The portals say they are ready and willing to play their part in changes approaching the industry, ranging from new agency structures to Reservation Agreements.
In the second part of our quizzing of Rightmove, Zoopla and OnTheMarket - based on questions from Estate Agent Today readers - we’ve asked how portals believe they are placed to respond to the sweeping changes likely to happen in the next two years.
We’ve revealed the responses below, unedited, so readers can make up their own minds as to how forward-thinking they believe the portals to be.
Later this week we’ll be asking the portals about technology. Yesterday we looked at the huge issue of portal fees - if you missed the story, you can catch up here.
Question 1: There are many new agency business models involving freelance agents, hubs, franchise organisations and so on. How do portals propose accommodating these new business models?
Rightmove says: “Agents can choose from three packages, Essential, Enhanced and Optimiser and the cost of the package reflects the amount of exposure an agent gets on Rightmove. Agents are charged per branch, or if they advertise a higher than average number of properties (more than 50 per cent of their available stock) outside a 100,000 property radius around their branch location then they are additionally charged for virtual branches. This is to ensure that agents are charged consistently regardless of their business model.”
Zoopla says: “The consumer population is evolving, driven by millennials, who are shaping preference for engagement with and use of agent services. It is our responsibility to be nimble and to accommodate agents, however they might pivot their offering to meet the demands of their customer base.”
OnTheMarket says: “As the business models of agents evolves, so the portals will no doubt look to evolve how they serve agents. Portals have already demonstrated this in the instances of franchise groups, where there are some decisions made centrally and some at a local level, and of ‘online agents’, where portals have developed ‘branch-equivalent’ fee structures.
“Emerging technological innovation will also help support different kinds of models.”
Question 2: Agents, conveyancers, search providers and others are likely to have to change how they work to meet government pressures to simplify and speed the buying process, with Reservation Agreements, non-refundable deposits and other innovations under discussion. Can portals do anything to contribute to the process in such a way as to help agents?
Rightmove says: “We actively participate in industry groups that seek to simplify and speed up the moving process. We don’t see the transaction process as an area of our expertise, but our overall aim is to make home moving easier for agents and consumers and so we’re always looking at, supporting and implementing new ways to help speed up agents’ processes.”
Zoopla says: “Without question, the industry is ripe for innovation. As more than just a portal, we have the depth and expertise within the business – and indeed are building our teams – to reimagine and improve the processes that shape the industry as we know it today. Critical to that is alleviating some of the hurdles endemic to the buying process. We hear the call to action from agents and industry loud and clear.
“Driving this change is a business priority for Zoopla, and we are intensely supportive of any type of regulation or legislation – providing it doesn’t create unnecessary burden for agents – that builds consumer trust in, and demonstrates value for, agent / consumer relationships. Fundamentally, we want to drive more home hunters towards agent services.
“Every portal – no matter how diverse – is responsible for helping to address some of the pain points in the customer journey, and we are in a unique position, from our CRM to our consumer marketing, to prioritise efficiencies, drive innovation, and make the consumer journey easier. Hometrack’s pivotal position in the mortgage market is an example of this, which has been credited for such initiatives as Barclay’s 2-minute mortgage.”
OnTheMarket says: “No doubt all the leading portals are continuously looking to help agents, their clients, property-seekers and partners to simplify the process of buying, selling, letting and renting property.
“As the portal that is agent-backed, OnTheMarket is ideally placed to collaborate positively with agents, to understand their priorities and to plan accordingly to support them with the most helpful service.
“We cannot disclose any specific initiatives, processes and partnerships that we are considering but any such development will be to the benefit of agents, property-seekers and investors alike.”