Property portals no longer have a ‘stranglehold’ on agents, says Zoopla boss

The boss of Zoopla has said that portals no longer have the “stranglehold” on agents that they had when OnTheMarket came on the scene.

Charlie Bryant said: “Things have changed over the last four or five years. Agents are no longer so reliant on the portals – they have other ways of marketing properties digitally and they’re using them and exploring them.

“There is more opportunity now for agents to service their customers, including the use of Google and Facebook. Things are not the same.”

Bryant was speaking in the context of OnTheMarket’s latest results, and what could happen should the portal sector revert to two major players – Zoopla and Rightmove.

The OTM results show that the challenger portal had cash of £15.7m at the end of January, but £10.2m at the end of May.

There has been speculation that this means that OTM is burning through cash at such a rate that it may have reserves for only eight months – unless it ups its recruitment of paying agents by around 700 a month, or raises more funds.

Bryant said that he found the results “interesting”.

He said that the conversion of 1,000 branches from free to paying was also intriguing, claiming: “Agents just don’t seem to be making the conversion. It clearly calls into question the leads figures that they [OTM] are giving out.”

He said that OTM – which says it provided 102 leads per property advertiser in May – is understating Zoopla’s leads by about 25%.

Bryant said: “Anecdotally, agents tell me that OnTheMarket’s leads are nowhere near Zoopla’s. I think OnTheMarket’s claims should be taken with a pinch of salt.

“The other piece of the vicious circle is OnTheMarket’s brand awareness. This is not something that can be built overnight, so clearly there are some challenges.”

Does this mean that portal wars are back with a vengeance?

Bryant insists this is not the case, saying that this would be a downward spiral and that competition serves customers well.

However, last week Zoopla issued a press release saying that the public weren’t interested in OTM’s key offering of ‘new and exclusive’ marketing where properties are listed 24 hours ahead of being advertised on Rightmove and Zoopla.

Zoopla critics – and by extension, OTM’s supporters – say that the public were simply asked a leading question (the actual question was whether sellers would like their property to be marketed to the largest possible audience from day one, or to a smaller audience on a single portal).

Bryant simply says: “OnTheMarket are making a lot of ‘new and exclusive’. But the feedback we had was a resounding no.”

So, maybe full-blown portal wars aren’t back.

But it sounds as though there is still a battle or two to come.

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24 Comments

  1. Countrybumpkin

    Depends how you ask ‘the public’ about early bird. Explain to said client that they can have a staged launch starting with OTM early bird and where this brings the opportunity of an advert in country life …and also a phased launch must give said client (not the general public) a better chance of best exposure. No I don’t work for OTM, nor am I a gold member, but I like to give credit where it’s due. Now let’s ask the general public if they prefer rightmove or zoopla. The answer would make zoopla dead in the water.

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    1. JonnyBanana43

      Well said. Lots of rural agents aren’t even on Zoopla.

      They are also offering free trials.

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      1. AJP123

        If its free why aren’t you on it? to use your words ‘what have you got to lose’?

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        1. Property Pundit

          They used to say that about rightmove. And here we are.

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  2. SLF

    Portals no longer have the “stranglehold” on agents. 

    Yes they do.

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  3. J1

    OTM is not dead yet; but it will be the moment it goes back to investors for more cash.

    Traitors tend to die slowly and alone in the wilderness; and OTM is a traitor to many primary subscribers.

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    1. Bless You

      They just have poor management or the founders aren’t being aggressive enough.

      If they hadnt gone public they could have called a rightmove switch off .

      This after all was why agents joined in the first place.

      If it really is agents mutual, who is the agents , they duped , representative?

      Could start with a vote.

      1) If we asked you to switch off rightmove next week, would you?

      2) if u answered no, your an idiot.

      Bless u all

       

       

       

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      1. 1TB

        An idiot for not leaving the biggest portal? I suppose you think the world is flat too, good grief…

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        1. Property Pundit

          Isn’t it?

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        2. Bless You

          Well kill onthemarket then. Lol u are the one who thinks the world is flat. ‘If u come off righmove , your business will fall off the flat earth…’

          Your weakness is Great example of why onthemarket will fail though. Well done.

