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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Say No To Rightmove campaign slammed for ‘lack of long-term vision’

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.”

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    Will this noise ever go away.
    Will any of these portals freeze price increases or link to CPI?

  • Chris Arnold

    Or, agents could simply do away with the crutch that is the portals and try innovation, creativity and communication within their local community. Give vendors a reason to follow what you say and what you have to offer, rather than automate the process and complain when it bites the hand that feeds it.

    Any portal is simply a convenience. The purported reach is irrelevant to most agencies and the display (tiny houses/tiny heads) is third rate. Portals are turning into a life-support machine. Switch them off and start living a better life where connection with your audience matters more than clicks on a page.

    Andrew Goldthorpe

    Hi Chris.

    I get that agents are exhausted by portal wars and probably see me as just another opportunist. In my defence, I advocated and launched an ethical mutual portal before OTM that was free for years so at least have been consistent! I truly believe that if agents can understand the message that a mutually owned, funded and run portal can gain traction, we are the only business model that is legally obliged to operate solely in our members' best interests.

    As the full article says:
    The end-result might be a single marketplace which provides a gateway for estate agents to earn additional revenue. It might ultimately incorporate block-chain. It might send traffic back to estate agents own websites or regional mutual hubs. It might use Geolocation. It might integrate with social platforms and other property API web services. It might ultimately discard subscriptions if alternative revenue can be generated for the benefit of the Mutual by the CSP. It might adopt the latest technology or create partnerships to maintain more ‘social distancing’, i.e. ‘smarter’ CRM systems, virtual tours, digital conveyancing, Ai based valuations systems etc. But importantly, the development of the platform will be moulded exclusively by the mutually owning agents, informing their Regional Representative, informing their Regional Board Director.

    The possibilities are endless and could include joint ventures with other PropTech businesses offering technology of benefit to our members, so I am not advocating another monopoly. The key difference is the financial and technological benefits will be retained inside the Mutual for the benefit of its members, not external investors or third parties.

     
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    And retail can do away with online shopping to I suppose....

     
  • Murray Lee

    Sorry Andrew, not sure I agree, The plan is to stand up to RM and Z Iwhere I belive we have a reasonable deal agreed) and get RM to adjust their core price strategy. We have established the backing of a huge number of discontented, mainly independent, agents who are fed up with the aggressive "take it or leave it" attitude of RM. WELL if they dont get their house in order we will "leave it" as many have already. More will follow. I dont see Rob pushing OTM and he agrees with the view of David Thomas that we should have an MLS system. At the moment my company's personal view is that at £400-500pm RM offers fair value Z's rates have been acceptable and they have not increased untl last year or so lus they guarnateed ONLY an RPI increase in 2021. RM need to be concentrating on re-packaging their products and pricing, not bombarding us with webinars and new Overseas "test" pages etc. Look after your client and your client with respect you for it. (Speak later?) LOL

    Andrew Goldthorpe

    Morning Murray.

    I disagree about the SNTR movement not pushing OTM. It is narrowly and explicitly defined in supporting OTM in the core objectives which were emailed to every OTM shareholder. It is no coincidence, after tanking, OTM's shareprice has doubled in a week. The core objectives in that communication were:
    1. Increase pressure on Rightmove to deliver change to their pricing regime
    2. Avoid a return to a duopoly
    3. Support OnTheMarket and Zoopla to ensure choice and a free market
    I absolutely agree with 1 and 2, but my objection to 3 is the crux of the article. No mention of a long term strategy, no mention of a non corporate controlled market place.

    In no way am I having a dig at Rob here - he has had much more important priorities on his mind than talking to another challenger portal. The point is that this is a watershed moment, we are in a crisis, crucial decisions are being made and, in my view, Rob was advocating retention of the status quo. He has always tried to negotiate fair fees with all three of the corporate portals so what will be different in the post crisis portal market?

