I wrote about Placester in 2014. At the time, they were charging Realtors $5 a month to compete with Zillow’s $10 a month websites.
Now, if you’re a Realtor, you can get a FREE website from Placester. The news came out a week ago, so it’s not really news anymore. Greg beat me to saying this. Websites really are a race to the bottom.
There are three categories of websites:
- Template (less than $100, or free)
- Semi-custom (between a few hundred and a few thousand dollars)
- Full custom ($5,000 and above)
Those who have been in the website vendor game like I have know the truth — there are only two types of customers/clients to cover those three categories of websites. Those who are okay with a template and on a budget, and those who want a custom solution (and may or may not be on a budget). Anyone who goes with a semi-custom WANTS and EXPECTS a full custom — but doesn’t want to pay for the quality or service that comes with it. Serving the middle is asking for trouble, given the time it takes to deal with clients who have unrealistic expectations. Templates generally have razor, razor thin margins — and, of course, FREE templates (which is what Placester is offering now) have negative margins. Thus, these websites will need to be floated using another revenue stream or funding.
Placester is banking on the fact that they’ll be able to upsell their Realtor user base on other marketing and technology services, using the free website as the “hook”. Sure, that may work, for some agents who start early in their careers with Placester and grow their business over time. That said, the agents and teams and brokerages investing in their businesses are generally not those that will use a free template solution at all. I question whether the agents/brokers opting for free templates are going to be the types of agents and brokers who pay for other marketing services. Maybe I’m wrong about that; time will be the judge.
Don’t get me wrong, this NAR distribution deal is certainly a great lead generation play for Placester. It’s good for PR, and lends credibility. A freemium business model can work, no doubt. Realtors having access to quality websites that costs nothing is certainly not a bad thing. That said, this news is unlikely to change anyone’s business. If every Realtor has access to the same free website templates, the competitive landscape hasn’t really changed aside from the minimum industry website standard.
Have a good long weekend.