Prevention Is Better Than Cure

With the recent float of Zoopla Property Group on the stock market to the value of around £1billion, we felt it was now the right time to fully inform the Scottish letting agent market as to why we didn’t want a partnership back in 2012 when Zoopla merged with Digital Property Group (DPG) to form ZPG.

In short, our move was designed to help protect the industry from the emergence of ‘another Rightmove’ in Scotland. We believed the deal would represent a clear conflict of interest to agents as a vehicle to deploy a fast growing Zoopla to the Scottish region. What’s wrong with that you may say?

Letting agents in England and Wales face very limited choices for portal advertising with the region reduced to what is commonly referred to as a ‘duopoly’. This has resulted in considerable concern re the direction of the market in the years ahead prompting various market reactions.

This is not as keenly felt in Scotland- an area unique in the UK for portal choice- and Citylets believes that we are all best served through the preservation of property portal choice in Scotland as the best natural foil to any potential market oppression.  

Listings networking, a concept pioneered at Citylets, was intended to add value to Scottish agents by reaching distant, minority (English) tenant markets through 3rd party brands with prominence in those areas.

However the flip side was that it also empowered recipient brands to enter into the local Scottish market if they had the requisite ability and ambition to do so. After all, a new entrant needs properties for its site to create a consumer following and as a premise to large scale marketing. A wholesale feed from a regional portal overcomes the almost impossible catch 22 of attaining critical mass.

In my view there has always been a duty to agents for a portal to discern between potential partners. I would suggest when ZPG formed through merger of the UK’s 2nd/3rd&4th largest sites in 2012 that their trajectory was fully clear- the scales had tipped and the risks of networking to agents now materially outweighed the benefits.

In some ways it was difficult to forgo the apparent glamour of the association with Zoopla, however we believed it was the right thing to do for the industry long term.

Citylets respects the companies mentioned in this blog and our intention here is to comment and explain the dynamics of networking to those that it affects- Scottish letting agents. Put it this way, the directors of Rightmove and Zoopla wouldn’t exactly share their properties with us if we wanted to start up in London, never mind pay us for the privilege.