New Propertyfinder owners set to take on Rightmove
19 August 2009
The new owners of Propertyfinder have served notice on Rightmove that they fully intend to move the site into second place in the portal stakes – and then overtake the all-dominant leader.
Currently, second place is occupied by the Digital Property Group, owned by the Daily Mail. Digital bundles up all four of its portals, including FindaProperty and Primelocation, to compete against the might of the single-site Rightmove.
It is known that Digital wanted to buy Propertyfinder and made abortive attempts to do so, but may have been vetoed by the Mail owners.
Instead, Propertyfinder left the joint ownership of News International and the REA Group to become Zoopla’s latest acquisition.
Alex Chesterman, chief executive and Zoopla founder, said: “We didn’t get into this space to be just another player. We got into it to be a market leader.”
Zoopla, launched in January of last year, added estate agency listings to its service just seven months ago. Since then it has acquired Thinkproperty and, less than a fortnight ago, Propertyfinder.
The acquisitions bumped Zoopla’s listings up from 400,000 before the purchase of Thinkproperty to 600,000, and with Propertyfinder, the likely tally will be at least 700,000 and probably more.
Chesterman said that Thinkproperty has already been fully integrated with Zoopla: “Our plan with Propertyfinder is that for the moment, it is business as usual. However, before the end of the year, we will integrate all the businesses on to one technology platform, operating under a single brand.”
Asked whether the new integrated portal would be called Propertyfinder or Zoopla, Chesterman said: “That is the question on everyone’s lips. We are genuinely undecided.”
He revealed that there had been 40 redundancies from Propertyfinder – half its staff – in the run-up to the sale. Chesterman also said that REA’s statement to the Australian Stock Exchange, revealing that Propertyfinder might be closed down if it did not sell, had caused staff morale to plummet.
There are now 60 staff all told, including 20 from Zoopla who, as of yesterday, are now all working out of Propertyfinder’s headquarters near Waterloo, London.
Chesterman said that whatever the new ‘super-site’ is called, it will retain Zoopla’s controversial ‘Tempt Me’ feature.
Although this has been slated as a way of consumers avoiding having to pay for a HIP before marketing their property and also a means of private sellers by-passing agents, Chesterman said he was mystified by the criticisms. He said that agents who understood the feature were benefiting from the leads it gives them.
“They know they can use it to find specifically interested buyers and sellers – someone who might, for example, be interested in buying a particular property, or one like it, ot who would be prepared to sell for a particular price.”
Chesterman also said there would probably be different pricing models for agents on the new ‘super-site’. “We are discussing the possibility of using mobile phone style tariffs, where the customer chooses how to pay – for example, pay-as-you-go, or by subscription.”
Currently, Propertyfinder users pay between £150 and £200 a month, whereas Zoopla has a pay-per-lead model.
It has not been disclosed how much Zoopla paid for Propertyfinder, which was sold to News International for £14m some four years ago. At that time, it was making a profit. Last year, it managed to make losses on increased revenue.
The £14m paid by The Times contrasts with the £48m that Primelocation fetched when it was sold to the Daily Mail, and with the circa £1.2m rumoured to have been paid just days ago by Zoopla for Propertyfinder.