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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Controversial pay-per-viewing service to seek investors soon

The controversial ViewRabbit service, which proposes to charge prospective buyers and tenants for viewing properties, may seek international investment.

The site has had a high profile launch in recent days, initially being reported in The Times and subsequently Estate Agent Today over the weekend. 

Comments from industry leaders suggested some were keen on its principle of monetising time spent by agents on handling viewings, but the majority were sceptical of its prospects for success or opposing the idea in principle - many felt it risked damaging the image of agents who would charge substantial numbers of competing clients who would then be unable to buy or rent their preferred property. 

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The service has a dedicated Investors section on its website saying “We will be fundraising soon."

Founder Michael Riley - an ex-agent who describes himself as “the first known agent in the UK to earn £1m in commission as a hybrid agent” - has told EAT: “We will announce the fundraising amount when we start that process. The money will be used to accelerate the speed at which we can develop the ViewRabbit platform based upon what we learn from agents, owners and viewers. In essence, this is just the beginning of the ViewRabbit journey.”

He adds: “We have had approaches for investment off the back of this weekend's press and we will be considering those and confirm either a direct investment or alternative route shortly. There are tens of millions of viewings per year in the UK alone with consumers’ and agents’ needs that are misunderstood and under served. We think that is an exciting area to invest in.”

And he says: “It’s about the right investment partner rather than a quick fix. We hope that will be UK based, but we will be speaking with US based venture capitalists too, who understand developing completely new markets. I would expect an announcement in the next couple of months.”

In addition to dealing with estate and letting agents, Riley has told our sister publication Landlord Today that he is interested in approaches from professional / portfolio landlords, the Build to Rent and Student accommodation sectors. 

“In essence, we want companies who respect their consumer, who take the service they offer to tenants seriously and see feedback as a mechanism for improving their offering” he says.

The proposed service has proved a major talking point in the estate agency industry since Saturday; you can see details of yesterday’s debate on Estate Agent Today here. 

  • Mike Riley

    ViewRabbit's Priority View calendar shows FREE and PAY TO VIEW viewing slots. The charged appointments are only available in the first 10-14 days of marketing (a date which you, the agent, control).

    The viewer has complete freedom of choice.

    We believe many viewers will grab the chance for the paid earlier slots if given a chance. Especially as viewers with paid viewings have the comfort of knowing their appointment will not be cancelled by the agent agreeing on a deal before their arrival.

    We are confident that Priority View and other "premium viewing" options we develop hand in hand with agents will prove highly attractive to consumers as their needs become better understood and met.

    As tens of millions of viewings are booked each year, we think there is a large and untapped opportunity worth exploring, and that's why we invest in it.

    Kristjan Byfield

    Mike- why would an agent want to wait days to carry out a viewing when an acceptable offer with a buyer ready to proceed is in place? No agent would risk losing a buyer for a maybe- all over £30. What's more- how do you think that applicant will react when they get their guaranteed viewing, state an interest and are told 'we agreed an offer a week ago'? Any multi-agent listings- viewers will opt for the agent that is free- again potentially forfeiting thousands for a few hundred quid. Like so many, Im baffled as to what issue this is solving? Applying this for lettings appears illegal and any sales agent doing this at scale could apply this rule inhouse and easily set up a payment portal.

     
    Simon Bradbury

    Hi Mike,
    Are you confident that it is legal to charge tenants for viewings, particularly bearing in mind Matthew Payne's observations below?

     
  • Simon Bradbury

    Interesting idea but it won't work on any sort of scale.

  • icon

    I agree, this will not take off and it will be a brave investor to part with money on a scheme that in my opinion could backfire and alienate agents from the public as it could be seen as just a money making scheme for the agent/seller. It could also be seen as playing on the vulnerability of desperate buyers having to part with some of their saved up deposit just to be able to view and be in with a chance of buying. For me, this is the thin end of a very slippery wedge

  • Andrew Dickinson

    Save your money! Livestream viewings are the future...

