On 19th March 2020 I very quietly and discreetly left Rightmove…….not. Like so many of you, I was fed up with the 20%+ price increases, lack of innovation and non-existent support and the staggering difference between the way small and large agencies were treated by the great behemoth. That’s not to say I didn’t see any value in Rightmove….to read all my reasons why not revisit the article in EAT here
I did this in such a public manner, not to put a target on my back or establish any ‘kudos’- but in a very direct response to an array of agents who, like us, are small operations wanting to leave but terrified of what it might mean to their business. After all- it was sheer insanity to leave Rightmove right? If leads didn’t dry up- your competitors would crucify you at valuations. The variety of terrifying reasons NOT to leave are well documented (and I’m sure are carved in to a wall to RM HQ somewhere).
Before anyone dismisses this as a reaction to covid and lockdown- it wasn’t- although their disgusting initial covid offering was the final catalyst that I needed. Like so many of you, we had considered this decision for several years- not just born out of the typical frustrations- but backed up by our own data. We were adamant that leaving would see little if any lost revenue- as we are firm believers that portals are merely funnels not generators. That is to say the likes of RM & Zoopla don’t make people want to buy or rent- they simply facilitate it. This all sounds sensible and logical but the reality of pulling the plug on the biggest brand in property is (as so many of you know so very well) not as easy as we would like.
So, what has this insane last 12 months looked like? Have we gone back? Do we regret our decision? Should you follow suit?
For our business, which is a single branch London agency specialising in lettings & management (annual sales account for less than 5% of revenue), the reality is that it has been a good last 12 months. We all know the impact of covid and lockdowns (which has been discussed at length) so I won’t even mention that. Fundamentally what we saw despite us leaving Rightmove:
Our % of ‘valuation to instruction’ has remained largely unchanged at around 92%
Our % of ‘instruction to let’ has increased from 91% to 94%
Our portfolio has grown faster in the last 12 months than in any 12 month period over the last 5 years (just)
We have retained every single client in the last 12 months
Our Landlord satisfaction rating has increased by nearly 2% to 97%
On our normal RM account rates we would have just saved £24k- (I haven’t bothered calculating out savings with covid free periods & discounts)
To be totally transparent, despite these fantastic results, our turnover has dipped- but this has nothing to do with portals- merely the fact that our average rents have dipped nearly 20%- despite this we closed the year only 5% down on the previous 12 months. As the market recovers in the next 2-3 years, we will reap the real benefits of our growth during these tough times.
Needless to say, we currently have no plans at all to go back….although I add one caveat. Our sales side of the business has seen some unexpected growth in recent weeks and, should this continue, I would seriously consider a ‘sales only’ Rightmove account with absolutely none of the add-ons. Why? Because agents I love and respect who excel at selling London property are adamant it delivers true value and results and I trust their knowledge and expertise. For now, Rightmove is firmly wedged in the public psyche as the ‘go to’ portal to (at the very least) start their search.
Do we regret our decision? Absolutely not. My main regret to date is that we haven’t yet properly reinvested those savings (which was always our intention) back in to our business. This was not primarily about saving or pocketing money but ensuring we got the most ‘bang for our buck’. We are currently looking at embedding Iceberg Digital and their Lifesycle product/platform in to our business as well as exploring how we pivot in to a ‘video first’ agency.
Should you follow suit? My answer now is the same as it was on 19th March- only YOU know that. Don’t leave because you’re angry. Don’t leave because you resent them. Don’t leave because they are expensive. Leave because you are confident it won’t severely impact your ability to land clients and deliver results for them- having looked at your own data. A products price is totally irrelevant- only its value matters- I would happily pay a company £100k a month if they generated me £200k a month. Research, analyse, decide and act accordingly.
If you do decide to leave- make sure you plan this carefully. You need to have every answer and strategy planned and rehearsed across your entire team. What if a client asks why you’re not on Rightmove? What if a competitor puts the boot in for your absence? What if clients demand a lower fee as a result? How can you evidence your decision? How will you promote your successes going forwards to fully validate your approach?
These questions are important- just ask Charlie Perdios of Anthony Pepe (a multi award winning agency I have long since admired) who, like me, chose to leave Rightmove shortly after first lockdown began. He kindly wrote this candid overview of his decision and journey:
‘Shortly after the pandemic began, many of the smaller suppliers we had, went as far as they could to help the industry. I felt that Rightmove were in a position to do more than they did and was not happy with their initial offering. I felt that Rightmove backtracked on original decision to defer payments only due to overwhelming negative agent sentiment and by the time they reversed decision we had already decided to leave. I commend their decision to change their mind, however I did leave the door open to return but honestly hoped we wouldn’t need too .
Our decision to return was because we didn’t want to make it harder for our team at an already difficult time. Our competitors aggressively used it against us and I felt I hadn’t prepared my teams enough to combat this fully. We also felt that with minimal extra costs at the time we could stay on all the portals. I’m still open minded about the merits of the portals and would not rule out ever leaving again although next time we would have a full proof prepared plan at a time of our choosing.’
Leaving Rightmove was the right decision for our business….but you don’t run my business, you run yours. Take inspiration from those around you, but make sure any decision you make is right for your company, your team and you.
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