EYE NEWSFLASH: Online agent House Network ceases trading

House Network, the UK’s first online agency, ceased trading yesterday, some two weeks after being bought out of administration by a firm called Universal Acquisitions Ltd.

Two former member of staff who worked as local agents for House Network told us that the new owners closed the doors and got rid of all the staff yesterday.

A seller with House Network also told EYE of her frustration when she became aware of problems, with a phone call yesterday to the person handling the sale of her property in north Somerset going unreturned.

She paid the firm £900 upfront and said she now now has one offer on the table with a second viewer keen to make an offer, and needs to get on with the sale of her home.

One of the former House Network agents told us yesterday: “Currently at head office there is a removal lorry removing all equipment, etc. No contact from anyone at the new owners regarding outstanding pay, etc.”

An email which EYE has seen from Kelly Horne, HR manager at LDD Construction, a firm associated with the buyer, told staff that they must return items such as mobile phones: “The company is no longer, it was closed today . . . The property remains part of the assets that were bought and therefore they need to be returned otherwise this will be classed as theft”.

Another email from Horne to the agent said: “As part of the ongoing review, the company was closed down today.

“We believe you have been paid everything you were owed less the amounts you owed in respect of the loan.

“Please arrange for the equipment to be returned with immediate effect.”

This former agent said he had been lent £1,500 “to cover us until any redundancy pay comes through and they have deducted it from our two weeks’ pay that they owed us”.

A second former employee also told EYE: “We were informed by what little office staff were left that House Network was closing down. Now all the phones are off.”

Like the first agent, he was made redundant without notice two weeks ago, and had been lent £1,500 but that money had been taken back in his final pay packet.

The agent told us: “It means I got paid £133 and I can’t claim benefits for the period.”

A company called Universal Acquisitions Ltd (UAL) bought House Network out of administration at the end of last month.

UAL swiftly said that it had got the firm operational again, while there would be a revised business plan.

However, within days it laid off staff.

Today the phones at House Network are down, although its website is unchanged, still offering a 20-point customer promise and showing five star ratings on Trustpilot.

Today earlier on Rightmove, there were 1,055 sales properties, the latest being added yesterday.

However later this morning, House Network vanished from Rightmove. House Network still has a full presence on Zoopla.

Ziggy Seagroatt, shareholder in UAL, told us this morning: “UAL acquired the trading rights of House Network on the 29th March 2019, on the 15th April we ceased trading as House Network.

“For legal reasons we are unable to provide any further comment but can confirm that any client who paid House Network under the ownerships of UAL has been refunded in full.

“In addition all members of staff who remained employed by UAL for our two weeks trading have also been paid in full.”

EYE NEWSFLASH: Staff redundancies soon after online agent bought from administrators

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28 Comments

  1. ArthurHouse02

    What a shambles, but another nail in the coffin for online/call center companies.

    Note to vendors, these companies are cheap for a reason, they dont give a damn about you.

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  2. KByfield04

    Yikes- yet again it is the staff who stick it out to the bitter end who get the sharp end of the stick. Sad to see- anyone enlightened as to why they acquired it/what their plans are?

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  3. conoco9

    Call centres do not sell houses. Estate agents do.

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    1. Ric

      Do we though… (Estate Agents)…

      Until we stop loading property on the internet when they are new and instead call potential buyers to get them around (i.e. SELL to the active mailing list) I fear we do not sell, we simply facilitate.

      Forget OTM Exclusive or Live on RM in 24 hours… have Exclusive to YOUR COMPANY.

      Shame we can’t accept the internet is around, but have 1 week EXCLUSIVE to your applicant database first…. we’ve had a couple gone on recently as “Under Offer” people called, why has that sold, and it has been nice to say we have some buyers who have registered keen to buy and purchased straight away. (NOT cheap either, our last one, £15k more than the identical apartment has just been listed for)

      Doing this will have buyers when they come to sell, remember it was the agent who found them the property NOT the internet.

      and breath… bla bla ideal world ***** and all that I know. Makes sense though.

       

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      1. cyberduck46

        >Shame we can’t accept the internet is around, but have 1 week EXCLUSIVE to your applicant database first

         

        Why not run an experiment. When you go around and value properties tell potential clients that you don’t list on Rightmove for a week and see how successful you are at getting instructions.

