Humberts, a member of Agents’ Mutual, is today launching an online-only option and claims it can list online-only properties on OnTheMarket.
Such listings appear to contradict the long-standing OnTheMarket policy of not allowing online-only sales and lettings listings on its portal. In June 2014 OTM chief executive Ian Springett described online agents as “a bit of a con” adding that they “are parasitic and can only exist alongside the portals – it shows the power of the portals have gone too far.”
Although OTM says this ban will end if Agents’ Mutual floats on the Stock Exchange, no decision will be taken on such a move until September 6. Even then, if agreed, the flotation would take some months to be made a reality with an Initial Public Offering. Until then, Agents’ Mutual says its policy of not allowing online-only listings stays in place.
However, a spokeswoman for Humberts has told Estate Agent Today that this does not apply in its case “as Humberts is a traditional agent and they [online-only properties] will fall under that banner.”
Humberts’ online model - which is currently being applied only to lettings properties - appears very similar in principle to that rolled out over the past nine months by Countrywide on its sales side.
A statement from Humberts says vendors - it uses the term ‘vendors’ in its press release, even though the service is apparently at this stage only for landlords - “can switch from the online model to the traditional model at any time.”
Back in September 2016 Countrywide chief executive Alison Platt used similar words to describe her company’s “multi-channel proposition” of running online-only and traditional models in tandem: “at any time the ‘online only’ vendor can choose to scale-up to the traditional service if he so wishes.”
Humberts’ online-only lettings offer costs £199 plus VAT and includes marketing on Rightmove, OTM and the website a PropTech company called Propoly.
The Propoly website already carries some property listings of its own and says it uploads these to Zoopla - however, Humberts insists its online-only properties will not be uploaded to Zoopla as well.
The Humberts Direct Lettings service will also offer customers access to another online portal “for landlord/tenant interactions” and ancilliary services such as providing a tenancy agreement, registering a deposit and tenant referencing.
“We saw a gap in the market for this flexible, dual lettings model – savvy landlords looking to save money may wish to try the online lettings route but would prefer a strong, heritage brand and industry knowledge behind them. With exciting investment into Humberts and plans for further expansion nationwide we have bought into a leading PropTech company Propoly – we will be white labeling their existing service offering for our new online division, Humberts Lettings Direct” says Ian Westerling, Humberts managing director.
In recent months Humberts has attempted to shed its rural-centric traditional image.
In the spring it announced the opening of a central London office and earlier this summer revealed it had attracted “significant investment from a Gulf consortium” to “strengthen the brand via traditional expansion and investment in technology.”