INDUSTRY NEWSNationalReal Estate News

Buyers seek transparency: 72 per cent skip properties without prices listed

Property listings without prices are buyers’ biggest pain point when searching for a new home on realestate.com.au, according to new research from REA Group.

According to the annual Property Seeker Survey of more than 6000 buyers, property listings without pricing information is their top frustration when it comes to searching for and purchasing a property.

REA Group Chief Product and Audience Officer Melina Cruickshank said buyers also revealed finding a suitable property within budget is one of the biggest hurdles, expressing disappointment that listings well out of their price range are often displayed in search results due to inaccurate prices on listings.

The insights come as REA Group looks to work with its agent customers to help address consumer frustrations and facilitate more pricing information being displayed on properties.

“The number one pain point that comes through is that consumers are increasingly frustrated about not having prices displayed on listings,” Ms Cruickshank said.

“Buying and selling property is very hard. We know that it’s frustrating and consumers don’t feel in control and price point is one of the most important components of the whole process.

“Our consumers, or our buyers, want that transparency right from the start of the process.”

Ms Cruickshank said the research, which also included a recent Consumer Satisfaction Survey, uncovered what buyers do when a property doesn’t have a price.

“This data consistently shows, listings that don’t have pricing displayed remain the number one source of dissatisfaction on our platform, with a whopping 72 per cent of buyers saying they would skip over properties that don’t include a price,” she said.

“They just assume it’s out of their price range.”

Ms Cruickshank said displaying a price could also help agents secure more listings.

“We see so many real estate agents securing their next listing by being highly transparent in the way they market and sell their vendor’s property,” she said.

“This has been one of the more interesting aspects that continues to trend in our research.”

Ms Cruickshank said REA Group was in the early stages of what would be a multi-year program to balance the buyer and agent needs when it comes to pricing information on listings. 

“We run a two-sided marketplace, so we have the largest and most engaged audience, and the consumers really are our north star, so we have to keep listening to what they’re saying,” she said.

“And the verbatim coming through from all of our research is that we want prices mandated on our listings.

“Now, our other user group, which is equally as important, is our customer base and, if we did that, we know that there would be chaos.

“We know that would cause a lot of disquiet with our customers, so we have a range of steps. 

“We believe that this will be a multi-year program of work to get to a point where customers feel comfortable about the different processes that we’ll put in play.

“So there’s a number of different steps and we probably will do this state-by-state, market-by-market, and work with our customers hand in glove to get the right outcome.”

Ms Cruickshank said she couldn’t reveal what those steps were just yet, only that it was “coming very soon” and that over the past six weeks REA Group had spent a lot of time presenting to customers about what will happen.

She said REA Group also continued to invest in the realestate.com.au member experiences, empowering consumers with unique data and granular insights into market trends. 

“Our Property Owner Dashboard, with our property estimate tool realEstimateTM,helps set realistic price expectations for sellers. This  also allows agents to have more practical conversations with their vendors,” she said.

In the last quarter, around 40 per cent of realestate.com.au listings were tracked by their owner prior to  coming to market. 

Ms Cruickshank said REA Group would keep collaborating with its customers to tackle consumer grievances and show more pricing details on properties.

“Our customers often tap into our unique research and data points to help them sell properties  faster, secure the best result for their vendors and win their next listing,” she said.

Balancing agent and consumer expectations: REA’s strategy for transparent pricing and enhanced user experience – Q and A with Melina Cruickshank

As REA’s Chief Product and Audience Officer you must see varied expectations from agents and consumers – how do you balance this when their expectations may not always align?

Melina Cruickshank: Both groups are extremely important to the long-term success of our business, and we have to make sure that both groups are consistently represented.

We’re a business that contests points of view and we try to build on each other’s thinking to come up with the best solution.

Our consumer product and audience teams are very user focused; they live and breathe building and developing the best experiences for our audiences.

They are deeply connected to protecting our brand trust and staying very close to what drives our consumer satisfaction –  ensuring our huge audiences stay loyal and use our products.

Their role in delivering value to our advertising solutions is crucial.

Without our huge audience, we don’t have a business. It’s one of our most important strategic assets and we treat it that way.