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  4. GPL

     

    I don’t use Zoopla and see no business reason/advantage in doing so.

     

    OnTheMarket had a gilt-edged opportunity to genuinely challenge Rightmove however it seems to have spectacularly missed that opportunity  ……because it never really intended to topple Rightmove? OTM has taken Zoopla’s path and nestled in behind Rightmove.

     

    OTM’s aim seems to have been way more about making multi millionaires out of its founders rather than being a genuine “Agents Portal”.

     

    In my view, OTM has lost traction, meaning and the support of agents who would have helped it break the Rightmove stranglehold. It is fire fighting behind closed doors.

     

    The clock is ticking down for OnTheMarket. One wonders whether it is simply too late or too stubborn/unwilling to change its strategy.

     

    OnTheMarket had a gaping empty opposition goal and the portal ball at its feet …….now it’s simply running towards its own goal.

     

     

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  5. hermes08

    As an original member who signed up to the premium OTM pack on the understanding it was a portal to offer an alternative portal to the ‘big two’ and not allow those without an office eg online agencies on their site – everything they and their sales pitch promised failed to deliver.  I totally agree with bless you….

     
    If they hadnt gone public they could have called a rightmove switch off .
    This after all was why agents joined in the first place.
    If it really is agents mutual, who is the agents , they duped , representative
     

    A total loss of faith.

     

     

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  6. GPL

     

    Frankly, I have found the money wasted on multi-portals is better used at a local marketing level. I witness “measurable” results with additional revenue flowing directly as a result of those local/targeted efforts. Likewise investing energy into our own website.

     

    Portals don’t sell properties. Estate Agents sell properties. It’s up to us to clarify the public misconception that by advertising their house on a particular website, their property will sell. A portal is just part of an Agent’s “toolbox”.

     

    This Question posed to all UK Estate Agents

    …..”Why do you use Rightmove?”

    The answer most likely repeated time & time again would most likely read….

    ” Because the public think it’s important (…..but it isn’t!) “

     

     

     

     

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    1. Property Pundit

      And
      “because we’ll get shafted by the competition for not being on it”
      Imagine being so self-assured about your business that you have to point out a competitor agent not being on a website for you to try to get the instruction.

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      1. GPL

         

        ……agreed on “competitor fear”, and Rightmove lap that up as well.

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  7. Anonymous Coward

    You might think that this is off-topic but I see the parallels with JustEat.com.

    I called up a local pizza place from an old menu to be told I had to use the app to order.

    The pizza turned up quickly and was excellent. The price was pennies higher than the old menu price but prices rise in general so not much of a problem.

    But then you realise how large in percentage terms the “booking fee” that Just Eat charge the takeaway restaurant really is.

    But the restaurant have essentially scr*wed themselves over by signing up to the service and giving away their ability to take phone orders because the system doesn’t let them.

    This is another whole industry that is slaving itself to the equivalent of Rightmove and having watched it happen to my own industry I feel really sorry for the takeaway companies because they have no idea what they are doing to themselves.

    And, just like with Rightmove, “You’ve got to be in it to win it” – They’ve all got JustEat logos in their windows.

    Aaaargh!

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    1. Property Pundit

      Agree with the analogy up to a point. If the food is fantastic and highly sought after, however, they don’t need gimmicks like Just Eat.

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  8. scruffy

    Sadly, we have only ourselves to blame. If OTM goes the way that some are predicting, we can look forward to a golden era of 20% annual fee increases from RM rather than the paltry 15% they were so kind to introduce this year.

    RM’s efforts to support estate agency have been admirable, from its business perspective, enabled by the fear stalking the majority of agents who do not wish to be the first in their town to dump them, and the competitive advantage others might seek as a consequence.

    Cartels are rightfully banned, but I see no reason for a group of agents in a town to save a bundle by agreeing to be part of a Rightmove-free zone and sharing the cost of a dedicated portal for their specific area.

    (I can dream can’t I ?)

