Support pours in for new agent-owned property portal

Support pours in for new agent-owned property portal

The launch of a new national property portal, to be owned by agents for agents, has received an overwhelming response from the industry.

The story, which broke on EAT yesterday, resulted in Ian Springett, who has been hired to drive forward the project, being “inundated” with expressions of interest from agents.

It has also emerged that the business plan for Agents’ Mutual, the company set up to launch the as yet un-named portal, is at an ‘advanced stage’.

Springett said that the immediate strategy is to engage with every agent in the country to get their thoughts on the new portal – and what is set to be a battle royal with Rightmove and Zoopla.

He said, in answer to suggestions voiced on the EAT site yesterday that the new portal looked as though it could be too London-centric and upmarket, that he is looking for the widest and largest possible audience of participants right across the country.

Springett said: “In fact, it is probably the smaller independents who stand to benefit the most.” He estimates that savings for a one- to three-branch business would be £3,888 per year.

This would be on the basis that agents advertise on the new site – which will keep its own costs down as far as possible – and agree to advertise on just one other portal, for five years.

While it is not known which would be the greater loser in this strategy – Zoopla or Rightmove – the City looked slightly spooked yesterday after the Financial Times was the only other media to cover the story: while it was a bad day for the stock market generally, Rightmove’s share price went down a little more than most.

The founding members of the company behind the portal include Chesterton Humberts, Douglas & Gordon, Glentree Estates, Knight Frank, Savills, and Strutt & Parker whose total of 240 estate agent offices across the UK have pledged to use the new site.

Springett said that in broad terms, he is looking for a “critical mass” of 1,000 offices altogether to make the new portal a reality.  
Springett, who led PrimeLocation for five years, said: “Our site will be the first portal fully owned by agents since the sale of PrimeLocation, and it will become a serious competitor to the sites already in existence. 

“The site will not be driven by the need to maximise financial returns to shareholders – which has driven up listing fees for agents and consumers on some other sites – but instead to create the best high-quality property search service.
“We believe there is a lack of choice in the market, and we know that agents are very keen to see an alternative to the current property portals. The price increases for agents using the existing options, Rightmove and Zoopla, have been very robust, and ultimately that cost is being passed on to consumers. 

“In due course, the Agents’ Mutual site will not only offer a better quality of listings, but the ongoing costs will be limited to agents.”

Agents who support the new venture will, he emphasised, remain in control, with one share and one vote per member firm. Costs will be kept down and all profits will be reinvested in the site.  

Springett added: “All agents know that there is a strong market opportunity here as the current options are putting increasing pressure on their costs.

“Our site will protect the interests of the agents by ensuring low listing costs. Ultimately this will ensure that these costs do not get passed on to vendors, and buyers will be assured that listings are accurate and up to date.”

Industry sources say that the venture will call agents’ bluff, and that it is time to put up or shut up. One said: “It will be interesting to see whether it is just a talking shop for agents, that they are fed up with portals’ costs and want something new, or whether they really will finally get up off their backsides and do something about it.”
Agents who have not yet done so can use the link below to express their interest, without any commitment, and to get information packs.