A bold decision by Whanganui businessman and former district council candidate Steve Baron to start an online real estate magazine and property search engine has proved successful after only one year.
"I'm really pleased with how the website has taken off," says Baron.
"We get thousands of people visiting the site every month searching for a property to buy, and while we cannot compete with the millions that companies like TradeMe Property spend promoting themselves, we have found our niche by specialising in properties for sale in Whanganui, Waverley, Marton and Bulls.
"With some targeted social media advertising we have been able to attract people to our website -- and being small allows us to be very nimble with our marketing."
Baron sold real estate for several years after moving to Auckland in his early twenties. He went on to establish Baron Marketing Ltd which he ran successfully for more than 20 years, eventually selling the business and moving back to Whanganui where he was born and raised.
Whanganui Mansions uses state-of-the-art digital publishing software to produce a flip-book style real estate magazine published online every Friday at 12pm. The flip-book is created in pure HTML5 technology, works on all platforms and browsers and is tablet, laptop and mobile-friendly.
"This was an idea I had for a long time after my previous marketing and real estate experience," says Baron.
"When I approached local real estate agents with the idea, I received some very positive support from experienced agents such as Tim Hocquard from LJ Hooker.
"Not everyone was supportive, however -- some people don't like new ideas and saw us as a threat, while others thought the local real estate market was too small for another magazine."
Baron adds: "In an age where technology has become a mainstay in our everyday lives, the future success of a start-up company comes down to determination and knowledge.
"While every real estate agency has its own magazine and website, Whanganui Mansions brings them all together in the same place and makes it easier for buyers to find what they are looking for. We promote all local agents property listings in all price ranges -- not just mansions."
"The way we have been able to make a profit is from the strong support of a number of local businesses such as solicitors Treadwell Gordon, Morgans Property Advisors, Skelsey Plasterers and Stumpies stump grinding services who have all been with us from the start.
"Another of our foundation sponsors has been real estate agents Carol and Mike Lewis from Team Lewis Innovation Real Estate in the Rangitikei. They saw the value in raising their profile with feature advertising in the magazine and on the website.
"Now that we are starting to get traction, we are attracting other innovative agents like Kelly McKee from Arizto Real Estate which recently opened in Whanganui offering a flat-free service."