A leading newspaper columnist has given a withering appraisal of the UK’s property portals including OnTheMarket, describing the No.3 portal as ‘limping along’ and its share price ‘drifting lower’ since it debuted on the stockmarket.
The comments by Patrick Hosking (pictured), who is one of the most senior financial journalists working at The Times newspaper, are made within a ‘no-holds barred’ column published yesterday.
It shines a highly critical light on OnTheMarket but is no less kind to Rightmove and the soon-to-launch new kid on the block, Boomin.
As well as suggesting that OTM has failed to deliver on its early promise after being launched on the back of frustration among estate agents with Rightmove, Hosking also lays into Rightmove.
Airing industry dirty washing that many consumers are most likely unaware of he details how, despite the millions of people who search for home to buy and rent on its website every month, “its actual paying customers detest it — or at least are very frustrated with it,” he says.
“Estate agents are resentful of the sometimes thousands of pounds per month per branch they are charged for advertising homes on the site.”
“The agents, as they see it, do all the work in wooing the vendor, valuing the home, taking photos, writing up the particulars, arranging viewings and conducting negotiations.
“Rightmove offers a perfectly good service, but takes a large chunk of money for adding very little — and keeps raising its prices.”
Hosking also gives his readers a lukewarm appraisal of Boomin. As well as claiming that Michael Bruce has put £10 million of his money into the challenger portal, he says it faces a daunting task.
“Bruce is an energetic innovator and disruptor. With Purplebricks, he moved the dial for a while, but it ultimately didn’t transform the business of house-selling,” says Hosking.
“With Boomin, he will need even more luck to even discomfort, let alone dislodge, the industry elephant.”
OTM CEO Jason Tebb responds:
“OnTheMarket isn’t ‘limping’; indeed, we had a robust and strong start to the year with more than 1.8 million leads generated in January, which is an average of 146 per advertiser.
“Visits to the site in the month were 28 million and weekly site visits exceeded 6 million every week since the start of February 2021. In addition, we have a strong balance sheet despite the headwinds of the COVID19 pandemic. These figures demonstrate that we are a portal which has been built on strong foundations.
But there is much more we can do.
“I’ll soon be unveiling our forward-looking strategy in the next few weeks and I’m really excited about sharing those details with our community of agents. In the meantime, my personal engagement with our customers will pick up pace as I continue to listen, understand and learn about what they need and want from a portal and what they feel would add value to their businesses. Their support so far has been overwhelming.
“There’s one thing every property portal has to remember; we’re here to serve agents and safeguard their best interest and as the only portal which is majority agent-owned, we are best placed to do just that. But equally as important is providing the consumer with a reason to visit the site time and time again.
“We are already building momentum, with new agents choosing to list with OnTheMarket for the first time, as well as expanding our product and service offering to existing customers to make it easier, quicker and more cost effective for agents to sell and let their listings.”
Read the Times column in full (requires subscription).