Christian Harper, founder of Chiswick, West London estate agency Harper Finn, had a busy day yesterday doing battle with both Rightmove and Zoopla.
The one-branch business, which has five employees, has faced a difficult few weeks as viewings have begun to dry up, and Harper says the business will now have to rely on its lettings and property management arm to survive.
“Rightmove and Zoopla must recognise that we are in extraordinary times – there is no point buying tickets to see a film when the cinema is closed,” he says. “My portal costs are my largest outgoing by far.”
Harper says he feels aggrieved by Rightmove’s current position because it has been increasing its fees aggressively in recent years, just when many agents have been enduring a tough market brought on by Brexit and the government’s Stamp Duty changes.
Harper says the portals should either freeze their sites until the crisis is over or give agents the option to remove their listings temporarily and have a payment holiday period until Coronavirus is over.
“I have no option but to force Rightmove and Zoopla to do this; I am cancelling my direct debits and I know their credit control people will be calling me on the 1st of April when the payments are due, asking me where the money is, but they won’t be getting it,” he says.
“So they will take my listings down anyway – but I’m going to have to let that happen because I’m simply not going to allow the money to go out the door at the moment.”
Harper says that in Rightmove’s case, he’s been a customer for 15 years and, therefore, pays a reduced fee compared to newer arrivals, but that he will lose that £400 a month discount if he quits.
“If return to Rightmove once the virus has passed, I will be treated like a newcomer and suffer financially for it,” he says.
Harper says he has also been pressing Zoopla about what they will offer him, and was told the company would not allow agents to freeze their account or payments until viewings start again after the crisis.