Connells Group says it is still on the prowl for traditional estate agencies to acquire after its announcement that it has purchased online agency Hatched.
The deal is the first by a volume bricks-and-mortar estate agency to buy an online outfit - seen by some observers as a defining moment for the industry, although Connells Group itself is adamant it does not represent a change in direction.
According to estate agency comparison website GetAgent, the Hatched service currently has 903 active listings representing some 0.13 per cent share of the market based on GetAgent’s analysis of property sales data taken from Rightmove and Zoopla.
In recent months Connells Group has acquired Gascoigne Halman, taking the network of branches up to 540 across the UK. Other recent traditional agency acquisitions include Peter Alan, the largest estate agency in south Wales with a network of 26 branches, Adrian Cole & Partners, Cartwrights in Stafford, Harrisons in Lincoln, Platinum lettings in Crawley and a several other acquisitions of lettings books across the country.
Connells stresses that the acquisition of Hatched brings what it calls “complementary” skills and outlets to the traditional branches, and does not represent a change of direction.
“We are entirely committed to our branch network - evident through our recent acquisitions and our programme of 114 branch openings over the last 18 months - and I can confirm that this acquisition does not signal a shift away from traditional high street estate agency practices and values by Connells” says Connells chief executive David Livesey.
Even so, it had been expected that Countrywide - not Connells - would be the first volume bricks and mortar estate agency group to snap up an online agency of some kind.
The chief executive of Countrywide, Alison Platt, last month hinted her firm may invest in, or acquire, an internet start-up company to boost its digital offering in the sales and lettings sectors.
Countrywide has an ongoing “Project Shoreditch” team working to assess how the group might improve its digital activities, to include apps for existing branded High Street agencies as well as possible online-only offerings.