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63% of South African buyers shop online – Survey

How do South Africans search for property? This was the subject of an online survey last year conducted by property portal Property24.com, which has 3 million monthly visitors to its site.

Of the 700 respondents, 63% said they used property portals; 17% use estate agents’ websites; 10% use newspapers; and 10% other.

Following an article we published last week about how Americans and South Africans use the internet to shop for homes, we put our questions to Property24.com CEO JP Farinha about South African buying patterns on the internet.

Q: How much do you charge estate agents for online advertising on Property24 and how do these costs compare to print media advertising?

A: We charge quite low fees per estate agent office on a monthly basis. Our fees are based on the number of leads we generate so they vary quite a bit. At the low end someone getting less than 10 leads a month will pay R350 whereas a bigger office getting up to 250 leads per month will pay R1,695. As more leads are generated the costs increase according to tiers. To have listings branded costs a bit more and then packages can be upgraded to include premium and featured listings.

But overall the costs are relatively low, especially compared to print where you can pay thousands of rand for a single page on a weekend.

Q: What I’ve managed to glean so far from a search is that according to Hype Stat, which does website analysis and statistics, is that Property24 has 3,065,220 monthly unique visitors and 102,174 daily unique visitors.

A: I can confirm that Property24 has over 3m unique visitors per month. I took a look at Hype Stat and found the Private Property Monthly Unique Visitors to be 908,370. This is in line with what we see.

Q: The next question is are we following in the footsteps of our American counterparts? Your figures suggest we are.

A: The American market is very different to the SA market in many ways. But in terms of property buyers and sellers using online as their main medium we are definitely headed that way. Online is simply a far better medium for searching for property and researching the market than anything else. Mobile gives the added advantage of being able to have the latest listings arrive on your phone as soon as they come on the market.

Q: And how is the print media coping with these changes? How are real estate agents adapting? Can estate agents afford to forsake traditional media for online advertising? Conversely, how has online advertising saved on costs for estate agents? Is there a discernible shift to online advertising?

A: Estate agents too have embraced online and are realising the benefits. Those groups that understand online are using it well by positioning themselves as leaders on the portals. Since both buyers and sellers are using Property24 it is the perfect place to build an estate agent brand and market to sellers. The early adopters have started engaging in strategies to take advantage of this. I’m not too sure how the property print media market is doing but there is certainly a need for them. Many agents still want their branding in a physical medium and as long as consumers buy newspapers and magazines there will be need for them. The costs are, of course, substantially higher than online so you may find that many agents do forego print for an online-only strategy.

At the end of the day marketing money will move to where there is good value. At present, online offers incredible value so there should be a shift.

This has already been happening with groups and offices that are measuring their return on investment. More and more estate agents are questioning the efficiency of their marketing spend so we do expect the shift to accelerate.home buying resize2



Alison Goldberg is the former property editor of Business Day (1985) and the Financial Mail (1991-99). In 1995 she won the Sanlam Financial Journalist of the Year Award. She has edited such titles as National Constructor and The Miner in Australia and has freelanced for The Star, The South African Jewish Report and The Jerusalem Post.

Review overview