Tuesday, 7 July 2015

On The Market but Off The Radar?

The following blog could be the rantings of a bitter old man who has failed to sell his house. Or it could be the considered view of an independent voice not afraid to critique a major initiative from the country's top estate agents.

You can decide.

If you're an estate agent, you'll be very familiar with the new portal OnTheMarket.com.

For us buyers and sellers, however, the arrival of this new online property search engine has been rather less enthralling.

The fact is most of us don't even know it exists. Or if we have vaguely heard of it...we probably haven't used it.

As a seller, however, I've been forced to list my property on OTM because both my agents opted to ditch Zoopla/Primelocation and go with this new portal and Rightmove (the clear market leader).

It's a condition of using OTM that agents use only two of the main portals.

Yes, I know this is all getting a bit complicated, not to say boring. But stick with me for a few more paragraphs. I can't promise it will become any less confusing, but it is important stuff (I think).

OTM was the idea of a few top agents. And I give them enormous credit for getting it off the ground.

They do actually have some 'previous' in this sphere as many of the same agents actually got together in 2001 to launch the portal called Primelocation.

This was eventually sold (for £48m) and is now part of the Daily Mail's digital stable which includes Zoopla.

Now I don't want to question the motives of those agents behind the new portal, but the fact that they got a mere £48m for Primelocation when Rightmove is now worth north of £3bn may have had some bearing on the decision to start another one.

The founders however claim that they disagreed with the way Zoopla was exploiting data derived from their listings, and also that third party advertising on Rightmove and Zoopla is an irritant for us punters.

Anyway, that's the basic background. Now, what's my issue with all this.

Well, quite simply, I don't want my property on OTM but if I want to use the best agents for my property I don't have a choice.

The reason I don't want my property on OTM is because it simply doesn't work at the moment.

The name is terrible, the consumer marketing is wallpaper and the site itself nothing special (and I'm being generous here).

More importantly, perhaps, it's way off the pace when it comes to Google searches.

I won't bore you, at this point, with the tedious details of how poorly it performs on Google. Trust me, it's crap.

Maybe it's good if you're looking to buy a semi in Hemel Hempstead or a terraced house in Burnley (although somehow I doubt it). But when it comes to selling a little house in Kensington, it is definitely useless.

I would far prefer to be on Primelocation. This is a decent website, the brand has a qualitative edge to it and, even more importantly, my target audience know it and use it.

Now at this point someone will probably bang off a tweet full of stats showing that OTM really is working and that Primelocation is nothing more than a small and quietly dying brand.

Maybe they're right.

But, having worked in digital since its earliest days, I know just how opaque web stats can be.


Type in London W8 or Abingdon Rd W8 and it will be Rightmove or Primelocation or Zoopla that occupy the top spots on Google....followed by a bunch of agents such as Savills, John D Wood etc.

OTM doesn't come anywhere close to the first page on Google (except when it runs an ad!).

Now, although I don't think the fact that we're not on Primelocation/Zoopla makes much difference to whether or not we'll sell our property, I do think the principle of allowing agents to use only two portals is wrong.

It's surely against the spirit of competition law even if not the letter of the law (I'm sure they had very good advice).

If OTM is any good, it will find a ready market. But it should find a market by being better, not by forcing agents to cut out a competitor.

Right now, though, it isn't better. And in any normal market it would be struggling to stay in business.

Generally speaking, I like the top end London agents I've met. They're bright, hard-working and thoroughly professional.

It's a pity the portal they have to use isn't as good as they are.

No comments:

Post a Comment