         

         

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        1. JEL

          This is something we do all the time …You do find that if you explain to the client that its part of the marketing strategy to circulate it first to your applicants they quite like the idea. We’re attempting to build a bit of early momentum which can’t be a bad thing, you never know you could get that potential vendor with the lovely house down the road to view and sell two or three( the call centre agents could never do that ). If you can get interest / offers it certainly makes any price haggle easier to deal with. Its not just about stick it in on the web

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        2. Mothers Ruin

          I’m assuming you’re not an estate agent? We’ve always done that. Good old fashioned hot box. Works a treat for us. It’s one of our main listing features and we sell more houses in our postcode than anyone else.

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  4. Michael

    I don’t think it was easy to predict the demise of emoov and House Network a couple of years ago, but it does throw into doubt the long term future of Purple Bricks et al.  As a conventional high street agent I am of course very pleased that this business model seems to be coming apart at the seams. The fact is that for most people a home is a very significant investment, its marketing and sale best handled by a proper agent. There is a strong place for the internet but not consistently in the sale of anything but very straightforward homes

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    1. smile please

      YOPA will be next

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  5. Moveaside01

    Didn’t ‘Queen’ write a song about Online Agents once?

    “And another one gone, and another one gone” you know the chorus…………..

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    1. Ric

      *We Will Rock You
      *Under Pressure
      *Another One Bites The Dust
      Queens Online Agency Album… They Boast, They Struggle, They Fall… 
      High Street Agents can now re-release… 
      *We Are The Champions…

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  6. Property Poke In The Eye

    Cheap Cheap & Cheap….. Gone, Gone & Gone!!

    They claimed they were the first ‘ONLINE ESTATE AGENT’ and now after Emoov the second to Go Under.

    Staff should of taken the furniture & equipment to offset against non payment of salaries.

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  7. s71

    Their usb is ”Sworn to sale”

     

    bunch of jokers

     

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  8. smile please

    Serious question:

     

    Can anybody name a self sufficient online agent that makes a profit and has not relied on hundreds of thousands / millions of investors money?

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    1. Robert May

      Taylor Underwood

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      1. smile please

        The one making a success of it does not shout about it.
         
        Says a lot 🙂 (good things) 

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        1. Robert May

            To be fair Jane is a professional estate agent in the true and proper sense of the word. Had you asked me about a viable passive intermediary (but claiming to offer an agency service) I’d have been stumped

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    2. AgentQ73

      Express Estate Agency

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  9. jeremy1960

    And another one bites the dust!

     

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rY0WxgSXdEE

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  10. PaulC

    Only Clean way to do it.. TUPE regs are a killer.

    Look out for the rebirth.

     

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  11. James Cronk

    Lies and more lies. I started the first online estate agency in 2000- halfapercent.com we traded for 13 years. We couldn’t make it pay charging 1/2% because this lot and others dropped their pants and started charging £200 for the same service. It is only a matter of months before the likes of easyproperty and purplepricks suffer the same fate. I could never imagine anyone employing self employed LPE/ photographers to value and present a property for marketing.. crass concept crass companies.. would you employ an electrician to fix a boiler??!  feel sorry for the employees and not the greedy CEOs & investors.

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    1. Steven Herd

      I remember Halfapercent.com well James – you ran a good business at the time, unlike the current versions.

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    2. Simon Bradbury

      How much were your fees?

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    3. Shaun77

      ‘because this lot and others dropped their pants’

      Isn’t that exactly what you’re entire proposition was based on in the first place? Surely you must see the irony?

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  12. watchdog13

    So more vendors out of pocket. Maybe the traditional pay on success model is not so antiquated.

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  13. PeeBee

    Rightmove have removed HNs listings – Zoopla still displaying them.

    1050+ properties is a lot for a call-centre agent/FSBO listing facilitator to lose in one day – especially when you add it to the others that have also failed…

    …let’s see which pretendy kind sorts are the first to offer their services pro bono to the stranded vendors… when they can’t service the vendors they have already paid up for the pleasure of being cast afloat on the vast seas of the housing market with no oars, no wind, no sails and no hope.

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    1. cyberduck46

      Or the pretendy vulture traditional Agents who offer a discount because of the position they find themselves in. The same discount available to anybody who asks.
       
       

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      1. Property Pundit

        #stillpointless

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