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  • Mal McCallion

OTM: Jeff Goldblum or Chas'n'Dave?



Perhaps, in their 1980’s pomp, we can imagine that they did meet – the cockney crooners tinkling the ivories at some big-haired London celebrity’s party, whilst the suave Hollywood actor nibbled an olive and politely tapped his foot as he scanned for the exit.


Four decades later, their orbits have once again become adjacent – both Jeff Goldblum and Chas’n’Dave have appeared in adverts for property portals in the last few years and both of those are now owned by CoStar; Apartments.com and OnTheMarket (OTM). And comparing the ads – the Goldblum ones have featured in the most expensive ad slots on the planet, at the SuperBowl, whilst Chas’n’Dave (don’t click this unless you want That Song going round in your head instead of Mariah) were unceremoniously removed from OTM’s marketing a while ago – gives a really powerful insight into what we might now expect from a supercharged OTM looking to challenge Rightmove’s dominance.


In short, we’re going to get more Jeff and less Dave.


A fascinating interview this week with Homes.com President, David Mele, walks us through the next two years for Jason Tebb, CEO of OTM, as integration with his new American owner – the CoStar acquisition got green lights from both shareholders and courts this week – gets underway. Mele was President of Homes.com when it was taken over by CoStar in 2021 – and he still is. He talks about focus groups of agents and focus groups of consumers. He speaks about CoStar literally switching off $40m of annual revenue by removing products from Homes.com that conflicted with their philosophy, pithily called “Your listing your lead”.


Essentially, just as Rightmove wades off into the mortgage market to bucket-up as much cash as possible from every registering consumer on its site – hoping to raise revenues in this area by more than 10x within 5 years – OTM is going to be giving each lead a quick cuddle before handing them as quickly as possible to agents for them to monetise.


Much of the interview with Mele focuses on differentiating his product from that of Zillow, the number one portal in the States. In pretty much an exact mirror of what Tebb is going to be doing, Mele’s portal has gone large on gaining unique data. CoStar is employing 1,000 people to research over 10,000 neighbourhoods in the US, creating content that can only be found on Homes.com and its sister sites, including the Goldblum-advertised Apartments.com.


That this $34Bn behemoth sees the future as hyper-local data shouldn’t be a surprise. What might be, however, is how easy it is for agents in the UK to generate their own such data, using the unique knowledge and experience that they have – and some groundbreaking AI – to ‘own’ their areas.


(If you’re interested in kicking 2024 off with some fresh insights, we’re running a free webinar on just this topic - AI in EA: Win More Market Share and Cut Costs – on Monday 11th December at 1230. Just click here to register …)


This week, then, has been pretty seismic in the portal space for UK estate agents. We’re about to be treated to some significant changes in how that market operates, with portal profitability at OTM likely to be sacrificed for some bold moves to gain market share. I think that the days of having to settle for East End geezers attracting future customers to UK agent properties are gone – they’re far more likely to escorted through to agencies by a sophisticated Hollywood A-Lister, with his eyebrow raised just a little bit.

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