“Say no to Rightmove.” Four words that reverberated around the UK property industry shortly after the market froze as a result of a nationwide lockdown. What has followed is a series of steps that could change the housing market in the UK forever. 

The campaign, fronted by Acorn Group CEO, Robert Sargent, was created in response to the property portal’s decision to offer a deferred payments scheme for estate agents during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Since then, there has been back and forth between agents and the portal to iron out a deal. But who will come out on top once normalcy resumes? Will there really be a surge of agent’s leaving the UK’s number one portal? And, if so, will Zoopla step in to grab power. Or could another contender make a play?

Chess pieces on a chessboard

Say no to Rightmove

On March 11th, Rightmove announced that estate agents with fewer than 25 branches could defer their payments for three months. The response did not go down well. In a market downturn led by coronavirus, agents were, understandably, hoping for more help from the portal.

The backlash to the offer was stinging, with estate agents from all over the country happy to vocalise their ire. The result was Say No to Rightmove, a campaign against the portal from disgruntled estate agents. 

Say No to Rightmove surveyed 1,000 business owners who represent 2,000-plus branches, and the results don’t read well for the property portal. An overwhelming 84% said they have already left the portal or are strongly considering cutting ties. 93% said they supported the Say No to Rightmove campaign. 

A love-hate relationship

Rightmove’s turbulent relationship with estate agents wasn’t born overnight. For years, many agents have been unhappy with Rightmove’s monopoly on the UK property industry. The portal has an 83% market share, which puts it in a powerful position.

Agents believe Rightmove uses its dominance to its advantage, charging exuberant fees for agencies to advertise their stock. Over the years, there have been countless stories of disgruntled estate agents removing their properties on Rightmove because of pricing issues

The latest issues surrounding deferred payments seems to be the breaking point, with many agents furious at the lack of help offered. The survey results will be a wake-up call to a portal that is used to having things its own way. 

Comparing the relief

Rightmove responded to the fierce backlash. On March 20th, it revised its offer to estate agents by slashing agent charges by 75% for four months. A statement from Rightmove said, “I don’t think many of us would have predicted sitting in our offices last week that we’d be where we are today, with the possibility of more restrictive measures approaching. 

“Earlier this week we offered our independent estate and letting agents a deferred payment scheme to help them through the next few months. The situation in the UK has changed rapidly and we’re sorry that it was too little and now inappropriate for the challenges we all face.”

Despite the anger towards Rightmove, the portal’s latest offer is actually one of the best of all property portals worldwide. An international comparison reveals relief from agent portals all over the world, with Rightmove coming out on top. 

  • Rightmove – 75% reduced charges for four months
  • Zoopla – 9 months for free as part of an 18-month contract
  • On the Market – 33% fee reduction
  • Zillow (US) – 50% discount
  • Realtor – 60% discount
  • REA Group (Australia) – Free re-listings
  • Scout 24 (Germany) – Defer one month’s payment for up to 9 months
  • SeLoger (France) – Defer two months payments for up to 9 months

In 2019, Rightmove made £289m in revenue, and the 75% discount sees them potentially losing out on between £65m and £75m. It’s a vastly improved offer compared to the deferred payment scheme, yet many agents still aren’t happy. The damage has already been done. 

Contenders for the throne

Rightmove potentially losing a large percentage of its subscribing agents leaves space for another portal to sweep in. The obvious contender is Zoopla, Rightmove’s closest contender. Zoopla receives around 50m visits per month and has a little under one million properties listed. It also owns the portal Prime Location and data-led website Hometrack.

Next in line for the throne is OnTheMarket, the agent-backed property portal. OnTheMarket’s growth has accelerated over the years, with the website claiming traffic of 30m for the month of January 2020 and an increase in leads for its agents.

The so-called “big three” aren’t the only options on the market, however. Homesearch isn’t a portal as such but aims to be an alternative to the major property portals. It bills itself as “the essential source for comprehensive information on every single property in the UK.”

Another player is Your Keys, an online reservation platform for housebuilders and estate agents. Its primary aim is to accelerate the house-buying process, making the lives of all involved hassle-free. Though not a direct portal, its technology could provide an alternative to portals.  

What happens next?

Covid-19 has made it impossible to predict the UK housing market’s future. It’s too early to tell if the property market will make a speedy recovery or if it’s going to be a case of playing the waiting game. Rightmove’s initial response to the pandemic, however, left a bitter taste in many agents’ mouths, and it might just be too late for redemption. 

As the Proptech scene grows, new options emerge that promise to streamline processes. While it’s unlikely that Rightmove will become obsolete, the portal giant might need to envisage a future where it shares more of the market than 83%. 

Not great news for Rightmove. But it’s definitely good news for healthy competition, which should only be a positive for estate agents and those buying and selling bricks and mortar. 

What does the estate agent/Rightmove stand-off mean for buyers and sellers? 

Ultimately, Rightmove’s dilemma won’t impact consumers too much, especially as the property market is effectively frozen because of Covid-19. Current conditions mean it’s not an ideal time to buy and sell. However, if you’re planning to be active when the market resumes, now is the best time to do your research. 

At Helmsmen, we provide comprehensive estate agent information to help you make informed decisions. See which agents are best suited to sell your home by comparing elements like experience, qualifications and average asking and sale prices. Being prepared will put you in the best position to navigate the housing market once it’s up and running again. 

Estate agents can stand out from the crowd with a Helmsmen profile. Following this link to learn more.

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