OnTheMarket has lost nearly 300 branches during the Covid pandemic, its latest results show, but the portal says it’s not afraid to lose more as it begins to ease agents off ‘freebie’ deals.
OTM says the agent count reduction is due to cancellations caused by agents worrying over the economic slowdown, and some agents closing down during lockdown.
But acting CEO Clive Beattie (below), who is due to make way for Jason Tebb on December 14th, says the reduction in numbers may continue as the portal begins to give ultimatums to the many agents who use the portal via ‘freebie’ agreements.
“We suspended the conversion of freebies during the worst months of the pandemic but we can’t carry on for ever giving them a free service when others are paying for it,” he tells The Negotiator.
Otherwise OTM says it has endured the lockdown in reasonable shape and seen a huge pick-up in activity since the housing market re-0pened and the ‘mini-boom’ ensued.
It enjoyed the first profitable half-year since it listed on the stock exchange, helped by vastly reduced marketing costs during the period as it stopped all advertising and higher revenue.
This increased by 28% to £10.2 million while operating profit was £800,000 although the company expects to break even overall during the year.
“We are not trying to catch up with the other two big portals and just become a cheaper version of Rightmove, grinding away at catching them up,” says Beattie.
“Instead, the idea is to differentiate ourselves from our competitors via technology and create a portal that agents can back and own shares in.
“Despite the many ‘challenger portals’ who have emerged during lockdown and the problems caused by Covid, engagement and commitment among agents to us has remained strong. We are here to stay.”
Challenged on what ‘differentiation’ means, Beattie points to its investment in lettings platform Teclet earlier this year, and an initiative that will see it support agents’ social media activity to generate leads.