Rightmove.co.uk, which also has a range of exclusive partnership arrangements with valuable media outlets, attracts well in excess of one billion page views per month, ranking it the sixth busiest website in the UK earlier this year, after Facebook, Google, eBay, YouTube and Amazon, by Experian Hitwise.
Rightmove’s strong position at the heart of the UK housing market means that it delivers more leads to its estate agency and new homes customers than any other property portal.
In the first half of 2013, over seven million email enquiries from house-hunters came through Rightmove, along with more than 10 million phone enquiries.
Rightmove’s Commercial Director, Miles Shipside, commented, “Engaged homemovers continue to visit Rightmove in ever greater numbers and, crucially, are showing themselves to be motivated to contact agents and developers advertising on Rightmove.”
The duopoly enjoyed by Rightmove’s and Zoopla means that both portals have been able to increase the cost of listing properties on their websites; boosting their revenues and profits in the process.
But despite the valuable service they provide, greater listing costs have left more agents questioning whether advertising properties through Zoopla and Rightmove is in fact the wrong move.
Earlier this year, six London estate agents joined forces in a bid to rival the industry supremacy of Rightmove and Zoopla and challenge the rising costs of listing with the two portals, by announcing plans to launch their own portal, to be solely owned by agents that list on the website.
“We were conscious of pent-up dissatisfaction amongst agents about [the cost of listing on] the two main portals,” said Ian Springett, formerly of PrimeLocation, who was appointed to draft the business plan and drive the creation of the new website.
The industry response to Agents’ Mutual, founded by Chesterton Humberts, Douglas & Gordon, Glentree Estates, Knight Frank, Savills, and Strutt & Parker, has been positive.
Richard Barber of W.A.Ellis commented, “We fully support Agents’ Mutual – it will deliver value to the public and is non-profit making for agents. There is a lack of choice in the current market and recent price increases from the current portals have been too robust.”
Agents’ Mutual has been the go-ahead to start building its website and brand after it secured £3.6 million of funding from over 1,000 estate agent offices, which it hopes will increase to around 10,000 estate and letting agency offices over the next five years.
The company, which intends to launch their new website in 2014, has lured fellow estate agents by offering lower listing costs compared with the major property portals and giving each business a share in the firm.
Agents’ Mutual plan to initially charge £400 per estate agency office for listings for the first five-year period, before reducing the price to about £250 per office from 2019 or 2020.
Interestingly, Agents’ Mutual requires members to back it properly by only using one other major portal.
Martin Bikhit of Kay & Co said, “Rightmove and Zoopla will lose an enormous number of listings. While these portals will probably survive, given each member agent will only be able to list on one additional portal, this will certainly divide the market and should make these agents compete more effectively on price.”
The NFoPP has shut down its portal, PropertyLive.co.uk, in favour of supporting Agents’ Mutual; it has even taken a seat on the new firm’s Board and will play a full role in its governance, representing the interests of those NFoPP members who have, or will, choose to join Agents’ Mutual.
Mark Hayward of the NAEA commented, “Agents’ Mutual’s proposal for a member firm owned portal offers a credible alternative to the launch-build-float ‘all for profit’ portal alternatives currently available.”
Nethouseprices.com also planned to launch a low-cost agent owned portal, but has now pulled the plug on the idea, after failing to gain enough industry support.
The website will continue to operate its existing property prices sold data model, as well as feature listings. “We have been extremely grateful for the support received from almost 2,000 agents registering interest in our agent owned portal, but regret to announce that we will not be taking this forward now due to the viability and risk of having to completely change our business model. Whilst it will be difficult enough to stand up to the current duopoly, it is totally counter-productive to confuse the marketplace with two very similar agent owned offerings.”
NeedAproperty.com, which charges agents £150 per month per office for listings, says that it has now attracted just over 5,000 estate agents since officially launching in June 2012. The website is now offering the next 5,000 new agents that do not currently subscribe to NeedAProperty.com a free trial period until 31st March 2014, in a bid to further boost the number of listings on the site.
“In this difficult economic climate we are delighted to be able to offer a comprehensive alternative at a fraction of the cost of our competitors. We are aiming for a rapid doubling in size,” said the Founder and CEO of Needaproperty, Scott Green.
We are delighted to offer a comprehensive alternative at a fraction of the cost of our competitors.”
Green says that he saw a gap in the market for a low cost advertising medium for residential property agents, “NeedAProperty understands the financial burdens being faced by agents of all sizes and was set-up to support them in the marketing of all of their properties at a monthly fee which is significantly lower than the other portals in the market.”
Propertini.com, an international property search engine, officially launched the UK version of its website in October. The California-based company hopes to shake-up the market with its new free international property search engine.
Rhys Davies of Propertini commented, “We think this can be a game changer for our industry and believe that by deconstructing the functions of a typical property portal and re-building the concept from the ground up into a purpose built residential property search engine, we have set a new benchmark for the industry.”
Whosoldwhere.co.uk, which also launched in October, carries property listings and allows consumers to find the top selling agents in their area. Founder Paul Kinsler commented, “whosoldwhere doesn’t just display properties for sale, it allows vendors to see exactly for themselves who has a strong market share within a given area.”
North London estate agent, Jeremy Leaf, added, “This is a consumer-friendly property portal where buyers and sellers can pinpoint the most appropriate agent in their area.”
Over 700 estate agents are currently displaying their for sale, sold and rental data on the site and that is expected to rise to over 1,000 by the end of the year, according to Paul Kinsler.
There is a lack of choice in the market and recent price increases from the current portals have been too robust.”
WhatHouse.co.uk, the new homes portal, will start to take estate agency listings in January 2014, in an ambitious bid to build a major portal; charging agents a monthly fee of £75 per office for sales and lettings listings. “We have been looking at moving into this market for some time,” said Daniel Hill of What House?. “We believe the proposition we are making to estate agents fills a big and widening gap in the property portal market, offering a low cost, value for money, alternative.”
One niche portal that has no plans of tinkering with a tried and tested formula for success is www.Citylets.co.uk, a lettings website, launched 14 years ago, that occupies a strong position in Scottish residential
Citylets, which attracts over four million annual visitors, has more than 500 branches online and advertises in excess of 70,000 properties per year, with listing prices varying according to region and size of the business to ensure that there is a level playing between businesses of similar sizes nin the same areas.
It may surprise people to know that around 80% of our clients in Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen do not subscribe to Rightmove.”
“We believe this model has made Citylets the most inclusive portal around and is reflected to our client numbers,” said Thomas Ashdown, Founder of Citylets. “As a lettings portal, Citylets is the certified market leader nin Scotland.”
He added, “It may surprise a lot of people to know that around 80 per cent of our clients in the East coast cities of Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen don’t subscribe to Rightmove.” A number of other property portals exist, with most planning their own strategy to challenge the big boys. But for now, Rightmove and Zoopla’s market dominance continues, although that could soon change as the portals war continues to hot up.
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