    I hope to at least re-ignite that debate that the corporate portals have no obligation to be the agents' friend, at any price; the efficiencies of data aggregation require fewer rather than dozens of competing portals (a fact Zoopla dealt with comprehensively in their growth stage); and that with the threat of a well supported mutual portal, working in the background solely for the benefit of agents, he no longer has one arm tied behind his back and can negotiate from a position of genuine strength.

    I have not advocated agents leaving the corporate portals as, at the moment, I believe it would be an unnecessary act of self harm. It is a shame the link to my article was not published as it says the strategy of leaving corporates for a mutual offering will never be a seismic shift – more so a considered, gradual transition of continuing to use the corporate platforms in parallel with the Mutual platform until the day that the Mutual members are generating meaningful leads. Hopefully PropertyMutual can then embrace or replace.

    As Jefferies.com reported, PropertyMutual is an incredibly disruptive blueprint that would take the agency-portal all the way back to its pure-play mutual roots.

     
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    Morning Andrew,

    Long term and short term strategies are both needed. Longer term, we need to rely less on portals. A short term, quick win however, is to reduce RM power by moving memberships to other portals and Zoopla and OTM are the next nearest. This removes RM dominance. I loathe OTM as i see them as culpable in increasing RM power with their ill thought out 1 other portal rule and they've shown their true colours by suing Connells for abusing the one other portal rule whilst actively touting the rule relaxation to new clients, but my enemies enemy in this situation may be my (short term) friend.

     
    Simon Glover

    Its great that Rob runs the campaign but he hasn't actually left RM from what I can see and so it just seems to be a power booster for him to agree reductions from RM for his company?

     
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    Otm is a listed commercial for profit entity
    Just create another monster

    Andrew Goldthorpe

    Hi Angus.

    Spot on!

    The primary purpose of both Rightmove PLC and Onthemarket PLC is to increase revenue, dividends, and market capitalisation, year on year, for their investors. PLC’s are not the agents’ friend, at any price.

     
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    What's the vision of the FB page Boycott Rightmove, with its big header saying EVERYBODY OUT! it's a complete joke when there's so many pro Rightmove agents on there including some of the admin. So what's the plan or what's the point. Is everybody out? or in, what's the vision? I agree EVERYBODY should be out and support OTM but first get a guarantee that they are not going to increase their prices like RM have.

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    Hi HIT Man,

    I'm not sure any of the admins are pro Rightmove. There are definitely some pro RM agents on there, but I'm not a believer in stifling debate. If you have to block or delete someone to win your argument, then you've lost it.

    On to the longer term vision, and it's a great point. The group initially formed out of pure frustration and allowing fed up agents to vent, but there are things that I've been advocating that may get missed in the sea of comments, and maybe I need to be more selective in the recycled comments that get put up. But there's a few aims and the first is the key one and these will be explored within the group as they develop:

    1) Find another way that doesn't require the dependence on portals. Portals will have their place (until technology adapts) but we're looking at other ways of marketing and trying to have that discussion and explore those options. For example, studying the Aus market, all of the agents in Canberra got together, created their own local area app and ditched the portals. The buyers had to follow. Secondly, educating process; are agents blindly putting properties onto portals or following a process; ring out, own website, social media and then portal uploads.
    2) Create a purchasing union for smaller independents. RM power comes from their size. An organisation that can represent several thousand agents would have a balanced power. In the early days of he group, I was utterly amazed that the Guild and NAEA don't do this for their members.

    Do remember that it is early days and that we are trying to explore options and keep our businesses afloat at the same time, so I realise the need to move as quickly as possible, but that's not always possible.

     
    Andrew Goldthorpe

    Hi Hit Man,

    You are entitled to be a fan of OTM. A lot of people invested a lot of time and money in it.

    My article makes the point:
    "It is naïve to think that Rightmove PLC or Onthemarket PLC is under any obligation, nor should it be, to consider itself the agent’s friend. I believe it is misleading to propose that any PLC Board should feel obliged to acquiesce to the demands of a pressure group to reduce its revenue. Agents sold that right, like Turkeys voting for Christmas, when they voted to sell ownership of these businesses to the public and institutional investors."

