You've definitely heard of Rightmove. And you'll have heard of Zoopla as well, of course. And then you've probably heard of Primelocation. They're all property portals, and they are the sites that pretty much any serious buyer or tenant will look for property.
But these property portals are disliked by many estate agents because they're seen as a high charging duopoly (Zoopla own Primelocation). We don't think that though. We think they're great - they provide us with the buyers & tenants that our clients are looking for - why would we dislike that?! After all, we are acting for our clients to find them a buyer or tenant, and if that's where they're looking, then that's where we'll advertise. So we see great value in these property portals.
So not only do many of these high street agents dislike the portals because of their perceived high costs, they also don't like them, because they let agents like us on them. It really grates with the old fashioned agents that we're allowed on these sites because these sites allow us to sell the properties that we do, and charge around 80% lower than a high street agent.
So over the last few months, a group of, what some might say, 'high end' estate agents, have helped to set up a new portal to try and rival both Rightmove & Zoopla. And in our view, to try and stifle the growth of 'online estate agents'. The portal is going to be called 'OnTheMarket' and they will not be allowing 'online estate agents' on their site. This is making the site quite appealing to around 3,000 estate agency branches (I wonder why - something to do with trying to protect their fees?!)
Now what we'll see is a lot of bluster from these guys in the press, as to how they're going to change the market. And they're probably right. But I'm not so sure the market will change in the way they think it will...
One of their rules, is that if you list with 'OnTheMarket', then you have to withdraw all of your advertising from either Rightmove or Zoopla.
So technically, a buyer or tenant is going to have to visit 3 sites now, to look for property. But will they be bothered to do that? Will they even find 'OnTheMarket'? Are Rightmove and Zoopla too ingrained in the public psyche when searching for property?
It's a tricky one to predict, but for me, a third website is just not going to get the visits or the traction, regardless of how much money they have (which is not a huge amount, compared to Rightmove & Zoopla's marketing budgets!)
Buyers and tenants won't even know that 3,000 or so estate agency offices have ditched either Rightmove or Zoopla, and so won't even think to search 'OnTheMarket'. They will carry on idly searching Rightmove & Zoopla, and just think that they have exhausted where to search. How on earth are the going to find out about 'OnTheMarket'?
But more importantly, is how sellers and landlords react? For me, they're not going to be happy that their property - the biggest asset they own - is only going to be marketed on either Rightmove or Zoopla.
Other agents always argue with me saying that nowadays "No seller or landlord asks if we advertise on Rightmove AND Zoopla anymore - it's just expected, so it doesn't matter that we will be dropping one of them". EXACTLY!! That's exactly why it does matter. Because sellers and landlords expect their property to appear on both...
So what do they think agents like ours will be saying to the potential sellers and landlords? Well, we'll be educating the seller that by listing with xyz agent, you could be halving the amount of coverage you get. "Did you know, Mrs Potential Vendor, that xyz agent is coming off either Rightmove, or Zoopla and therefore you won't get maximum coverage, perhaps leading to a lower price, due to a lack of coverage?".
It's an easy 'sell' for us. All we will do is re-educate the customers of the importance of being on both the major portals, and then educate them again that around 3,000 agents across the country will be delisting their stock overnight, and therefore not offering maximum coverage for the property.
So what will happen to those 3,000 or so agents who ditch Rightmove or Zoopla?
For me, they will start to struggle around about 6 months after they come off either Rightmove or Zoopla; they will see new listings dry up for the above reasons, which will therefore see them sell less properties and therefore earn less revenue.
Now some of the more savvy agents may go back to whoever they dropped. And Rightmove or Zoopla will welcome them back with open arms. But at much higher fees. And some of the less savvy agents, will keep flogging 'OnTheMarket', believing that it will change the industry and stop the rise of 'online estate agents'. And they could be the big losers.
For me, joining this site, is playing into the hands of us online estate agents. And it sounds like I'm disappointed with that. And I sort of am - I was hoping that the high street agents would put up a bit more of a fight than that; perhaps improving their service to match that of ours. And then perhaps reducing their excessive fees to try and squeeze us out. But they're not. They're running away and setting up a new 'club' where thay can try to protect their exorbitant fees and underwhelming service. And that is fundamentally to the detriment of the consumer.
There's a huge opportunity coming up, to drive 'online estate agency' into the mainstream with 'OnTheMarket' launching. With nearly a quarter of agents dropping one of either Rightmove or Zoopla, it leaves more room for us to expand into. And I think that's exactly what will happen.
Ultimately though, it's the sellers, landlords, buyers and tenants who are the most important people in this, and it is they, who will decide who wins, and who loses. High street agents have been waiting for this day for a few years now - a new portal that is cheaper and won't allow online agents to join. Well, they've got their wish now. I wonder if it will be a case of 'Be careful what you wish for'
Let battle commence...