Online Home building is going to be expensive or cheaper

While I sit and ponder doing a similar start-up, I read this article of another person doing the same for AUD$1.5 million. Makes me think I will need to raise first my capital sufficient for this purpose. Or use the latest online software.

From StartUpSmart

Start-up Profiles

Thehomepage.com.au

By Michelle Hammond
Monday, 16 July 2012

start-up-profile-MorrySchwartzThehomepage.com.au was founded three years ago by Morry Schwartz, who recognised an opportunity to revamp how real estate agents do business.

 

Thehomepage.com.au enables real estate agents to reach more buyers, in what Schwartz says is a quicker, cheaper and more attractive way.

 

Schwartz, who is the chairman of property development firm Pan Urban, is also the publisher of politics and current affairs publications Quarterly Essay and The Monthly.

 

The website belongs to start-up company Dog No. 7, which, according to Schwartz, is designed to reflect the fact that it is always one step ahead of the game.

 

Schwartz, who has since been joined in the business by friends Mark Copley and Vicki Williams, talks to StartupSmart about how Thehomepage.com.au is attempting to get in front of the competition.

 

What prompted you to launch Thehomepage.com.au? What niche did you identify?

 

I launched Thehomepage.com.au and its sister site Millionplus.com.au because, in my real estate development business, I was amazed at how expensive it was to advertise on the existing real estate listings portals.

 

Using the existing real estate portals as a consumer, I also found them to be slow to load, cluttered with advertising and ugly to look at.

 

I wanted to create something that was different from what was already available in all of those ways: it would be free to advertise basic listings and less expensive for premium listings.

 

It would be fast to load. And it would be clean and attractive to look at.

 

Both Thehomepage.com.au and Millionplus.com.au belong to our start-up company, Dog No. 7. We picked that name because the CEO of our biggest competitor had said that Dog No. 7 is the one he worries about.

 

He compared the business to a dog race and said that Dog No. 2 always follows what Dog No. 1 does, and Dog No. 3 follows in the footsteps of Dog No. 2.

 

But Dog No. 7 is so far behind that he realises he can’t beat the top dogs by following in their footsteps.

 

Instead, he decides to win by cutting across the middle of the arena. The moral of the story is to always watch out for Dog No. 7.

 

How did you fund the business and what were your start-up costs?

 

I lent money to the business to fund its start-up. I’ve invested about $1.5 million so far.

 

How many staff do you have?

 

We have seven excellent people on our team. That includes myself, our CEO and an editor, a social media and advertising manager, a salesperson and two web developers.

 

Every one of them is on top of their game. I’m proud to have them working with me.

 

How do you promote the business?

 

Our business depends on consumers being able to find as many real estate listings as possible when they come to our site.

 

We are currently focused on acquiring more of that listings content and then driving web users to them. We are not doing much brand and awareness advertising as yet.

 

We put a lot of effort into being found online because we are an online business. That means search marketing and search optimisation are the biggest line items.

 

How do you stand out in the market? What’s your point/s of difference?

 

I already mentioned that we provide free basic listings and much less expensive premium advertising to real estate agents.

 

I also mentioned that we focus on being cleaner to look at, faster loading and more enjoyable to the consumer.

 

When we tested speed earlier this year, our web pages loaded twice as fast as our big competitors’ pages. That’s better for the consumer.

 

In addition, our key strength is the fact that we refuse to do priority listings.

 

When you type in a property search on our competitors’ sites, they return a bunch of listings results, but they don’t show you the most recent listings first by default.

 

Instead, they take money from agents to promote certain listings above others, and then they make sure you see all those “priority” listings first.

 

We decided to give people a break and always put the most recent listings first, so that you don’t have to scroll through listing after listing just to get to the ones that you haven’t seen yet.

 

After all, when you’re searching for property you can find yourself checking the site for new listings several times a day.

 

People tell us that our system is much more productive and enjoyable to use, and it is one of the things that brings them back to the site for repeat visits.

 

What are your revenue projections for 2012/13?

 

We don’t share our revenue numbers, but it’s fair to say our primary focus in 2012 is to acquire content. Revenue is a secondary focus right now, although it is growing.

 

What’s the biggest risk you face?

 

We’re growing steadily and quickly in content, traffic and revenue, so we are confident we will hit our growth targets.

 

I suppose the biggest risk is that online technology is getting cheaper and easier every day. That lowers the bar and makes it easier for new competitors to pop up.

 

We are confident, however, because launching a website is the easy part. Building relationships with agents and consumers is much harder.

 

Is there anything you would have done differently?

 

It’s not that we’re perfect, but we have learned from the mistakes we’ve made. No one mistake stands out as a horrible error that I would go back in time to correct.

 

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?

 

Invest in good people and reward them. Building a business is all about people and relationships.

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