- Rightmove and ZPG have 90% of the market between them
- Both have spent tens, if not hundreds, of millions building huge consumer followings
- Both deliver lots of exposure and enquiries to agents on a national scale
- Agents’ Mutual is seeking to disrupt the market. But for what purpose and to what end?
- Could their strategy light the fuse that leads to the end of estate agency as we know it?
- Has the Agents’ Mutual strategy been fully thought through to its natural conclusion?
We are raising the questions but we want to hear your views.
Have your say, take our survey
2014 is shaping up to be a potential game changer for estate agency marketing and potentially for estate agency itself. The catalyst for change is a company that currently doesn't even operate and yet, is threatening to polarise the business by trying to break the stranglehold of the duopoly that is Rightmove and Zoopla Property Group. The intention is to weaken their proposition and pricing power, but could this bold plan backfire and have dire unintended consequences for estate agents themselves?
This company is of course Agents’ Mutual, an aspiring co-operative of estate agents backed by some of the biggest names in the industry that wants to set itself up as a portal in its own right. Agents’ Mutual’s strategy is to polarise the industry and break the Rightmove/ZPG duopoly by imposing upon its members a simple choice, advertise on only one other portal and drop the rest. In practice, what this means is that members of Agents’Mutual will advertise on Rightmove or ZPG (Zoopla, Primelocation and other sites form the ZPG package), but not both.
Is it right for Agents’ Mutual to impose a market restricting condition on its members? Many may feel that by trying to weaken Rightmove and ZPG, they are damaging the user experience and by doing that are they going to face a backlash of resentment from their ultimate customers. Agents may resent paying portal fees but could the Agents’ Mutual approach take them out of the frying pan into the fire?
This also raises the tantalising question of which portal would agents choose if the Agents’Mutual exclusivity rule survived? Would it be ZPG or Rightmove? Or, when it comes to the crunch, despite having apparently attracted some 2000 gold member applications pre-launch, will Agents’Mutual get the cold shoulder because of its 'only one other portal ' rule?
Here are some more questions we think need answering
One of the assumptions that is driving Agents' Mutual is that the big portals are over-priced but is this assumption really true?
Given their cost per month compared with local print publications, given the number of leads they produce, do the portals actually offer good value for money?
Another key driver of Agents' Mutual is the assumption that the existing duopoly is a bad thing but is it really?
If Agents’ Mutual succeeds will its success necessarily make things any better for agents? Can the restrictive ‘one other portal’ rule really work and survive?
Could Agents’ Mutual be an emotional reaction by the establishment rather than a logical commercial response?
Will agents who reject Agents’ Mutual and remain on both big portals gain an advantage over those agents that choose Agents’ Mutual and have to drop one of the big two?
Can Agents’ Mutual justify the fees and investment it is seeking?
Will Agents’ Mutual be able to compete on a national level with the existing portals?
Could there be unforeseen consequences of taking on Rightmove and ZPG?
So far, the mega portals have shunned private listings – could Agents' Mutual force their hand and start the beginning of the end for agency as we know it?
Does Agents’ Mutual’s stated intention of trying to weaken Rightmove and Zoopla’s inventory harm consumer interests and if so, is that an acceptable business strategy?
Here at EAT we think that this could be THE story of 2014 and we propose to follow it throughout the year, reporting on every twist and turn as the battle for the estate agency portal market rages on.
Agents will have to decide whether the current state of the portal market is so bad that the risks of going with Agents' Mutual are worth taking or whether it is a case of ‘better the duopoly devil you know'!
Tell us what you think. Take our survey and we will represent your views, now and as they change over the coming weeks and months as we give all three players a platform to make their case.