Propertymark says a new pay-per-viewing service is “interesting” but warns agents to protect themselves by abiding by consumer protection regulations.
The warning has come following the launch of ViewRabbit, founded by ex-Savills and ex-Romans agent Michael Riley.
This platform charges would-be buyers or sellers £30 - potentially more - if they want a guaranteed viewing that will not be cancelled. ViewRabbit takes a cut before passing the remaining income to the agency.
There are no set-up charges and viewers who complete the purchase or rental get their booking fee refunded - all other viewers do not get a refund. After an agent signs up, the first 30 days’ income goes to charity; thereafter the revenue goes to ViewRabbit and the agent.
Over the weekend Nathan Emerson, Propertymark chief executive, told Estate Agent Today: “Similar schemes which charge for viewings in order to reduce the exposure to poor quality and no-show viewings have been attempted before without success.
“However, the integration of Proptech to facilitate an immediate funded booking proposition could be interesting and it certainly opens a healthy debate over future fee structures if the consumer reaction is a positive one.
“Any agency considering introducing the platform will need to make an informed decision accounting for both the business risks and benefits in addition to mitigating any unintended consequences which could occur with regards to both clients and consumers.
“Ensuring transparency and compliance with the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 would always be advisable to limit the potential for increased claims from dissatisfied viewers.”
CPRs are not new - they have existed since 2008 - but they have been policed increasingly by trading standards departments in recent years.
They oblige agents to disclose everything they should reasonably be expected to know, and what they become aware of during marketing of the property, which could affect a consumer’s decision to purchase or rent.
Michael Riley, chief executive of ViewRabbit - who describes himself as “the first known agent in the UK to earn £1m in commission as a hybrid agent” - says: “In the UK, agents need ways of being paid for their services that can shift ever so slightly between the supply and demand side of the market, depending on market conditions.
“ViewRabbit’s Priority View is just one way to facilitate this and allows serious movers to raise their hand above the crowd and gives agents a platform where they can offer a range of viewing options and benefits to the consumer.
“With your support for ViewRabbit, we will continue to test and develop revolutionary technology products that will evolve the estate agency model at its most foundational levels. Some of what we develop is going to be radical, some in hindsight will seem to be a no-brainer, and some will need ongoing development.
“Our objective is to create better experiences for all sides of the marketplace. We accept at times this change may make us a lightning rod for the public’s view of the industry as well as agents who are happy with the status quo. We truly see those views as feedback and will adjust our technology or seek to educate accordingly.”
You can see the new website here.