Date Published 02 May 2012

A number of NAEA members from the Surrey area have met to discuss the rapidly rising cost of listing their properties on the major portals.

Chairman James Wyatt said that five times the normal audience attended after the meeting was held at just a few days' notice, at agents' own instigation. And he added that as agents discussed their own rates and dealings with the portals: `We opened a can of worms.`

He said: `At the meeting, around 100 offices were represented, and another 25 or 30 agents would have attended if they could have done. I think it shows the measure of concern in the industry.

`Times are tough for a lot of agents at the moment. After advertising and staffing costs, portal costs will be next on their hit list.

`One agent I spoke to is spending £8,000 a month on portals. Another who was at the meeting said they had pulled all their offices off the Digital portals last month and hadn't noticed any drop in business.`

He said that both Rightmove and DPG had increased their charges far in excess of the rate of inflation in the last year, and with a flat housing market, some agents are feeling the heat.

Wyatt said: `This meeting was held at the members' request as double-digit price inflation from the portals is not sustainable in the long term. NAEA members are looking at the alternatives.`

He said that the hot topic of the day was the merger between Zoopla and DPG.

`We are watching closely,` said Wyatt. `The merger is meant to be a big win for consumers and advertisers – the estate agents – but we see this as an opportunity for DPG to increase their prices to Rightmove's levels and for those two portals to effectively create a duopoly.

`Historically, duopolies tend to lead to market manipulation and price fixing.`

He said that NAEA agents do have their own portal, PropertyLive.

Wyatt added that Surrey members have put a plan in place to market this portal `much more aggressively`.

PropertyLive is due to be revamped shortly.

Wyatt said: `Members are hopeful that PropertyLive will have improved, and we are told that there will be a massively enhanced search engine optimisation. It is a wait and see situation.

`There is a growing belief, or at least wish, that PropertyLive could eventually emerge as a serious player.`