The head of the portal PropertyMutual has accused Rightmove, Zoopla and OnTheMarket of being “corporate dinosaurs” and has called on agents to instead join his platform.
“The corporate portals do what you might expect of them – optimise investor value - which is fine except if you’re a fee-paying member” says Andrew Goldthorpe, chief executive of PropertyMutual.
“What you end up with is transitory discounts, ever rising rate cards, lock-in contracts and nowhere else to go” he adds.
PropertyMutual was launched in 2014 as a free portal by parent company Crevala, a mutual company set up a year earlier. The portal now has some 500,000 listings, obtained through a third party supplier.
Goldthorpe says his portal is now transitioning to a subscriber model, open to High Street and online agents for £10 a month. He says his service offers agents “real choice … no restrictions plus guarantees on mutuality, rates, profit distribution and more.”
In a statement released this morning, he says: “Expecting agents to sign complex lock-in, long-term contracts with temporary discounts and offering shares which need to be retained indefinitely is ‘Hobson’s choice’. This disdainful take it or leave it approach assures a corporate portal super profits but guarantees agents nothing.”
He continues: “No industry should tolerate such restrictions and lack of choice from suppliers claiming to be their ally. Quite simply, the corporate portal’s model is obsolete as its profit imperative is incompatible with guaranteeing to operate only in the best long-term interests of its members.
“In contrast, PropertyMutual & Partners reminds agents they have another choice – a genuine mutual. With no hidden agenda and existing solely for the benefit of our partners, PropertyMutual is run wholly on mutual and ethical business principles and has no shareholders. We have no business or marketing restrictions, no contractual lock ins, cannot demutualise for profit and have a single category of partner paying the same minimum subscription – no mates’ rates or regional variations.”
He says the £10 monthly fee would rise “when we gain momentum” but would only go up to “a minimum commercial cost” with a guarantee that 50 per cent of subscription income would be spent on marketing and any profits being redistributed to agent partners through reduced subscriptions or bonuses, for charitable donations, for social impact schemes or however the agent partners direct.
“We encourage all agents, whoever else they may currently list with, to join with us in building a credible long-term challenger in which they alone have a genuine mutual stake” he concludes.
The portal field appears to have become more crowded in recent times; in addition to major portals Rightmove, Zoopla and PrimeLocation, challenger service OnTheMarket has been launched and subsequently floated, and just last week Rummage4 went public in the mainstream media for the first time.
Rummage4 says it’s launching next year with Countrywide and some 30 other estate agency groups signed up, as well as some of the UK’s largest housebuilders.
Created by agent Robert May and headed by Anthony Codling, a former analyst at investment bank Jefferies, Rummage4 says it can offer a listings service for just over a tenth of the cost of market leader Rightmove.
“The key selling point is that it is much cheaper than Rightmove, Zoopla and OnTheMarket plc” explains Codling, who says the charge would be a flat fee of £100 a month with future increases linked to house price inflation.