53-year-old Mike Cleary is not your usual property portal chief. He still runs his own business, nine-branch Midlands estate agency Sheldon Bosley Knight, which is one of the region’s leading independent firms with offices in Worcestershire and Warwickshire, and doesn’t have a background in tech.
But if Cleary’s plans for his soon-to-launch portal – called We Are The Market – come to fruition then Rightmove and Zoopla may soon have a powerful competitor with deep roots in local agent communities.
Rightmove may also rue the day it made a mess of the initial pandemic price discount offer – as We Are The Market was thought up by agents who had gathered under the #SayNoToRightmove umbrella.
Clearey says it will be a portal built by agents for agents initially in Coventry and Warwickshire (and later Gloucestershire and Northamptonshire) and launched without the consumer razzamatazz or huge tech investment of other portals.
“We can make it a success by working together as agents and collectively creating a better, more local and less expensive alternative to Rightmove,” says Cleary.
His plan is relatively simple. Build a property portal just for independent agents that taps into their loyalty, enthusiasm, local contacts and staff to create a ‘local’ portal in each area it operates within, all for £150 a month.
“We’re not going to launch in areas willy nilly or just because one agent wants to sign up – we will only make it a success in an area once we have achieved the necessary density of independents.
Although it hasn’t launched yet, the enterprise has 35 agents and 50 branches signed up which, along with money raised to start up the business, means it will break even at launch in mid-February.
But agents can be forgiven for being sceptical – there are at least six ‘challenger portals’ already in existence. So, what makes We Are the Market different?
“The real value is that the agents’ staff will be ambassadors for the portal and register applicants on it and also add our logo to their For Sale boards, both of which has never happened before,” he says.
Also, we will offer house hunters a stripped down, easy-to-use property portal not clogged up by advertising and calculators.
“We are also going to be intensely local and have pages where agents can offer the best businesses, charities and organisations in their area a place to advertise or promote their activities.
“Everyone says it is these aspects of the portal that make it an absolute player.”
Cleary says his portal will have enough properties to attract house hunters because in most towns and areas independent agents hold between 85% and 100% of the stock.
“That does leave out the online agents, nationals, corporates and house builders but that’s fine because the bulk of the houses in most areas aren’t sold by them,” says Cleary.
“So far we have the required density in the areas where we will launch – and many of the agents I’ve talked to who haven’t joined say they will once we launch.”