Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Zoopla is the mystery bidder for PropertyFinder

You could have had odds of 4/1 as second favourite Zoopla is reported as being the mystery bidder in the quest for PropertyFinder.

If the deals go ahead, pundits are already saying it is a good deal for all parties, but does this mean a change in direction for Zoopla?

Yes, PropertyFinder is a good brand and makes a good acquisition, but surely Zoopla want to continue to build the Zoopla brand. As we mentioned a while back, despite having pot fulls of cash, Globrix has shown how difficult it is to get your 'brand' established in this market. So why not try and bypass the years of brand building and jump the que? Excellent idea, but then what do you do now you have two brands, one well established and the other still at the beginning? Running them alongside one another has proven problematic.

Playing devil's advocate, why not just ditch the 'Zoopla' brand and integrate the Zoopla business model into PropertyFinder?! The alternatives are less attractive from a brand point of view.

Of course, Zoopla may see this as the first as many acquisitions, but then they become no different to News International, the REA Group et al and we are back to square one.

Due diligence is no doubt still underway, but as the lawyers and accountants argue over why so many paperclips were purchased, what will happen to the staff, the management, the business? Watch this space.

I haven't been invited to join the new board yet, but I guess they are waiting until the deal is sealed to announce such a high profile appointment.

Friday, 26 June 2009

PropertyFinder and a mystery bidder

Property Portal Watch breaks the news that the management of PropertyFinder have failed in their bid to take over the company.

But not all is lost (just yet). The post announces there were three bids and now the group have entered into due diligence and exclusivity with one of them. For those of you unfamiliar with company purchases, due diligence and the like, the highest bidder (99 times out of 100) will conduct due diligence, which is effectively a detailed examination of the business, its books etc. At the end of an agreed period and some further bartering a deal is either concluded or not. It is time consuming and tedious, I know, I have done it.

Anyway, the more interesting question remains, who is the mystery bidder and what will they do with it if successful, strip the assets, keep it, other?

There are a few likely candidates and to make it a little more interesting, how about we run a book as follows:

DMGT - 2/1
Trinity Mirror - 5/1
GMG - 8/1
Zoopla - 4/1
Rightmove - 4/1
The Owl - 100/1

Good luck

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

The greatest form of flattery

"Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" so the quote goes.

A new network for estate agents ageants recently popped up on the radar and has been advertising in the industry press. Naturally, I thought I ought to have a look, especially as it is built on the same platform as Juicy Red Apple and has a similar set up.

I duly signed up and to my amazement, I was banned within minutes!!

From memory, my initial bio and first page congratulated them on their site and made a point that it was good to see others entering this space. No issue there I think. I did link to JRA, but where is the harm in this? The next moment, I am banned without notice, like a common spammer!

Despite my emails asking for an explanation I have not received any communication whatsoever. Perhaps they will care to comment on this blog. Afterall, I am still big enough to link to them!

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Tepilo - Sarah Beeny chat

Sarah Beeny believes buying and selling a house ought to be easier and a task one can do on their own. Having spoken with her about her new project, Tepilo, I would tend to agree with her.

Sarah was speaking to me from her office 'shed' the other day. We were discussing the rights and wrongs of the world of real estate and she hit on a few key words that readers to this blog will be familiar with, namely 'simplicity' and 'its not rocket science'.

Sarah makes the point that as an individual, one is happy to hand over what is probably at least a month's wages to a complete stranger to perform a task that you are not certain they can perform. She goes on to say the buying selling process is not rocket science (more synergy) so why not do it yourself. Tepilo is thus a step by step guide and medium to help you sell your house. Sarah says the site is all about simplicity and providing the user with a straightforward simplistic system to sell your own home.

The site looks good on the face of it, but before it launched I asked Sarah how she was planning to generate revenue from it? The 'free' commission word popped up and I challenged her on the viability to maintain staff, overheads, marketing with no revenue. Indeed, there is no advertising on the site either. So where does the money come from I asked? Does she have very deep pockets? There are others involved I understand, but Sarah explained that this was a long term project and not a quick money making scheme. I appreciate that, but I still can't see how it can function without revenue.

Agents will no doubt cry that you need them to deal with the lawyers, arrange viewings and moreover what about the valuation?! Well as Sarah says, it is not rocket science and punters now have sites like Zoopla to help them. Valuing your house is actually very straightforward. The Zoopla functionality needs to find its way onto Tepilo. Indeed, the American model upon which Zoopla is based is now synonymous with valuation and realtors will actually publish the valuation from the website by way of benchmark. As for legal advice and the like, this is all catered for within Tepilo and you can of course use your own. Again, it is not rocket science.

The site looks good, but I would want to see more, step by step web 2.0 style screens, more colour, pictures and examples of how I should do it, larger font size. Video uploads and a video to show me how to do it, a blog, podcasts and all the other goodies. I am sure these are coming in due course.

