The head of eProp Services, parent company of easyProperty, says growth in the online sector is slower than expected - but that his firm is well placed to help independent agents hedge their bets in case online eventually gathers pace.
Jon Cooke, the chief executive of eProp Services, has told Estate Agent Today that the latest estimate for the share of the market taken by online agencies is around 7.1 per cent.
“That’s slower than many expected. That’s not to say the sector isn’t going to grow further but there was an expectation that by now it might be 15 per cent or more” says Cooke.
“However” he says, “agents must hedge their bets in case the online sector really does hit 20, 30 or more per cent as many forecast” Cooke adds.
He says one way to achieve that is for them to consider a licence with easyProperty, which operates as an online agency. Cooke says there are currently around 390 licensed easyProperty territories across the UK, with approaches coming to him “on a daily basis” from existing agents.
He says that having an online-only outlet is one way a traditional agency can offer a full service to customers, and to ready their businesses if there is a wider turn to onliners by the public in the future.
The second way agents can hedge their bets, he says, is to use technology - eProp Services, which is also the parent company to Fine & Country and The Guild of Property Professionals, markets a range of software services to agents.
Looking at the wider online agency landscape, Cooke was critical of last week’s announced merger between Emoov, Tepilo, and lettings operator Urban.
“One could say that this was one unprofitable operation merging with another unprofitable operation and ending up with one larger unprofitable operation.”
He says the consolidation of online agencies and other digital operators, now gathering pace, is likely to continue for some time.
However, he repeated his previous forecast that ultimately there would only be a small number of “survivors” amongst online agencies - “no more than three or four” - and that this would ultimately include easyProperty.
Yesterday Emoov/Tepilo announced that Adam Day - easyProperty’s former estate agency chief - had been poached to join the newly merged organisation as its head of estate agency. At the same time easyProperty announced Russell Humphrey, until recently national agency director for YOPA, would become easy’s managing director of estate agency.