Domain's catch-up mode with mortgage broking, academy

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As suitors run a tape over the owner of real estate portal Domain, it and News-controlled realestate.com.au are chasing each other on initiatives including mortgage broking and agent training.

Fairfax Media - on which prospective purchasers TPG and Hellman & Friedman have just completed due diligence - has taken a 60 per cent share in Domain Loan Finder, a joint venture with Auscred-owned Lendi set to launch next month.

The broking business will link with numerous banks, including all of Australia's "big four".

Domain's July move may put it ahead of REA Group's realestate.com.au - which is majority-owned by News Corp - which is set to buy 80.3 per cent of mortgage broking franchise Smartline. REA has an option to buy out Smartline's management team, who own the remaining shares, after four years if performance targets are not met.

It is also expanding its relationship with NAB to allow its Choice Home Loans brokers to participate in the realestate.com.au-branded home loan scheme announced last December.

AIM Group's Angela Hawksford reports that Domain - which she describes as "the neglected middle child" of Australian real estate sites - is to launch its own education programme. Called Domain Academy, it will offer events, training and coaching to help residential real estate agents succeed.

"It's an ingenious little plan, if you think about it," says Hawksford.

She cites the example of Tom Panos, a News Corp real estate advertising director, who started intensive - and highly sought-after - training programme Real Estate Gym a decade ago.

"Real estate agents from all over the country wanted to learn how to become million-dollar agents from Tom Panos, and if that meant advertising more in News Corp newspapers (and on REA Group's real estate platform), because Tom said so, that's what they did."

Catalano's Domain Academy will be delivered through a network of and experts, with courses count to a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) qualification.

"and I'm delighted our teams are now rolling this out across the country."

Domain might just give REA Group a run for its money yet," she says.

Pictured: Domain's Agent Marketing Centre

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