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New report: Rightmove is the most vulnerable it has been for years

Document released today shines a light on the extraordinary situation most agents face when paying for Rightmove – and the need to reduce the portal's power.

Nigel Lewis

saynotorightmove rightmove

The Say No To Rightmove campaign has this afternoon released a ten-page report that claims Rightmove is the most vulnerable it has been for many years.

The report also reveals that 3,300 branches representing 1,750 agents have so far joined up its ‘rebel’ campaign. This is in addition to the branches who have backed the other three campaigns also battling to loosen the portal’s grip on estate agents.

Rob Sargent, who is also CEO of 36-agency estate agency The Acorn Group, says he has spent recent weeks privately canvassing all the players in the market.

This includes Rightmove, Zoopla, OTM and both small, medium and large estate agencies as well as industry experts, consultants and commentators.

He says the research found that one-branch independents paid the most to Rightmove and that 65% of the UK’s 18,000 branches have fewer than three offices. Sargent consequently urges smaller agents to quit Rightmove, support OTM and list with Zoopla as well as investing in their own brands rather than relying on portals to get leads.

Competitive market

“Smaller agents want to see a permanent move to a more competitive market in which portals compete for their business rather than simply dictating terms to them,” the report says.

Sargent also accuses the big three chains – LSL, Countrywide and Connells – of enjoying preferential Rightmove access and pricing structures compared to smaller agencies, and of supporting the status quo.

“Whilst many big agents are supportive of the aims of our campaign they are, in the main, unable to take tangible action to support us I while still in contract with Rightmove,” says Sargent.

A solution to this impasse is suggested. The three portals should compete for agent listings and fees, rather than one being dominant and the two others fighting it out for second place.

And challenger portals like OpenBrix, Homesearch, Residential People, Moovshack and OneDome also have a role to play, the Say No To Rightmove campaign says.

Read the report in full.

June 16, 2020

2 comments

  1. Rob Sargent is a consummate property professional, he is not a client, but in discussions with him indeed others heading anti-Rightmove groups, such as David Thomas it is clear Rightmove is not the way forward.

    Also it is clear that Giles Ellwood and Sam Hunter Homesearch, Mick Silver Moovshack, Chris May Residential People, Adam Pigott Openbrix and Ben Davis PropertyHeads have real support amongst the anti-Rightmove groups, which is translating into action.

    Putting aside the toxic and draconian methods that Rightmove has been utilising, and its total lack of engagement with the pressure groups – a sign of utter contempt, Rightmove’s biggest problem is that the new insurgent portals actually have more functionality and value, and many are free to list, or have transparent low charge rates.

    Also, the new portals actually enhance the end clients buying experience – because unlike Rightmove who have sat on a two decade old model, the new portals have ‘listened’ to the needs of the end user and the agents and built property ecosystems accordingly. Listening and taking notice is a valuable part of any business relationship and Rightmove are about to learn sticking their fingers in their ears and hoping a bad situation will go away is going to cost them millions and a big slice of market share.

  2. OTM PLC should have been a “wholly” owned portal forever, but it is now only a “majority” agent-owned PLC. At launch, OTM PLC was approximately 70% agent owned, but already, depending on whose numbers you believe, that is down to 60% – 65% agent owned. A PLC Board must work solely in the best interests of shareholders so seeking “assurances”, as agents did from Rightmove PLC, is by no means certain. Who do you think has more sway, financial institutions promising to invest millions in return for more profit, or independent agents?

    35% – 40% of OTM PLC is already owned by institutions and non-agent investors. They only need 51% to have majority control. Because it is a PLC, OTM is undoubtedly driven primarily by the interests of its institutional shareholders. These investors have a say in setting the direction of the business which has implications for revenue targets and thus subscriptions. Should OTM PLC make future profits, these investors will be entitled to 35%-40% of these profits. Crucially, OTM PLC and its shareholders also have control over agents’ data, an extremely dangerous thing in my view, if agents want to avoid being owned outright by a “for-profit” business.

    Zoopla may have “re-positioned itself” and been forced to become more competitive, but it is 100% private equity owned so 100% of profits go to investors, not agent, and agents control 0% of the data they are giving away. Of course Zoopla has positioned itself as a supporter of independent agents…

    I believe, that as sure as night follows day, OTM PLC will have to go the same way as Rightmove PLC and Zoopla PLC did. When a company is listed on the stock market and starts gaining momentum, institutions pile in, agent share ownership gets diluted, ultimately below 50% as happened with Rightmove PLC (100% investor owned) and Zoopla PLC (100% investor owned), and greed always wins.

    It is my view that agents should only support a 100% agent owned business and simply STOP backing corporate portals. Investment in such a wholly owned mutual would allow agents to create virtually whole of market inventory, have a year on year multi-million marketing budget without giving away any ownership or control and, who knows, even engineer a reverse takeover of OTM PLC and take it back to being the 100% agent owned mutual it should always have remained.

    This report, as I feared, is very disappointing for the challenger portals. SNTRM appears to be focused entirely on making a more competitive “corporate” portals market. These exciting and disruptive new challengers, all of whom no doubt think they have the solution to the portal crisis, are effectively dismissed with a token mention based on the premise that if three corporate portals decide to behave themselves (don’t hold your breath), these challengers are expected to compete for the crumbs left over out of agents already hard pressed marketing budgets.

    Please can all future SNTRM announcements start with a disclaimer breaking down the per centage of OTM shareholders making up their office membership so far? It is not enough for Mr Sargent to announce that only his business is an OTM shareholder.

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