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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Central London agent in dispute with OnTheMarket over fees, leads, visits

A central London estate agent is in dispute with OnTheMarket over its leads, number of agencies on board, and visits from consumers.

The agency - Crayson, based in Notting Hill - dropped Rightmove at the start of 2015 but remained with Zoopla, conforming with OnTheMarket’s ‘one other portal’ rule. 

However, the agency says it now has had no alternative but to return to Rightmove. 

Nicholas Crayson, managing director of Notting Hill-based agency Crayson, has sent Estate Agent Today a copy of a letter he has written to OTM chief executive Ian Springett.

In it Crayson says OnTheMarket’s web traffic levels are “nowhere near acceptable”, produce leads which are “more than disappointing” and “pretty much non-existent” and that the portal has an agency membership “well behind the promises” when it was launched.

“We originally kept Zoopla because with PrimeLocation it was the prominent portal for London buyers” Nicholas Crayson has told EAT. 

He says that when most of the high-end agency chains that helped establish Agents’ Mutual dropped Zoopla, he had expected his traffic and leads from it to drop but claims that in fact the quality and volume increased.  

Crayson adds that in the six month period that his agency was on both OnTheMarket and Zoopla/PrimeLocation there were just 18 leads from OTM and 197 from ZPG. 

He also says the one other portal rule - which he describes as “suicidal” - has led his vendors to demand that they must be on Rightmove, hence his return. 

However because he has also kept Zoopla, his agency’s properties have been removed from OnTheMarket. This is despite his firm having a five year contract with the new portal; Crayson says that a year ago his agency paid OTM £2,000 to become a Gold member.

“I’m entirely happy to pay OnTheMarket to advertise my properties but they have been removed. I am told this is because I am now back on both Rightmove and Zoopla - but in my opinion my contract has been breached by OnTheMarket’s failure to perform” he says. 

Crayson has now written to OTM requesting that the portal “stop sending me invoices, and credit me for the ones already issued.” 

A spokesman for OnTheMarket has said: "We do not comment on contractual relations with members."  

The full text of the letter is below:

Dear Mr Springett

As you know, following your presentations and sales approach, I signed my business up to Agents Mutual last year. 

I was intrigued by the idea of an agent-owned portal. I was seduced by the various promises that you would establish OnTheMarket as a serious player in short order. The most public of these being your commitment to becoming the number two player by January 2016.

Regrettably, my experience with AM was nowhere near what had been insinuated - with some serious shortfalls, including:

- Web traffic to the OTM site was nowhere near acceptable

- Extremely disappointing lead levels which were pretty much non-existent.  In fact, in the 6 months we were with OTM, we had 18 leads - many of these of bad quality.  This compares with almost 200 leads from Zoopla.

- Membership falling well behind the promises in your presentations

Due to this failure, I decided to revert to my original portal choices, with the aim of retaining OnTheMarket.  But because of your restrictive - and in my view suicidal - 'one other portal' rule, you have decided to remove me from your website. 

As you are no longer providing me with a service, I consider you to be in material breach of our contract. This I have already indicated to you, yet you continue to send me emails insisting on receiving a payment for a service that you are not providing.

I have a duty to my clients, investors and employees.  Listing on OTM - at the expense of having the commercial freedom to list on the major portals - was damaging my business. I had no option but to list again on RightMove, the portal I withdrew from in order to join AM. 

I am still prepared to list on OTM, but I will not pay for a service that I am not receiving.  Therefore I suggest that you stop sending me invoices, and credit me for the ones already issued.  I am aware of other agents in the same situation and will surely join in any action against AM should you try to press this further. 

Incidentally, I find it highly ironic that this 'industry owned' portal is now threatening and rounding on small operators who are simply trying to do the best for their business. As a ‘force for good’, should you fail to deliver, you have a duty to step aside and let agents like myself do what we need to do. 

I add here that the service that I am receiving from both Zoopla and RightMove is exemplary, putting to shame my experience with yourselves.