    I apologise for the word naïve and assure you I did search for other synonyms! my point is as soon as we emerge as an economy from the other side of this crisis the discounts will cease, and subscriptions will have to rise to satisfy PLC imperatives - investor driven increases in revenue, dividends and market capitalisation. Every agent knows that promises have been broken by corporate portals in the past, agent shares have been diluted by cash raises, and revenue always grows at the expense of agents.

     
  • Andrew Goldthorpe

    Hi Hit Man.

    I hope to have a meeting with Rob next week to discuss these very points and broaden the remit of SNTR and collectively define some long term strategic objectives that will benefit the entire industry.

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    Remember Franchises and Agencies created the monster.
    White shoed trainers saying it's not about your customers listing its about your profile..botox shot and all.

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    During the discussions we've had with Rob, there's not been a discussion to give OTM the power or monopoly. I appreciate the author has an agenda to push, and there's some elements which I like in what they're offering,but wasn't OTM another mutual type portal? I think I've made my feelings quite clear on OTM, I don't trust them and Andrew is right, they are another PLC looking to profit, but certainly a healthy market place of 3, or more, leading portals should balance fees. What I'd love to see is a world beyond the reliance on portals. They have their place, but there should be a balanced mix of marketing and sales channels and the sooner we start experimenting with alternative options, the sooner the reliance on portals and their fee dominance, the better.

    Andrew Goldthorpe

    Hi Paul

    OTM launched a year after I pitched PropertyMutual to the RICS, NFoPP, and PIE. As a social impact entrepreneur, advocating a legitimate, ethical mutual, I could not get traditional investors onboard as it would compromise the 100% independence and neutrality that the "limited by guarantee" PropertyMutal retains. Believe it or not it is far easier to attract "traditional" investment, be it crowd funding or a VC, but they ALWAYS have an exit strategy and they ALWAYS compromise your independence.

    So what PropertyMutual is advocating is essentially crowd funding by agents for agents, protected by a legal framework, so that we can always operate in the best interests of our members.

    This is why I developed what I hope is a pretty transparent and generous business model.

     
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    Try and find a contact telephone number for an agent on PropertyMutual property details.

    You can't email the agent direct - data capture.

    You can 'Arrange Viewing' online, just make sure your diary is synchronised

    You can't link to the selling agent's website.

    You have NO trouble finding links to 'Additional Services'

    Some of the current subscribers from a quick look: Doorsteps, Springbok, sellmyhome.co.uk, home.co.uk

    And this could replace Rightmove?

  • Andrew Goldthorpe

    Hi Property Pundit.

    I am happy to engage in healthy open debate but not with anonymous handles. My so called "agenda" is transparent, who are you and what is yours?

    What I will say is that this is a soft launched platform that has not yet charged anybody a penny to list. 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 and other PropTech providers. The business is also limited by guarantee. I have not added in any extras yet as I am trying to establish a Board of interested agents and Regional Representatives to run the business at the moment.

    The development of the platform will be moulded exclusively by the mutually owning agents, informing their Regional Representative, informing their Regional Board Director. If agents want stuff in or out, they will tell me what to do.

    It is also worth a mention that I have invested years and lots of money in my transparent "agenda" but I am perfectly willing to allow the mutual to kick me out as a service provider after the initial contract term is up and we have had a fair chance to work together as a team. Nobody appeared to have a problem with Springett trousering £m's from OTM and yet as CSP, I am willing to gift the version number of the platform at expiration of the contract to the mutual if they decide to kick me out after the contract term has expired.

    Anybody else out there willing to do that?

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    Translation: I don't like what you've written and will avoid answering the points made by evoking an anonymity principle. Genius.

     
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    Bit like OTM then. :-D

  • Bruce  Patterson

    Property pundit - this is a forum for property professionals

    Very brave keyboard warrior hiding behind a cowardly pseudonym - show yourself

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