Rightmove is to trial a new valuation tool for consumers.
The launch, announced by email to agents yesterday, drew some worried responses from agents who contacted Eye. Another agent posted on Eye yesterday afternoon about concerns.
However, Rightmove claimed, pointedly but without naming names, that it will be offering “a better and more honest solution to the existing automated valuation tools freely available on the internet”.
It also emphasised that it neither wants to replace nor undermine agents, but hopes its new offering may help agents get new instructions.
Rightmove says the launch of its new ‘Move or Improve’ app, expected within a fortnight, is in response to home-movers’ curiosity which leads them to increasingly research property values online.
Rather than generate an exact figure like other tools which Rightmove says “can be misleading”, the new app offers a 15% range estimate of a property’s value – 7.5% up or down from a mid-point.
The app specifically prompts consumers to contact local agents for a more accurate valuation, should they be thinking of selling.
However, yesterday afternoon one agent told Eye: “Whilst I agree with it being a good idea to encourage the user to contact a local agent for ‘accurate advice’, I’m not so sure that it’s a good idea to do it through the use of a valuation tool, especially as agents have already shown a disliking to that particular tool.
“With a 15% price estimate the figure could vary considerably and in some cases by £100,000s.
“What happens if the estate agent does not agree with the higher price range? Will they lose the instruction to an agent that does agree with Rightmove’s top-end figure?”
Another agent told us: “It has to be better than the Zoopla method but it will still be wrong in some cases and we’ll have vendors telling us even more that it’s worth the top price they quote if we think it’s less.
“It will also make it very easy for inexperienced valuers to just go with the top price that Rightmove quotes to win the business and have something to back them up, even when it’s wrong.”
The demo app, showcased to Eye, starts by asking general questions about a property and giving a very wide price banding. The user can then refine the valuation by answering questions – for example, about the condition of the property, its features and size.
The app then prompts users to click on a local agent to request an accurate valuation, so that consumers can get local expert advice.
Where an agent is ‘clicked’, the app will email the agent with details of the property and the valuation range given.
Rightmove is, by its own admission, taking the launch cautiously. The free app will be a standalone product, and during the trial, not integrated on to the main Rightmove site.
The results of the trial will also be assessed before any further decisions are made, and Rightmove is keen for feedback from agents.
Director Miles Shipside told Eye: “We do not want to replace or undermine agents. We want to help them, especially at a time of low stock.
“We want to launch something that will lead potential vendors amicably to agents to have a conversation, rather than prepare them for a battle.”
The valuations given are based on Rightmove’s data set of property sold prices, surveyor valuations plus a number of other data sources.
The tool will be available for iOS8 – so really intended for mobile use – and also gives people some possible future value of their home if they were, for example, to refurbish or redecorate.
The trial of the app includes a form for users to submit feedback on the content, and Rightmove wants agents to test it out too.
Shipside said: “Rather than ignore consumers’ increasing thirst for additional property information online, what we’re trying to do is offer an alternative solution to the misleading automated valuation tools that are currently out there.
“An exact automated estimate figure is virtually impossible to get correct, but agents tell us that prospective buyers and sellers sometimes quote exact automated figures at them as though they are gospel.
“With a price range, a buyer trying to justify making a lower offer will struggle.
“Creating an industry-respected tool is critical, so this is a trial to try and deliver a part-way but responsible solution, to channel the undoubted consumer obsession with all things property.”
He added: “Agents are reporting a shortage of quality listings, so the hope is that this app will encourage owners to call in their local agents sooner and get an accurate valuation, and to discuss the benefits of moving.
“More home-owners need convincing that it’s a good time to move, so this, and other positive campaigns we have in the pipeline, should create more opportunities for agents to carry out more valuations and spread that message too.”
The app will be available to download from the App Store within the next two weeks.