Around the world real estate agents and their associations are looking closely at OnTheMarket in the UK and Squiiz in Australia. These two property portals are owned and operated by real estate agents and they are both operating in markets where there is a clear and dominant market leader and a profitable (and large) number 2 player. If these portals manage to pull off the seemingly impossible and disrupt the current market structures, then the blue print will have been laid for associations around the world to take on and beat the market leader.
So who are these new portals, how are these new portals approaching their markets and what is the likelihood of success?
Squiiz.com.au soft launched only a couple of weeks ago. The site is owned by the industry and has, as founding members, LJ Hooker, REMAX, Century 21, Ray White, Harcourts, Raine & Horne, PRD Nationwide and Belle Property.
The objective of the site is to take back control of real estate listing data in Australia.
At time of launch, around 3,500 agencies were advertising on the site and according to the CEO, Nick Christian, another 2,000 should be advertising their listings on the site very shortly. In the Australian market there are around 10,000 agencies in total. It is estimated that around 200,000 listings are on the site already.
The business is running a freemium model where the basic listing package is free (for members of a member real estate organisation) and they can pay $250/month for profile listings (that include the agent's logo).
They site does not have feature listings, banner advertising and does not take FSBO (for sale by owner) listings.
The soft launch has not been clear sailing. Glenn Batten, in his post on Business2, observed that the site has not been optimised for SEO and that they were missing out on much needed "free" traffic. In particular he says "... its been two weeks now [since Squiiz launched] and its clear that something serious has gone wrong. Really really wrong. They forgot to do even basic level SEO on the website and the two main search engines, Google and Bing have essentially rejected them."
For those unaware, squiz is a slang Australian term meaning to have a look or glance at something.
OnTheMarket is due to launch in the UK on the 26th January - coincidently the same date as the Property Portal Watch Conference in New York. This site is similar to the Australian based squiiz in that this it is owned and operated by estate agents with the objective of taking back control on the UK property portal market.
It is estimated that just over 40% of agents in the UK have committed or are likely to commit (but not necessarily signed a contract) to the new portal. There are an estimated 18 - 20,000 agencies in the UK.
Agents who sign up to use OnTheMarket have to commit to put their listings on OnTheMarket and then can only put their listings on one other portal - e.g. either Zoopla or Rightmove. One exception to this is Citylets in Scotland where agents can put their listing on this site as well as another site.
The objective here is simple, to have all the listings on OnTheMarket and to have both Rightmove and Zoopla with subsets of these listings on their sites. Some analysts are predicting that combined Rightmove and Zoopla will lose 3,000 agents between them with Zoopla likely to lose the most.
In addition, the OnTheMarket site will not have any valuation information and will not carry third party advertising.
Both Zoopla and Rightmove are trading off earlier year highs as the market waits to see what the true impact is on their businesses. Zoopla is trading at 28% discount from its July high while Rightmove is trading at a 14% discount from its August high.
Will the agents disrupt the market (beyond a slight bump in the road) or will the tradition cashed up incumbents continue to dominate the market? Tomorrow we will look at what the likely outcome is going to be.
Join us at the Property Portal Watch Conference in NYC on the 26th and 27th January. Topics such as this and many more will be discussed in detail.