The boss of one of Britain’s largest property firms has warned that OnTheMarket’s ‘one other portal’ rule could be depriving agents of a significant source of extra leads.
That is because there is almost negligible duplication of leads from both Rightmove and Zoopla.
And out of all three of the main portals, there is no overall ‘winner’ – with portals performing differently, in different areas.
The summary is from Ian Wilson, following a month-long study of nearly 200 offices offering a mix of sales and lettings and which between them list on all three portals.
Wilson is chief executive of the Property Franchise Group – the new trading name adopted by Martin & Co after its purchase last year of Xperience.
With 274 offices on Rightmove, 118 on Zoopla and 96 on OnTheMarket, Wilson’s business looks to be in a unique position to see how – and geographically where – each of the portals performs.
In some towns – for example, Cirencester where the Property Franchise Group has both a CJ Hole office and a Martin & Co office – it is possible to make a meaningful comparison across all three portals. In Cirencester, both offices are on Rightmove, with CJ Hole also on OTM, and Martin & Co on Zoopla.
Across the entire Property Franchise Group network, franchisees can make their own decisions about portals, other than an insistence that sales offices (170 out of 190 offices) use Rightmove.
Wilson said: “When we bought Xperience they had already agreed that all four of its brands would drop Zoopla and join OTM. Hence as a group we are an interesting experiment in that in 45 locations we have both Martin & Co and an Xperience office trading.
“So we are almost uniquely placed to make comparisons as all other corporates or groups would have had to make a policy decision which would be binding on all of their offices. We can compare OnTheMarket with Rightmove and with Zoopla in at least some places.”
The October survey also showed costs per lead from each portal – although Wilson underlined his firm’s bulk buying power, achieving discounts.
He went on: “Portal costs are a hot topic for independent estate agents but of course if they were part of a franchise group then they would benefit from group purchasing power.
“They would also get access to our head office expertise as it’s not obvious which portal is ‘best’ for any particular location.
“Every two years our digital team carry out this portal review exercise. We compare the number of leads generated by each portal with the cost of advertising on the portal to give us a cost per lead.
“The portals will tell you that it costs them around £2 to generate a lead so if you are receiving leads at a cost lower than this, then you are getting a bargain.”
The actual value to the businesses of each lead is as yet unknown.
Wilson said: “We can’t factor in the quality of the leads in the raw data, although we are working on a more sophisticated system which looks at how many leads convert into further action, which is a good measure of quality.
“Also, if you don’t have much stock then you will not get a lot of leads, so you can’t entirely blame the portals.
“However, it is clear that there is no overall winner which is best in every location.
“In many places Rightmove generates leads at an attractive cost per lead, but so does Zoopla.
“When we have tested whether there is much cross-over with leads from Zoopla duplicated on Rightmove, we were astonished to find that cross-over was only around 5% of leads.
“Portal users appear to be quite ‘tribal’ with a strong preference to do most of their searching on one or the other of the big two.
“The implication of this is that if you are not advertising on Rightmove and Zoopla then in many locations you are depressing your lead flow.
“The poorest value portal currently is OTM with much higher cost per lead pretty much across the board, but this might be expected when the portal is in growth mode.
“However, OTM’s ‘one other portal’ rule may be depriving agents of a significant source of extra leads.”