Following last year’s IPO of property portal and search engine Zoopla, and plans by traditional brick ‘n’ mortar estate agents (or realtors) to fight back, the property ‘tech’ space in the UK remains a heated one.
This includes the emergence of a number of online estate agents, such as EasyProperty (a licensee of Stelios Haji-Ioannou’s ‘Easy’ brand) and OpenRent, both of which are moving rentals online.
Then there’s Purplebricks, which also counts itself as an online estate agent, offering rentals and property sales, and eMoov, which is in the house-selling business only. The latter has just raised £1.5m in a new round of funding led by London VC firm Episode 1.
What’s interesting about the rise of the ‘online estate agent’ in the UK, is that over the years property search and listings has been well and truly disrupted, with the majority of renters or house buyers now searching for property online via behemoths Zoopla and Rightmove. However, transactions are still largely handled by traditional offline agencies, who charge hefty fees for carrying out the related administrative work.
By moving this part of the property consumer ‘journey’ online, startups have a great opportunity to further disrupt the space, significantly undercutting the fees charged for handling the renting or sale of a property. If traditional estate agents think the property portals are eating their lunch, online estate agents are likely going to eat their breakfast and dinner too.
To that end, eMoov founder and CEO Russell Quirk is placing a big bet on the trend of property sales moving online. He sold his family estate agency business to set up the property tech startup in 2010.
Furthermore, I’m told the online estate agency sector is still relatively small, taking roughly 5 per cent of the UK’s home-selling market, but is doubling in size each year. So plenty of room for eMoov and its direct online competitors to grow over the next few years.