The Paul Smith column: Where will the portals diversify next?

When you are making millions of pounds in profit, what do you do with all that cash?

Why, invest in other businesses that can help you to make more money, of course.

That’s exactly what the big portals are doing – but have you thought about how that impacts your own business?

When the big guns are buying up software and technology firms, analytics companies, along with businesses that provide database valuations, electronic conveyancing and the like, their main aim is to tie estate agents into using their services, like an umbilical cord.

So the rich get richer – and the estate agents continue to pay the price, becoming snared into arrangements that bring huge benefits to the portals in the long run.

So what’s wrong with that, you may ask? If you are paying for a service and you are happy with that service, whoever the provider may be, is that really an issue?

Are we bothered that portals are like parasites, using agents’ own data to sell them more services or selling our data to third parties such as banks and building societies?

Do we care that institutional investors are benefiting at our expense, while prices for the portal’s services continue to rise?

Maybe you think not, in the short term, but let’s do some crystal ball gazing a few years from now. What will the portals, with all their cash earned at your expense, be doing in the future?

What do you think they will be doing in five years’ time, or even a decade from now? Wouldn’t you like to be a fly on the wall of their board of directors?

My bet is they’re already lining up to follow the US model, where Zillow has taken over as the largest property portal from, offering For Sale By Owner. They use agents’ own stock to drive purchasers to the portal and then show them properties being sold privately.

So which of the main portals in the UK will be the first to break ranks and do the same? And which are eyeing up Facebook and other social media channels as competitors that could steal their thunder? Where to next, portals? Where to next?

OnTheMarket back on track

As a member of OnTheMarket, we’ve noticed a sizeable increase in visits to our websites and more enquiries as a result of their renewed investment in ad spend. We’ve seen a 109% upturn in referrals compared to previous months.

OnTheMarket has stood the test of time as well as numerous challenges and is ready to move forward, with further investment on the horizon which will benefit all members.

Joining OnTheMarket is a no brainer. This is not about personal interest. This is about the future, protecting all estate agents’ interests. What is everyone waiting for?

Stamp Duty needs a complete overhaul

Calls for Stamp Duty reform are gathering momentum – hopefully in time for a change in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement. But it needs all estate agents to start lobbying their local MPs to gather a groundswell of support for a complete overhaul of the system.

I’ve been lobbying for 100% mortgages for first-time buyers with the scrapping of Stamp Duty on their first property, so they’re not caught out paying more in rent than they could have been in paying a mortgage.

The Government may feel that Help to Buy or ISAs for first-time buyers are the right way forward, but it’s not enough. It’s socially unjust that Millennials are being penalised, particularly in London and the south-east, because they can’t afford to get on the housing ladder. Since when has the Englishman’s rented home been his castle?

We can’t get rid of Stamp Duty completely for everyone as that would unleash higher taxes elsewhere, but we certainly need to give those starting out a helping hand.

It also needs to go further than that, higher up the chain to those who want to downsize but are put off by the cost. How else will families move into bigger houses if an ageing population has no desire to move?

People bringing up a family shouldn’t have the door slammed in their face because of Stamp Duty.

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  1. danny

    Hi Paul, As I was reading your comments about how corporate investors are greedy and the rich keep getting richer I couldn’t help thinking what happens to all the cash if OTM floats … why 30% go to the board, management incentive plan and Ian Sprigett( the last two are basically the same thing ) and 20 % in the hands of the evil corporate finance you talk of . Your article smacks of “they are evil , we are good” when in reality your absolutely no different , just taking a bigger slice of the fat cat pie for very little effort .

  2. Simon Bradbury

    “Joining OnTheMarket is a no brainer.”

  3. smile please

    What are you doing with the millions you will earn if OTM floats? – fleecing agents?

  4. sb007ck

    Is this a subtle or not so subtle on the market advert? Bottom line for us all is that in reality, we are trapped a touch. if OTM floats then it will be doing all of the above anyway, so there will be no benefit brought from them anyway apart from yet another drain on our outgoings. Yes it would be a great feeling for a minute to bin Rightmove and Zoopla, until the realisation sets in that potential vendors will probably not instruct us to sell their homes, and probably then bang goes our business. As a large group of estate agents, we have let this happen, and there is now pretty much nothing we can do about it

  5. PeeBee

    “Since when has the Englishman’s rented home been his castle?”

    For hundreds of years, “the Englishman’s rented home” was “his castle” for the vast majority of the population.  Mr Smith knows this – or knows and understands nothing about the background to his profession.

    He also should know and understand the phrase “needs must” – which is the phrase of relevance these days for many.

  6. PeeBee

    Did someone mention something about “renewed investment in ad spend”?

    Could someone point me in the direction of these fabled ads, please…


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