As battle lines are drawn in parliament, and the world worries about potential conflict in Ukraine, there’s another tussle going on in the property world. We’re referring, of course, to the ongoing battle for ascendancy between the UK’s leading property portals. Rightmove and Zoopla have been the dominant powers for years but their rivals aren’t going down without a fight. In fact, some of them are gearing up for a new assault on the top spot, as last month’s OnTheMarket rebrand shows.
Whilst Rightmove remains a big hit with home movers – you can’t argue with 141 million visits each month – their popularity with agents is, how can we say, rather mixed. Consequently, there’s still an opportunity for OnTheMarket to make ground. Let’s not forget that OnTheMarket are a majority agent-owned company, which was originally set up to liberate agents from the Rightmove juggernaut; therefore many in the industry will be cheering them on.
Having lagged behind the big two since its birth in 2015, it was encouraging that OnTheMarket made stronger profits in 2021. But will their much-publicised rebrand push the portal on to bigger and better things? And is OnTheMarket on course to become the differentiated, tech-enabled business that its owners want it to be? We give our initial impressions below…
This isn’t actually the first time that OnTheMarket have unveiled a new weapon in their campaign to challenge Rightmove. They’ve always been able to advertise properties at least 24 hours sooner, but last summer they launched a new property index that focused on buyer and seller confidence and mover attitudes towards borrowing.
This shiny new index was based on online surveys completed by over one hundred thousand potential movers per month. It, therefore, knocked the socks off Rightmove’s existing property index that simply told readers whether prices had gone down or up.
This rebrand, however, goes much further by not only modernising the company logo and website but also revealing a few more eye-catching selling points. These dovetail nicely with the other great features that OnTheMarket was already known for, such as the agent valuations arrangement service.
The most interesting new innovation is probably the ‘Help Me Choose’ section, which makes more of OnTheMarket’s ‘Wish List’ feature. It works like this: property seekers are invited to name five characteristics of their perfect home and the portal then creates a tailored list of properties that possess these ingredients. So if you’re looking for a property with ‘stunning views’ and a ‘large garden’ that’s ‘close to schools’ then only properties that tick these boxes will appear in the search results. Clever, eh?
The other new feature that caught our eye is OnTheMarket’s ‘Only With Us’ page. As the name suggests, this section lists properties that don’t feature on the rival portals yet. If property seekers are desperate to move, and obsessively check the Internet for new instructions every single day, then they’ll naturally gravitate to this part of the portal like bees to honey.
Another valuable feature is the ‘Ask the Agent’ facility, which prompts home seekers to ask agents about properties that aren’t officially on the market yet. There’s also a rather nifty ‘Reserve Buyers List’ where people who missed out on a particular home can track its journey towards completion. If the deal falls through, and their dream home suddenly becomes available again, they’ll receive an alert.
Added value for agents
As mentioned above, OnTheMarket’s long-term strategy is to create a tech-driven business that offers more to agents as well as property hunters. Their new partnership with Canopy, the digital tenant referencing company that helps tenants move without having to fill in any paperwork, is one such example.
The hook up with Canopy, which began in the summer, gives OnTheMarket’s agent customers free comprehensive tenant referencing. This includes Experian credit checks, ID verification, anti-money laundering, plus both employment and landlord references. Meanwhile, from the prospective tenant’s perspective, their applications progress faster because Canopy handles all their admin. The result? Happier home movers.
These kinds of partnerships clearly add a lot of value for agents. Indeed, Jason Tebb, the CEO of OnTheMarket, announced that the partnership with Canopy was “a direct result of feedback from agents”. We can therefore expect more of the same in the future. In fact, there’s already a partnership with Sprift Technologies to provide the portal’s agent customers with free market appraisal guides.
Full steam ahead?
So what do we make of the new and improved OnTheMarket? In a nutshell, it looks good. There are some helpful new features and we particularly like the way the company is repositioning itself. The ambition to be more than a portal that merely advertises properties is a great one. And agents will obviously enjoy the fact that it still costs less than Rightmove to use.
The key, however, will be whether OnTheMarket can gain traction in an increasingly competitive space. Rightmove is absolutely massive and still top of mind when it comes to home seekers. What’s more, new challengers like Boomin, which has a lot of financial clout, will be determined to outmuscle OnTheMarket and take it’s place in the top three most popular portals. When it comes to innovation, it’s hard to beat Boomin’s Secret Properties, MatchMaker, and Property Playground features. For example, the latter provides interior design ideas so home movers can start to picture themselves in their new pad.
The good news, however, is that OnTheMarket continues to enjoy the support of agents. It also lists a lot of properties, which is half the battle. Although Boomin is pushing boundaries and raising eyebrows in the sector, it still lists less than half the available properties in some areas. OnTheMarket’s rebrand therefore seems well timed. It might not propel the portal to top spot in the immediate future, but it should be enough to keep it on the frontline.