Video didn’t kill the Radio Star, and Rightmove isn’t killing estate agency

Ben Madden

Now, I don’t want to spark too much debate (honestly), but the existence of Rightmove is quite literally, your biggest opportunity to win.

For some, you’ve already read enough. You know what I’m about to make a mess of saying, and you’re hurriedly making your way to the comments section so you can hide behind an alias that’s nowhere near as clever as you think it is, to spew out some nonsense about the good old days… yawn….

Others might say I’m intentionally trying to wind agents up, but if I was doing that, it would be easier to say something like ‘you are achieving the fees you deserve’, and trigger warning two, I’d be right.

There’s little worse than a hypocritical excuse for under performance. I can think of one, however: an agent who has spent years working for a corporate (or an independent for that matter), who sets up on their own, be it a proper business or as a commission only ‘self-employed’ operator (just kidding, I couldn’t resist that), waxing lyrical about how awful their previous employer was and how underpaid they were for handling all the leads the brand provided, but is still very happy to have gained all that valuable experience and take with them a little black book (their iPhone) full of contacts, be you a Netflix star or selling homes for £90k somewhere north of Watford. Frightfully poor form. Yes, this is worse than blaming Rightmove for your current position.

So, why is Rightmove your biggest opportunity to win? Well, firstly, video didn’t kill the Radio Star, the Radio Stars inability to adapt to the times, desires of their target consumers, and ever evolving cultural landscape, meant they signed their own death warrant. That being said, many of us would argue the Radio Start is alive and kicking, and The Buggles thought process when they penned their classic, was a little out of touch with what was really happening. Some might say a little like those who thought the future of estate agency was an online service….you two who you are.

The most successful ‘Radio Stars’ (let’s just call them musicians for the rest of this piece, the reference is getting a jarring), understood the need to pivot and leverage the new technology that was about to take over the world. Think Madonna, think Michael Jackson, think Cyndi Lauper, they got it. They didn’t fight it, they used it.

Contrary to what I’ve just said, I’m not actually saying replicate what the most successful musicians of the 80’s did. I’m not saying Rightmove is the key to your success if you use it, I’m actually saying because of Rightmove, it’s really easy to stand out nowadays. If everyone is doing the same thing, the only difference is the price you charge – welcome to the race to the bottom. What can you do? Stop talking about Rightmove as the tool that sells the home and get back to articulating what you do that your competition don’t. How do YOU add value (urgh, sorry, sounding a little estate agency trainer there, genuine apology!)? What do you offer that others don’t? What results can you show that present you as the agent of choice for your target demographic? If your life depended on selling a home tomorrow and you didn’t have access to Rightmove, what might you do? Maybe the answer to that question is a good place to build from.

To be clear, at this moment in time, I am not an anti-Rightmover, the consumer believes in the product, and there’s no doubt that it makes their lives easier when searching for a home. Could Rightmove engage agents in a more positive way? Yes. Could Rightmove innovate more proactively? Yes. Could Rightmove handle their pricing strategy with more decorum? Yes. But I promise, I’m really not an anti-Rightmover.

Remember, in the eye of the consumer, when search for better, they aren’t searching for more of the same, they are searching for something different, so give it to them. You are the reason the consumer should work with you, and nothing is more important than your belief in that.

Ben Madden, 20-year estate agent, sits on the national advisory council for Fine & Country.  


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  1. jsmcr

    All well and good on your ‘advisor’ pedestal but have you ever had any actual experience of being the one responsible for laying Rightmove’s invoices I.e. owned your own estate agency. The product is fine, it’s the price that isn’t, which you seem to have ignored completely.

    1. Robert_May

      ARPA (Average Revenue Per Advertiser) on Rightmove is quite revealing. The average cost agents pay to list on Rightmove is skewed by a wide range in fees. Founding agents, large agents, and affinity groups often pay significantly less compared to smaller agents. When you reverse engineer the numbers, it becomes clear that smaller agents are effectively subsidising their larger competitors. They end up funding the discounts for bigger players and contributing most of the profits.

      It’s all a bit bonkers, really. What you’ll find is that most service suppliers, industry influencers, and connectors are as reliant on Rightmove for an easy life as some agents are. These non-agent stakeholders rarely support any innovation or initiatives that challenge the status quo. As a result, the smaller agents who are paying the most dearly for the portals are the ones being denied innovation and change.

    2. Steve_Smithson

      Regarding price, has anyone considered the Australian portal model? There is no monthly cost per branch, just a fee per property. It stands at around £450 per property and the vendor pays it, not the agent.

