Zoopla is back in business with its trading update to the City this morning revealing that it has a net growth of 213 estate agency branches in the period from April to the end of July.
This takes the total UK agency membership up to 12,556 branches and marks the first reversal in fortunes for Zoopla since the arrival of challenger website OnTheMarket, which until recently stated it wanted to become Britain’s second largest portal by the end of 2015.
The company statement says: ”Management is encouraged by the reduction in churn and return to growth of the UK Agency business, combined with the strong performance of its members who continue to grow their listings.
“The [Zoopla Property] Group had 2,672 new home development members, 684 overseas members and 219 commercial members taking the total number of members at the end of the Period to 16,131.”
The listings inventory has grown seven per cent from 828,000 to 882,000 properties over the same period.
Traffic is also strong, Zoopla reports, with 45.6m monthly visits on average between April 1 and July 31. It is also sending “record numbers of appraisal leads to members, up 103 per cent over the same period last year and helping our members win more business”.
Alex Chesterman, ZPG founder and chief executive - who has a new remuneration package announced in this morning’s figures and subject to shareholder approval - says: “We are very pleased that over the past few months of trading we have returned to growth in our number of UK agency members. Our huge audience of property-interested consumers remains loyal and engaged and our members are enjoying strong performance and a competitive advantage in terms of both brand exposure and leads generated via our platform.
“With the acquisition of [price comparison website] uSwitch now complete and the business performing well, we are focused on developing our combined services to provide consumers with a single resource for all their property needs which will serve to further enhance our user engagement and create a greater competitive advantage for our advertisers.”
Chesterman’s deal means he will be able to sell 4.25m ZPG shares - at the start of trading today they were worth around 254p per share - but he is locked in to leading the group “for the next few years.”
This afternoon, OnTheMarket chief executive Ian Springett responded in defiant terms.
“Zoopla Property Group’s trading update only serves to underline the success and progress of OnTheMarket" he says, describing Zoopla's agency growth as "tepid".
"The fact is that Zoopla Property Group has lost overall share of agents and traffic as OnTheMarket has become established and as the overwhelming majority of our members retain the dominant market leader as their other portal" he says.
Springett continues: “Support for OnTheMarket continues to increase daily and with such a strong desire for it to succeed from agents all across the UK - and a substantial growth in its traffic figures to more than 5.2m visits in July - we are confident not only that OTM is here to stay but that we can ultimately achieve our objective to develop a proper alternative to the market leader."
When ZPG last produced figures in May, it had lost 16 per cent of its global members in the year to the end of March - including, critically, 23 per cent of its UK agency members, almost all of which had defected to OnTheMarket.
But the number of visits to Zoopla and Primelocation in the year to the end of March had actually increased from 240m to 265m over the previous 12 month period, notwithstanding the loss of agents.