RealEstate.com.au (REA) recently unveiled a new feature aimed to improve the user experience for prospective tenants. It’s called the HIDE feature, and it’s available on their live portal right now, I’m bringing it up because it has the potential to impact how we go about marketing rentals.
The feedback REA received from prospective tenants was they were sick and tired of seeing the same listings over and over again, every time they did a rental search. REA’s rather novel solution, was to create a feature where if ANY listing started to annoy a tenant, they can simply click HIDE and *poof* the listing vanishes from their search results, never to be seen again.
NEVER TO BE SEEN AGAIN is the key here: it means, going forward, we need to be very careful our marketing strategies don’t frustrate users, or they will HIDE a listing, and it will cease to exist for that user, for good. It’s a brand new feature, so it’s hard to tell exactly what will motivate a tenant to HIDE a listing, but given this feature is a response to tenant feedback, you can be sure they’ll be using it.
The HIDE function is accessed directly on the search results page and there’s really only 3 data fields displayed from search results: The Address, The Price, and The Main Photograph. There’s not much we can do about the address of course, but the price and the photos are in your control. As such, one would have to assume attempting to over-charge on rent, or using lousy photography would be the key pain points here and the issues most likely to result in audience reaching for the HIDE button. Now – more than ever before: First Impressions Count, because now the first impression may be the only impression you get.
A recent REA customer survey found that 43% of all users, rated “poor quality photos” as their leading source of frustration.
I’ve written EXTENSIVELY (here, here *and* here) about how vital it is managers don’t use grimy, dimly lit, sideways, smart-phone photography when attempting to professionally market a listing. Now this matters more than ever before lest you end up getting hidden before a tenant even gives your listing a chance.
The Price is the other factor in your control. The ‘Dutch auction’ style of rental marketing is a common technique: managers who know they have plenty of time up their sleeve to source a tenant, start out the campaign with a relatively high rental price, and gradually creep it down as the vacancy date draws nearer, until they get an applicant. It’s a good technique, I know I use it whenever I need to fill my properties, but much consideration now needs to be given to this HIDE feature, because once your listing is hidden, it stays hidden from that tenant, even if you make the price more desirable. Asking $600 a week for a property only worth $550 may cause a lot of tenants to HIDE this listing, and when you eventually meet the market at $550, your market can no longer see you, you end up getting less rent than you would have if you’d just priced the listing appropriately from the start.
There’s an excellent Rental Reporting Database available to all of our managers on the Control Panel that gives you a highly detailed snapshot of all rental demand in a given area for a given listing type. I’ve written about it previously, it may be particularly useful now to ensure you can appropriately educate your owners on exactly how much rent they can expect, as well as how vital it is to market correctly from the outset.
Of course as a manager, you already know exactly how much your building rents for, you do it all day, but a lot of owners believe their price should be higher. You need to make sure they are aware of the perils of the new HIDE function and explain that asking a higher price may ultimately cause them to get less rent in the end, not more.