Seriously, in a massively fragmented industry, few companies make big money and none come close to dominating in any sphere.
What is it about estate agency that perpetuates an incredibly long tail of same-same service providers. There's very little difference between one agent and another, consumers have a general hate for agents as they see the job as not adding value, yet it seems accessing property owners requires a long tail of small agencies to exist.
In the US, Realogy group uses this fact and the licensing/broker/MLS regime to provide a platform for many agents to operate; often part time.
If Realogy wanted a larger slice of the pie, could it go from franchisee to massive, consolidated agency/ brokerage?
In the UK, the largest groups of Countrywide, LSL and Connells don't even represent 20% of the market combined.
It seems the last decade has seen some bundling of services (sales and rentals/ lettings together, in-house mortgage brokers and legal services).
However the recent trend is in reverse and more unbundling of services (pay a cheap fee (to an online-only agent) for marketing, and ad-hoc services).
It is likely the unbundling trend in rental property will continue as the age of property owners declines (inheritance) and those people born into the easy money (in comparison to a real job) that comes from being a landlord are younger.
Selling a home, with a higher burden of rules and regulation, alongside the larger transaction size, seems to attract an attitude of cowardice from property owners (just get it done quickly please, while I look away). Such a mental state permeates most that sell; they care little for the process and focus on the money coming through at the end (regardless of whether they got the best price, or not).
The biggest change coming to this industry is data-led, but not for the reasons you think it is. Data will allow property owners to do more than value their home, it'll empower them to first rent out, then sell, in an online 'Amazon-style' marketplace.
But it won't happen any time soon. Until then, listings services will gather the biggest profits (for providing access to market - selling shovels and jeans in a gold rush).
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I know of at least three start-ups and two corporates trying to launch a 'Private Help to Buy'.
IMO all of them will fail.
Why are developers so convinced that build-to-rent is 'needed'?
Is it because expensive consultants see it as a quick way to 'sell' them into the Private Rented Sector?
Or is it the lazy asset managers who need the 'one deal' route into private rented property?
Regardless of who and why, building dorm rooms for adults is just wrong.
Lettings agency is not a difficult job, and landlords certainly don't have the same fears as they would when selling, so the motivations that force them into using an agent are different.
So for DIY landlords to access Rightmove and Zoopla via online agency makes rational sense.
We dive into who is the biggest and best of the UK's online lettings agents.
It seems to be that everyone is building an 'Airbnb for student accommodation'.
But have they missed the point of providing 'trust' and 'value' for students and landlords?
Easyproperty, the late to the market online estate agent, pulled a marketing stunt mourning the death of high street agents.
The irony, as a start-up, is that Easyproperty is more likely to be placed on the scrap heap than those 'over-charging' high street agents. Why?
They're low service, late to the party and their low fees basically tell homeowners they'll sell their property for less.
Congratulations on launching, Easyproperty, it was nice knowing you.
If you have spare cash to invest, and would like a stellar return, I'd recommend buying Rightmove shares every time an online agent raises capital.
It is Rightmove after all that makes all the profit, while Emoov takes on all the costs.
OnTheMarket.com (OTM) set out to split the memberships of the Rightmove and Zoopla duopoly. While the jury is still out on its chances of success, the start-up has definitely succeeded in splitting opinion.
But what is the next step for OnTheMarket? Here's my thesis.
I'm about to invest in a property tech company.
Before making this decision, I thought carefully about who else I would want to invest in.
Those companies are detailed below. I thought it important to include how much I would invest, and why.
No one need ever worry about renting ever again. Find a house to buy, put it on a platform like Crowdlords with the rent you'll pay to your co-owners and (if you get funded) you're now free of landlords forever.
Goodbye nasty landlord. Hello Crowdlord.
Data can show what humans cannot articulate clearly, or have not spotted.
Should large sets of property data be available for analysis, would real estate agents, let alone consumers, really gain in a meaningful way?