    RM’s stated aim for a typical monthly branch spend of c. £2,500 draws ever nearer and coordinating our industry’s efforts to avoid this makes herding cats seem a doddle. It hits us in our cashflow, our staffing (where consumer expectation gets ever greater) and the value of our businesses. Such rising fixed costs serve to crucify more firms than ever, in the face of fragile income streams affecting both sales and lettings as we face such difficult times as we have had since the recession, Brexit and other political and economic uncertainty.

    Do we roll over to get kicked again or do we, warts and all, want to support the best hope that’s out there, and forget about the carping that has hindered its progress ? My membership of OTM is driven by that motive above all else and Zoopla, for my rural firm, is clearly not the alternative my clients would wish for.

    The carping can wait until we have a sustainable alternative to RM that can brings its pricing back to a realistic level. I am sorry if its shareholders find that attitude unpalatable, but you’ve had your fun.

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  9. Property Pundit

    Rightmove is the modern equivalent of Yellow Pages; old tech, devoid and incapable of worthwhile innovation, far too expensive (with a price marker set on what agents used to pay in newspapers – no longer relevant) and completely out of touch with market conditions and its client base.

    Competition and erosion of its power will not come from something that merely mimics it (OTM) or has a gimmicky pricing strategy (OneDome) or something that agents believe everybody has to be on it for it to be a success. It will come from low-cost innovative new tech that will grow virally and organically, probably without huge fanfare, which will take agents to the point where they can legitimately ask themselves; ‘why do we need any plc portal?’

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  10. WiltsAgent

    Rightmove will be looking to cover their lost income from office closures and onliners going bust. Only one place that will be coming from. At some point in the future a tipping point will be reached and agents will leave in real numbers based on cost. I left 18 months ago and am glad I did. I don’t deny that I occasionally wonder if I’m missing out but then I look at the profits on my accounts and that is all the reassurance I need. I’ll stick with Zoopla and with OTM while it’s free. Looking forward to when a portal arrives that will pay me for providing them with stock.

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  11. Kosh

    From my perspective, I am getting many more leads from OTM than from Zoopla. In fact Zoopla is virtually at a standstill.

    I will shortly be advertising with OTM too. I am getting about 75% from OTM of the leads that Rightmove gives me.

    If they price the extra advertising rates correctly, it is no no brainer to start banner adverts on OTM.

     

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    1. GPL

       

      …..and there’s the really irritating aspect of OTM’s latest strategy? ……intro of Premium/Banner Ads etc?! …..and so it mimics Wrongmove?

      Why didn’t OTM simply focus on securing the highest possible number of UK Estate Agents, offer a tiered cost Membership based on properties listed/volume, forget the fake share return waffle (as my Gold Member Loan was converted to shares, against my will, and is now worth a 1/3 less than launch price?!).

      OTM are already diversifying their income stream because they haven’t delivered? So, we now have Portal No 3 ……Why? Why?? Why???

      On a brighter note, look out The Highland Chocolatier in Grandtully, near Aberfeldy, Scotland …..delivering me an exceptional Hot Chocolate and Fruit Scone as I type!

      Sadly my 2 Wheeled Trip finishes today and tomorrow I’m back in the World of Property. Hey Ho ……you say Portal I say Potato!

       

       

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      1. Kosh

        You are forgetting a crucial point. OTM has shareholders who will be looking for a return. Simple as that.
        Secondly, the duopoly needed to be broken or you will see ever rising costs. We need OTM to succeed. Support it!

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        1. GPL

           
          ……and there you have it Kosh?
           
          Serve the Shareholders, not the Subscribers!
           
          When you get a moment away from your OTM Sales Desk ……look up my posts in PIE re my “Support of OTM” …..then you’ll hopefully have a better understanding of “teaching Granny to suck eggs”. 
           
          In the meantime, until my escape early next year, I support OTM with several hundred pounds every month, as I have done since it was born/blighted into existence under it’s Agents Mutual “Cloaking Device!”.
           
          Don’t forget that exceptional Hot Chocolate recommendation… it will bring much more Joy than OTM!
           
           
           

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