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'Leads just fell off a cliff': Another agent speaks out about OnTheMarket

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.” 

  • icon

    Oh dear.

  • Sceptical As Always

    what a surprise? OTM not generating leads? Well I never...

  • jeremy clarke

    Why oh why was everyone drawn in to this fight? Over the years lots of portals have come and gone..... At the end of the day agents are just wasting energy, let alone money worrying about new portals. Nobody will ever topple Rightmove; they started the process years ago, when they started it was free, they signed up thousands of agents, kept it free for a few years and then started to charge a monthly fee by which time they were so well established that nobody thought of moving away. Yes over the years they became greedy SOBS and we all hate them for it but they ain't going anywhere! You will never change the public's perception of online portals, it's either RM Z or the agents own website that they will visit; ask a sample of say 5,000 people on the street and I bet 80% will know RM & Z whilst hardly anyone will have heard of OTM, irrespective of how many TV ads they produce. So if OTM are going to survive they need to drop the attitude, offer the site free to all agents for 2 -3 years with a cap to costs after that and allow agents to choose which portals they advertise on. If they are still around in 3 years time we can then discuss the matter, in the meantime let them all get on with the bickering and we can get on with our jobs.

    Algarve  Investor

    "ask a sample of say 5,000 people on the street and I bet 80% will know RM & Z whilst hardly anyone will have heard of OTM, irrespective of how many TV ads they produce"

    That's the crux of it and always has been. OTM were never, and never will, match the reach and levels of brand awareness the big beasts do. No matter how many glossy adverts they produce, it just isn't going to happen. More people know about Purplebricks, Tepilo and easyProperty than they do about OTM, which says it all.

  • Rob  Davies

    And another...

  • icon

    and OTM has significantly strengthened RM 's position in the market (was it all a ploy by RM to reduce Zooplas footing in the market)?

  • icon

    I'm surprised no happy OTM agents have spoken out yet, surely it is about time for that? All I can remember so far is Paul Smith of haart...

    Fake Agent

    They must be somewhere. But they seem to be keeping very quiet at the moment.

  • icon

    I'm really getting OTM FATIGUE here.

  • icon


    1.. independents leave en-masse in january when their contract expires (a bit like they left zoopla)
    2.. springett will u-turn and drop the 1 other portal rule and start crowing about doing it because they're so successful
    3.. people forget the difference between this and propertylive

  • Jonathan Rolande

    Surely this is quite simple – either it works for you or it doesn’t. Assess and then we can all move on.

  • icon

    You all make me laugh. Estate agency is a profession with unique assets to any individual selling a property. All I hear on this site are a bunch of idiots negging OTM. As I told the zoopla rep when she tried to woo my agency back there are only 10 true places on the first page of google what happens when there are no more high street agents can zoopla earn their share holders money out of that? When rightmove came to my shop 10 years ago I thought they had a good idea promoting estate agents little did I know they would sell us down the river letting builders sell online let online agents sell property for nothing . I hope the top 10 online agents have the money to support rightmove and zoopla so shareholders apitite. And I hope that the general public don't regret the fact that online estate agency just sounds like pyramid selling. PS I will not be commenting on this bias site again. Oh and by the way my high street agency is doing fine being On The Market.

    Simon Shinerock

    Steve, firstly well done for having the courage to state your case here. It's a shame you ended your comment the way you did as it would be good to see a balanced debate rather than a one sided one. The thing is Steve, everything else aside, from my point of view two wrongs can never make a right and what OTM are attempting to do is wrong, irrespective of whether it protects the interests of some agents or takes over the portal market. The free market can decide for itself if online agency works, I don't think it will for most people but I'm not scared of the competition. Equally we have strong competition laws and I'm much happier relying on them to protect me from gouging monopolies than a vigilante group of self interest driven elitists and their groupies.


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