Andrew Blachut: The Big Change In realestate.com.au Nobody Is Talking About

by Chris Lang on July 11, 2011

House for sale Last time Andrew Blachut, the owner of DIY property sales website Propertynow.com.au, was interviewed on homeiown.com, he was NOT happy – and for a very good reason.

His business, PropertyNow.com.au, relies on the ability to gain the maximum of exposure for his clients – vendors looking to sell their homes. These people choose the DIY house sale method to avoid paying humongous fees to estate agents – which makes a lot of sense, especially in this kind of property market. And, needless to say, nothing beats advertising on realestate.com.au – the highest-ranking website that gets most of the Australian visitors looking to buy a house.

But… regardless of the fact that Andrew held a full real estate agent license, for a long time realestate.com.au threatened to close his account with them, and remove all his client’s listings from their website. This story has a happy ending – keep reading to see how it unfolds and you won’t be disappointed.

Chris: Andrew, what happened since the last time we talked?

Andrew:

Since we did the interview with you over a year ago the treatment by realestate.com.au continued unabated. They again tried to remove our access to their site and it began reaching a climax last December ( 2010 )

Realestate.com.au solicitors wrote to PropertyNow and asked us to define and explain our business methods and model even though they have been dealing with us and known our model for several years. At the time ( December 2010 ) we appeared to be the only agent assisted site being scrutinised ( dare I say attacked ) by realestate.com.au.

Chris: But what about all the other websites that were also offering vendors to list their homes on realestate.com.au?

Andrew:

I approached some other similar sites to ours and asked if they had been affected by realestate.com.au. One company told me they had not been affected nor even approached by realestate.com.au. The company told me they would not support us in fighting REA ( realestate.com.au ) In fact, senior management at that company told me that their board had said “not to talk with Andrew Blachut” and that “we were on our own” in our fight with REA. Fast forward a few weeks later ( around January 2011 ) and that company had around 500 clients forcibly removed ( that company’s realestate.com.au account was shut down )

Chris: So you were on your own, fighting the unfair policy of REA. What did you do?

Andrew:

While this was happening PropertyNow approached the ACCC in launching a complaint against REA. One woman at the ACCC offices in Canberra told me that we had no cause for complaint and that a formal complaint was a waste of time. I asked to speak with her supervisor and then the supervisor also said that lodging a formal complaint would be useless. The ACCC staffers even went further to say that realestate.com.au could do anything they wanted as they owned the site.

I expressed stunned disbelief and a few days later I went higher up the pecking order at the ACCC. Eventually the ACCC started to listen and a formal complaint was made and evidence of several years was presented by PropertyNow. PropertyNow claimed that realestate.com.au might well be in breach of the Trade Practices Act ( recently renamed The Consumer and Competition Act ) PropertyNow suggested to the ACCC that REA had misused its clear Market Power to prevent the entry of a competitor ( PropertyNow ) Specifically we held that since PropertyNow was a real estate agency we should not be disallowed to market our clients properties on realestate.com.au.

Chris: What happened once you finally convinced ACCC to take your complaint seriously?

Andrew:

While the complaint was being heard REA went ahead with plans to close the PropertyNow accounts as it had already done with another company. A deadline was given for account closure. The deadline came and went and an extension of time was given to a further deadline for account closure. PropertyNow’s accounts stayed open and its clients remained on realestate.com.au all the while ( and still do ) A short time after the second REA deadline, the CEO of realestate.com.au Greg Ellis issued a statement which stated that REA was “out of step with industry regulatory practices” in relation to its Private Sale Policy.

Chris: Really?! But exactly what does it mean for PropertyNow.com.au and your clients?

Andrew:

This unprecedented, unexpected and industry changing announcement meant that PropertyNow was able to get it’s clients on realestate.com.au officially and properly…..and without the interference or threatened account closure. In other words it was a complete reversal of a policy that REA had held without challenge for over a decade. It was also a watershed moment in Australian real estate and one that went almost completely unnoticed on June 10th… the REA announcement was made early in the evening of a Friday prior to a long weekend.

So anyway Chris the upshot is that we continue to do what we have done for half a decade and that is assist the average Australian ( and also not so average Aussies… one house we market was almost 8 million dollars ) to get on realestate.com.au without having to pay a large commission for the privilege.

The fight isn’t entirely over but we have changed real estate in Australia and for the time being our business model is being respected by realestate.com.au.

Chris: Thank you very much Andrew for taking time to do this interview.

Do you have a question for Andrew? Leave a comment on this article, and he will be happy to answer.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

tom February 20, 2012 at 5:33 am

I love this

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