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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Portal promotes “free money” referral fees despite industry probe

One of the many new portals recently launched has made a pitch for agents to join because of its referral fees - and it describes these as “free money”.

OpenBrix, which launched this month, says agents who sign up can “start earning free money immediately.”

This pitch comes despite the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agent Team telling the industry earlier this year that new guidelines and possible controls over referral fees are in the pipeline. 

OpenBrix claims that overall, agents could receive up to £835 in referral fees for each sale and £540 for every property let.

It says this additional income has been the bread and butter of large corporate agencies for some time, but is possibly under-exploited by smaller independent agencies. 

OpenBrix says it can earn agents referral fees having partnered with Sky Homes, CreditLadder, Lettings Hub, Product Care, Inventory Base, CallWell, YourTour and Vaboo; member agents receive 100 per cent of the commission earned via these ancillary products.

A statement from the portal says its platform allows ”third-party partners to sell to consumers at the right point in their property life-cycle with no effort required on the part of the sales or letting agent despite them earning a cut of those signing up.”

“The money that is being left on the table from wasted opportunities elsewhere in the entire moving process is enormous, and OpenBrix is now filling that gap. We will introduce an agent’s customers to an array of helpful products and services without the agent having to lift a finger. We’ll then pay the agent everything we earn from each supplier adding another, important financial dimension to the mix for them” claims the portal chief executive Adam Pigott.

However he goes on to qualify that, by saying not every transaction will require every product and the ability to earn is dependent on the agent’s selection of services and the end-user's appetite for such services. 

Immediately before the Coronavirus outbreak, referral fees were a hot potato within the agency industry with many insiders concerned that they may be outlawed.

In February a report on future options for such fees was sent to the government by James Munro - head of the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agent Team - who said its findings were based on NTSELAT’s assessment of referral fee transparency over the previous 12 months.

At the time, Munro said the government - which had made it clear it wanted more transparency for consumers over such fees - had two options.

One was to amend existing Trading Standards regulations to ensure agents disclosed the maximum information about such fees, which could take just a few months, or a possible outright ban which would require legislation and could take some years. 

Munro said that a further option could be for NTSELAT to pursue individual agents seen to be flouting transparency on referral fees with specific investigations: if this problem grew to a wider number of agencies, a warning could come from NTSELAT to the agency industry as a whole threatening specific legislation if the problem continued.

Poll: Referral fees - should they be more transparent, or banned completely?

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    In reply to this article Graham. I think you may be missing the point. These referral fees are not added to the cost of the purchase to the end-consumer. Due to our unique tech innovation used, we have managed to reduce the marketing costs for the suppliers and partners and accordingly we have arranged for these savings to be shared with all of our agents. That is work that Openbrix and our partners have achieved together. No one has seemed to mind if the larger corporate agents get referral fees, which they have for years, and receive them merely as an incentive to up sell the products. A fact I know you are aware of. What we at OpenBrix have done is to reduce their cost per acquisition for the suppliers and then open these "deals" up the the independent agents to share in these substantial offers. In fact and most importantly , which you have missed, is that we have created a marketplace for suppliers and partners to compete with each other. Competition is clearly good and for the industry. Some of our partners choose to offer discounts to the consumers too, another point you have missed. Perhaps you would like a demo to understand how it works? So, I think you have massively missed the point here, no consumers are paying extra. However, I must thank you for covering the scheme in the first place, which is appreciated. I just hope, now that I have replied here, the concept is now a lot more balanced and explained. Best wishes, Adam Pigott, CEO at OpenBrix

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    I'm old enough to remember the times when portals were just about advertising property for sale. Now they seem to want to become increasingly intrusive in to other areas around the sale/let process.

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    Yes indeed! Its called transparency and progress. Or we could all just never improve or innovate? No one is being forced to sign up to anything. Its an openmarket place for partners to provide an improved service should any agent wish to join. Really??? I guess each to their own!

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