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Bob North

March 2009

A Countrywide coup for DPG

ALL sorts of claims and counterclaims were made during February as the portals vie for commercial success in 2009.

The Digital Property Group have been making the most claims as they launch their advertising campaigns for this year and their new ‘Insight’ product.

There is no doubt that they have the ambition to succeed but are they really close to challenging Rightmove, the up-and-coming free sites and the new entrants?

Certainly DPG have to be doing something right as for the first time they have attracted Countrywide PLC as advertisers onto the site in what seems to be a change of strategy for the UK’s largest estate agency.

In the Harry Hill era, computers and web presence were not major priorities — other than the strategic investment in Rightmove — but now Grenville Turner, his successor as chief executive, is full of accolades for a Rightmove rival.

“Previously, our estate agents had individual agreements with different portal providers,” said Mr Turner.

“We are in the process of implementing a new, co-ordinated online strategy to ensure customers have the widest access to all of Countrywide’s properties. This partnership will enable our branches to extend their online presence and reach a much larger audience.”

Neither DPG nor Countrywide will disclose the rate that Countrywide are paying for the DPG service.

But Countrywide are notorious for driving a hard bargain and maybe DPG see them as a loss leader and have offered very favourable terms.

Each agent has to negotiate a ‘value package’ with DPG and there is no transparency in terms of the rates that each agent pays.

Mr Turner added: “Now is the time to extend Countrywide’s online presence and DPG have responded to the needs of estate agents and the conditions they are currently facing.

“The property market has been waiting for a portal to provide bespoke reporting that offers member agents a meaningful insight into their local markets and adds real value to their performance management.”

To some extent, these comments are surprising given that Rightmove have provided Countrywide with Rightmoveplus data in the past and it seems from the comments I have received from agents that the two facilities are not dissimilar.

It also seems that Insight is indeed modelled on Rightmoveplus but of course DPG claim it is different.

“Insight combines many ‘must have’ features, such as a detailed overview of an agent’s performance per property, bespoke reports across sales and rentals, a full breakdown of enquiries, and easy-to-generate pdf reports for agents and vendors, with innovative features that are genuine market firsts,” they say.

“Unique to property portal software is the ability for agents to benchmark the performance of their portfolio against the local property market, and monitor demand by property type comparative to the shape of their own portfolio.

“To bridge the gap between vendors’ asking prices, and the current market value, Insight assists agents in achieving more realistic asking prices. The Digital Property Group have established a link with The Land Registry to provide detailed sold prices.”

DPG need to be able to demonstrate the differences to prospective clients but for those who now have access to both, I would welcome your feedback.

PropertyIndex.com are continuing to seek attention and are potentially coming into the top five property portals now that Fish4 have slipped off the pace but they are still young and only have some 250,000 properties.

Some agents are concerned at the value of the leads that they are being charged for but there is a seven-day period for disputing leads so in theory agents are not charged for leads they do not value.

PropertyIndex.com are making a promotional offering of free telephone leads until the end of March.

The problem is that if you sign up for the free telephone lead trial you have to pay for the e-mail leads so one wonders how effective the ‘free’ trial will actually be.

It is also interesting to see the emergence of some of the new generation of indexing and other sites. Between them they are now rivalling the second tier of DPG and Propertyfinder network.

The selected sites I refer to are Nestoria, Trovit UK, Thinkproperty.com, Globrix and PropertyIndex.com. Nestoria leads the traffic generated with Trovit UK now in second place.

Nothing stands still so it will be interesting to see the Portal Comparison in next month’s issue.

• Bob North is a business consultant and a member of estate agency specialists GCG Consulting. He specialises in applied technology, including website functionality and the introduction of IT systems and applications.

He was originally a partner in the 35-office Kent firm of Cobbs, acquired by GA in 1986. He became National Sales Director for GA Property Services and subsequently Strategic Marketing Director of Your Move. Following a secondment to the assertahome project, where he worked on the launch of asserta, Bob joined GCG as a principal. Contact him by e-mail bobn@gcgconsulting.co.uk or by phone on 07831 576073.