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    neither of these options is the future

     
  • icon

    Agents not charging a fee for viewings will get more attention and sellers will choose agents who carry out "free viewings". This is the real world we live in with the public seeking value for money.

  • icon

    From the Government "How to rent" prescribed document "All other fees, including the following, are
    banned: .. viewing fees, any charge for viewing the property". ViewRabbit must have a good lawyer.

    Matthew Payne

    Page 19 of the HMG Tenant Fees Act Guidance docs for Landlords and Agents starts:

    "PROHIBITED PAYMENTS
    What payments are not permitted under the ban?
    VIEWING FEES
    Q. Can I ask a tenant to pay a fee to view a property?
    No. You cannot charge for this as viewing a property is part of the process
    connected with granting a tenancy. "

     
  • icon

    If you’d read the comments online from one tabloid that picked the story up you’d walk the other way. Every comment was saying how greedy estate agents are and why should a viewer pay when the cost of carrying out viewings is already calculated as part of the selling fee. This will do nothing but tarnish our industry. Imagine paying for everything you ever wanted to buy. VW or Audi forecourts with a pay per view booth. Just ridiculous.

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    • N W
    • 27 July 2021 09:30 AM

    couldn't agree more - its asking for trouble and I would avoid such a service/charge like the plague!

     
    Matthew Payne

    Yes and as people like to talk about funnels this is a big cork bung at the top of this one. Let's not confuse opportunity with skill to convert. Having a mandatory filter like this will just reduce opportunity. With the right vision for the business, recruitment, process, training, all the usual suspects, your funnel will deliver far more revenue and profit talking to more people in your towns, discreetly and skillfully applying your own filters rather than the "your name's not down your not coming in" approach.

     
  • London Agent

    Quite simply - this will never work.

  • Algarve  Investor

    This launch is going about as well as Boomin! :)

  • Andrew Stanton CEO Proptech-PR    Proptech Real Estate Influencer

    Given the amount of newspaper inches that this MVP has already secured, and the fact even though it is the silly season for the press - this is a story with legs, I think a number of players will be looking long and hard at monetising this obvious vertical.

    After all fifty plus estate agents feeling it is a never going to work, might be right, but probably also they may not be in the industry in 2030, where 'paying' to use the pool car at the end of your road, rather than owning or renting a car that sits on your drive is the norm.

    Where paying for multiple things in the shared economy is the standard, normal thing to do, with the realisation that free does not really exist, it is just a cost base stuffed into the whole commercial matrix of getting things done.

    Much like 'free mortgage advice' which is a sales funnel for converting X amount of clients into mortgage borrowers who require finance, insurances etc, from which we the provider generate revenue.

    Or free viewings, really are they free? Who is paying for the time and resources of the agent?

    Mostly the vendor who completes his/her sale with the agency, they are also covering the costs for all the aborted sales, and fruitless viewings that did not result in a succesful let or sale, accrued along the way.

    icon

    Your submission is flawed, 'paying to use the pool car at the end of your road' if this is the best example you can come up with, this has been around for years and has never taken off......
    Sometimes the simple things in life do not need reinventing - if it aint broke.....

     
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    • N W
    • 27 July 2021 18:07 PM

    Would agree with your comment that cars will be hired (just done an article to that effect and how living in the countryside for example may change as a direct result with elderly people staying longer in their homes and just hiring the car or "drone car" to get where they need to go. Thus overcoming health issue if they cant drive and also the lack of capital appreciation with a vehicle sat doing nothing 90% of the time)

    not sure about the rest - I certainly don't see people paying for viewings unless the present fee structure changes completely. Certainly charging a viewer to view a property right now seems wrong when your fee to do such viewings is paid for as part of your sales fee. Otherwise agents are trying to have it both ways and in the long run that wont work (and why should it)

     
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    You normally make sense in your comments Andrew… up until now.

     
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