House Network, one of the first ever online estate agencies, is alleged to be considering calling in administrators.
Two reliable sources close to the company have informed Estate Agent Today that staff were told on Thursday that they may not be paid in the immediate future.
Mark Readings, founder and managing director of House Network, is reported to have disposed of some of his holdings in the company in order to pay staff in recent weeks.
House Network was set up in 2003 by Readings and Graham Lock – the latter is no longer with the agency and is now setting up the Federation of Independent Agents.
When customers contacted the agency on Thursday afternoon they were told that the company was still in business and those who emailed the agency received the usual automatically generated reply saying their enquiry had been lodged on the system.
EAT has contacted the agency asking for a formal statement on its position; there has been no response to date.
It has been a torrid time for online agents in recent months.
Emoov and Tepilo have entered into administration (the former being resuscitated under new ownership); Hatched was closed down by Connells, which said a hybrid/online service was not viable; last month Purplebricks issued a profits warning.
Meanwhile another survey has shown that online agents’ market share is slightly down - although this latest snapshot is some months old.
Data from consultancy Twenty Ci, just published, reveals that in the third quarter of 2018 about 20,000 properties exchanged while listed with onliners.
This was an increase of almost 5,000 over the previous three months but this growth was down to a busier market, not increasing share.
In fact online agencies’ share dipped to 7.2 per cent, down from 7.6 per cent earlier in 2018.
More recent data from another consultancy, The Advisory, shows the top 10 online agents’ market share at about 5.0 per cent.