One of the most popular and frequently used home search methods, the online property portal industry is dominated by a few websites. It is unsurprising that a rising number of estate agents are allocating significantly more of their money into maintaining an online presence, which goes beyond the simple listing of properties on their own site.

Property portal titans Rightmove and Zoopla have amassed a combined market share of £5.2 billion, and now big name estate agents such as Knight Frank and Savills are hoping to gain control of the home buyer audience by challenging these portals. OnTheMarket was launched by Agents’ Mutual, a big consortium of estate agents, including Knight Frank and Savills, in January 2015, meaning the battle of two portals could rapidly become three.

OTM has provided an alternative search platform which is gaining in popularity with agents and consumers, according to listings and traffic growth. During September 2018, the company reported an all-time high for traffic of 17.4 million visits, with major agents including Belvoir, Portico, Townends, Arun and Hunters choosing to list each one of their properties on OnTheMarket.com.

This has allowed OTM’s listing agreements to double, with around 11,500 agency offices signed up to the service. With their free listings introductory trial offers, OTM has been able to compete in the portals market. Crucially, portals also currently deliver record levels of email and phone leads for their letting and estate agent customers.

Due to OTM’s successes, they have managed to inject competition into the industry of property portals, while also reducing the pricing power of Rightmove and Zoopla. However, many agents have not yet been swayed to switch from Rightmove. As the battle continues, some industry experts believe that Rightmove will be the real winner of the war of the portals.

Despite competition from OTM, Rightmove experienced a pre-tax profit growth of 12 per cent, to £98 million in the six months leading up to June, due to the strength of its business model. This is despite the challenging market conditions for estate agents, as they pay more to advertise their properties on its website, with the average client increasing their spend by £76 compared to the same time last year. Regardless of the higher costs, membership numbers for Rightmove have remained steady, with 20,450 developers and agents using the platform, up 0.1 per cent from 20,427 last year.

The attraction of Rightmove for developers and estate agents goes beyond simple listings, with access offered to a range of practical and insightful tools such as Rightmove Intel, which maps potential new instruction opportunities, as well as webinars from industry experts. Chief Executive of Rightmove, Peter Brooks-Johnson, has stated that one of the aims of Rightmove is to provide agents with innovative products and tools to help customers become more efficient and win more instructions. He claims that access to Rightmove’s tools and reports gives agents unique market intelligence.

Zoopla, and PrimeLocation, its sister portal, offer over one million property listings, which attract a varied and wide audience of more than 50 million visitors every month. The portal also provides consumer tools and additional services such as commute times, broadband speed, keyword search, home running costs and sold prices, which help to drive smarter property searches.

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