It is with no pleasure and a touch of sadness that I took in the significance of OTM's recent performance in terms of branches supporting their proposition.
In a fit of melancholy I wrote the following poem which – though full of pathos – has a message of hope for the industry...
Ode to OnTheMarket
OnTheMarket’s time is nigh
I say this with a heavy sigh
No one wants to see them die
Whatever people say not I
At least they had the guts to try
But dreams without a plan are dust
A pile of bits that turn to rust
Times they change and change we must
In new ideas we have to trust
New ideas for a new world now
Facebook and Google have shown us how
Learn the lesson make a vow
To worship not the sacred cow
High street agents must evolve
There are puzzles we must solve
To make ourselves the ones to choose
Not the ones who choose to lose
What brought on this wave of emotion and creativity was a recent analysis of branches and listings on the OTM website which reveals a notable drop in recent weeks with 60 fewer branches advertising and 5,000 fewer properties listed on October 18 than just four weeks prior.
However, an even closer inspection reveals that of the 6,300 branches listed, 126 appear to be offices with no properties, 233 appear to be duplicates and 60 appear to be in the Channel Islands and Northern Ireland.
So that brings the number of UK agent offices in at around 5,900, a long way short of all targets, despite the heavy discounting that has been going on in recent months.
What's more, there are almost 1,000 offices listing fewer than 10 properties, which would suggest that smaller agents make up a significant proportion of recent joiners.
Perhaps the most telling statistic, though, is the one that suggests we are now past 'Peak OTM'. In other words, the absolute numbers of offices listing on the portal are now in decline. Added to this bleak picture you have to consider the well-publicised legal battles that are going on with some members alleging misrepresentation. All in all, this is not the outcome that was envisaged by the faithful getting on for two years after launch.
It may be too early to sound the death knell or write an obituary and maybe those behind OTM have an ace up their sleeve yet. After all, who am I to second guess the great and the good?
Although one thing is beyond doubt, they have definitely failed to replace Zoopla as the number two portal and even the most optimistic assessment of current performance would rate their chances of doing so as vanishingly small.
Actually, let's put this into perspective, from what I can see they have less than a fifth of the traffic of the number two portal and less than half the branches, despite claiming they would overtake them over a year ago. Well, I guess if you are going to go down, you may as well go down in flames!
OK, I will admit there is a touch of subtle irony in all this but as I have said it gives me no pleasure and little satisfaction to have been proven right in my assessment of OTM's likely effect on the market (no pun intended).
If you want to read my prescient articles about the effect I thought OTM would have on the market (oops, sorry) they can be found here. That effect has so far been to strengthen Rightmove's position while forcing ZPG to adapt its proposition, which it has done remarkably well.
The important thing, though, is to stay positive. There is a future for the high street agent, we all need to learn from what has happened with OTM and come up with a more effective way of finding salvation and regaining control of our businesses. This will only be accomplished by looking to the future for solutions, not to the past at past glories.