Online estate agents and competition

If Ford Motor Company announced that they were campaigning to have, say, Skoda cars banned because they were cheaper than them and represented a threat to their business, what would you say? If Tesco lobbied Westminster to have Aldi closed down because they didn’t want to compete with their lower prices, would that be ok? Regardless of whether you are one for ‘big Government’ or ‘small Government’, to do away with a leaner competitor because the established firms wanted to keep charging customers more, must surely be bad for the consumer. Right? Thankfully this simply isn’t something that would happen in this country. Not these days. Or would it?

Competition between online and high street estate agents

Online estate agents are becoming well established now. My own firm, eMoov.co.uk has just entered its fifth year of trading and is making its mark as the UK’s largest low cost agent. We doubled in size during 2013 (again) and listed 2257 homes for sale. But which seemingly comes with its own set of issues, despite the success that it also brings. One of those issues is that traditional estate agents hate our guts. Not because we aren’t warm and cuddly people (we are, incidentally) but because we are a threat. You know, the new boy in class that is good looking and great at football and that therefore all the other boys instantly detest.

As with all things in life, there is nothing like a level playing field to separate the best from the good. And as far as selling houses is concerned, the playing field is certainly level yet we as low cost agents are shining through as the growing choice in selling houses and saving people money. Bricks and mortar agents would initially gripe a lot about or existence but are recently resorting to more ‘robust’ tactics in an attempt to rid their fears of the threat of the online express hurtling toward them.

“Banning” online estate agents: Where is fair play?

Indeed ‘banning’ online estate agents from listing their properties on Rightmove, Zoopla and Prime Location is the idea that one particular veteran of the property world is advancing as his solution to his financial woes. Trevor Mealham, CEO of the Independent Network of Estate Agents and a former high street estate agency branch owner, says that online estate agents should be prohibited from publishing their stock on the major portal sites in order ‘to allow traditional agents the ability to earn a decent fee’. No argument is advanced as to WHY their fees are so much higher and no attempt is made at justification as to why the public should pay through the nose just to help furnish expensive branch offices.

The die is cast in the property market. Low cost agents are here and are expanding rapidly. The seller benefits from the same result and often even better service levels from firms like eMoov.co.uk yet the mainstream industry is hell bent on preventing the consumer from achieving that benefit. Scandalous and, I might add, unlawful in that the Competition Act insists that competition is free flowing and unhindered. After all, who on earth would wish for artificially high prices? Just Trevor perhaps….?

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