All-out war was declared on high street agents last night amid incredible scenes at the easyProperty launch.
The theatrical event, which attempted to consign agents to history, was attended by hundreds at the Natural History Museum’s famed “dinosaurs” hall.
Amidst all the hype, easyProperty “brand partner” Sir Stelios Haji-Ionnou suggested he was pleased that yesterday’s launch started with just 67 properties in London live on the site – although this was later clarified to over 200.
This was at odds with founder Robert Ellice’s declaration that over 3,300 landlords had registered, representing over 16,000 properties.
Stelios also made reference – without mentioning the name – to Agents’ Mutuals’ OnTheMarket. He said: “I think there is probably room for two property portals. But is there room for a third one? I don’t know. Is this the next stage of disruption?”
The launch began with easyProperty’s marketing guru Chris Welch saying: “This is the end of the estate agency world as we know it.”
He said agents had failed to evolve, and that easyProperty would disrupt a “bloated” market.
Welch, a landlord, also revealed that one of his own properties had been a test on the site. After failing to let through a high street agent, it had swiftly let through easyProperty.
Victoria Whitlock, a landlord who writes a property column in the London Evening Standard’s Homes and Property supplement – supported by high street agents – rubbished agents.
She said the market was in “desperate need of change”.
Apparently pointing the finger at Foxtons, she said landlords did not want to pay for “bottles of fancy water”. Instead, she said, they wanted to cut out the middle man.
In his speech, Ellice said that the market “is in transition, no doubt about it. Traditional agents have failed to evolve.”
He said that the only evolution over several years had been mobile phones, commenting: “Pretty poor, really.”
He said that all that had happened was that mobile phones had got smaller, while Rightmove and Zoopla had entered the market, but he also suggested that listing on both was all that agents seemed to do.
He insisted that consumers want “pure, unadulterated choice” and that easyProperty would give them this with zero upfront costs and zero commission – while letting them choose to pay for the services they did want.
He said that investors were keen, with a crowdfunding campaign to raise £1m having concluded yesterday, with six days to go.
His presentation ended with an extraordinary TV-style advert for easyProperty, showing a firm called Winktons not doing much for its money. It depicted lazy agents sitting around on large posteriors.
NAEA managing director Mark Hayward, who was at last night’s event, said he found it jaw-dropping.
He said: “I had expected a much higher level of properties – not just 67 in London. So, I am very underwhelmed.
“There is a lot of hard cash behind this venture, but I cannot see this as innovative.
“I also found it strange that there seems to be complete dependence on Rightmove and Zoopla, and yet easyProperty doesn’t seem to think much of them.”
Meanwhile, in an email yesterday from Crowdcube announcing that the £1m target has been hit, interested parties are told: “easyProperty is considering all options regarding an exit with an IPO the current preferred future route, although they would consider a trade sale. Their approximate time for an IPO is around two years subject to market conditions.”
* A spokesperson for easyProperty has asked us to clarify that, while Sir Stelios referred only to 67 properties in London, in fact, by the time of the launch party, there were over 200 properties listed all told.