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EYE Exclusive: Resurrect ‘one other portal’ regime, OnTheMarket boss urges agents

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Mon 25 Nov 2019

EYE Exclusive: Resurrect ‘one other portal’ regime, OnTheMarket boss urges agents

OnTheMarket boss Ian Springett has called on agents to revive the ‘one other portal’ regime – and not to keep feeding Rightmove.

Speaking on Friday at the Relocation Agent Network conference, he suggested member agents list their properties “with no more than one other portal” and release their new listings to OTM 48 hours ahead of elsewhere.

He said: “Commit your support to OnTheMarket and keep the other two on a short leash so that you can play them off against each other.”

Springett also said that to counter ever-increasing portal fees, “new thinking” is required across the industry.

He urged agents to use their “pricing power”, reminding them that they provide both content and revenue to portals.

In a fiery speech, he turned both barrels repeatedly on Rightmove, telling agents not to support its 75%-plus profit margins.

He said that OTM’s figures for the first half of this year show that it provided 28 leads for every £100 of monthly fees, based on a monthly payment of £331.

In contrast, he said that Rightmove generated 16 leads for every £100 across the equivalent time period, based on a monthly payment of £1,077.

He added that OTM is now sending over 100m property alerts per month to almost 1.2m people. Rightmove sent 781m alerts to over 2m people in 2018.

Springett went on: “According to its own figures, Rightmove lost around 800 branches between June 2018 and June 2019.

“OnTheMarket has continued to gain offices, with over 12,600 reported as at September 30 this year.

“Furthermore, independent data from Home.co.uk indicates that in October 2019, compared with October 2018, the number of agent offices listing either exclusively at OnTheMarket, or with OnTheMarket and only one other major portal, had increased by 731 to 5,543.”

Springett said: “Agents are the providers of both the core content and the revenue on which portals depend, so agents can shift pricing power away from Rightmove and Zoopla by supporting the agent-backed portal.

“OnTheMarket is 70% owned by more than 3,000 independent agents operating over 6,000 offices, and new agents committing to long-term listing agreements can receive shares alongside.

“OnTheMarket aims to continue expanding its agent ownership group.”

Springett said: “It’s clear that serious property-seekers find the properties, wherever they are listed.

“Many agents have told us that leaving Rightmove has made absolutely no difference to their business.

“Some have even said that their working day has become easier because they are no longer chasing unproductive leads.

“In the period from 2011 to 2018, Rightmove’s fees more than doubled, rising by 125%. This represents a compound annual growth of 12.4%.

“We have heard that some agents are facing a 30% increase in Rightmove fees.”

Springett said that the “annual ritual” of agents complaining about Rightmove’s prices and attitude, and then complying, would change nothing.

He said: “The core ethos of OnTheMarket is to understand and support the role of the agent.

“That is why we froze our prices next year for our customers on full tariff contracts.

“Given the challenges facing agents right now and the uncertain outlook for 2020, we believe this is the right thing to do to support all those firms who have loyally backed us as we have developed and grown your portal.

“We have seen before that the best agents come out of such periods stronger, and we want to help you do just that.”

Previously, the ‘one other portal’ rule was binding on OTM agents and chiefly hurt Zoopla. The implications from Springett’s speech are that it would be now be completely voluntary – and have Rightmove chiefly in its sights.