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The third quarter of 2016 was a characteristically busy three months in the property world. There was plenty of estate and letting agency news to get our teeth into over the summer – our round-up of which you can find here.
However, our attentions now turn to the present and we've had a look at two of the biggest PropTech stories emerging this month that have attracted our interest and got us talking.
Are Rightmove and Zoopla going in 'opposite' directions?
It may seem silly to suggest that the UK's two biggest property portals have 'opposing' business strategies, but that's exactly what one industry expert did recently.
Speaking to Property Portal Watch, Mike DelPrete – an international portals expert – explained the differences between Rightmove and Zoopla's approach to growth.
He noted how Rightmove – the UK's number one property site which is currently ranked as the 35th most visited site in the country by Alexa – 'focuses squarely on being the UK's best place to list a home for sale'.
Rightmove's pinpoint focus on being the most visited property site by buyers and tenants means it has become an essential – if not mandatory – tool for estate and letting agents aiming to sell or let their clients' properties.
DelPrete mentioned how Rightmove continues to grow without spending much attention on 'other business opportunities'.
The Zoopla Property Group, on the other hand, has increasingly diverted its attention to different areas of the property market in recent times.
The portals expert said he found Zoopla to have adopted one of the 'most aggressive' mergers and acquisitions strategies in the global portal space. There have been several acquisitions, as well as investments in a number of high profile PropTech start-ups.
This strategy has led to some commentators questioning whether Zoopla has diluted its focus – as opposed to Rightmove, which dedicates its sole attention to its offering for estate and letting agents.
Over the years, many agents have raised concerns that Zoopla may one day go direct to sellers and landlords, essentially becoming a direct listing site. Other criticisms levelled at the firm's growth strategy include claiming it is attempting to monopolise the market by hoovering up competitors and like-minded businesses.
A portion of agents fear that Zoopla potentially has a conflict of interests, something which has led them to avoid the portal altogether and list on Rightmove and OnTheMarket or just Rightmove.
Other detractors have suggested that Zoopla's interest in home buying services and data could lead to certain restrictions and independent agents' decision making being led.
At the moment, a lot of these ideas are just speculation and opinion. One thing that is clear, though, is that these two businesses are now moving in different directions and it's something we should all be watching with equal parts caution and interest in the coming months and years.
Agent puts rise in valuations down to web chat facility
One PropTech solution which has received a lot of praise from estate and letting agents is live chat.
Live chat facilities – also known as web chat – allow agents to interact with prospective clients who visit their website at any time of the day.
Recently, one of the UK's largest property group's, Connells, confirmed that it is intending to continue to offer live chat as it has noticed a significant increase in valuation bookings and call-backs outside of working hours since implementing the service on its website last autumn.
As people's habits stray outside of the traditional 9-5 structure, the need for live chat on websites is growing as consumers carry out their property research online and at a time that suits them.
In fact, one live chat provider, Yomdel, claims that 33% of all leads it captured for agents were recorded on weekday evenings, with a further 20% at weekends.
Live chat offers a technology solution for agents, meaning they can capture web traffic and potential leads even when the office is closed.
It's time those agents who haven't yet explored this avenue give it some thought – particularly those thinking of getting a new website or upgrading their current offering.
Here at Gnomen, we provide a range of property software and website solutions for estate and letting agents in the UK.
All of our clients receive free training and are entitled to free demonstrations. For more information, get in touch with us on: 0208 123 9019.
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