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Exclusive: Zoopla boss says “OnTheMarket’s a good idea, but....”  23 Jan 15

The chief executive and founder of Zoopla says he understands why agents have set up  OnTheMarket but he describes the only-one-other-portal policy as “irrational” promoted by those “who think they can put the internet back in its box.” In an exclusive interview for Estate Agent Today - the first he has given to any industry or consumer publication on the subject of OnTheMarket - Alex Chesterman says that until this weekend, the two year journey of setting up Agents’ Mutual and its new portal has been of primary interest only to the estate agency industry. “And to be honest, I think OnTheMarket isn’t a bad idea. I can completely understand how estate agents are motivated to have more control over their listings and want to exercise some degree of future-proofing for the exposure of their stock” says Chesterman. However, he believes there are clear inconsistencies in the thinking behind the one-other-portal-only policy introduced by the new website. “It’s somewhat irrational to fight against other existing portals and restrict advertising. It’s just a confusing mixed message. “On the one hand the agents behind Agents’ Mutual say portals are so important that agents themselves must take control. On the other hand those same agents say portals are not important enough for their customers’ properties to be on all of them. That’s contradictory” claims Chesterman. He believes this reflects a misunderstanding by some of how the internet has influenced the estate agency industry in the past 15 years or so. “The internet in general and portals in particular have changed the property landscape - forever” he says. “The available data, the reach, the time saving and reduction in human resources required by estate agents have all been revolutionary, thanks to the internet.” Chesterman says portals have helped house hunters preview and shortlist properties without time being wasted by agents. “Instead house hunters now look at floorplans, maps, scores of photographs, Google Streetview and so many other things online. Life is better for agents as well as the consumer thanks to the internet.” Chesterman insists people want all of those things now - and more - and that agents cannot ‘undo’ the expectations of their vendors and buyers who want maximum online exposure of properties on all the available portals. “You can’t put the internet back in its box as if it hasn’t happened.” In terms of those agents who have said that as part of advertising on OnTheMarket they are going to delist from Zoopla, Chesterman admits his portal will take a short term hit. “Ian Springett [chief executive of Agents’ Mutual] has been very forthright and transparent in saying he’s hoping for 5,000 offices by the launch of OnTheMarket. He may fall short a little but he’ll be in that region” predicts the Zoopla chief executive.  “However, they are not all from Zoopla and PrimeLocation. Some have never been on Zoopla and some others are keeping Zoopla as their other portal. However, there will be a short term effect on us but it’s not going to oblige us to change our short or long term activities” he says. “It’s largely business as usual for us.” Chesterman also says that while until this weekend OnTheMarket has been of interest primarily to the industry, from Monday - when the new portal launches - “it will be all about consumers and how to reach them.” Chesterman goes on to discuss Zoopla’s marketing spend and how it will evolve in the future. He also offers what many may consider an unexpected response to some new technological developments like the Houser portal which ‘automatically’ scrapes listings and other information from across the internet. His comments on those and other industry developments will be featured in the second part of this exclusive interview, on Estate Agent Today on Monday January 26. *See more insight and comment on the launch of OnTheMarket in this week's edition of Industry Views, published later today. Alex ChestermanzooplarightmovePortalsOnTheMarket]]>

Agents Do Charity  23 Jan 15

Estate agents are continuing to do their bit to raise money for good causes. Many of you kindly sent us news of your charity work last year and we want to keep up this positive coverage in 2015. Keep sending details to press@estateagenttoday.co.uk. Agents Giving ups top-upMore than £165,000 worth of fund-raising has so far been bolstered by the Agents Giving 10% top-up fund and this amount is now set to receive a further boost by the charity.  Estate agents up and down the country have been getting on their bikes, donning their football boots and polishing up their baking skills to raise a huge amount for charitable causes over the past year. 29 different charities have been supported through the 10% top-up provided by Agents Giving and these charities are now about to receive a further boost as Agents Giving plans to add £250 to the amount raised at each fundraising event. This is a result of the huge success of its own events which feed into the charity’s central fund.   Agents Giving was launched as The Estate Agency Foundation (The EAF) in November 2007 and was rebranded in February 2014. Subject to conditions, Agents Giving will augment donation made by supporters to their local charities by 10%. Peter Knight, chairman of Agents Giving said: “Agents have done immensely well to raise this amount of money for charitable causes but we would like even more companies raising money in the sector to reach out to us for the 10% top-up, to the benefit of their selected charities. Agents Giving is now going to add an additional £250 to the fundraising of every company who made use of the top-up which provides even more encouragement to get involved.”  CharityAgents Do Charity]]>

