Mark Goddard was the founder and CEO of The Property Software Group (PSG), a property software solutions firm established in 2007, before it was acquired by Zoopla Property Group (ZPG) in April 2016 for £75m. As part of the takeover deal, Mark joined Zoopla as Managing Director of the Group's Property Services division.
In this Q & A we get his views on PSG, diversification, ZPG’s acquisition drive and the emergence of PropTech. So, without further ado…
How does PSG fit in to the ZPG business model and how has your role changed since the acquisition?
ZPG’s mission is to be the most effective partner for estate agents by providing them the best in class products for their digital marketing, software tools, websites and more recently data solutions. We help our customers market, manage and maximise their businesses and clearly those agents who we work with have an advantage by using these market leading solutions.
By having a wider range of products all under my control, I can now clearly serve agents better and deliver more value to them than when we had just software products.
What does PSG have planned for the future?
We have launched a number of transformational products in the past couple of years with Alto, our latest cloud-based software solution, Moveit, our agent revenue generation tool, and PropertyFile, our front end platform for agents to engage better with their clients. And with the acquisition of TechnicWeb last year we now offer the leading agent websites in the market. So we are constantly upgrading and improving the products and services we provide to our agent partners.
Are you in support of the ban on letting agent fees charged to tenants? How can agents respond to the challenge of lost income?
This is really more a question of who should pay for this service as there are clearly services which need to be provided to ensure tenants are legal and can meet the rent. This is a service which is of value to landlords but has historically been paid by tenants. So it may be more a question of shifting the burden from one group to another rather than seeing lost income.
Does ZPG still view Rightmove as a direct competitor?
Rightmove is certainly a competitor in the portal space but ZPG is a much broader business and a different service provider to agents than any one competitor. We are a multi-brand, multi-platform business which offers our customers so much more – in digital marketing we have Zoopla, Primelocation and Technicweb, in software we have products including Alto, Jupix, Vebra and Property File) and in data we have AdReach and Hometrack. Plus we provide unique revenue generation opportunities for our agents via Moveit and uSwitch.
ZPG’s investments show that the organisation clearly feels the emerging PropTech industry is important, why is this?
The property industry, like every other, is in the midst of a technological revolution which is transforming certain practices and processes. Consumer expectations and behaviours are changing as are the services that professionals can deliver. We want to deliver greater transparency to consumers and greater efficiency to agents and so have invested in a variety of businesses in these areas.
Have you been following the Competition Appeal Tribunal examining OnTheMarket’s one other portal rule?
We are not involved in this case but have been following it with interest. We have always said that we welcome competition but on the basis of fair performance, not on the basis of restricting agents’ ability to have freedom of choice in how they spend their money.
How do you respond to criticism of ZPG’s diversification and move away from solely focusing on the portal space?
We are not aware of any such criticism. Our consumers are enjoying the more diverse range of services we provide them and our agent partners are benefiting from the wide range of products we provide that include the best value portals, the best quality websites, the best software services and the most comprehensive data solutions. We are enjoying record levels of both consumer and agent engagement.
ZPG recently acquired Hometrack – will this have any benefits for estate and letting agents?
Definitely. Hometrack has the largest residential property dataset in the UK. By giving our partner agents access to this data, it provides them with deeper insights and will help them win more business.
Is ZPG more about serving its consumers or its agent partners? Would ZPG ever go around the agent?
We are able to serve our agent partners so effectively precisely because of our engagement with so many consumers. But it is the services we provide to agents that I focus night and day on and we have no interest in going around agents, our sole interest is in serving agents as well as we can. If that were not the case, why would we have hundreds of people developing the best software, marketing and data products specifically for agents?
Where do you see ZPG in five years’ time?
I see us going from strength to strength. We are today serving more agent partners than ever with record traffic and better products than ever. Our agent partners recognise how transformational the services we provide are. Simply put, we provide the most cost-effective exposure to help agents market their listings and businesses, the most efficient software to help them manage their businesses better and the best tools to help them maximise their revenues.
Great answers, Mark. Thanks very much.
If you have any comments, you know the drill.
*Nat Daniels is the Chief Executive Officer of Angels Media, publishers of Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today. Follow him on Twitter @NatDaniels.