The managing director of a Home Counties estate agency has described how leads “fell off a cliff” when he signed up to OnTheMarket almost a year ago - and how they remained that way until he returned to the Big Two portals early this month.
Ken Whittaker, managing director of John Curtis estate agency in Hertfordshire - now part of Hamptons International - has told Estate Agent Today: “Like many independents we were incredibly enthusiastic about OnTheMarket and really wanted to get one over on Rightmove and Zoopla for being so expensive and so controlling.”
Whittaker claims his firm received only four to six leads per month from OnTheMarket after dropping Zoopla near the end of 2014. “Leads fell of a cliff. They didn’t pick up, even when there were OTM television advertisements. Although I imagine everyone at the portal was working hard, and everyone told me it would improve, it didn’t” he says.
His firm was saving about £100 per month by dropping Zoopla and using OnTheMarket but he felt that the sum was a “drop in the ocean” against the collapse in leads.
“The problem was that my friends outside of the industry hadn’t heard of OnTheMarket, my customers hadn’t heard of it, even my wife hadn’t heard of it” says Whittaker.
John Curtis is a two-office sales and lettings agency. It was acquired in March by Hamptons International - which uses Rightmove and Zoopla - but it was allowed to remain with OTM until it made its own decision on which portals to use. It returned to Zoopla in early October.
“Throughout everything Rightmove was king - utterly dominant. It provided the most leads by far before anyone had heard of OnTheMarket and it does the same now, only more so. The difference for me is that I’m now getting from Zoopla and PrimeLocation the same number of leads in a few days that I got from OnTheMarket in a month” explains Whittaker.
He says he contacted OnTheMarket about the lack of leads and the portal staff were understanding but “made no headway” against the major portals.
“OnTheMarket was probably too late even when it started. A lot of strong-minded independent agents that signed up for a year will move away and it will be in a difficult position” he predicts.
Earlier this month Lisa Arcari, who operates the single-office My Place In Cornwall agency in Wadebridge, wrote an open letter to the OnTheMarket board.
She accused the portal of not responding to complaints and explained how she could not see the benefit for members like her of OTM’s proposed international sales service. “Over the past few months, my membership of your organisation has lost me money and lost me business” she wrote.
She has since claimed to have been contacted by 20 other OnTheMarket agents who said her views had mirrored their experience of the portal.
OnTheMarket has been asked for any comment on the John Curtis experience.
In recent weeks OTM has stated repeatedly that it does not comment on individual contractual positions but that “since launching less than nine months ago OnTheMarket has established itself as a serious player in the property portals market.”