OPINION: Property portals should all be free

Adam Kamani
Adam Kamani

Property portals. In commercial terms they seem to have become the equivalent of lending your mate something and then having to pay to get it back – and with little thanks for your trouble in lending it in the first place.

I can’t think of any other business sector that charges their customer to use the customer’s own stuff to make money. Nice work if you can get it.

The pages of this fine publication and in particular its comment forum, are packed with grumbles from agents that portal costs increase. Not just that they increase but that they increase by a lot. Take Rightmove for example. Their subscription cost has been hiked by around 100% in the last ten years – an average of 10% per year whereas inflation has run at about 2.7% and therefore their cost to agents has outpaced inflation by 370%. Even Zimbabwe would be proud of that.

Of course, when a portal first launches they soft-soap their potential customers with deals and these deals usually resemble free subscriptions. I understand that Rightmove first hooked agents on this basis as did OnTheMarket and now Boomin. OnTheMarket still had thousands of agents paying nothing until recently but in the new CEO’s enthusiasm to keep his big shareholders happy, he has cancelled these free deals at last. Boomin will soon come to the end of their ‘trial-run’ and attempt to extract your cash from you too. Apparently, drug dealers employ similar tactics with a ‘free go’ to get people hooked for the long term.

And ironically, the reason that estate agency businesses were persuaded to sign up to portals was because listings needed to be consolidated into one place so that potential house buyers could see market choice all in one place rather than across multiple agents’ websites. Yet now there are numerous property aggregators like Rightmove all vying to charge you an increasing amount of money to be seen on their sites. The irony…

But the bigger irony of course is that the cost of subscribing to all of these portals is now astronomical. Gone are the days when your Zoopla rep could boast that their cost was a fraction of that which you’d previously spent on newspapers advertising because now, the £2500 to £3000 per branch per month that most agents pay to be on ‘all the portals’ is far higher than the good old days of print ads. Frankly, you’re being taken for a ride and a costly one at that.

Rightmove, Zoopla, OnTheMarket and Boomin charge too much (or will do soon). And I say that property websites like these should all be free. Yes, free.

Because there is no justification in holding you to ransom via your own inventory and making you pay to see it advertised on websites that between them make hundreds of millions of pounds in profit each year at your expense – they literally have nothing to offer, except your very own listings. The ‘big boys’ have gotten away with it for two decades because the industry has allowed them to, not because their approach is warranted in any way.

A ‘free launch’ is nothing but a sucker punch. Free should be just that, free – and permanently. Not a means of hooking you on the sly.

A business that was truly on the agents’ side would pledge not to charge them forever and to invest millions in technology and marketing to gain mass consumer traffic.

That’s what MoveStreets is doing – it’s our promise. Will any other portal player dare to compete with us on these terms?

Adam Kamani is CEO of MoveStreets. 

 

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12 Comments

  1. Robert_May

    It is all well and good claiming a portal should be free but reversing the maths of turnover and profit its possible to work out  what the fixed cost of running a portal are. Those fixed costs have to be covered; minimum wage, national insurance, working time regulations server costs etc all have to be paid somehow by someone.  In this free forever agent utopia  who and how are those cost covered?

     

    Providing a service for fee is not unreasonable. Taking or diverting income that is rightly due to customers by virtue of the listings, eating the agents’ lunch, is probably less appealing to most agents than getting in as much income as possible from  sales commission, financial services, insurance, utility commission and conveyancing referrals and then being at liberty to decide what each agent wants to spend on staff, portals, SEO, marketing and what they keep as profit for themselves.

    On the face of it free forever sounds great but profit due to an agent because of the instructions they win belongs to agents not service suppliers- if an agent can’t be asked with those additional income steams and are happy to allow a provider to earn from them fair enough, that’s an agents choice but the income opportunities of  listings should not be ignored by any agent.

