A new portal claims it will do what OnTheMarket failed to do, and offer an agent-led operation charging every agency branch the same - whether it’s a corporate or an independent.
OpenBrix is set to launch early in 2020 and will charge each branch £100 per month.
From that point onwards agents will decide future price rises, with OpenBrix itself having only one vote - the same as any individual agency that lists on its pages.
The service will use Blockchain technology, meaning that instead of agents loading their data to a central operation - as now with Rightmove, Zoopla and OnTheMarket - the agents keep the data on their own servers, which are linked together.
Therefore without a central server or support staff, overheads are much cheaper; this is key to keeping charges low.
A statement on the OpenBrix website says: “We have decentralised the power to the agents, and simply become the caretakers of the platform, similar to a building manager who looks after a building. Following a very successful BETA test, with a handful of selected estate agents, we are now ready to announce that from February 1 2020, estate agents will have full control of the prices and full control of property listing market, without having to buy shares or run the portal themselves.”
It continues: “OpenBrix is proud of its fixed low-cost monthly subscription that remains the same for all agents, no matter the size and stature. This puts an immediate stop to surprising and damaging price hikes from big name portals. It puts a stop to heavy costs filtering down to end users. And it puts a stop to unfair treatment of some agents over others. A level playing field, and an affordable one at that.”
There will also be a substantial part of the site which will be dedicated to the private rental sector.
“By using blockchain technology to keep a track of all records, tenants have access to a complete listing of their payments. This includes the likes of deposits, rent, repairs, and more, thus increasing the sense of clarity, efficiency, and trust between agents and tenants” says the OpenBrix website.
The OpenBrix chief commercial officer Adam Piggott - a former independent lettings agent who sold his company to Countrywide in 2014 - says in a podcast hosted by public relations firm Properganda that he believes his new service will operate as OnTheMarket said it would before it changed its business model to operate in the interests of shareholders.
Piggott, interviewed by Properganda PR chief Russell Quirk, says he currently has 204 agents on board, is discussing with three large corporate agency groups, and anticipates having 2,000 agents on board by the end of 2020.
The new portal is working with the fledgling trade group, the Federation of Independent Agents, which has already argued that its members should receive discounted fees from Rightmove.
He says: “In principle, portals do fantastic jobs and Rightmove is genius” but he adds that the charges now imposed by Rightmove in particular and its rivals as well are “just ridiculous.”
Although he believes OpenBrix will “make a very nice tidy little profit” he says it will never be anything like the value of Rightmove.