To conclude, I suggest that you start to fulfil your vacant promises and cease from attacking agents who are simply endeavouring to keep their businesses afloat.

Kind Regards,

Nicholas Crayson
Managing Director

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    Mr Crayson is right - there's been nothing but broken promises. The major issue is that these broken promises demanded agents take a huge risk for their own business. This is immoral - agents take the risk and if it works then someone gets to be a hero, if it doesn't then early retirement.

    It does make you wonder what Savills and Knight Frank have to say here. Their profits are up and growing. Who really are the bad guys?

  • Simon Shinerock

    Read Animal Farm, it's all in the book. We are in an industry to compete with, not collude with one another. There is nothing wrong with exchanging views and ideas, or even with cooperation but there is a line and OTM crossed it, as I was told as a child have endlessly repeated, two wrongs don't make a right.

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    Ok, I understand and sympathise with Nicholas's comments. However, until and unless AM are given time to gain "Traction" then we still do not know where it will go and how successful it will be.

    It does little to help that EAT has such an obvious bias against AM and OTM. Not once have I seen a positive feature on the portal. No wonder therefore that there is a growing disconcertion over the portal - it is fuelled by bias and scaremongering.

    And Simon, before you jump in, a word of warning - I have a similar situation to Nicholas. I have looked at the stats and the ROI and made a decision. OTM have taken me off as well. This does not mean I do not support their business model and, if (perhaps a growing "If") their fortunes should reverse, I will be one of the first to sign up again.

    Jon  Tarrey

    In fairness, if the only news coming out about OTM is negative, then what can they do?

    If Zoopla or Rightmove was struggling, there would be stories about it here. We've seen many articles where Springett has been claiming that they will have overtaken Zoopla by the end of the year, despite all evidence pointing to the contrary. There has been plenty of articles where Springett has claimed his stats prove that OTM is outperforming Zoopla and will be the number 2 portal within a matter on months.

    I appreciate that the stories recently have seem quite one-sided, but the amount of agents coming out saying they are dissatisfied with OTM's service in recent weeks suggests there is no bias or scaremongering, just reporting of the facts.

     
    Simon Shinerock

    Hi Graham, I take all your points but I must make a few things clear. Firstly this site has separated 'news' like this article which believe me is unbiased and 'views' which express the opinion of an individual or organisation. I have indeed made my 'views' very clear from the start, prompted by IS's ill considered decision to ban me from a meeting to which I had already been invited. I would never have joined AM anyway because I disagree with the whole basis of the elitist proposition but I may not have been as vociferous either. I am also under no illusions about being applauded if I am proven right and the whole AM venture ends in tears for all concerned. For me it's more about speaking out against an establishment that appears to believe it is somehow entitled and that its ok to do things that are wrong simply to protect that entitlement. Sometimes you have to just say no. Finally EAT has always extended an invitation to AM to put their own viewpoint but they chose a different path.

     
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    Well Graham Smith the reason there have been no positive reports, is that OTM have not achieved more than spending a lot of money, and not unhinged either portal as was there intention, unfortunately there are many small companies that were drawn in with the scaremongering that was put out by OTM that the big portals were working against our interests, I too have made my case with OTM and had my properties removed "without notice" and with not advertising on another portal !!! now receiving invoices for not marketing my properties, which to be fair makes no difference as I only had one deal in 8 months and e mail and call activity that was pathetic, perhaps Mr Grayson along with others should contest OTM claims for fee's as a class action, there appear to be enough of us, which also begs the question, why do they not let those who are unhappy go quietly rather than play hardball which in turn produces adverse publicity, if I were reading this I would for sure not sign a letter of intent !!!

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    Point made, let me ask this - Would you, today, buy a Volkswagen based on its emissions?

    Intention and fact are far apart.

    Class action? Really? Speak to me, I am a lawyer.