House price growth starting to slow, says Hometrack  23 Jan 15

UK house prices increased by 0.4% in December to 8.3% year-on-year (4.5% in 2013) but the rate of growth has plateaued and is set to slow in 2015, according to Hometrack’s latest UK Cities House Price Index. The data reveals that while the recovery in UK house prices is spreading, the gap between the best and worst performing cities has narrowed to its lowest level for 15 years. There are now two distinct groups of cities – those cities that are accelerating off a low base after years of either static or falling prices and those that have enjoyed strong house price recovery over the last two years and where house prices are starting to slow on cooling demand and affordability constraints. Overall 11 cities registered an acceleration in house price inflation over the second half of 2014, led by Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Glasgow where demand for housing has been boosted post the referendum result. Newcastle, Leicester and Liverpool have also seen the rate of growth continue to rise off a low base in 2014 H2 with house prices in these cities 9%, 2% and 15% below their 2007 levels. Oxford, London, Cambridge and Bristol have all registered a slowdown in the rate of growth over 2014 H2 off a high, double digit base. Other cities registering a slowdown in the rate of growth include Bournemouth, Belfast and Leeds showing that slower house price growth is more than a solely London phenomenon.  Slower growth in housing demand, tougher mortgage checks and affordability factors are behind the slowdown in these cities where house prices have bounced by as much as 55% from their 2009 lows in recent years.   Richard Donnell, director of research at Hometrack, said: “House price growth at a city level looks set to converge further in the first half of 2015 as high growth markets continue to slow and lower growth markets start to see growth plateau. Pent-up demand has fed back into the market in the last two years, supported by record low mortgage rates, but mortgage approvals have weakened in the last five months with a knock on impact on house price growth. Low mortgage rates are making housing look affordable but it is the willingness and ability of households to borrow, against the background of greater mortgage regulation, which will most influence the housing market in 2015.”    Hometrackhouse price growthhouse price indexRichard Donnell]]>

Countrywide plc publishes trading update  23 Jan 15

Countrywide says it is poised to deliver record results in 2014 in line with expectations despite recent market slow‐down. The property group has announced an update ahead of its final results for the year to 31 December 2014, which will be released on 26 February 2015. The update shows financial results in line with expectations despite recent property market conditions. 2014 also saw a record result from Countrywide’s lettings business on revenue, profits and margins. The development of the group’s commercial operations progressed well in 2014 with Lambert Smith Hampton delivering ahead of its expectations. Countrywide’s total income was up 20% in 2014 from 2013, 11% more houses sold and 25% more rental properties came under the group’s management than in 2013. Alison Platt, chief executive at Countrywide, said: “These results once again underline the resilience we derive from our broadly based business and our ability to deliver strong growth in a challenging market. We are well placed to both take advantage of the sustainable growth in our lettings and commercial business whilst being positioned to lead as the housing sales market recovers.”Countrywidetrading updateprofitallison platt]]>

