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Digital Earthquake as agents shift spending from portals to websites

A leading industry supplier says there’s been a jaw-dropping 495 per cent year-on-year increase in digital spend from agents - and that may be bad news for portals.

Starberry’s chief executive Ben Sellers says this near five-fold increase represents a shift of spending by agents away from portals and towards their own websites and lead generation. 

“The Covid-19 pandemic has forced the property industry to evolve and relook how and where they spend their marketing budget. In today’s environment, a business’s digital footprint has become increasingly more important, and we have seen the shift in estate agents putting more focus into growing their own online presence so that they are not as reliant on the portals for digital leads” he says. 


“As the new shop window, agents are spending more on their own websites, ensuring that they are optimising their lead capturing, lead generation and lead nurturing tools. We are also seeing agents increase their spend on their communication channels and digital marketing campaigns.”

He adds that while the majority of agents had some digital presence in the past, it was not the prime focus it has become today. 

“We have been in the digital sector for several decades and have always had to convince agents about the digital transformation we believed was coming, however, now we are inundated with agents who are realising the potential of their own websites and how leads generated from their own digital channels are actually better quality and cost less than portals,” 

Sellers comments: “Because agents were not focused on their own digital presence, they were heavily reliant on portals to generate leads. 

“However, agents can achieve phenomenal results that rival those of the portals from their own websites via digital marketing and connecting their social media channels, email, chat and portal leads together in conjunction with their CRMs, to achieve a serious marketing ROI and true lead attribution.”

  • Chris Arnold

    Finally, some long-overdue common sense.

    Why stop at websites. Build a media company that embraces podcasts, video and blog to break free from the serf-ike status that portals demand of agencies.

  • icon

    Their own digital marketing is an option of course, but I dont believe the vast majority of agencies can get anywhere close to the Portals spend on marketing - which ''own agency'' would have to compete with. By all means invest in your own web-sites but you wont be giving up the Portals anytime soon I am guessing.

    What exactly is ''5 times more (spend)'' - £100 in one year and £500 in the next?

    What SUSTAINED evidence does he have for ''(agents) own digital channels are actually better quality and cost less than portals'' - I would be interested to see. IT Investment is a massive undertaking.

    A truly ''agents owned'' portal I understand is already in place, are they now too classed as ''the major portals'' and therefore not worthy? - I dont know, but we wont be reducing our portal spend - anytime soon, and I suspect most others wont either.

    Remember what a page used to cost in the Evening Standard? £15/20,000 minimum.


    Remember when you could choose to advertise in newspapers and not be at the mercy of lengthy continuous contracts like with Rightmove.

  • Bryan Mansell

    totally agree, when agents realise that their website purpose is to either lead gen or sell products it will become a valuable asset to their business. A website's purpose, in my opinion, is to help generate revenue. Agents moving to a transactional website is key for the healthy future of their businesses.

  • Andrew Ireland

    Buyers want a directory of property for sale, they don't care about which agent it is; because agents don't really make a difference to them I have never heard an applicant say ' I will only buy from A and no other agent'.
    Sellers want the best price which is different to being listed on a directory. They are often duped by an agent into believing that one agent makes a difference over another in terms of price and service , whereas in most cases generally they don't, with the exception of the small independents who do make a difference because; if they don't work extra hard, they don't eat.
    Who will win out, the portals for ease of use by purchasers or agents claiming to be able to achieve best price for vendors?
    There is no answer but I think a clue may be in commission rates charged. Sellers think agents should do it for nothing at the best price. When the market resolves that equation, there will be change, but the answer doesn't appear to be cheap listing fees with zero service as the online agents have discovered!

  • icon

    This is really good news for Starberry - they must be so inundated that they are unable to service serious enquiries. 10 out of 10 for the initial response to ours - zero for the non existent follow up!

  • Murray Lee

    Not in our case. And no extra spend, in fact less, and better results last 1/4 (Okay I know about SDLT)
    We are listing more than ever (not enough) and selling some without even listing anywhere.

    Sadly I think we are all blinded by the Digital rhetoric,
    Cold hard agency still works the best


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