     
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    Graham,

    The bias against AM is very simple. You - and Mr Crayson here - are in business to serve your customers.

    If they have received 18 versus 197 leads over a period (looks like this guy operates at the top end of the market so not a volume game), and consciously removed themselves from Rightmove which I assume delivers the same or more than Zoopla, then that is a disservice to his customers.

    I completely understand the selfish reasons for signing up to this long term, but your customers are not interested in the long term, they are interested in the next (hopefully) three months while you sell their house. It is dishonourable behaviour.

    Another reason for being vehemently anti-AM is that the current situation in our market is that there are two portals I subscribe to; primarily because my customers expect it. If AM is successful it is either because it has replaced Z or because there are now three portals I have to advertise on.

    In either of those scenarios I HATE the outcome. The thought of me having to advertise on a website that is ostensibly controlled by a bunch of posh boys in Mayfair fills my heart with hatred (don't try and kid me that my 1/6000 share will give me any control - doesn't stop them pouring money into Country Life and whatever other selfish, irrelevant to 99.99% of the population projects that they cherish), and the thought of having to pay for three portals is equally unattractive.

    This will go down as an own goal for our industry and those who aren't happy should come away - quickly - before they end up in a worse situation than the one they are in today.

    What a complete and utter shambles.

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    Ok, Points (both) well made.

    However, the fact of the matter is that RM (and to a far lessor extent, Zoopla) are the only two controlling portals. I have had a meeting with the RM Account Manager just this week and the prices (and pricing structure) makes me weep. I am a Gold Member of Rightmove. I get a discount for the additional services I subscribe to (which, BTW, are not producing any leads). If I drop those additional series, I fall down to silver or even bronze membership. Fine I say, Lets drop them and when I decide to add more services we revert to Gold Membership. "Oh no - Once your core membership rate increases, it stays at that level, we will add a discount for additional services, but you "Loyalty" reward will go"

    I have little or no option. My market demands RM. I may as well pass the tub of petroleum jelly.

    However, as I say, if OTM (AM) gains traction (eventually) and can demonstrate lead generation and page views, then I will certainly be swapping back - I challenge anyone to say they will not do the same if a portal can deliver results at a lower cost.

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    Graham,

    Sorry, I got a bit cross up there - I find it hard not to though.

    The best thing for you in righting the balance with Rightmove is ensuring that they have a strong competitor. The worse thing that you can get is a weak competitor.

    Zoopla was making great progress and now that AM has launched it has checked them, but OTM WILL NEVER compete with Rightmove as i) the website, from a consumer perspective is rubbish. They LIKE the tools that AM and others say clutter their websites and ii) they have nothing to offer consumers that they can get elsewhere.

    OTM achieves nothing over the long term for anyone other than Springett and his overpaid cronies (is he really on £500k per year for delivering a damp squib? Does that business need to be based in Central London?!) and the posh, central London agents who regret selling Primelocation for 50 million quid.

     
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    I have yet to hear one vendor, purchaser or applicant even mention OTM, until I do I am staying put with RM and Z

  • Jon  Tarrey

    They are really not having a good time of it lately, are they? I'm sure Mr Springett will find some way of spinning this favourably and blaming Zoopla. He had plenty to say when they first launched, but he's been remarkably tight-lipped since agents from all over the country have been coming out to criticise his brainchild. What's his response?

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    I'd imagine he's off sunning himself somewhere given that it is half term Jon.

    Not your usual start up this one...

     
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    This is a New Post in reply to Jon Tarry (Not replied to his post to emphasise the point I wish to make).

    Jon - You said [Quote] "In fairness, if the only news coming out about OTM is negative, then what can they do? If Zoopla or Rightmove was struggling, there would be stories about it here. We've seen many articles where Springett has been claiming that they will have overtaken Zoopla by the end of the year"

    We are all entitled to our opinions, but and this is a BIG BUT - since launch of AM / OTM this portal has had nothing but negative comments about OTM / AM. I have crossed swords with Simon here many a time (And being down the rod from him, would welcome the chance to meet up face to face).

