OnTheMarket says Covid crisis could be catalyst for change in portals

The acting chief executive of OnTheMarket says the Coronavirus crisis could indirectly create a catalyst for change in the portals marketplace.

Clive Beattie – the portal’s long-standing chief finance officer who is currently substituting for the sacked Ian Springett – says that as a result of the virus “we’re seeing a very vocal agency community arguing that this is a time for change, arguing against a return to ‘the old normal.’”

Although he does not refer directly to the Say No To Rightmove campaign, Beattie insists that OnTheMarket is ripe to benefit from that change, echoing the familiar comment that OTM was “founded by agents and founded for agents” and has provided the competition that he claims the portal market had been lacking for some years.

In an interview with the Edison TV business channel Beattie quotes figures dating back to January for the portal with some 13,500 advertisers representing about 12,500 branches and around 1,000 new build advertisers. In that first month of the calendar year OTM enjoyed a record 30m visit generating 126 leads per advertiser on average, he claims.

Beattie did not give any more recent figures – even for the February or March period before   the pandemic – but admitted that when the lockdown was announced traffic was “lower than it was” but had “rebounded” in the past fortnight, albeit not to pre-virus levels.

Beattie – whose performance was markedly different in tone and attitude to that of Springett on similar media appearances – said that future developments in the agency industry generally and his portal in particular were likely to take the form of additional services to agents.

He pointed to a recent deal, announced just before Christmas, in which OTM made a strategic investment for a 20 per cent share in Glanty Ltd the owner and developer of the PropTech lettings platform teclet. That deal was a cash purchase of £797,000, spread over 10 months from December plus an option to acquire the remaining 80 per cent of Glanty.

“It’s no surprise that there may be an acceleration of technical projects to help agents work differently and more efficiently” as a result of the Coronavirus crisis, Beattie claims.