Charles Dunstone invests in HouseSimple  23 Jan 15

Carphone Warehouse founder Sir Charles Dunstone, together with his business partner Roger Taylor, has made a “substantial investment” in online estate agent HouseSimple. The online agent claims the investment, rumoured to be about £5m, underscores the “increasing appeal and growth prospects” of the online estate agency market. Today, online estate agents currently represent around 2% of the total UK market, but this is projected to grow to over 20% over the next five years. In the past two years, HouseSimple’s own revenues have quadrupled. Alex Gosling, CEO of HouseSimple, said: “Online estate agency is a market whose time has come. People are fed-up with the expense and poor customer service of the High Street agents. We sell more of our properties than High Street agents, we achieve a higher asking price, less of our sales fall through, and we have much higher customer satisfaction ratings. To top it all, we only charge one tenth of the price they do. With Charles’ and Roger’s backing, we can now turn on the growth tap and save our customers an enormous amount of money and hassle.” Dunstone said: “We believe estate agency is going to change considerably, with the future increasingly belonging to online estate agents. We like HouseSimple, we like its management and we like the idea of saving Britain’s home sellers billions of pounds, with a better experience. HouseSimple has the potential to be one of the industry’s real online winners, and we intend to be a core investor to help it achieve its full potential. That is what our investment today signals.”  charles dunstoneHousesimpleinvestmentOnline estate agencyalex gosling]]>

Video round up 23.01.15 - Watch the weekly news from Estate Agent Today  23 Jan 15

Watch the latest weekly video roundup of news from Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today, featuring stories on Zoopla's reaction to OnTheMarket, a falling out between Countrywide and Spicerhaart and a campaign against Shelter's lettings proposals launched by the chairman of Choices.Estate Agent TodayWeekly Round UpVideo]]>

Countrywide apologises to vendors for touting letters  22 Jan 15

Countrywide is writing to vendors of rival agency group Spicerhaart who received touting letters trying to exploit the confusion over OnTheMarket. Earlier this week Spicerhaart made a dramatic claim that three Countrywide-run local agencies had written letters, claiming that Spicerhaart was delisting properties of clients from both Rightmove and Zoopla.   In reality, Spicerhaart was dropping Zoopla but not Rightmove. Spicerhaart claimed to be considering taking out an unjunction if Countrywide did not remedy the issue.   Late last evening Countrywide issued a statement saying:   “We believe it is crucial to get a client’s property in front of as many viewers and potential buyers as possible, which is why we continue to list properties on Rightmove, Zoopla and our own website propertywide.co.uk.     “On average, customers move house every fifteen years, therefore selling a home is not something they are readily familiar with. We believe it is important to help people choose the right agent from an informed perspective and the intention of any communication from us is solely that. Ultimately the customer will always choose the right agent for them.   “We recognise that whilst the intent of our recent mailing was to inform customers, the letters may have been misleading in some cases. Where that is the case, we have written to customers to both correct our error and apologise.”   Spicerhaart has not yet responded to the Countrywide statement.  CountrywideSpicerHaartTouting]]>

