PBL’s long rumoured move into online real estate advertising looks to be in for a bumpy ride with agents lashing out at plans to force them to advertise on a new website and a recent rethink of Seek’s role in the new business entity.

A couple of weeks ago a real estate agent told Crikey that the PBL/Seek joint venture would be called propertyseek.com.au and involve four real estate franchise groups: LJ Hooker, Century 21, Elders and Raine & Horne NSW (not national):

It is believed that the Franchise Heads/Corporate want to make the new website exclusive ie. force the individual franchisees within their groups to advertise on the new site and stop advertising anywhere else online… For every individual franchisee, eg LJ Hooker Parramatta, that LJ Hooker Corporate can convince/force to advertise on the new website, the more equity that LJ Hooker Corporate gets in the new business.

The News Limited papers followed up a couple of days later with this story predicting “all out war” in the $750 million a year real estate advertising market, revealing that PBL had renamed one of its companies myhome.com.au and registered the domain name.

But the story didn’t explain the name change from propertyseek.com.au to myhome.com.au. Now another anonymous agent has filled in the blanks:

We recently had the franchise head office people here doing a “roadshow” promoting the new website. Apparently seek.com.au has walked away from the whole thing and as a result PBL registered myhome.com.au last month.

The Head Office guys were very enthusiastic about the new site which is hardly surprising, but the sticking point for us agents is their motivation. At the moment we already pay monthly franchise fees to Corporate and this is supposed to cover everything. Now they want another $175 per month to start another website with a $50 per month price increase after a year. I for one will not be paying them another cent, particularly given the fact that the more of us they get to join the more equity head office gets… No wonder they were enthusiastic at the recent road show. How many Harbourside mansions can one man want?

PBL has a controlling stake in Seek so it is highly unlikely that Seek walked out on the deal in a fit of pique. More likely there was strategic PBL decision to keep Seek’s exclusive focus on recruitment advertising, and set up the new venture as a separate unit.

But one thing that will be of concern to PBL is the evidence of ongoing resistance among agents toward the deal. James Packer might be rubbing his hands at the prospect of another victory over News Ltd and Fairfax, but this one isn’t going to be easy.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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