REA Group CEO Owen Wilson and Chief Sales Officer Kul Singh spoke exclusively to Elite Agent this week about navigating the highs and lows of 2020, and their next steps in supporting the industry after what has been a challenging year.
Reflecting on 2020, Owen Wilson says when the pandemic hit, REA Group understood they needed to move quickly.
Once they’d secured the health and safety of their own staff, he says thoughts turned to supporting their customers, financially and in an emotional sense.
And move quickly they did; introducing new products and working on new ways to give vendors the confidence to come to market.
On realestate.com.au, they offered free re-listings, free upgrades, and, for the first time – a ‘no sale, no pay’ feature that removed any extra risk for the seller.
Although the impact on the property market of the pandemic appears to be easing, REA Group has taken further steps to ensure they support their customer base in a financial sense.
“Many markets are starting to show signs of post-COVID normality,” explains Kul.
“But we completely understand that COVID is still impacting vendor confidence and buyer confidence across Australia, and the market hasn’t fully recovered.”
So they’ve taken a further step of cancelling the contracted price change that was due to come in earlier this year, freezing prices until July 2021.
“We’re hoping that provides greater confidence to our customers and greater certainty over the months ahead, as we look to accelerate out of what’s been definitely a challenging year,” says Kul.
Growth in a slowing market
REA Group posted strong results in a challenging year, including unprecedented audience growth.
Audiences for realestate.com.au hit all-time highs during 2020, which Owen puts down to “great moves” made by the RBA and the Government, which have resulted in the banks being “flushed with liquidity”.
“This has been incredibly pleasing because one of the key elements of our strategy is to deliver the largest and most engaged audience of property seekers to our customers,” Owen explains.
“Put simply, we want to deliver the most leads and the best leads. The numbers this year have been nothing short of staggering.”
In October that trend also increased with another 36 per cent jump.
“We’ve just got the October numbers in,” he reveals. “We had a staggering 125 million visits in October.”
“What’s interesting,” Owen continues, “is that this is not just people looking at properties in lockdown.
“Buyer inquiry during that period is up 48 per cent year-on-year. So it just shows that the property industry has got that great resilience, and it’s still performing well.”
New era, new AREAs
This year, the annual REA Excellence Awards are back, but will include some new awards.
There will still be the submission-based awards, which Kul urges real estate professionals to enter before the November 18 deadline, but some data-driven awards have also been introduced
“We’re going to leverage the data from realestate.com.au and realcommercial.com.au for some data-led awards, where you don’t have to submit,” he explains.
“We will be rewarding and recognising the best of the best within residential and commercial. Again, that’s off the feedback of customers.”
A new episode of the Elevate podcast, featuring much more from Owen Wilson and Kul Singh, will be released this weekend.