Fine & Country chief tells vendors why it's not OnTheMarket  22 Jan 15

Colin Shairp, who runs the Fine & Country Southern Hampshire and Town & Country Southern agencies, is not joining OnTheMarket and he’s written to clients to explain why. He has also contacted Estate Agent Today to explain why he is sticking with Rightmove and Zoopla. Here is his letter to vendors in full. (Earlier this week, we ran a letter sent to vendors by an agent moving to OnTheMarket).   It’s the nature of marketing a new product that there has to be a certain amount of brashness if it is to succeed.   But there’s a new kid on the block in the world of estate agency insisting that to join its on-line presence estate and lettings agents are only allowed to be on one other portal.   In kind human terms, such an approach might be described as an overabundance of self confidence. This new portal, owned by a group of estate agents, is insisting that already successful portals must be abandoned in order to come to its party. To keep the property analogy going, how do you think you would fare if you arrived in a neighbourhood and asked everyone to come to a party provided they left behind all allegiances to all their old friends but one? Precisely!   So it is that I’m not abandoning Rightmove or Zoopla to join the new portal. The latest survey by Property Academy, in which 4,506 people currently selling their home or investment property were questioned, shows that 94 per cent expected their property to be marketed on Rightmove and 68 per cent on Zoopla, while 39 per cent backed Primelocation.   I don’t see it in the interests of my clients to withdraw their homes from being promoted on one (or more) of the top three most used property portals just to satisfy the whim of a start-up. If you are thinking of selling your home, ask any estate agent you are thinking of instructing if they have abandoned other portals they formerly used in order to join the new one.   Many may well answer that they have done so to break the grasp of the other portals and also to save themselves money. But if they are working for you and charging the same commission as other agents then the only winner may be themselves. After all, your property will not be on-line where you imagined it might be and you will be taking part in a marketing experiment that may possibly delay the sale of your home. If the agent argues that it won’t because the property will still be on Rightmove or Zoopla then what is the purpose of backing the new website other than to save money?   Personally, I will continue with both Rightmove and Zoopla while that’s what my clients expect. True, their combined cost is probably equal to the overheads of 1.5 extra staff members but I have ameliorated that not by slashing their bill but by insisting they add on other marketing tools for free. This increases their effectiveness for sellers because greater analysis of their data is possible.   Interestingly, the Property Academy survey, for which 35 per cent of respondents lived in the south east but outside London, shows that 68 per cent of all respondents first saw their next property on Rightmove or Zoopla, 62 per cent said they would not consider selling through an on-line only agency, and 78 per cent did not make their choice of agent by selecting the one with the lowest fee. What impressed them most when considering which agents to seek out for valuations was the agent’s reputation (20 per cent), its marketing or brand (16 per cent), or because they had dealt with the agent before (14 per cent). In other words, they like what they’re getting already and that’s what I’ll continue to provide. But I’m not averse to change and when it’s needed I’ll make it.    Until then, the industry can carry on navel gazing and I’ll carry on selling homes.   Colin Shairp, director, Fine and Country Southern Hampshire   Fine & CountryTown & CountryOnTheMarket]]>

Zoopla claims record website and mobile traffic  22 Jan 15

With just days to go before the launch of OnTheMarket, Zoopla has followed in the footsteps of Rightmove by issuing an upbeat report on its popularity with users.   It says it has hit record levels of both website and mobile activity during the period from New year’s Day to January 13, with new highs in the number of visits across platforms.    On Tuesday this week the ZPG sites - Zoopla and PrimeLocation - saw a record level of traffic at just under 2m visits in a single day, with traffic for the period up 7.3 per cent over the same period last year. It is also claiming record levels of appraisal leads being sent to local agents via its websites, up 38 per cent year on year for the same period.    A statement from Zoopla Property Group also claims it delivered appraisal leads worth an estimated £150 million in fees to member agents “and is set to smash that figure in 2015 based on early indications and enhancements it has made to its product.”   Mobile traffic was up 32 per cent in the first two weeks of January compared to the same period last year.    There have now been five million app downloads with app traffic up 61 per cent year on year.    The bullish statement goes on to say that ZPG has the largest social media presence in the UK property sector, reaching an average of 4.5 million people per week via the Zoopla Facebook page alone.  Zoopla Property GroupPrimeLocationPortals]]>

Haart bigs up first time buyer chances  22 Jan 15

House prices across the UK rose eight per cent to an average of £205,150 in the past year - and the position of first time buyers has improved significantly. That is the view from estate agency Haart, which says the average first time buyer mortgage rose 12 per cent to £133,872 as banks competed with each other to offer them the best deal.    At the same time Haart - which now has some 200 branches nationwide - claims the first time buyer’s typical deposit dropped five per cent in 2014.   Unsurprisingly - despite a late-year dip - London house prices had the single largest rise of an average of 11 per cent.   “Affordability is beginning to make a comeback in 2015 as prices start to stabilise, mortgage deals proliferate and higher loan-to-values become more commonplace” says Paul Smith, the network’s chief executive.    “We are highly unlikely to see a repeat of last spring’s meteoric annual price growth in London that broke the 20 per cent mark and broke the 10 per cent barrier nationally. Following the stamp duty reforms, the purchaser of a typical first-time buyer home will now save £828 which could help to cover some of the moving costs” says Smith.    HaartFirst Time Buyershousing market]]>

 
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