It was interesting to see the recent story on Estate Agent Today about OnTheMarket (OTM) raising its fees after signing up 54% of the offices in the UK.
They tried to sign up my offices, too, but after a viewing of the offer I showed them the door.
Their ‘salesman’ who was actually just a provider of a ‘free’ service could not believe that I couldn’t accept the incredible offer of being able to list my properties on the site for free. He also couldn’t understand that, as I had managed so far without OTM, that I could continue to do so.
But I explained the reality as I saw it. He thought I was deluding myself, but the truth is out and it shows why I was wise to reject the ‘free offer’.
Getting agents to sign up for free was not about giving them a trial, in my view. What it was about was growing the demutualised firm’s database so it could persuade the stock market it was a worthwhile investment because so many agents were now signed up.
And, having won investment, it could then turn round to the agents who helped build its case through signing up for nothing that they now had a service that was worth paying for because so many others had adopted it.
There’s no such thing as a free lunch and there’s no such thing as a free listing, either. It may cost nothing now but history shows, as with the other portals, that success breeds success in the form of higher charges and increased returns to shareholders.
At one time for OTM, those shareholders would have been industry members but not anymore, hence the need to build market share to convince investors they have found a good home for their money.
But as the old adage goes, two’s company, three’s a crowd. And with both Rightmove and Zoopla already well-established, while OTM has lost its most convincing sales pitch through its industry mutuality, we don’t need this late arrival which can’t possibly offer the statistical database and reporting of the other two.
That said, the rise of OTM might give us all a lever to tackle the costs of Rightmove and Zoopla so it could yet be helpful, fulfilling Ian Springett’s dream of building a vehicle from which to launch a disruptive strategy over pricing.
It just won’t be his prices I’ll be tackling!
*Colin Shairp is Director of Fine and Country Southern Hampshire