Trade Me makes a radical change to real estate agent fees

Alistair Helm

Trade Me has made a bold and challenging move, telling the real estate industry that they need to charge clients for their property to be listed on the site, instead of absorbing the cost.

With effect from the November 1 the company will no longer offer bulk subscriptions to real estate companies that previously allowed them to pay a single monthly fee for unlimited listings (read Trade Me's official announcement here).

This move comes shortly after Trade Me's 2013 annual report highlighted that the property section of the business held significant revenue growth potential.

For one agency, a 200% increase
Let’s look at the situation for a typical real estate company. I chose at random Professionals Rotorua (McDowell Real Estate Ltd). In the last full month of August the company listed 19 properties for sale.

The current subscription fee is a base cost of $250 plus $124 per listing with a cap of no more than $999. So this office would in theory pay Trade Me $999 for those 19 listings in August.

With effect from the November 1, the base fee of $250 is removed as is the cap. Each listing will be charged at $159 – a total for August of $3,021 – a 200% increase.

The big question that each and every real estate agent and real estate company will be asking right now is how can we manage this?

Trade Me is very clear. As far as they are concerned this fee-per-listing should be passed on to the vendor as a cost to market a property on Trade Me. After all a private listing costs $349 / $399 (inc GST) so $159 + GST ($182.85) is almost half the cost of a private listing.

In the communication being sent to real estate agents Trade Me detail that the recommended price agents should charge vendors is $199+ GST ($228.85) – this allows a 20% commission margin for agents. The Real Estate Agents Act is very clear in detailing that in terms of advertising costs that the vendor pays for, the listing agent must stipulate if there is a commission earned for selling any advertising. At the time the Act came into force in 2009 the industry were very clear that they in the main passed on advertising costs without a commission.

Now there is nothing wrong with agents earning a commission selling advertising, it is just interesting that Trade Me are so explicit with it in their communication.

Click to zoom.

Real Estate Agents Act 2008 No 66 (as at 05 August 2013), Public Act 128 Agency agreement must disclose rebates, discounts, and commissions – New Zealand Legislation.png
This is certainly a bold and aggressive move by Trade. In terms of marketing a property for sale – advertising on Trade Me is the essential part of any campaign and when compared to $1,000 or so for a full page in a single property magazine or many thousands of dollars for a picture in a newspaper spending $200 for a listing on Trade Me is cheap.

Will the vendors accept this re-charge?

Since the start of Trade Me as a legitimate website for property for agents back in 2005 most agents have not charged their clients to have their property on Trade Me, just as they have not charged for or their own website.  They started back then from the perspective of online advertising being a “nice addition” to the mainstream advertising of newspaper and magazines. Over the last 10 years that situation has reversed, nowadays newspapers and magazines are the “possible addition” to the mainstream online advertising.

Accepting this change has been tough for agents and more especially real estate companies as print media is so effective in real estate brand advertising as compared to the web which is solely property focused.

Clearly though real estate agents and companies have no choice; as to swallow this cost for all listings would mean the industry would have to pay up the $21m of revenue that this move creates for Trade Me up from an estimated $7.5m earned in the past year from subscriptions.

Once established as a vendor cost recharged by agents then it will make it easier for Trade Me to apply annual increases of the order that they have applied over the past 8 years to private listings for property.

Click to zoom.

Former CEO Alistair Helm is founder of

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13 Comments & Questions

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It is seriously time for all Real Estate companies to create and manage an easy to use website .
Try searching for a commercial lease on Trade Me . You cannot separate out the negotiable listings from the ones stating the lease price . You cannot arrange the listings from lowest to highest price .


Trademe, like Westfield, can and will charge what they do because they provide the most important thing when you are trying to sell some - a constant stream of customers

It isn't just about having a website, but getting traffic to it, and that is where Trademe has more horsepower than anyone else, therefore can pretty well charge what they want


try ""
has most of the listings trade me does


but none of the traffic


Another reason NOT to use the ever increasingly money gouging thing called Trade Me!


you've clearly never paid for is a bargain , works 24 x 7 , people contact directly from ads and is doesn't cost you $2500 for a 1/8 page in the paper that lasts for one day

Even if they charged $1000 per listing it would still be cheap compared to other forms of advertising - in fact, I would imagine if agents had to use one advertising avenue, and one only, trademe would be what 99% would pick.


Try Wheedle!


It's all about business and changing times.
Real estate companies have to get real and make sure their clients get a fair deal. Trade me is a business same as the Real estate company.
No client, no business.


Really? Residential agents don't charge their clients for TradeMe advertising?

I wasn't aware of that.

I was under the impression that for most properties listed today, nothing was free for the vendor.

I thought vendors were all given a choice of a marketing campaign which they had to pay for.

Learn something every day.


Hey Guys try put wheedle..dont give all your money to this Trademe


Hey guys..Try out Wheedle. Dont pay all your money for this Trademe.


Give me some traffic and I'll put it on Wheedle


IF all the real estate companies got together and supported their own website only, then there would be no need to advertise on TradeMe because only private sellers would be there and our sellers wouldn't have to pay ever increasing costs to support the media moguls lifestyle.


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