton's does this very, very well.
If you'll note too, the call to action on the right (arrange for a viewing) - clearly these Brits understand logical site design. "Here look, now come and look," if you will. Enough said there. Where the Foxton people really fail though, is almost exactly where most US realtors do, in understanding 21st Century marketing online. Facebook and Twitter, any sort of two way communication, are missing. In a very real way, Foxton's online presence is a shame, for such a well funded and resourceful company, that is.
"We embrace change and are constantly challenging tradition because we have a strong desire to improve the way our industry operates. We do business differently to give you the edge."
Foxton's however refined in some ways, does not engage, does not show personality, and is unoriginal. They need to embrace the reality that their digital brand and storefront is lacking. Rating: 5 of 10
Let's not waste time here. This is utter crap. No nothing, and almost inconceivable that one of the world's greatest cities has a real estate market this weak. Rating: 1 of 10 (for somehow getting in the top 10 on google, not once, but TWICE!)
Findaproperty actually offer some hope of digital awareness in London town. That is, if one can get past the quirky and ugly landing. Okay, Findaproperty does have a very good Facebook engagement here, as well as a superb Twitter aspect here (5867 followers), but the main site has surely already driven off droves of potential buyers. Check out the superb commercial these guys have on their YouTube Channel.
But, if you can get past goofy navigation to find these guys (or find em via Facebook first), even their blog is up to date (too bad they did not make it findaproperty.com/news huh?). The tale of the digital tape for these guys is, they really know "part" of what they are doing. Rating: 7 of 10 (this means I would probably call them)
Rightmove is clearly doing a great many things right. But, like so many big companies, they do not fully integrate things. Over 13,000 Facebook fans and they are not proud enough of this to put a button on the main website? This may seem picky to some, but we are talking a multi million pound operation here. And, I know what it takes to get 13,000 followers too. Their blog is edgy and nice (all be it not totally up to date). They even created the correct url structure in adding the suffix "news" - but without integrating their online elements? Twitter is superb as well, and except for their missing congruential-ness, let me quote them:
"Here at Rightmove we live and breathe for property. In fact, it's probably all we think about! With over 90% of properties for sale and to rent in the UK, we are by far the UK’s leading property website. "
Aside the integration of elements, and a few aesthetic aspects on their main site, Rightmove does deliver on their promise for us at RealtyBiz. The image below illustrates this to a degree. Rating: 8 of 10 (Rightmove would be the second best digital engagement we have tested with some tweaks).
Rounding out the top 10 Real Estate search results: Prime Location rates a 4 of 10, Zoopla rates 5 of 10, Homes Point 2 gets no rating because they are an Ontario, Canada company, and Hamptons International rates 3 of 10 for NOT meeting expectations. As you can see, two companies appear to dominate the digital landscape for London. Just why a Canada property seller ranks on Google? But then, why some others of these even exist is a mystery too.
My overall assessment of the London online property game is that the Brits have the edge over a great many US cities, perhaps all of them (we have not covered some larger ones). I must say I very much like Rightmove and Findaproperty -as their scores indicate. Clearly these companies understand the value of not only social media, but presenting properties to a waiting online customer base. Compared to their competition, these two companies are light years ahead. The Alexa graph below shows the relative positions of these players. More later when we do in depth analysis of worldwide players.
A final note. One thing the reader will notice in this analysis, versus American counterparts, is the absence of broker names and faces. This is intentional on my part, the reason being, London's agencies are almost completely devoid of the personal touch. Seeing the hand you are going to shake, the smile that will greet you, is not something anyone can readily find on a UK real estate website. Let alone an email address. What this indicates, I will leave to you for now.