     

    There are already portals committed to free forever, it might be worth checking out their P&L figures and then working out  how  the numbers will look when there’s another  free portal competing for the same audience

     

     

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  2. JonnyBanana43

    No such thing as a free lunch Adam, It’s a great tragedy that Ian Spring-it made such a hash of the initial OTM offering – that’s what we all wanted; a portal owned by agents and controlled by agents… They aren’t mighty titans – Rightmove could easily come tumbling down as quickly as primelocation has… Who even goes on prime location or Zoopla anymore? Good article, off to get my “free go”. PS. Don’t ever mention boomin/bustin in polite society – do not give them air space.

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  3. Another Agent

    What a naive opinion lacking depth and true understanding. Has the guy never heard of the media industry? They sell eyeballs just like newspapers and it’s a valid model, just look at the success of media companies around the globe including FB etc. he’s no Zberg. This is just an ad for Movestreets packaged as some ‘non conformist, controversial opinion’ and has broken PIE rules as it clearly promotes his business. Just look at the last paragraph.

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  4. PeeBee

    “Their subscription cost has been hiked by around 100% in the last ten years – an average of 10% per year”

    Poor mathematics, Mr Kamani. A 100% increase over ten years involves a yearly increase of under 7.5%, not the ten percent you suggest.

    “the £2500 to £3000 per branch per month that most agents pay to be on ‘all the portals’ is far higher than the good old days of print ads.”

    In “the good old days”, Mars Bars were sixpence – 2.5p in today’s money – and at a size that fed the whole classroom for a week.  An Estate Agent turning up for an appraisal with rubbish comparables loses both credibility and the instruction.

    “Rightmove, Zoopla, OnTheMarket and Boomin charge too much (or will do soon). And I say that property websites like these should all be free. Yes, free.”

    Using the lowest common denominator as the bar for all – wonderful logic.  By that, all Agents should do a ‘Strike’ and be free too.  And we will all be able to live in a detached mansionette for the price of a studio – and drive a Lambo for what we would have paid for a Kia Pride.

    Oh, dear.

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  5. LongTimeAgent

    ‘I can’t think of any other business sector that charges their customer to use the customer’s own stuff to make money. Nice work if you can get it.’ Has this chap not heard of comparethemarket, gocompare, autotrader, Uswitch, skyscanner, exchangeandmart.com (as well as many other industries) etc etc who in some form or another charge their customer to use the customers own ‘stuff’?!? This article just feels a little too much like self promotion.

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    1. Another Agent

         Riddle me this….the movestreets own website says ‘agents, take advantage of our free trial’, implying it ain’t going to be free at all. Click bait?

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      1. PeeBee

        As recently as August they were saying that there was a 12-month “free” period followed by a monthly subscription model that they were “keen to keep under £100 a month” (credit: The Negotiator).

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        1. Londons Finest

          Hmmm the price has gone down and you’re complaining? Clearly cant please everyone. This seems like a no-brainer to me

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          1. PeeBee

            “This seems like a no-brainer to me”
             
            Because…?

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  6. PeeBee

    “Of course, when a portal first launches they soft-soap their potential customers with deals and these deals usually resemble free subscriptions. I understand that Rightmove first hooked agents on this basis as did OnTheMarket”

    Nope – that’s complete b******s.  OTM kicked off with around 5500 paying Members.  The ‘freebies’ were offered much later to increase numbers.  It was a massive sore point with most of those that were locked into agreements – but Jason Tebb and his team have worked hard to resolve the issue that the previous regime created.

    Some might say the obvious lack of understanding of the landscape you should be ultrafamiliar with is embarrassing.  But not everyone.

    Most likely others will just think it.

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  7. jsmcr

    Coming from someone trying to do the exact same thing as RM, funded by daddy (boohoo/pretty little thing) and with no real life industry experience. Pipe down, we aren’t gullible and won’t be joining your portal.

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    1. AcornsRNuts

      To be fair to him, daddy did set up boohoo – whatever that is – but he founded pretty little thing – again, whatever that is – with his brother.

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