Date Published 24 June 2013
A new style of portal agency is crossing the Channel and is poised to break into the UK estate agency market.
Optimhome is this week starting to recruit a national network of self-employed agents who will work from home.
They will earn `exceptional` commission and also referral fees for conveyancing, mortgages, insurances and utilities.
An advert appeared with Reed, the recruitment company, at the weekend. ‘Agent information days’ are being held tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday in Birmingham, Leeds and Newcastle.
Optimhome launched in France in 2006 and according to its French website `upset the French real estate market` with its new approach to business.
It claims to have nearly 1,300 agents in France, explaining that its concept lies in the absence of a shop window: `The store is replaced by internet shopping.`
The French website operates as a portal which is fed with both sales and lettings listings by its network of agents, who receive admin, business and legal assistance, plus IT. The public can use the portal to find properties and agents, and to register their information for valuations.
The agents receive training and are said to offer sellers highly competitive rates made possible by low overheads to win listings.
The UK Optimhome business is now up and running, although it as yet has no properties or agents on it. It is based in Solihull and run by Charles Hargreaves, and makes clear that as well as property listings on the Optimhome site, properties will also appear on other sites including Rightmove and Zoopla.
Hargreaves has agency experience and was director of a firm based in Droitwich called Ezlet.
It is not obvious from either the French or UK Optimhome websites exactly what the business model is and, if it is a franchise network based on local territories, how much it costs.
Anyone interested is asked to attend an information meeting, receive a phone call or get an information pack.
While the concept of agents working from home is not new – Hunters have their Personal Agents franchise scheme, and in the Thames Valley, Davis Tate have tried something similar – Optimhome says it will be the UK’s first national home-based estate agency network.
One industry figure, Robert May, told EAT: `I don`t think it will be long before Rightmove and Zoopla are trying the same thing?.
`This is slightly different to online agency because this is the portal itself building a network of property valuers, listers and viewings escorts to do the bits of agency that cannot be done by the portal remotely.
`Effectively the portal is the agent, and the self-employed ‘agents’ that Optimhome is looking for will be the minions that are essential to make it work.
`Most agents cannot understand this as a threat but it is happening, and traditional estate agents need to work together to keep control of their data and their industry.
`I have no interest in working for this crowd, but if I did, my local knowledge, reputation, and knowledge of the strengths and weakness of the competition, mean I could decimate traditional estate agency in the area.
`I don’t know if Optimhome would be the ones who make this work in the UK, but Rightmove could and so could Google.
`I have been warning that this would happen. If traditional agents do not wake up soon and stop pulling in umpteen different directions, they