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CIELA – you’re breaking my heart

When I read about the possible formation of yet another ‘mutual’ with the aim of furthering and protecting the interests of independent estate agents I got a little shiver up my spine. 

At first I thought it was deja vu but then I realised that this was not the reincarnation of Agents’ Mutual, but the birth of something else. 

Fighting back my innate suspicion and cynicism towards such ventures, I took a look at the website - not much to see there. 

I then wrote a polite, friendly email to the secretary of the aspiring organisation, I am yet to receive a reply. However, I still desperately want to give them the benefit of the doubt. So, if anyone from CIELA is reading this, please get in touch - I can be really friendly, I promise.

After the initial cloak and dagger secrecy, it has since become clear that the anonymous figure behind the CIELA is in fact Charlie Wright, the founder and managing director of estate agency software firm Easymatch.

All of this is very exciting, I can feel the tension rising. I realise that only a select group of estate agents were invited to the crucial inaugural meeting. So far, I haven't received any invitations but I live in hope, casting the occasional eye towards the window in case an owl is trying to gain entry.

Anyway, no doubt all will be revealed in due course and we will all, mostly all, have to contain ourselves until the appropriate moment. It will be hard, but we must try. In the meantime, life goes on its meandering way, the great and the good go about their business and all is right with the world, or is it? 

Wasn't it the great and the good who only a couple of years ago sailed to our rescue aboard the good ship Agents’ Mutual. Yes, by gum it was. 

And wasn't it Agents’ Mutual who were going to stick up for the little guy, as opposed to sticking it to the little guy by defending them from the greed and tyranny of the duopolistic portals? So what happened there then?

Well, if this is all starting to sound like some kind of farcical comedy sketch, I can see your point. It's so farcical it's not even funny. When Agents’ Mutual came on the scene at least they had a plan. Admittedly, it wasn't an especially good plan, particularly the one other portal rule and the veiled attempt at un-inventing the internet but at least it was a plan. 

However, it is now self-evident that the plan has failed to achieve any of its major declared goals. It has not toppled Rightmove or Zoopla or even got close to making a dent. Sure, it has got a little traffic but you would surely expect that given that they have spent almost £40 million of your hard-earned money to do so. 

Crucially, it has not achieved enough support to gain critical mass with agents or the public. Also, Agents’ Mutual, or OnTheMarket as it is also known, has failed to please at least some of the agents who originally supported it. Agents who now feel misled about the promises made to them, and maybe even hamstrung by a restrictive rule that limits the scope of their marketing in what is becoming an increasingly competitive market which is changing at an ever-faster rate.

Never has there been a more important time for agents to be in control of their marketing. Never has there been a more important time for agents to be keeping ahead of change, to be open to new ideas and forward in their thinking. 

So, is this the time to be looking back nostalgically at the good old days before the World Wide Web, or clutching at the straw of a new independent body representing the interests of independent estate agents? I, for one, don't think so but then again, who am I? 

Given the failures of AM1, surely the industry can’t be getting too excited about AM2?

*Simon Shinerock is Chairman of Choices Estate Agents. For more information on Simon, see his blog or his LinkedIn profile.

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