Uphill battle for newcomers in UK real estate market

13 Apr 2017

Buy-to-let landlords prefer Rightmove.co.uk and Zoopla.co.uk to smaller websites, according to new research from insurance broker Simply Business.

Despite a number of smaller sites with a focus on location and/or offering free listings, the poll of landlords confirmed the abovementioned two, big contenders still dominate.

Of the buy-to-let landlords surveyed by Simply Business, 48 percent said they don’t even consider using free websites or small, local ones, and only a quarter use a mixture of both small and large sites.

The research concluded: “Many free websites, such as Gumtree and Craigslist, aren’t specifically for properties, which waters down the potential pool of people looking for a place to rent, while SpareRoom tends only to appeal to sharers.”

It adds: “Similarly, smaller, local sites can cater to areas as focused as one London borough. While this might appeal to certain tenants, bigger sites allow landlords to cast a wider net.”

ZPG (Zoopla’s parent group), which also owns the PrimeLocation and uSwitch websites, recently claimed that awareness of Zoopla’s brand is now at its highest ever, and that its lead over Rightmove in this area is also at a record high.

The research was conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of ZPG (meaning of course that it needs to be taken with a large pinch of salt). In the U.K., 1,043 adults were asked which property sites they could name unprompted. Forty-nine percent said Zoopla, compared to 40 percent for Rightmove and just 3 percent for OnTheMarket.

OnTheMarket.com launched in January 2015, with plans to challenge the “duopoly” of Rightmove and Zoopla. It allowed estate agents to list their properties more cheaply than its rivals, but insisted that agents using its site could use only one other site – which would likely be either Zoopla or Rightmove. However, this ambition to challenge them, hasn’t been realized yet.

Traffic data from SimilarWeb suggests that only Rightmove.co.uk saw traffic growth in the first three months of this year, achieving 156 million visits (total web visits over the 3 months), compared to 72.2 million for Zoopla.co.uk and just 11.5 million for OnTheMarket.com.

George Salmon, Equity Analyst at Hargreaves Lansdowne, wrote this week, “Rightmove remains the dominant player”, and claimed Rightmove accounts for around four out of every five minutes spent on property sites. 

He said: “For estate agents, it often comes down to a simple choice between paying the Rightmove fee, or selling fewer properties.”

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Sarah Wray