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  • Mal McCallion

OnTheMarket consumed by CoStar

Updated: Oct 23, 2023

Big news in the world of UK property portals - the third-placed player in the market, OnTheMarket, has been taken off the market.

CoStar has paid £100m to secure OnTheMarket (OTM)'s removal from the AIM listing on the London Stock Exchange. For those NOT at the PropTech and Portal Watch (PPW) conference a couple of weeks ago in Madrid, this could have been something of a surprise. Helpfully however, the CoStar CEO, Andy Florance, was on stage on day two to advertise his $33Bn company's readiness to enter every property portal market across Europe - to an audience of pretty much every property portal in every market across Europe.

CoStar CEO Andy Florance (right), explains how he's going to change the portal landscape to PPW Founder Simon Baker, Madrid 2023 Image: PPW

But what does this mean for agents, for consumers - and for UK market leader Rightmove?

  1. Agents: Good news! After 20 years of the 'necessary evil' of listing on Rightmove, and the relentless 10%+ price rises, there's a fresh, significant player in town - and it's not one that is going to struggle to match Rightmove's spending power (CoStar's worth is $33Bn against RM's $4Bn). CoStar is playing up its agent-friendly credentials, as well it might, and seems determined to focus on its paying client base in the first instance. Expect:

    1. Discounted listings, locked in for early-comers, plus new listing opportunities that will reward you for exclusively removing yourself from Rightmove;

    2. Fat cheques written to build advertising presence that don't rely on ancient Cockney crooners Chas 'n' Dave;

    3. Innovative products that include AI and aren't just repackaged Premium Listings;

    4. Reps that genuinely want to help you use the platform better, not just ones that explain why it's fine if you leave, you'll only come back and it will cost you twice as much to do so, go on then, see if I care.

  2. Consumers: Good news! After 20 years of essentially staring at the same homepage, this deal will bring creativity and new ways to search for your dream home. Expect:

    1. A new brand,, to become an intriguing part of your property search. Already CoStar's residential portal in the USA, I think its SEO heft and snappy name will replace OnTheMarket's brand soon;

    2. Natural Language Processing (NLP) 'Search' to become the default. If you really want that "4-bed detached bungalow by the sea within 15 mins of a train station and in the catchment area of a good primary school - oh, and with wooden floors", will deliver (forcing RM to follow);

    3. Integrations tailored to you - if you want to search via WhatsApp, or voice, or AI Assistant, that's what you'll get;

    4. Links to international properties - CoStar has already become the #2 in the US residential portal market. It will spend 2024 becoming strong in major European markets too.

  3. Rightmove: Bad news! After 20 years of generally not having to give a flying fig about anything other than maintaining a brutal headlock on the UK's property market participants - crushing innovation and pillaging all profits in pursuit of pointless share buybacks - you have a contender, ready. Expect:

    1. Quick resistance from agents to your next set of price hikes, due in early-2024. The threat of en masse defection to rival portals has historically been met with an almost uncontrollable sniggering behind the hands of your senior team. This will be less evident going forwards;

    2. An instant urge to offer longer-term contracts to agents. Whereas annual ones enabled you to twirl the 'Average Revenue Per Agent (ARPA) increase' dial strongly upwards each year, the share price pressure to lock-in clients, particularly larger ones, for longer periods will see far more flexibility suddenly come into play;

    3. A redesign of your site. It still looks like it did in 2012 - and you have that pointless interstitial page that every consumer has to go through before they can see properties, where they have to 'confirm' the location they're looking for. It's only there so you can sell even more ad spots to agents - and it won't last the next year;

    4. The coming together of your biggest rivals, Zoopla and CoStar, as a single entity. How the tie-up will work is going to be somewhat hampered by the eye-popping £2.2Bn that Silver Lake paid for 'Houseful' in 2018, but I think it has to happen - otherwise Zoopla's going to be toast.

Bit of a mixed bag, then - great for consumers, great for agents, bad for Rightmove. Its share price fell 15% on the news of the acquisition yesterday and, as more details are internalised by its well-fattened shareholders, there is every chance that it has further to go.

The portal market in the UK hasn't looked this fun in years. With $2m-Google-funded, free-to-list Jitty getting ready for launch too, it's going to be a very interesting 2024.

Buckle up :)

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