Homeowners warned over estate agent ‘cartel’

Quirk warns that a powerful consortium of agents seeking to set up a new property portal will set back the marketing of UK properties by a decade.

Agents Mutual, set up by some of Britain’s richest estate agents including Savills, Knight Frank, Douglas & Gordon and Kinleigh, Folkard & Hayward, is planning to launch a new portal called Onthemarket in January to rival current market leaders Zoopla, Rightmove and PrimeLocation.

High Street agents that are part of this consortium have agreed between them that they will restrict the marketing of their clients’ properties by giving their own new portal an initial exclusivity period and then listing on just one other portal.

Quirk claims this will result in both a delay to market and the loss of significant exposure for the home seller.

“The way we buy and sell homes has changed enormously in the last ten years," said Russell Quirk.

“Estate agents are critical to the process but so too are the low-cost, high-impact portals like Zoopla and Rightmove.

“They are where the majority of buyers search for property today. Home sellers engage an agent to give them the widest exposure, generate maximum interest and get them the best price.

“A group of high street agents getting together to restrict marketing of their clients’ properties in their own self- interest and against home sellers’ interests is a backward step and reeks of greed."

"They're calling their new portal Onthemarket. Conthemarket would be a better name."

He continued: “It's flabbergasting that any agent would consider not advertising their clients’ properties on all the main portals. The first question a seller should ask their agent is whether they will be listed on all of the main portals which each get millions of visitors a month.”

Agent fees are typically around 1.5%, equating to £4,000 on average across the UK. In London average fees are almost double that level.

By contrast, advertising costs for agents on the property portals are a mere £10 per property per month.

The popularity of sites like Rightmove and Zoopla has left some agents feeling less in control than they did when everything revolved around their high street branches, despite the fact that agent fees have risen and marketing costs have fallen over the past decade.

Quirk said: “Setting up a new portal and withdrawing from the market-leading ones thereby damaging your clients’ chances of getting their property seen as widely as possible and getting them the best outcome is utter madness and reeks of greed by this group of agents.

“The vast majority of agents are not supporting this crazy scheme but those that are should be avoided at all costs by savvy home sellers.

“Agents should focus on serving their clients’ interests. When you look at the eye-watering fees earned by these High Street agents, a further attempt to fatten their own wallets while hurting their clients' interests is pretty distasteful.

“All this will do is make selling a house more difficult and feather the nest of estate agents rather than the house sellers that they are in business to support.

“Given the antipathy that lots of house sellers feel generally towards estate agents already, it would make more sense if some of the senior figures in the industry focused on adding value for the customer rather than adding to their own bank accounts at the customer’s expense.”