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By Graham Norwood

Editor, EAT and LAT

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Will any portal ever beat Rightmove?

If you want an engaging page-turner novel for cold winter evenings, my recommendation is Our House by Louise Candlish, a bestseller in recent months.

It’s a story of property fraud and much else - you’ll find no spoilers here, as the book is a treat and I genuinely recommend you read it yourself. But its opening pages made me consider, of all things, how very hard it is to establish a property portal in this country.

Our House carries several references to Rightmove: neighbours check on prices of homes on sale, parents scour it to see if a home in a good catchment area has been sold yet.

The story is set in a family-friendly upwardly-mobile neighbourhood so the size, condition and appreciation of a home are significant barometers of status and Rightmove, it seems, is seen as the source of all this knowledge, a website of near biblical importance.

Although the story was published only last year there’s no mention of Zoopla nor of OnTheMarket: the consumer-facing property world, in this fictional story revolving around a house which may or may not have been sold legally, is essentially defined as Rightmove.

How much does this novel represent the country at large, I wonder? 

Zoopla is certainly very well known to many and perhaps OTM will be one day too; but let’s admit it - very few members of the general public would have heard of, for example, Property Mutual, Propertyheads or TheHouseShop, current sites considered as portals.

The past few years have been littered with abortive attempts to set up portals, a sign of how tough it is to take on the established players.

In 2015 Houser was to be the next big portal thing - but it scraped properties from agents’ and other website, causing controversy and it was eventually abandoned. 

Then there was The Home Board, another early 2015 portal initially covering London but now long disappeared into the ether.

In the same year a portal to be called YellowFish was mooted, with a pledge that it would have between 2,000 and 3,000 sales and lettings offices signed up by its launch date the following spring. Nothing has been heard of it since.

In late 2016 and early 2017, the ill-fated CIELA group - the Charter for Independent Estate and Letting Agents - considered a portal to highlight independent agents’ inventories in particular, but the idea was put on the back burner and the group itself failed to launch.

Housemap appeared with a database described as 500,000 properties in late 2017 but, with many of those listings ‘scraped’ from other sites without necessarily securing approval, it disappeared early the following year.

In early 2018 MyBackyard promised to be a portal open to private sellers and landlords as well as established agents: its holding page still says ‘Coming to you in October 2018’.

In August last year review website AllAgents said it was going to launch a portal but, to date, nothing has been heard. 

All of these have been and gone, or perhaps didn’t arrive at all: they did not necessarily fail because of a lack of marketing budget (many did not reach that stage) but the common denominator is that all attempted to establish some form of national portal for mainstream properties, and failed.

Against that landscape of so many failures, OnTheMarket’s success has been considerable although it still appears to lack the scale of marketing spend required to raise awareness to the level of Zoopla and in particular Rightmove.

Portal start-ups with more limited goals, focusing on just one sector of a wider market or operating on a smaller geographic scale, have succeeded: UltraPrimus, WeListThemAll, REalyse, Ex-council and others appear to be alive and well, and in some cases thriving. 

But will anyone actually disrupt Rightmove and Zoopla and, coming up on the rails, OnTheMarket? If so, they will need a scale of marketing that will be hard to win from scratch in the current economic and political climate in Britain.

Or can something else - like the long-awaited Rummage4 portal - try another more localised route to rival the big boys? Maybe, but recent history suggests it will be a tough road to travel: at the moment, Rightmove still looks like the number one bestseller - possibly forever.

*Editor of Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today, Graham can be found tweeting all things property @PropertyJourn

  • Michael Riley

    One thing is for sure, you dont beat well entrenched competitors by being a me too or a basic evolution of the encumbents service. As this article notes their are plenty of casualties from attempts to attack RM head on.

    Rightmoves strengths are its weakness and sometime soon their entire business will be threatened by a change that no one would have predicted. How they deal with that will determine if they survive. Few highly focused business handle massive change very well, as they are too busy covering their existing business to see the wood for the trees..... see Kodak.

    They should be rapidly incubating challenger models to cannibalize themselves and the investment in this should be under a totally independent body, so existing board members cant protect their silos.

    This threat will come within five years.

    2018 was peak Rightmove.

    Short the stock and thank me later!

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    The true challenger will not be any sort of a version of what is currently available, it will be the next big thing. It won't be just a portal, in fact, search will be one of its lesser features.

     
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    One thing that Zoopla has over Rightmove is the facility to estimate current property values. Grabbed that it's a bit got and miss at times, but it can be useful in conjunction with a general knowledge of the area. Other than that, it is quite similar to Rightmove, at least for my purposes, although neither has every single property on it so it pays to check both.
    On the market seem to be much more proactive in sending out property details which means they may ultimately gain the traction they need to rival the other two.

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    I have raised unanswered questions to rummage4 about the value of the Google Positions being used to promote their product to Esate Agents.

    I recommend others raise these questions too. Are the terms they rank for actually searched for by anyone? Do these Google positions get seen? Do they get any clicks and if so how many and how well do they convert?

  • Marcus Parkinson

    Remember Yellow Pages - the guru of information and a must have for any company? Final Edition this year - Remember when a vacuum cleaner was called a hoover and look at how that brand has slid. kodak the kings of photography have gone. ICI the staple of the Footsie 100 at one time is no more.
    Try and buy a new Saab? - M&S the darling of retail is shutting shops everywhere. Toys R Us anybody? Everything has a shelf life and some accelerate that period of existence through their sheer arrogance of believing they are untouchable and forgetting who pays their astounding profit margins and hits those "loyal" customers with double digit increases every year -like many we have stopped listing with the "God" of internet marketing and the sun still comes up houses still rent and sell and the world keeps turning - Oh and the air seems a little fresher now we don't feel like slaves to Rightmoves shareholders … personally I think once people realise Rightmoves good but not the only way their fall may be quicker than anyone ever envisaged.

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    Rightmove and all the portals will get disrupted long before agency itself does.

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    'at the moment, Rightmove still looks like the number one bestseller - possibly forever.'

    How can anyone connected to the property industry in any shape or form put those two words at the end of that sentence? Beyond belief. It's as laughable as just how much one of the posters on this thread gets triggered by the mere mention of rummage. Jealousy can be a devastating emotion, I can see how badly this project is eating away at you.

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    Thrillingly got shot of Rightmove yesterday, leaving us on just Zoopla, PL and OTM...they didn't care that we were leaving them and frankly we feel the same about them. Companies that abuse their customers, hello Apple, get straight talking feedback that hits them in the pocket. So Whilst RM is number one, I wonder for how long they will keep the crown. No one, especially the rich, likes to be ripped off.

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    Hi all,
    I started my letting agency In may 2006 and with other agents in South West Wales we joined ONTHEMARKET when it launched and I have no regrets. Its taken time but we now have a 65-35 split between OnTheMarket and Zoopla. I have said before Rome was not built in a day and new portals take time to establish themselves. It has been said in the media that OnTheMarket had no chance, but its still around and is getting stronger!!! If we want to stop Rightmove and Zoopla from hiking fees we all need to get behind OntheMarket as its cheaper and to be honest has a better web site for our clients to browse.

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    To answer the article title: YES.

    Tech wise it is evident they are not able to keep up with the pace of Zoopla's tech systems, with that being said Zoopla's model isn't much different to RM's.

    The new winner over the long term will work on a whole new model and formula, please stop with the OTM non sense they will also keep hiking the prices - 'owned by the agents' until the agents thesmelves get owned.

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    Well done Alexander.
    What area do you cover.
    I'm in Ayrshire Scotland.
    Considering letting Rightmove go.

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