The Say No To Rightmove campaign, which expects to have some 3,000 offices signed up by the end of the month, has been accused of lacking long-term vision.
And the agent behind the campaign - Rob Sargent, chief executive of the Acorn agency group operating in London and parts of the south east - has been told that he should “impartially set realistic expectations and thoroughly examine all alternatives to the current status quo.”
The comments come from Andrew Goldthorpe, chief executive of the Property Mutual portal, in a lengthy contribution to the portals debate on LinkedIn.
He says it is encouraging to see agents finally taking collective action through the SNTR campaign against “the ever-increasing fees of Rightmove” but he says he’s surprised that “the strategy appears to revolve around short-term objectives based on corporate fee reductions and lacks a long-term vision for the industry.”
Goldthorpe is particularly sceptical of what he sees as the campaign's promotion of OnTheMarket as a possible alternative option for agents disenchanted with Rightmove, asking: “What possible benefit is to be gained by giving additional control to another [stock market] AIM listed corporation in the form of Onthemarket PLC?”
Goldthorpe congratulates Sargent for becoming the figurehead of long overdue collective action by agents, but then adds: “As a founding member and shareholder of Onthemarket PLC, I believe it is incumbent upon him to impartially set realistic expectations and thoroughly examine all alternatives to the current status quo.”
The Property Mutual boss says neither Rightmove nor OTM is under any obligation to consider themselves “the agent’s friend” and warns that PLC boards are not obliged to acquiesce to the demands of agents.
“Agents sold that right, like turkeys voting for Christmas, when they voted to sell ownership of these businesses to the public and institutional investors. The primary purpose of both PLCs is to increase revenue, dividends, and market capitalisation, year on year, for their investors. The fact this process happens to be at the expense of estate and letting agents is irrelevant and unfortunately a situation of agents' own making. PLCs are not the agents’ friend, at any price” he adds.
Instead Goldthorpe calls for what he describes as “a hybrid mutual/commercial partnership between two companies, whereby the mutual Ltd ('the Mutual') is limited by guarantee and the commercial service provider ('CSP') is limited by shares.”
Under this system, mutual members - agents - pay “an affordable subscription fee” and the mutual is legally structured to be never for sale, with a charitable assignment clause.
The mutual pays the CSP a service charge to develop, manage, support and market the portal over a minimum term contract period of five years, and commits to spending 50 per cent of its revenue on marketing the portal.
Profits are shared and “could either be filtered down to agents or reinvested into the portal based on a mutual vote.”
Goldthorpe says such a structure is transparent, independent, and puts agents back in control and says his Property Mutual platform “already provides a fully functional property search platform for residential, commercial, agricultural and overseas properties whilst providing basic lead generation for estate agents.”
And he concludes his LinkedIn piece saying; “In its current form it provides a solid foundation to start mutually shaping and building the next-generation property platform in co-ordination with UK agents.”