Private selling is still a very young and small market, but the more Sarah Beenys that come along the better. Agents who poo poo this market, continue to ignore the Internet and continue along the path thus travelled will come undone when entrepreneurs like Sarah find the magic formula for property selling in this country.

I must say I like Sarah and she strikes me as a good person, personable, passionate about the consumer and all round champion of the people. I wish her venture the very best. I will do a follow up interview when Tepilo has been running for a little while.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Asda Pods and Property Portal shuts down

Property Portal Watch posts that Homesinstore, Asda's online property venture is shutting down.

You may recall I offered readers a bottle of champagne back in July and August of last year if they could find an in store Asda pod and send me a picture (Asda's offline marketing to support the online venture). Well, I never saw a Pod and truthfully, I don't believe they ever existed. Along with claims made by Asda of 4 million visitors per month it was all hot air.

I have met those who were taken in by Asda as they were 'a large supermarket'. Monitoring their site over the months soon led one to realise that they were struggling for content. Why? A number of reasons, but surely this is evidence of the simple fact there are too many portals.

Maybe Asda can find a real estate agent prepared to buy a redundant system. They are out there, just think Spicer Haart and Tesco!

Monday, 8 June 2009


What a great idea.

Parklet.co.uk is a portal for parking spaces and garages to rent. Great for commuters looking for a safe place to park and as the founder of parklet points out in an interview with property portal watch it has added security for the the home owner who has let out his drive during the day as it provides the impression someone maybe in.

With an average annual revenue between £1,000 and £1,800 to be made it is worth considering.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

PropertyFinder to close - management buyout being considered

All eyes on PropertyFinder.

REA Group, owners of PropertyFinder are apparently courting the idea of closing PropertyFinder.

On the back of this news, there are various reports which suggest a management buyout is being considered.

So what will happen? If a management buyout goes ahead we could see the first major portal to switch from a subscription based model to a performance based model. Indeed, why Zoopla have not snapped up PropertyFinder just to eradicate them from the picture is a little puzzling.

I see this as a huge opportunity for a new team at PropertyFinder and I hope they manage to get it together for the deadline, which appears to be the end of June. Bang goes their summer holiday!!

By the way, I would like to point out that rumours regarding the Property Owl Blog being sold for two million are exaggerated.

Monday, 1 June 2009

National Association of Estate Agents and commission payments

I came across a great post from Housing Dabble which I can't do justice by paraphrasing, so here it is in full for discussion:

'...Last week there was some controversy surrounding the ‘shock revelation’ that agents are profiting from their delivery of Home Information Packs to their clients. One of the groups lining up to condemn the practice was the NAEA who warned that their members could be fined or even expelled for taking undisclosed commissions.

The NAEA told Channel 4 News: “We can take somebody in front of a disciplinary panel. If they’re found guilty then we fine them up to £1,000 per breach. If it’s very serious we chuck them out.”

According to the rule book – Rule 11 states: “Duty not to accept secret commissions: Neither a firm, nor any principal, director or employee of the firm shall accept from any person in connection with the affairs of a client of the firm any commission, discount, rebate, or other profit unless the details thereof have first been disclosed to the client.”

There has been much debate over whether adding commissions to additional services is good practice, the reality being that many Estate Agents wouldn’t have survived the last eighteen months were it not for additional income generated from the services provided such as HIPs, Conveyancing, Financial Services. Why shouldn’t they generate income in this way?

The matter that stood out to me however is my memory of the NAEA writing to HIP providers prior to launch in their search for HIP partners to recommend to their members. This process led to the production of an approved partner list and LMS topped the list as THE preferred Partner.

An excerpt from the questionnaire is as follows:-

6. Benefits to NAEA and its members

What can you company do to provide a price benefit to NAEA members and at what level?

Is your company prepared to offer a commission to the NAEA and if so at what level?

Is your company prepared to offer white labelling of the HIP with the NAEA logo. What format would this be in and how would you envisage this operating?

I draw your attention to the second question where HIP companies were teased on the issue of offering the NAEA a commission for their involvement in recommending the NAEA to their members. Hold on a minute…

How they could begin to think that it was a good idea for a professional body to earn from making recommendations to their members about using certain HIP providers, particularly if that criteria had influenced their decision on who those providers were to be and bearing in mind that it would breach the code of conduct they insist their members follow.

It all seems to me that the NAEA have showed again why they are not respected amongst a large proportion of Estate Agents. Despite the hopes that the NAEA could help improve the reputation of the Estate Agency industry if they would drop the old boys’ network approach, they seem to continually fail to effectively represent their membership or to have any understanding of how they can lead the property industry in to better times...'

Anyway, I am off to meet a HIP provider in the services to collect a large brown paper bag stuffed full of cash.