I'm sure most of you have seen, or at least heard of the Mad Max series of post-apocalyptic dystopian fantasies.
The latest in the series is called 'Fury Road' and has broken the usual mould for a sequel by being nominated for several Oscars.
The theme is a very nihilistic one where the hero and protagonist, 'Mad Max' an ex-cop, has lost all his finer human values and is instead motivated by pure survival.
The problem is that in the process of trying to survive in this post-apocalyptic dystopian nightmare, Max becomes as bad as, or arguably worse, than the monsters who destroyed his world in the first place.
I think it's safe to say I would be about as welcome at the OnTheMarket anniversary roadshow as the wicked fairy at Snow White's christening. If I have that wrong, I apologise in advance and await my invitation.
So, as I probably won't be attending in person, I thought I would create a list of 'awkward/relevant' questions that some other agents who are welcome to attend might like to ask.
One of the key aims of OTM was to weaken the duopoly, thereby freeing agents from the perceived stranglehold of the major portals.
The reality is that one year on, Zoopla’s growth has been checked, but Rightmove is stronger than ever before.
How does this benefit agents and can OTM guarantee that Rightmove will not now seek to exploit its strengthened position?
Two weeks ago my question would have been: “Is it true that your sales strategy has shifted to offering new signings at £50 per branch?”
That was before I saw an order form that clearly showed this is the case, so no need to ask that question, then, however this does give rise to several follow up questions:
A) How can this new strategy be fair to smaller agents who are paying the original rate for OnTheMarket?
B) If it is agreed that it is unfair, will OTM be offering this new £50 rate to the members who took the early risk, or is this reserved just for new signings?
C) How can OTM claim that 500 or so agents signed up since the middle of last year represents success, as was claimed a few days ago when the price has dropped so low?
Broken Promises – Failed Goals
Of particular interest is the following extract from the Information Memorandum published in August 2014 by Agents' Mutual:
'For agents which make no term commitment to list with the portal in advance, listing fees will be set shortly before launch. They will be higher than the tariff for Silver members and will not be fixed.'
Is the above statement 'non-contractual advertising puff' or does the current discount strategy amount to a breach of contract between OTM and agents who signed five-year agreements on that basis?
A) If it is a breach of contract does that mean that agents can repudiate their five-year deals without penalty?
B) There have been other boasts made, like the public statement that OnTheMarket would be number two portal by January 2016. Does OTM now concede that this boast was unrealistic and may have swayed some agents in making their decision to join?
A) One year on and with £12million spent, OnTheMarket traffic is around 10% of Zoopla and 5% of Rightmove, how does OTM feel about this achievement in the light of its much higher goals?
B) OTM released traffic stats in September and October when it was buying traffic, can we see some stats for November and December when it stopped buying traffic?
C) Claims have also been made that the quality of traffic to OnTheMarket is high, but from what I have seen, customer return rates are not great. What are they compared to Zoopla and Rightmove?
D) What is OTM's expectation for traffic growth in 2016 and can members expect a meaningfully sized audience by the end of this year?
One other portal rule
An article written recently by Glenn Ackroyd of EweMove persuasively suggested that there are many agents who would join if the 'one other portal rule' were removed.
Would OnTheMarket therefore not be far better off removing this restriction, which may help it gain further members and improve its proposition?
Why would a consumer use OnTheMarket when its functionality is similar to Rightmove and inferior to Zoopla and therefore has nothing tangible or new to offer them?
A) In the presentations before OnTheMarket’s launch, Mr Springett drew attention to the impending threat of the new breed of online and hybrid estate agents.
Does he concede that this group of new entrants is now materially stronger than they were pre-Agents' Mutual and are showing no signs of going away?
B) Additionally, has the distraction of Agents' Mutual contributed to the lack of meaningful response to this new competitive challenge, especially from the NAEA which seems to think that an appropriate reaction is to join the board of Agents' Mutual?
C) Does Mr Springett also agree that if these businesses continue to grow, eventually he will be forced to take their advertising or create yet another hole in his proposition, or possibly even face the wrath of the competition authorities?
Home Counties and London Bias
A) Does the board and team at Agents' Mutual understand many 'everyday' estate agents don't benefit from advertising in Country Life, or on London taxis?
B) As the board is dominated by those agents who benefit the most from these decisions, is it time to stop this kind of bias and start acting like a true mutual?