Zoopla on mortgage broking (good); OTM shooting itself in the foot; a new portal and an online agent that guarantees a sale (or they’ll lend you the value of your home)

Zoopla rolls out new services – on to a good thing

Earlier this year Zoopla invested in online mortgage broker Trussle. It has now launched a service in partnership with it that allows estate agents to see which buyers are pre-qualified for mortgage purposes. It’s another front in buyers competing to be in the best position for properties and how estate agents can improve lead quality, reduce costs and speed the entire process. I expect this trend to continue as Big Data further penetrates the house buying process. With its relatively straight-forward information flows, the process is ripe for greater automation and the huge benefits that yields. ZPLA and RMV are pushing these services which I think is exactly the right thing to do. Complaints on the estate agent forums say this is already what good agents do. True but they spend a lot of time doing it – and charging their vendors for it – the manual way. That optimises traditional agent resistance I’m seeing to many potential proptech benefits – the perceived equivalency in manual and automated process ignoring the different speed, efficiency, bandwidth and cost benefits and therefore missing the huge value created by well thought-out proptech.

Other points: ZPLA’s Alex Chesterman sold 4.25m shares in the group, now owns about 2%. Rightmove is apparently refreshing its brand including a logo change.

 

OTM using its money to shoot itself in the foot

Unfortunately I see OTM’s approach of spending its capex defending its ‘one other portal rule’ as misguided. It reportedly just had to pay another ~£800k to court for its case that’s set to be heard in February. That’s about £2m it has now paid into court – that it will presumably lose if the case fails – along with legal fees reported at another £2m. That seems very risky to me considering (as a non-lawter) the rule looks against the Competitions Act and is a negative way to build a business anyway. If you give customers compelling reasons to use your service, they will come. With its agent-led operations, OTM had an advantage vs the other platforms but threw it away by making new customers give something else up (the other portals). That £4m, while relatively small, could have developed and rolled out useful and unique services or simply used for marketing – both missed opportunities. The people behind OTM have history in similar behaviour – Ian Springett was behind primelocation.com (since sold to ZPLA) that had, for a while, a no-other-portal rule so don’t expect them to give it up easily. If AM/OTM loses in February, as I suspect, ZPLA should see a small boost to its business. If it wins, it needs to make up the lost time.

 

Is there room for another portal?

Another portal, The World Property Network (TWPN) , took out a full page advert in the Sunday Times Homes section last weekend. It’s internationally focussed and given the differences in regulation, law, finance, tenure, contract, registration and ownership rights around the globe it’s unclear to me what services it can actually provide at the moment. Interestingly, apparently OTM are happy that listing on TWPN doesn’t violate the one other portal rule due to its focus on international buyers. It makes clear that the one other portal rule is targeted at ZPLA (and secondarily RMV) which I would say makes it even harder to defend in court.

 

More innovation in proptech

Nested launched yesterday with the promise of selling your home in 90 days or lending the vendor the full amount interest free. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Nested is headed by someone with a background in consumer finance. An interesting concept but I always worry about initiatives that come from teams without property industry experience – there are too many widely held misconceptions about the industry.

Interesting times. It’s my hope that we’re on the cusp of a step change in the house buying process beyond just hybrid agents and proptech. That offers significant rewards to those positioned correctly.

 

Have a good day

 

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