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By Nat Daniels

CEO, Angels Media


Property Natter – is this the end for fixed-fee online estate agency?

Aside from all the news surrounding the Autumn Statement this week, which will have a significant bearing on the property market – from possible price falls to a reduction in Capital Gains Tax and an eventual reversal of stamp duty cuts – the other biggest breaking news story we’ve ran on Estate Agent Today has been the demise of Doorsteps.

While there was a certain amount of schadenfreude in the comments, at the sight of another failed online agency, does this spell the end for this model of agency?

Perhaps surprisingly, the results of a LinkedIn poll we ran off the back of the story saw our readers pretty evenly split, with 52% saying it was the death knell for the online agency model and 48% believing new innovators will continue to emerge.


So, what happened to Doorsteps and is the kind of model it touted now dead in the water?

A cautionary tale?

The founding story behind Doorsteps is certainly an interesting one, set up by entrepreneur Akshay Ruparelia in late 2016, when he was only 17 years old. He was regularly hailed as one of the UK’s youngest millionaires, although some were sceptical about that accolade.

Like other fixed-fee online agencies, its main USP was low prices – offering customers the chance to sell their home for only £99.

But the brand, owned by Upside Capital, entered voluntary liquidation in October and, as our story on Wednesday laid out, owes more than half a million pounds to company creditors including Rightmove, HMRC and the Treasury.

Ruparelia, who stepped down as chief executive and director of the business in 2021, is owed £1,297.03, while Mahesh Kotecha, the current director of the business, is owed £55,000.

By the end, its attractive £99 price-tag had risen to nearly £600. This blog does an excellent job of summing up where it all went wrong for Doorsteps, which has now followed in the footsteps of the likes of Tepilo, Hatched, Settled and Turtle Homes in going out of business. There are more, too.

Purplebricks long ago left this model behind for something much more hybrid, and we don’t hear much from Yopa, Strike (formerly HouseSimple) or easyProperty nowadays. Our very own Graham Norwood recently did a piece for the Mail Online asking whether online agents are the best way to get a home sold or whether the cheap fees are just a false economy, where he concluded that traditional agencies are the safer bet, despite the higher fees.

Nevertheless, it should be pointed out that the market share of hybrid and online agents increased slightly during the third quarter of 2022, according to analysis of TwentyCi data, but firms are still struggling to break into higher value price bands.

The figures showed that hybrid/online agents now make up 7.6% of market share - based on exchanges. This was slightly up on the second quarter, but below the 8% peak during the pandemic.

The dominant brands, unsurprisingly, are still Purplebricks, Yopa and Strike, representing 70% of this share.

Purplebricks’ recent troubles have been well-documented, while Strike has long proved to be an opinion divider in the property industry and has been noticeably quiet of late. Yopa continues to have the backing of some major investors, but perhaps hasn’t broken through in the way it might have expected with less in the way of TV and other forms of advertising in recent months and years.

There was a point where bold predictions of 50% market share were being made by online operators like 99Home, but we can safely say that is never going to happen. What is more likely is that online agency will remain a niche part of the market as is the case at the moment. There will no doubt continue to be new innovators looking to offer low-cost models to consumers and hoping to compete with Purplebricks on brand awareness.

But the momentum behind the model does seem to have stalled. However, as someone pointed out in the comments on the LinkedIn poll we ran, most agencies these days are online or hybrid agencies in some form. They don’t offer fixed-fees or branchless agency, but they do list on the portals, have slick websites, utilise PropTech to grow their business, do large parts of their day-to-day work online, etc.

So, while the fixed-fee model may struggle to ever recover that early momentum, online agency – if that’s taken to mean agents operating lots online – is very much here to stay.

World Cup match reports

The World Cup in Qatar, which kicks off tomorrow, is probably the most controversial I can remember in my lifetime and feels rather tainted from the off. Many are feeling uneasy or queasy about the tournament as a whole, while others will be tempted to boycott it entirely.

The counter-argument is that it will bring important issues like LGBTQ+ and migrant worker rights in the country to the forefront and make the Qatari authorities face a public, and very global, reckoning.

Then, of course, there is the world-class football, with England and Wales (both in the same group) representing the Home Nations. We will be aiming, once more, to put our unique spin on the games with our agent match reports, which will be appearing after each match featuring Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions and Rob Page’s Dragons.

Estate Agent Today’s award win

I was like a proud father when I heard the news that Estate Agent Today had been voted as Trade Publication of the Year at the Property Press Awards 2022. A really great accolade for Marc Shoffman, Graham Norwood and the rest of the team that helps to make EAT what it is.

Awards are not the be all and end all, of course, but they do offer a firm sign that we’re on the right path and we will continue to offer our mix of breaking news, features, video interviews and innovative new features to our growing army of readers and subscribers.

Quality property journalism has arguably never been more important, with so many things to focus on, and we will continue – with EAT, Letting Agent Today, Landlord Today, Property Investor Today and Introducer Today – to report the news without fear or favour.

Amazingly, next year will mark the 15th birthday of Estate Agent Today and it’s humbling to see us still being voted for such top gongs. Here’s to many more years of the same!

Until next time…

*Nat Daniels is CEO of Angels Media, publishers of Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today. Follow him on Twitter @NatDaniels.

  • Chris Arnold

    It's not, in my opinion, the business model of online estate agency that is at fault, but the lack of any vivid vision as to why consumers should use them. Unable to articulate why they are different, they default to "we are the same , only cheaper."

    Creating a mass movement, whether Religion, Political ideology, or online business involves three things:
    A charismatic leader - A future-based cause that is bigger than themselves - Offering a new opportunity instead of an incremental improvement.

    If those are in place, then the message can resonate. If they aren't, it's a case of throwing money, usually other people's, chasing attention.

    It's well-documented that vendors aren't looking for cheap fees, but they are looking for something different. Online works everywhere, apparently just not in estate agency.


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