    If you (Jon) had a new instruction, would not this be "The best thing since....." to those you were advertising to? Springett has done nothing wrong. Capitalism works.

    Never have I seen EA in any way, shape, or form give any "Support" to OTM / AM. Never have I seen any "Positive news" reported here. No wonder therefore that there is disenfranchisement.

    Fact - The business model is solid - A mutual membership portal that aims (aimed?) to compete with those who have next to a monopoly.

    Fact - Far lower fees and generous (expected) ROI for those who invested.

    Fact - Far, far lower costs to members than either of the two main portals.

    What more can any agent wish for than that??

    The last fact -

    Since OTM / AM Launch this portal (EAT) has allowed / published / written editorial that is derogatory to OTM. Show me otherwise please (I would like to see some (even if historic) positive reporting here).

    I have taken a decision to go back to the two main portals. This is for reasons that are two-fold. (1). OTM had less than 1m visits in September. RM 15m and Zoopla 8m. (All approx and please ask me where I get these stats from if you need them).

    2. I do not see that now that the initial investment capital has (May have been) been used, that OTM / AM can even begin to compete with the marketing spend of the other two main portals. There are many "Bronze" members who will be up for renewal in January. How many will remain is uncertain, but I have had (since I left OTM) a lengthy discussion with one local agent who will not be renewing (and nor will he be going with another portal, staying with just a single one).

    Can I just say this?

    Rather than berating OTM / AM, should we (all with High-Street premises) not be looking to protect our market and combat the Online Only agencies, rather than attacking a portal that is attempting to free us from the cost-prohibitive and nearly monopolisation of the other portals?

    Your choice.

    Comments welcome.

    Simon Shinerock

    Graham, we can't, nor should we try to uninvent the Internet. The beauty of true agency is that it is founded on a principal that cannot be replaced or cheapened, 'the middle man is always worth their fee and even though there is always someone somewhere who will sell it cheaper and pile it higher the man who buys on price alone is that mans lawful prey' sorry for not quoting verbatim but you get the gist. I'm not in the least little bit worried about competition from anyone, least of all cut price agents be they high st online or otherwise and you shouldn't be either. I have proven ideas that can guarantee to make agents far more money than they will ever spend on portals and part of my business plan is to roll out my ideas to positive agents more concerned with beating the competition than going to bed with them! BTW, if you are serious about meeting up I'd be delighted to take you to lunch!

     
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    Simon. I am 7 miles from you. Meet up?

  • Simon Shinerock

    Sure, call 0845 075 0152 (Angels) and leave me a contact number and I'll give you a call

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    Feel like stepping into the enemy's camp but ....

    I think some degree of balance needs to be addressed, Did the chap really think he would get as many leads from OTM compared to z or rm? - Little naive i think.

    Also looking at the current inventory he has just 7 properties for sale ...... I would not expect too many leads with that level of stock.

    I think there are obvious issues with OTM but i think this is more a case of poor business choice and nativity and rushing into something. Maybe the agent will think more carefully in future.

    I believe OTM should go after him for the money as he did sign a contract for 5 years. As far as i am aware there is nothing in the contract regarding levels of leads or traffic.

    Simon Shinerock

    I admire your courage sir :) always good to hear from a representative of 'the other side'

     
  • icon

    Lower Costs, Lower Traffic, Lower Leads

    @SMILEPLEASE agree with you here. if they just let people off without honouring the contracts then this will bring down the house of cards. Letting people out of the contract will mean they just dip in and out and that would be a disaster. I'm afraid his best bet is to suck it up or sue first.

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    @JonTarrey "He had plenty to say when they first launched, but he's been remarkably tight-lipped since agents from all over the country have been coming out to criticise his brainchild. "

    Wasn't this whole thing actually the brainchild of someone from Glentree which arranged the dinner at a posh london restaurant?

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