OnTheMarket’s latest trading update shows a significant rise in revenue but agency branch membership numbers stalling.
Revenue was up 28 per cent in the first half of the portal’s trading year, ending late July, despite Covid-related discounts to agencies and the obvious difficulties during lockdown.
However, agency numbers at the end of July this year were 12,245 - a slight two per cent dip on the same time in 2019.
In terms of the portal’s bid to have full-tariff members - who become shareholders in the firm - this morning’s statement says: “At 30 September 2020, OTM had almost 3,800 estate and letting agents as shareholders, or under contract to become shareholders, operating 6,800 offices between them.”
Some 1,512 new home developments have been listed on the following the launch of the new homes offering in September 2019, but OTM admits that overall traffic and lead growth has been impacted by the lockdown restrictions earlier this year.
However, on a shorter term basis, as lockdown restrictions were effectively lifted, year-on-year visits in July 2020 increased 173 per cent to 27.5m and average leads per advertiser increased 56 per cent to 148.
Marketing expenditure - often considered key to a portal’s success in gaining public awareness - took a big hit as the company tried to conserve costs in the light of the virus: marketing spend was down 67 per cent to £2.2m, compared with £6.6m for the same period a year earlier.
Clive Beattie, acting chief executive at the portal - prior to the arrival of ex-Foxtons agent Jason Tebb in December - says: “We started the year strongly with trading in February and the first half of March in line with management expectations. However, the first half of the financial year quickly became dominated by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our focus during the period has been to safeguard employee well-being, provide value and support to our agent and housebuilder customers and to manage costs and conserve cash.
“We have been particularly pleased with the strong consumer engagement with the portal since the easing of national lockdown restrictions in May, with record leads indicating that those consumers most active in the property market visit OnTheMarket.
“We continue to believe that our differentiated proposition, with agents at the heart of our strategy as both customers and majority shareholders, provides a strong foundation for future growth. Whilst we remain cautious amidst the ongoing uncertainty associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, the actions we have taken, and the demonstrable value we provide our agent customers, gives me continued confidence in the future success of the company.
“I thank all my colleagues for their hard work during what have been unprecedented and extremely challenging times. Their professionalism and dedication has enabled us to continue to deliver value for all of our stakeholders.”