The entrepreneur behind a free-to-list property portal claiming support from 17 estate agencies has defended the description of them as ‘partners’ - but a furious dispute has broken out with many agents wanting nothing to do with the new site.
Propertyheads was launched yesterday to the surprise of almost everyone in the industry; few appear to have known of its existence before a statement was sent to the media yesterday morning.
Ben Davis - the chief executive of the company operating Propertyheads - says two of around 17 agencies originally named on the site when it launched had been in touch, angry about the use of their names and logos allegedly without consent.
Some agencies contacted by EAT said they, too, were unaware that they were to be named on the website, and at least two threatened the portal with legal action; however, one agency said it was aware of the site’s use of its listings and was happy for it to continue.
“All the agencies we named should have been aware but there may have been a problem and some firms may not have realised. We definitely do not ‘scrape’ the listings from anywhere - instead we have a number of third party data suppliers who provide us with the listings” Davis told Estate Agent Today.
“Those data providers should have been in touch with agents in the past few weeks to check they were happy to be linked with us and for Propertyheads to carry the listings. Around 12 to 14 individual branches clicked ‘unsubscribe’ and opted out. It may be that some agents didn’t see our email so were surprised to see themselves” suggests Davis.
“We’ve done our due diligence and are confident that what we’re doing is legal” he adds.
The site operates partly as a social media and messaging platform and partly as a portal. It says it offers agents a secure online forum through which agents can invite all parties involved in a property transaction to coordinate communication.
Davis - who has worked for around 15 years with hedge funds and financial services operators before setting up Propertyheads - told EAT that the service was a serious attempt to provide agents with a free-to-list alternative to existing portals.
He says he has a team of two full-time staff ready from next Monday to approach other agencies to list on the site; there is also another full-timer to contact craftspeople who can list on a find-a-trade part of Propertyheads.
Davis says agents should regard the new site as a shop window for themselves and their inventory, which they themselves can promote through their own marketing; meanwhile he says the portal itself has a marketing budget, which he said he did not want to reveal the size of.
However, he says this is sufficient to undertake “a considerable marketing campaign through all media, possibly except a full TV campaign.”
In terms of funding the website, he says he plans to generate income through advertising and other associated services such as utilitiy switching and ‘partnering’ with companies.
Davis insists that “significant sums” are available from potential investors once he has “proven the concept works.”
You can see the portal here.