      1. juliusg

        I’m so surprised there is no competitor charging this way. Most other countries have main property websites that work this way and are a lot cheaper than £450 per property.

  2. Robert_May

    Right now, 8 out of 10 agents depend so heavily on Rightmove that they’ve become passive listers, essentially working for Rightmove by feeding it content, rather than using it to their full advantage.

    Rightmove’s main job is to bring new people to an agency. A good agency should know all about its listings and vendors. They should also know who’s inquiring about these listings, whether that’s through boards, their own website, word of mouth, or portals like Rightmove. Rightmove should only need to send a person through once; after that, the engagement should be outbound from the agency, not inbound from the portals.

    In my analysis, I found there are about 330 engagements per property listed on Rightmove, with 80% of this traffic unique to each home. Most engagements are short, indicating that people often just want to check the price of a home they’ve spotted while driving by, using the easiest URL they remember. These casual inquiries don’t need further contact; they got what they wanted and go away satisfied. However, even within those looker inquiries, there are hidden opportunities for future instructions, and agents need to find ways to engage with these lookers at an earlier stage.

    I’m not teaching granny to suck eggs; good agents already do this. But only 20% of agents are good and doing what they should. It’s the other agents who need to stop being so reactive to inquiries and get proactive like their good #local competition.

    The real opportunity isn’t in waiting for ready-to-offer or ready-to-view buyers but in understanding the lookers, applicants, viewers, and buyers better. Many agents undervalue the importance of an applicant register and don’t fully understand how one works.

    Understanding applicants can dramatically improve an agency’s engagement and success. It’s about going beyond just listing properties and really getting to know potential buyers, turning casual traffic into meaningful interactions and successful sales.

  3. BillyTheFish

    The portal is nothing without agents and it forgot that, RM’s behaviour in Covid showed it’s true colours. A company which bows to its shareholders and not its customers. I don’t like to use the word ‘hate’ but I think it is pretty close with the way RM treats its customers and if OTM are able to drag themselves out of the gutter and provide similar stats I am pretty sure customer feelings will be made clear en-masse.
    At the end of the day all RM is needed for is providing enquiries. All of the other clever products, seminars, tools etc are non-essential but are all of the ‘reasons’ RM feel the fee should be so high, and ever higher.
    On the lettings side in our area, Zoopla offers better VFM for fee per lead and both RM & Z applicant to tenant success rate is the same. RM fee is 3x Zoopla’s.

  4. Steve_Smithson

    I once had a conversation with Peter Brooks-Johnson, previous CEO of Rightmove.
    The first thing he told me was that Rightmove knew their customers hated them.
    It didn’t phase him at all, in fact, he seemed quite proud of it.

  5. SimonLBradbury

    Hi Ben,
    I totally agree with everything you say about Rightmove, including the observations of the various things they could do to be more innovative etc – how boring of me!
    With regard to the comments from jsmcr regarding prices … “The product is fine, it’s the price that isn’t, which you seem to have ignored completely.”… I would say “Don’t use Rightmove if you think they are too expensive” . You are not obliged to use them, though 85% (?) ish of all agents clearly do see real value.
    I’m judging agents (and the value they see in Rightmove) on the basis of what they actually DO, not what they SAY.

  6. EAMD172

    History repeats itself. Everyone used to moan about how much paper advertising cost. The difference was that you could choose the size of advert. I do think that the portals could offer a lower rate for agents that list less. There’s more than one way to run an agency and the small local person who ran it cheap with low amounts of sales but still provided an appropriate service and made a living, has become much harder. For me RM offers good value for money as we have a speculate to accumulate policy. We spend a lot but sell a lot, so the RM cost is still cheaper than what we spent on paper 17 years ago. When something better come along, or the market crashes to the point of ruination as it did in 1988 and 2007, then we will see what happens to RM.

  7. Hit Man

    The conflict isn’t with RM; they laugh when they see agents criticising them. The real joke is on the agents who say, “let’s stick together and leave en masse.” Larger agents find this amusing because it benefits them in the short term, allowing them to discredit smaller agents during valuation appointments. In the long term, if independent and small agents leave, who will subsidise the larger agents? Just as sure as bears defecate in the woods, those who remain will bear the brunt of lost revenues, and their fees will increase.

    1. Robert_May

      Here’s the thing small agent subsidise the big agents and it is they who generate the profits. In an investor/profit lead business once smaller agent realise they actually have the whip hand suddenly the lion isn’t quite as fearful.

      Its Windows 98 generation, tick box tech with its code reaching back to bungalow in Helston in 1996. Its a legacy system that isn’t capable of properly adapting to legislation change in the way it wants to incorporate change. Something HAS to give.


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