Monday, 2 November 2009

Hablib builds another casino

Yet another 'sell your own' portal, Hablib, is launching on Friday 6 November and Property Portal Watch interviewed the founder, Anton Kreil, today.

Whilst Hablib has yet to fully launch it was mentioned a while back that the business model was an attempt to marry social networking and property. Someone was always going to give this a go and I love anyone who is prepared to break new ground. That said, I can't help but question how this marriage can work.

How does social networking associate with house purchase? Why, if I am selling/buying a house, will I want to socialise on a network. Notwithstanding I already belong to more networks than I can manage, why I am going to want to network with others during this process? I guess the standard response is to make the sale/purchase easier as I will be communicating with potential sellers/buyers, but do I really want to? Does it make the process easier? I doubt it. If I am selling privately then I will have my hands full dealing with enquiries (hopefully), arranging HIPs, conveyancing etc etc Indeed, even working on the remote basis that I want to network, I am only going to be active for the short time period I was involved with the sale/purchase and therefore of little use for revenue opportunities outside of this window (perhaps).

I do like the principle behind this, but as Anton concedes, they will need stock. Hablib is probably the fifth 'sell your own site' to appear recently and comes some time after Sarah Beeny's Tepilo. Sarah appears to have stepped up her marketing recently and I am seeing many Sarah Beeny articles where she is mentioning Tepilo. One has to wonder whether she has stolen the march in this very small market?

I wrote a while back that the sell your own marketing was growing slowly, but was still a very small percentage of the total market and the more competition within this niche would of course reduce market share. A very tough channel to crack and dominate in my humble opinion.

Anton says that '...The estate agents industry is like a casino...' Now I know a thing or two about casinos and perhaps a better analogy is that all the portals are the casinos. The agents are the croupiers and the punters the gamblers. The more casinos, the less punters there are to go around so you get empty tables, out of work croupiers and portals that sit there doing very little. The old established casinos hold their own, new ones come along with a flash offering, some punters will go and have a look, but soon realise that the casino doesn't have any other players (any atmosphere) and soon runs out of chips so they go back to the old casino. This is a great analogy if our punters are habitual gamblers, but they are not, they are only gamblers once every few years so will go back to the old familiar casino with atmosphere.

Anyway, I am off to put all my money on Black.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Look4aproperty Billions - Renthusiast probes further

Renthusiast have asked further questions of Look4aproperty and the comments thereafter a worthy of a read.

Look4aproperty keep saying just ask if you want anything so I did. I called the number on the site and the woman who answered didn't really know what I was talking about. I asked if there was an agent in my area providing the loan scheme. She said she hadn't seen the website and was not sure why I was asking her. Following a lengthy explanation from me about the product she said she thought registered agents would be on the website, although she hadn't seen it. I explained they were not and asked who she was working for. She replied LMS, who are the property services group 'facilitating' look4aproperty.

She gave me another number and I spoke to a gentlemen who knew more about the matter and cheerily explained there was not a current list of licenced agents as they were still in the very early stages of the scheme being set up and at the moment no loan schemes were available to the public. He explained that they were still signing agents up to the scheme and would hopefully be ready to offer the product to the public in a couple of months.

Not quite the same picture as being painted by Look4aproperty and is probably why there are no terms and conditions as yet. I would hazard a guess that the product is not yet finalised and/or there is not yet enough new agents to warrant the product release, or ... there is no product?! Either way, there is currently no product to offer joe public.

I have also asked Hitachi to comment and will publish any comments I receive in due course.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

HIPS will be History say the Tories

Grant Shapps announced at the Tory conference yesterday that he would 'consign Home Information Packs to History' if the Tories were to win the next election.

Well, Boris Johnson promised that bendy buses would be replaced and guess what, yep, they are still out there. We all know you can't really believe a word that comes from a politicians mouth, but what if, they are actually telling the truth?! Unbelievable as it sounds, (the truth that is) would this open the way to a new approach in the modernisation of the house purchasing process? Indeed, HIPs in the original form did seek to help this process, but they were watered down and everyone moaned and whined until they were left with the dishcloth of a product that exists today.

I suspect the HIPs providers will be lobbying hard to keep them in some shape or form and we will be lobbying hard to modernise the entire process so perhaps there will be a home for a better product in the future?

By the way, the Tories are 1/4 to win the next election and the bookies don't normally get this wrong, (source William Hill)

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Lobbying government for a change in the house buying process

We need a lobby.

I don't mean a nice Italian marble one for the entrance of my house, no, I mean a professional lobby that will approach the government to change the law on house purchase.

