Internet Marketing of Phuket Property
The Internet is changing the way business is conducted the world over and Real Estate marketing has been particularly quick to exploit the power of the World Wide Web. How do you see these changes effecting the way that property will be marketed in Phuket?
This question is very valid in respect not only Phuket, but also the rest of Thailand and indeed any country that has had a traditionally closed property market which does not immediately fit into the very public and open market system inherent in the Internet.
Thailand lacks a developed system of selling and marketing property. There has been, and remains, no profession of estate agency, no professional guidelines and no licensing requirement to act as an agent. Traditionally property has changed hands by word of mouth. No one (yet at the same time everyone) is an broker - with limited, incomplete, knowledge of one or two potential properties for sale. The system is very inefficient - potential buyers find it very hard to find and compare what is available for sale and the lack of structure and limited market penetration (of each individual broker) has made many property owners reluctant to list property publicly, preferring instead to play with a closed hand, waiting vainly for the day they get lucky.
The last ten years have seen significant changes. Led by the larger multinational firms who have been setting up, offices in Bangkok, several smaller real estate offices (some of whom even put pictures of their wares in their windows!) have begun to emerge; yet, despite these changes, the market in Thailand still remains very closed. Typically each agent only has, at best, a general sales agency agreement (which means that the property may be listed with several other brokers and he only receives a fee if he directly introduces a purchaser for the property) and as a result has to be very protective of his sources, and be very circumspect in promoting his listings, lest his clients or another agent poach his information and bypass his services.
This system is in strict contrast to the U.S. and most of the rest of the western world, where the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) has become an almost standard way of doing business.
Under this system almost all listings are given as a sole agency (this means that the agent receives a fee whenever and by whoever the property is sold) and the agent with the listing, in turn makes it his duty (its also in his interest) for the listing to be spread widely among many other (competing) real estate offices with whom he has a prearranged system for sharing the fees that the he will receive when a sale is made.
The MLS system works well for vendors, because their property is guaranteed wide exposure with just one listing. It also works well for the agent because he can spread the listing widely and publicly without fear of having his interest (or at least a shared interest) in the property poached from him.
The wide growth in MLS has relied very much on the development of computer database tools (to allow the rapid circulation and updating of listings through multiple real estate offices) and it is of course this strong foundation in the computer database that has so easily and naturally lead into the expansion of these MLS systems to the World Wide Web.
Land owners and property agents in Phuket (my own office in particular - check out http://www.phuketland.com) have already started to make use of the Internet to market their products, but in all cases they are running into a dilemma about the degree to which they can display their listings so publicly, yet avoid becoming simply a free (unrewarded) source of local property information.
I believe the only long term solution to this dilemma (assuming that Phuket wishes to be Internationally competitive) will be a further opening up of the property market in Phuket and that this can probably only be achieved through the development of a local MLS.