Estate agents in Trade Me fee squabble

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER
Last updated 05:00 06/02/2014

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Trade Me director Sam Morgan has labelled real estate agents "turkeys" after several agencies withdrew property listings from Trade Me in response to a November fee increase.

The chairman of rival listings service realestate.co.nz, Fairfax Moresby, said it was questioning Trade Me's claim to be "No 1" for property and might lay a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority.

Trade Me has switched from charging agents a fixed fee to list all their properties to charging $159, plus GST, per listing. That prompted a backlash from 18 agents, mostly in Hamilton and Hawke's Bay, who have pulled their listings from Trade Me.

Cam Ward, director of Hawke's Bay agency Tremain, said the rise would have quadrupled its Trade Me costs. It now relied on its own website and realestate.co.nz, which is owned by the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand and Property Page, to reach house hunters online.

Trade Me has responded by writing to 1300 home sellers, offering to reinstate their listings for free. Spokesman Paul Ford said it was not seeking to embarrass the agents, but it thought their actions were "off" and did not want their customers to be disadvantaged.

In a characteristically blunt Tweet, Morgan accused real estate agents of cutting off their nose to spite their face.

Ward said Morgan was entitled to his views. He indicated there was no co-ordinated boycott.

"Everyone is taking their own position. Our position is we simply can't sustain a business with 400 per cent cost increases."

Trade Me said 80 per cent of property buyers searched its property section. Realestate.co.nz marketing officer Paul McKenzie said its website nevertheless received 618,000 unique visitors a month and that number was rising. It had seen a significant increase in the number of real estate agents that used its service since Trade Me changed its pricing, he said.

Moresby said realestate.co.nz had approached Trade Me about some of its marketing claims, which he believed were misleading, even though he accepted Trade Me attracted more unique browsers. It might complain to the Advertising Standards Authority if it did not receive a satisfactory response.

Trade Me chief executive Jon Macdonald said the company worked hard to ensure its claims were accurate and truthful, so he would be surprised if there was an issue.

Realestate.co.nz charged large real estate branches a flat fee of $300 to list all their properties and was not considering changing that to a fee per listing, McKenzie said.

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