EasyProperty's CEO and Founder, Robert Ellice, has written an open letter to Ian Springet, the CEO of OnTheMarket. In the letter he openly calls into question the underlying motives for the launch of OnTheMarket. In particular he questions whether the launch is for the benefit of agents at the cost of their customers - the home sellers.
Here is the letter in detail.
Dear Mr Springett,
As you approach the launch of your somewhat controversial website, I would urge you to consider the damage that your stance is having on the already fragile reputation of estate agents.
Our industry is seen by many as one that will use every dirty trick in the book to make as much money as possible from sellers, buyers, landlords and tenants. What we need is to be demonstrating a greater level of transparency in the way we deal with consumers, not reinforcing these stereotypes.
Every consumer-facing industry has been faced with the challenge of how to react to a growing online marketplace. Most have done so by providing their customers with more choice, flexibility and freedom; even if that means facing greater competition. Why should the estate agency world be any different?
It would appear to me that your business is doing its utmost to restrict consumer choice and play hard ball to limit the exact competition that gives customers freedom of choice and value, the only possible reason for this is to put money into the pockets of your members at the expense of the consumer, which is not only self-defeating, but wrong in so many ways.
The digital age is about choice, value and transparency. On The Market artificially limits choice, gives consumers less for their money and, most unforgivably, is promoting strategies that many consumers will, most likely, will not be told about, yet could potentially damage their chances of a sale or let.
Many smaller agents are reporting back that your sales team are virtually insisting that they list properties exclusively with you for the first 48 hours of properties being marketed. If true, this strikes me as being a cynical exercise in manipulating your own figures in a ‘smoke and mirrors’ attempt to give yourselves an unfair advantage over your competition whilst offering LESS choice to landlords and sellers.
Will agents’ clients be told of this deceit and that their properties are being deliberately held back from being fully marketed to the widest possible audience from the start, with the only benefits being to your new site? Is it your intention to ignore what is best for the consumer?
Likewise, by subsequently limiting your member agents’ to use only one of the two leading portals (Rightmove and Zoopla) you are restricting the potential market reach of the hardworking individuals trying to find buyers or tenants for their properties.
Will your agents be telling clients that they will be marketing their properties to a much smaller audience as a result of your self-serving rules? Will your members be reducing their fees as a result of marketing to a much reduced audience or will they simply profiteer? Can it really be in the customers best interests to artificially try to manipulate the market in this way, instead of giving agents and hence customers the widest possible choice?
The reality is that for the end user it is not about online versus offline, it is about being able to utilise as many tools as possible to get their property to market. House sellers and Landlords should have the right to use an agent that they know for sure is marketing their property to the widest possible market, at the very earliest opportunity. Your new site with its self-serving rules cannot be seen as a step in the right direction of transparency and openness, rather the reverse.
My fear is that whilst many of us are trying to change the way the public view estate agents, you are undoing our hard work and reinforcing the stereotype of dirty tricks, doing more to put people off the market than on it.
Robert Ellice CEO and Founder easyproperty.com