This is the first step towards modernisation of this industry. Who can perform this role? Unfortunately, I don't have a great deal of confidence in the NAEA or any of the other bodies out there.

I believe the industry needs a professional group that is paid to lobby parliament, get a few MPs onside and grease the palms of the people who need greasing.

I, along with others, would be prepared to source and brief this group and perhaps I ought to arrange a research and intelligence gathering stage where I collate views from agents, mortgage companies, solicitors etc etc. So let's start that here. What do you think should change?

By the way, I would also like an Italian marble lobby, but not sure my flat would support the weight.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Look4aproperty £1 billion marketing drive

You will recall that James Caan and the guys at Look4aproperty made some ambitious claims a while back that they were going to single handed kick start the housing market.

They have now announced a £1 billion marketing offensive. Look4aproperty has tied up a deal with a finance company to provide interest free loans to first time buyers to cover fees and disbursements. Buyers can apparently borrow any amount from £500 and pay it back over 36 months interest free. Sadly, it doesn't include the deposit!

Speaking with the Negotiator, James Caan said '...The market has changed dramatically in terms of the deposit you need today versus what you may have needed a couple of years ago. In that environment, a few thousand pounds today is a material sum. First and second-time buyers don't have that level of liquidity; whatever cash they have, they need for the deposit, so I think this product can make a big difference.'

I like this idea, it has balls on the face of it. But dig deeper and is it all a little vague. Is this just a big £1 billion marketing exercise?

Indeed, if the average number of houses sold per month is currently 35,000 (Land Registry) and average fees were £1,000 then even if look4aproperty was involved on every transaction they would not come close to the £1 billion. So, if you have a billion why not offer deposit loans?! Now this really would have balls!

The devil will be in the detail and the terms and conditions are conspicuous by their absence.

Punters can only access this through agents who are signed up to the scheme. These agents must be signed up to look4aproperty, i.e. paying £200 per month. Agents get a healthy commission of £500 (apparently) per sign up and only two agents per region (no definition) are allowed to participate.

This has all the hallmarks of a clever PR stunt, but I can be persuaded otherwise if the guys at Look4aproperty send me the terms and conditions and fill in some of the blanks.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Real estate was never our cup fo tea

FOREM says this comment is straight from the founder of which is now up for sale by way of auction.

How many more entrepreneurs with portals feel a bit like this at the moment I wonder? I must admit I have had similar thoughts from time to time. Why? A hundred and one reasons, but fundamentally we are dealing with a very mundane act (a house purchase, house rental) and the market is well served with established players providing a reasonable customer service.

Many new portals have sought to shake up the industry concentrating on the b2b elements (i.e. free for agents to list) and indeed have improved the market and probably the customer experience. But buying a house is still a function the average human being will do only three to four times in their life and won't start until they are on average 31 years of age. Yes, there are millions of us, but the whole process is nothing to get excited about and whichever way you cut it, it has a finite point.

From an entrepreneurs point of view many have immersed themselves within the industry and maybe it just isn't exciting enough to keep their fires burning. That said, the industry is not short of new entrepreneurs who want to give it a go (Zoopla and a host of other new portals), but I suspect a few others may prefer the taste of coffee very soon. For me, I still like tea and will continue to try a few different flavours and this industry won't get rid of me just yet.

The dothomes Auction closes on 1 October 2009, but no information on how to bid, where to go etc etc?

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Property Owl Blog is back, long live the blog

Apologies for the lack of posts, I have been .... well, fed up!

If I am honest, and I usually am, I had grown a little disheartened with certain areas of the property industry (i know, we are in a recession). I saw portals opening daily, more software providers giving away their products for free, more agents doing the same things or less. It felt to me that so many were not listening and missing the point. It was all too much, too crowded, too claustrophobic.

So instead of falling into a well of despair I asked myself, what does this industry need?

Apart from less of everything, I concluded we need an entirely new model! And I don't mean sell it yourself websites, tinkering with new pricing models based on leads, clicks, views, subscriptions, free hosting etc etc and I certainly don't mean more portals. I mean a completely new approach. One that turns the industry on its head. Out with the old and in with the new. It is mid life crisis time!

So where to start?

- The law regarding house sale/purchase needs to change (i.e. the Scottish approach)
- Agents, if they remain, need to be regulated
- The entire industry needs to be rebranded
- Should we go communist and let the government control house sales
- Surely one feed and one portal is enough
- How about every house sale is auctioned on one portal (the land registry)

I think we should discuss this, preferably over a pint or two.

See you all at the Windmill Pub next week.