Rightmove is coming under increasing pressure to give agents a payment break during the coronavirus crisis.
The CEO of a major regional independent, Rob Sargent who heads up The Acorn Group in the south-east, is among those calling on Rightmove to act.
Sargent is calling for a complete payment holiday for six months. He said his own business, which has some 40 branches, is considering ditching Rightmove unless it acts.
Sargent said: “We are coming to the end of our contract with Rightmove, and on Monday I had a call from them in which they seemed to think they were delivering good news.
“They said they were not going to put up our charges. The person I spoke to seemed absolutely shocked when I asked if, in the current climate, Rightmove was going to suspend its charges for agents.
“I am still waiting to hear from them and am considering our position.”
He went on: “Agents have supported Rightmove for years. It brings in £280m and has a profit margin of over 75% – it is time it did something for us, not just my own firm but the whole industry.
“With all the add-ons, smaller agents can be paying over £3,000 per month per office. Because of its size, my firm is paying much less per office, but there is no doubt that our expansion over the years has helped drive Rightmove’s revenue and profits.”
Sargent said: “Rightmove is sitting on a huge war chest of cash, so surely now is the time to put their arm around the very agents that made them the successful business that they are today.”
He said his own firm is currently still doing “considerable” numbers of viewings but has had to adapt – for example, at the weekend it de-centralised its head office, with all 130 employees now either working from home or from branches, and staff being trained to use remote platforms.
Sargent said: “As an industry, we are now operating in a very different and rapidly changing climate. Rightmove has to recognise this. You have to ask what is the value of a portal which lists properties when people may not be able to get out and view them.”
Sargent said he will be having conversations about costs with all his firm’s suppliers, including other portals.
Separately, agent James White, managing director of Yorkshire firm Belong, in Holmfirth, has asked Rightmove to cut its subscriptions by half for the foreseeable future.
White told his Rightmove account handler by email yesterday: “Rightmove should halve its subscriptions to its member agents for the foreseeable future.
“The effects of the coronavirus on your customers is going to be catastrophic; there are no two ways about it.
“In order to assist your member agents and to gain some goodwill I am of the opinion that this represents a huge PR opportunity for you – one that will almost certainly be to your long-term advantage.
“Rather than risking an attritional stand-off as your clients go bust over the coming months, you could actually help them to survive. You have the profit margin and cash reserves to be able to help.
“At Belong we are well prepared and have cash reserves, but I know a large number of agents after over 30 years in this business; and I know that having spoken to many, they will not endure.”
We have invited Rightmove to comment.