Metro - 06 June 2013
A new online portal on the way
By Jo Eccles
Could the way we search for property online be about to change? Most people will be familiar with existing players, Rightmove, Zoopla and Prime Location, but there is a new search engine on the horizon.
A company called Agents’ Mutual has been set up by six of the largest London estate agents, including Savills, Knight Frank and Strutt and Parker. They have even drafted in the former Chief Executive of Prime Location, who is tasked with coming up with the master plan for the new portal.
He certainly has a hard task ahead of him as competition is fierce. So much so, Rightmove is currently Britain’s sixth most visited website, ahead of the likes of BBC News. This shows how much we Brits love searching online for property – even when we’re not even in the market to buy or rent anything!
Agents’ Mutual will be owned entirely by the property companies which list on it and will be entirely democratic so each estate agent holds one share and has one vote, meaning that the bigger firms can’t dominate the smaller independent ones. The only caveat is that any agent must sign a 5-year commitment agreeing to advertise on only one other portal. The hope is to attract estate agents to use it as a cheaper alternative to the existing portals, which estate agents claim have been increasing their listing fees, largely driven by pressure from shareholders to maximise returns.
It is still extremely early days, so only time will tell whether this will become a dominating force. Whilst Prime Location may be feeling nervous, I’m not sure whether Agents’ Mutual will affect the duopoly currently enjoyed by Rightmove and Zoopla. However, competition is never a bad thing, so I look forward to seeing how this pans out.