New property portal challenges duopoly of Rightmove and Zoopla

Homeowners who want to sell their properties are being warned that from tomorrow they could miss out on potential buyers, as thousands of estate agents will stop listing homes on either Rightmove or Zoopla.

A serious challenger to the two sites, onthemarket.com, goes live on Monday and agents who sign up to it will do so on the condition that they stop listing on one of the other two property portals. Between them Rightmove and Zoopla get 100m hits a month.

Onthemarket.com has been set up by a consortium of big-name estate agencies in an attempt to break the “duopoly” of the two big property portals. Its founders, Agents’ Mutual, which is made up of Savills, Knight Frank, Chestertons, Strutt & Parker and the London firms Douglas & Gordon and Glentree Estates, claim more than 4,000, or one in four, agents have signed up to the website and more are being recruited.

The website offers members the option to fix the monthly fee for listing properties for five years, in what it describes as a chance for agents to control costs in the face of escalating Rightmove and Zoopla fees.

However, Paula Higgins, chief executive of consumer group HomeOwners Alliance, describes onthemarket.com as “all about protecting estate agent’s market share and profits and nothing about helping homeowners get a better deal”.

She says: “From tomorrow you won’t be able to have access to all the portals with certain estate agents because Agents’ Mutual is working it so that those agents cannot advertise a home with both Rightmove and Zoopla. That restricts the number of potential buyers [and] will impact the speed of sale and getting the right price.”

Onthemarket.com is trying to garner a competitive edge by encouraging agents to put their properties on its portal 48 hours before listing with rivals. It is not known how many agents have decided to do this.

Ian Springett, chief executive of onthemarket.com, denies that homeowners who use an estate agent that has signed to his property portal will miss out. “We will showcase hundreds of thousands of UK properties for sale and to let and will immediately become a ‘must-view’ portal because the vast majority of these properties will have been removed from Rightmove or Zoopla/Primelocation so OnTheMarket.com will have a unique inventory of properties,” he says. “Success in selling is not just about listing on as many property websites as possible, it is also attributable to an agent’s expertise, contacts and overall marketing mix.”

Homeowners should be able to tell instantly whether an estate agent is signed to onthemarket.com as the new contender has supplied its members with branding materials that feature a distinctive target-shaped red, white and blue logo.

Lawrence Hall of Zoopla says he expects the newcomer to have a “short-term impact” on his website, and described onthemarket.com as “regressive”. It “creates the biggest conflict of interest ever to exist between estate agents and their clients, who now have to think very carefully about which agents are looking after the homeowner, versus which are looking after their own interests.”