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Will OTM replace Rightmove?

By Simon Shinerock

At the time of writing, Rightmove had a market capitalisation of just under £4 billion, down almost 15% on the news OTM is subject to a takeover bid by the CoStar Group - a New York listed company with a capitalisation of over $33 billion. It’s also worth noting that Rightmove’s shares are nearly 30% down over the past two years, possibly in part due to its poor relationship with its customer base and a general perception it has nowhere left to go in terms of increased revenue opportunities - there is only so much juice in that lemon.

It seems an age ago but some of you may remember I was once a fierce critic of OTM back in the days of Ian Springett and the ‘One other Portal Rule’. At the time I was a strong supporter of Zoopla and I thought OTM’s strategy of attacking them instead of Rightmove was ill thought out (dumb) and characterised a management team from a bygone age. However as proof that a leopard can change its spots, I have since become a supporter of OTM under its current CEO. Jason Tebb has completely changed the ethos of the company, showing a high level of business nouse as well as the ability to build and in my case rebuild strong relationships with its clients


Nevertheless, in its current form, OTM simply lacks the firepower to really threaten Rightmove and although I still have some regard for Zoopla, I don’t believe they have the required ambition to become number one in the portal space. That said, it may be that we have to redefine what we mean by ‘the portal space’ as we transition into a far more (artificially) intelligent property search environment. In a world of AI-driven property searches and agent-empowering technologies, where does that leave traditional portals?

Increase quality

The holy grail for estate agents would be a portal that supported them and helped them develop rather than act like a parasite sucking the life out of them. OTM and Zoopla have already recognised this path to some degree, Zoopla’s evolution doesn’t go far enough and OTM in its current form lacks the resources to deliver although it seems to get the point. Being specific, what I mean is enabling agents to develop the potential of their own client bases and their own websites to increase quality lead generation and nurture as well as offer their clients a full range of accessible services under one roof.

This ‘property hub’ concept is not new and has been pursued for years by many players but the real win would be to see these gains benefiting agents directly rather than aggregators and supermarkets. Valpal is a great example of agent empowerment at a reasonable cost, last month ValPal delivered more vendor leads to estate agents than Rightmove - despite only having about 25% of the high street market. What’s more, with MovePal they offer a way to nurture those leads and serve them up hot.

For those who like numbers, look at these 88k VP leads in Sept 23 plus 25k Bonus = 113000 for Sept 23. 1.6m leads in total generated over the last 12 months from just 4354 offices.

In the future ValPal will offer a home hub for every agent, add an open market search. If tools like ValPal are the future, where does that leave traditional portals? As agents, isn’t it time we took charge of our destiny, rather than relying on platforms that might not have our best interests at heart?

Whatever the future shape of property search, right now, money still talks and the simple fact is that CoStar has the firepower to take down Rightmove and seemingly the will as well. Of course there will be worries of the ‘out of the frying pan’ kind and I believe agents have the right to ask for reassurance about those worries. What we really want is recognition that it’s our properties and our hard work that breathes life into the portals and that without us they have no business.

The best outcome we can hope for from the entry of this new titan, assuming the deal goes ahead, is a Rightmove that has to accept a reduction in its portal fees and an industry that either finds new ways of making money, perhaps by adding real value to the moving experience, or is forced to work on lower, more normal profit margins.

In the meantime, change is happening at such a pace it takes my breath away, it’s hard to say what agency is going to look like in a few short years as so much of what we do is replaced by AI. My instincts tell me there will be a place in that future for skillful agents with the right products who embrace change and offer their clients a combination of a high tech service with the human touch.

Now is not the moment to speculate further though, right now is the time to focus on a potential future where Rightmove is no longer able to dictate its own prices and is forced to value its customers rather than merely exploiting them.

  • Maurice Kilbride

    I agree with a lot of what you say and echo much of the sentiment, however how many times have we been here before? how many false dawns have there been? The biggest barrier to change and breaking the monopoly Rightmove has over the Portal market is two fold. Firstly agents believing there is a credible alternative and getting behind it, when all the have known is Rightmove and secondly, convincing the public that Rightmove isn't the be all and end all for selling or buying a home. Most agents are petrified to come off Rightmove, because of worry that other agents will use it against them in the battle for instructions. Maybe, if agents can pick up sufficient instructions via other mediums, they will be bolder. Win the hearts and mind of the public and then there is a conversation to be had. Until then I don't see how things will change? Hope I am wrong of course.

    Simon Shinerock

    Very sensible and pragmatic Maurice. Last year I analysed where our vendor and landlord leads come from and when it came to portals, Rightmove included, it was a joke there were so few, leading to a ridiculous conversation with our RM rep. Our then Acting MD convinced me we couldn’t ditch RM though because of the damage it would do to morale and the target we would become for other agents. They probably weren’t wrong. This year the situation is even more lopsided with RM contributing an even more insignificant number of landlords and Vendors despite us having gone for the top package (again). In the last few months I’ve assumed a frontline leadership position for the first time in more than twenty years. I am pleased to say the basics still work but looking forward the pace of change is taking my breath away, irrespective of this development I can imagine a near future without portal dominance, not because of agent copy but simply because of innovation stemming from AI

  • icon

    With a market share of over 80%, it will be difficult to overcome RM's market dominance - it being the 'go to' portal in the public's mind. If enough money is invested in OTM it may be possible to challenge RM, but I wouldn't bet my pension on it. As for AI, the jury is still out - the potential is certainly considerable, but it will still require some form of organising principle to enable it to be user-friendly and no doubt RM will also try to harness AI to its own advantage.

    Simon Shinerock

    A mouse can’t harness an Elephant

  • Andrew Stanton PROPTECH-PR A Consultancy for Proptech Founders

    Blockbuster and Netflix, one was 100 times bigger than the other, stupidly Blockbuster thought that Nextflix could never beat them - they were right, as Netflix actually moved on from video rental through the post and in the shop, identical model to Blockbuster, and looked far into the future and built a path to that future and saw Blockbuster still being the 'king' of video rentals ... until the meteor hit and no-one viewed content at home from a rented video. This time CoStar is Netflix with a twist as its market cap is 30 times larger than Rightmove, so not only does OTM have the agile model, it has oodles of cash to invest. Maybe there was a reason that the former CEO of Rightmove left when he did, as 70% gross profit can not sustain forever.

  • Bruce  Patterson

    Interesting times


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