Agents Mutual has passed a milestone after recruiting its 1,000th gold member office – the threshold it needed to reach to achieve start-up funding, with £3.6m pledged.
It means that the funded-by-agents portal venture can now proceed to implementation. The milestone has been reached two or three months ahead of expectation. However, Agents Mutual says it will continue to recruit more gold agents to build up its war chest.
The gold members are the firms that will provide the start-up funding for the new portal via subscriptions and loan notes totalling £3,600 per office. In return, they will receive substantial discounts on the listing fees for a fixed period and 15% interest on their loan notes.
Ian Springett, who leads Agents Mutual, said: “The level of support for the creation of a new, 100% agent-owned property portal has exceeded our expectations and the founders are extremely pleased.
“The company anticipated getting to this stage towards the end of this year and calling in funds from hold members to start work on the portal at the start of 2014 for delivery at the end of that year.
“The basis of this rapid growth in support is founded on agents of all sizes recognising the growing threat to their businesses posed by the dominance of the two large portal groups. They regard Agents Mutual as being a necessary development to protect and further their interests.”
The founder agents are Savills, Knight Frank, Chesterton Humberts, Strutt and Parker, Douglas & Gordon and Glentree Estates, and they have been joined by large brands including Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward, Thamesview Group, Winkworth, Jackson-Stops & Staff and Carter Jonas.
Strong backing has been gathered from London firms including Acorn Group, Featherstone Leigh, Bective Leslie Marsh, Stirling Ackroyd, Statons, Re/Max and James Anderson.
What is currently missing is the ‘big three’ – corporates Countrywide, LSL and Connells, all of whom are shareholders in Zoopla, currently mulling a stockmarket launch. Their absence from Agents’ Mutual could be seen as a plus by the independents looking for a marketing edge, or a minus if they see it as an important goal for the new portal that it has maximum property inventory.
However, Agents Mutual says there has been good progress in recruitment outside London and right across the country. Springett said that more than 55% of the offices signed up are outside the M25 and that it has the support of many of the most prominent regional agents in every territory in which it has actively recruited.
Scotland: Corum, Rettie & Co, CKD Galbraith.
North-West: Hackney & Leigh, Gascoigne Halman, Thornley Groves, Ryder & Dutton.
North-East: JW Wood, Andrew Craig, George F White.
Yorkshire: Dacre Son & Hartley, Manning Stainton, Dale Eddison, DDH Residential.
West Midlands: Hunters Group, Andrew Grant, John German.
West Country: Stags, Webbers, Greenslade Taylor Hunt, Marchand Petit. South: Henry Adams, Choices, Curchods, The Frost Partnership, Simon Miller.
East Anglia: Beresfords Group, Bidwells, Bedfords, Mullucks Wells.
Springett said: “Agents Mutual now has strong momentum and is discussing its proposition with some large multi-brand groups and pan-regional companies, more regional firms and large numbers of small agencies.
“We have also been given a platform to help reach agents from some of the largest and most prominent affiliate networks. We are receiving many invitations to present to groups of agents as well as running our own schedule of London and regional presentations.”
Springett said the Agents Mutual board believes there is potential for substantial further growth in gold members.
It will now make preparations for moving to the next stage, including creating the formal legal documents it will be asking firms which have given letters of intent to sign.
It will, in parallel, continue recruitment activity over the coming weeks with the aim of maximising the number and spread of gold member offices before funds are called in and the current terms available for gold membership come to an end.
The objective is to move to implementation stage on the original timetable, leading to the launch of the portal by the end of 2014, but to do so with a still higher level of gold member support.