“Not another portal… I hear you grumble. Sadly, it is. Only this time it’s different.” That is the opening line of a press release shared yesterday with the property trade press by Kae Travis, the founder of Investate, which he says is an online estate agent “with a difference”.
Travis, who also founded online agent MoveSelf in 2017, which has since closed, specialises in computer science.
In the past he says he has written computer code in over 30 different languages, and now he wants to turn his attention to the housing market and is seeking financial support from agents to help launch a new property portal, called Find Properties, to rival the main players in the sector.
Travis said he is “sick and tired” of agents “perpetually complaining about ever-increasing portal fees yet doing absolutely nothing about it”.
He said he wants to use his experience in technology to launch a product that will help agents take back control of property listings.
He said: “In previous attempts, estate agents have seen mutuals demutualise, privately owned portals sold to marketing companies, failed shareholder-backed portals (that would have possibly resulted in another Rightmove minus the stagnant technology stack), and more recently a portal attempt that scrapes estate agent data without their permission.
“So, I can understand why agents would be sceptical of any new portal offering. Especially since the proposer of this portal offering is the founder of a former property sales platform which attempted to put more control into the hands of the homeowner [MoveSelf].
“But Find Properties is different to previous attempts. Shareholders will not majority-own it. Agents will collectively be able to shape the development of the portal and manage the cost of subscription fees. And importantly, agents will regain control of their own data.
Travis insists that “nothing will change without action”.
“This is my attempt to help an industry that is being held over a barrel, and to use my experience in technology to kickstart something that will produce a tangible outcome,” he added.
Travis has provided the following information for agents to consider:
What is Find Properties?
Find Properties forms the basis of a collective attempt to create a portal that estate agents can control. In its current form, it is a minimum viable product (MVP) property portal hosted on temporary hardware with some sample data (since there is only a small amount of sample data, you’ll want to increase your search radius if testing the platform.)
Some of the features are:
Basic Property Listings – Basic property listings entice prospects to visit estate agent websites directly for more detailed information. Having less features on Find Properties encourages agents to differentiate themselves by improving their own web presence, which in turn will improve agency standards by stimulating competition.
Search Nearby Places – Search nearby places (schools, airports) as opposed to just by area.
No Monetising Agent Data – The portal will not monetise agent’s data by reselling services before prospects contact the agent. By using basic property listings, agents can monetise their own data on direct point of contact.
Google Maps Integration – Google maps integration used for property location and directions.
API-Driven – No logins. No estate agent control panel. Data/statistics can be pushed and pulled from the portal via a RESTful API.
SEO Friendly URLs -Try:
Cookie-based Favourites – Property favourites are set using a simple client-side cookie. Whilst this means that favourites wont roam between browsers and devices, it is a simple approach which requires no user registration.
Mobile-ready – property listings can be viewed on desktop, tablet and mobile devices.
Do Estate Agents Need a Property Portal?
When searching for property, time-restricted consumers ideally only want to search a single source of aggregated properties. Not two or three. And they certainly don’t have the time to search the stock of individual agent websites in a particular geography.
They also don’t have time to phone every estate agent in the area to register their interest, only to wait for agents to call/email them if a property matches their criteria.
Consumers want to proactively search for their ideal property at a time that suits them, with real-time data at their fingertips.
So yes, estate agents need some form of aggregated property platform/portal.
What is the Find Properties Proposition?
Admittedly, some of the finer details of the project are still unknown. But that’s where support, feedback and suggestions from agents will be required.
At a high level, the Find Properties proposition is:
– Gain support from agents up and down the country and ascertain if they want to regain control of their industry. Agents can show their support.
– Establish demand for the project based on feedback.
[If demand is high enough, continue. If not, disband project.]
– Rationalise the feedback to formulate a concrete vision of what agents want and agree a plan of action. Ensure that major property feed providers agree to integrate with the platform.
– Based on the agreed plan, I will then kickstart the project by donating the Find Properties platform (code) for free to a new legal entity where agents are not and never will be majority controlled by shareholders.
– Agents will then need to mutually fund the project.
– Develop the platform (hardware/software) based on the agreed plan and continual agent feedback.
– Integrate the platform with property feed providers.
– Agents can then list on Find Properties.
– Analyse data/leads and when agents hit a breakpoint, they can slowly transition to list exclusively on Find Properties.
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