Our customer product teams are very commercially orientated in designing their solutions.

They’re all about delivering products to our customers that deliver real ROI and drive more and more value into our advertising solutions.

They’re very competitive, ensuring realestate.com.au remains agents’ first choice in property advertising.

We’ve been putting a lot of focus into our self-service platform, Ignite, in the last 18 months, ensuring that our customers can access new layers of seller insights.

Our sales teams simply want everything our customers want. They lobby hard for our customers and that is exactly what we want them to do.

But we don’t always agree and at times they must hold the line with our customers.

People from different teams may focus on different issues, but the principles and values of respectful and honest discussion remain the same.  

I talk to all of this, because there are big similarities in how we collaborate with our customers.

We won’t always agree, but we’re all pushing for the best outcome. ‘Reimagine It’ and challenging the status quo are a core part of what we do and how we operate so we can all move forward together. 

It’s definitely a balancing act – the expectations of our consumers and our customers don’t always align, but we research, test, learn and evolve to ensure we get the balance right.

In recent weeks our product and sales team have spoken with hundreds of customers to share insight into the strategy REA is working towards. 

Can you give us an example of changing consumer expectations?

Melina Cruickshank: There is an increasing expectation from consumers around transparency.

The majority of buyers, sellers, renters and owners are digitally native which comes with enhanced expectations of the property market and digital experiences overall.

People aged 45 have now been using iPhones for a decade. They expect to be able to search, finance and transact property through their smart phone and they want their experience to be personalised. 

We’ve seen AI jump to the top of everyone’s priority list this year, is REA using AI to help meet consumer expectations? 

Melina Cruickshank: REA has been investing in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) for a well over a decade.

AI and ML power many of our consumer and customer products, services and experiences. 

Our property estimate tool, realEstimateTM, is powered by PropTrack’s AVM.

The AVM learns from data on observed prices, property locations and consumer demand to provide valuable insight into understanding what drives property values.

It also leverages REA property quality scores that are learnt from property listing images, built using an AI model.

Premiere Plus customers now have access to Listing Engagement which leverages AI image engagement data to automatically reorder listing photos within a listing.

This prioritises the most appealing and engaging images to drive higher interest from potential buyers and tenants.

Machine learning listing insights are derived from our data models and made available to Prem+ customers daily.

What key insights into consumer expectations are driving your strategy?

Melina Cruickshank: We conduct the largest annual survey of property seekers in the country.

The Property Seeker Survey gathers insights from more than 6000 buyers, sellers, owners and renters and is representative of the Australian population, not just realestate.com.au consumers.

We also conduct regular consumer satisfaction surveys. The rich insights from this research contribute to the development of our consumer strategy.

In particular, we are focused on addressing the top pain points expressed by buyers in their search for their next property.

Interestingly, many of these pain points relate to price, whether it is the ability to find a suitable property within budget, frustrations around a lack of pricing on listings or inaccurate results when filtering searches by price.

This all plays into transparency and trust – we know to amplify trust in our brand and the real estate category generally we need to be as transparent with our consumers as possible.

What does this mean in relation to agents, how will it impact them? 

Melina Cruickshank: We know displaying pricing on a listing isn’t the preference of every agent, however we’re also hearing from our customers that being highly transparent in the way they market and sell their vendor’s property is helping secure their next listing.

There are nuances state-by-state and we are working with our customers to reach the best outcome for agents and consumers alike. 

Earlier this year we rolled out a new pricing experience on our platform for properties in the ACT.

The results clearly showed that surfacing prices helps drive high value actions from consumers and can deliver strong results for customers.

Pricing transparency impacts both buyers and sellers with our research showing 72 per cent of buyers skip over properties that don’t include a price, while 54 per cent of sellers said they would choose another agent if the agent withheld pricing.

Our research, and the results out of the ACT, demonstrate that the quickest and easiest way to build trust and increase high quality, high intent leads with buyers and sellers, is to add a price point to a listing.

In terms of what’s next, Victoria is the next step and we’re looking forward to working with our Victorian customers to uncover the value in pricing transparency in that state. 

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Kylie Dulhunty

Kylie Dulhunty is the Editor at Elite Agent.