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  • Mal McCallion

Yopa Eye-Opener

Updated: Jun 13




Back in the day (2015), when online agents were grabbing headlines and the entire contents of investor wallets, Your Online Property Agent – YOPA for short – appeared, backed by the sons (Andrew and Alistair Barclay) of the Telegraph owners and co-founded by Daniel Attia.

 

In 2016 it shook Savills down for some investment too, as it participated in a £16m raise. Then LSL dived in at the end of 2017, wrote down its £20m investment to £7.8m a year later and then seems to have abandoned any hope of getting a return when it sold its shares to Savills and Daily Mail Group Ventures at the beginning of 2023.

 

Why the preamble? Well, this week we’ve been treated to some eye-opening stats delivered from Yopa’s CEO, Verona Frankish, stating that they are (I paraphrase) absolutely bossing things. Claims include (but are not limited to):

 

-              Top 10 (agent brand) in 'Britain' for listings at 4,318 properties listed (between 01 Jan and 30 April 2024)

-              Top 7 (brand) for sales agreed, selling 3,823

-              A for-sale-to-SSTC ratio of 89% (!!)

-              #3 in 'the country' for exchange volume at 2,757 transactions

 

These come with the halo-effect of a claimed (by Frankish) endorsement from the respected TwentyCi – but their spokespeople are notable by their absences. The PR puff is all in Verona’s persona (sorry).

 

Regular viewers will know that I’m not the biggest fan of isolated datapoints. These get even more sketchy when the seemingly-random ‘typical’ property price of £450k is used (ave property price in UK is around £280k). This price then becomes the benchmark to claim – astonishingly – that Yopa gets an average of ‘£12,906 more than the average agent’ on such a home (but no others).

 

Just to pause and dwell on this a little:

 

-              Who is this ‘average agent’ that gets £13k less than Yopa? How are they defined? Who is included and who is excluded?

-              Is £450k the initial listed price? A revised listing price? The sold price? The vendor-hoped-for price? An ‘Offers in Excess of’ price?

-              How many of these £450k properties are being averaged here? 2? 20? 200? Because an average of 2 can remarkably easily be skewed by poor initial valuations …

 

I’m mindful that we’re very much into Brexit Bus territory here – where a statistic that is highly contentious (to put it kindly) is repeated again and again by commentators, supporters and opponents, debated and argued over, until it’s absolutely done its job of cementing itself in association with an organisation – which in the end doesn’t really care if it’s true or not, just that we’re reinforcing it (cf. Rishi’s £2k Labour tax claim). The PR is the thing, the banter, the comments, the rage, the memes, the shares.

 

Which is also the point of the 89% for-sale-to-SSTC figure. That’s obviously huge. How true is it? Based on what? How many? Its dubiousness – it is SO high – is kind of its point. And it does just make one very cynical about the rest of the numbers too – they’re impressive on the face of it but how far are they real? Why have they picked four months? Why not three, or six, or twelve?

 

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics,” said Mark Twain. Perhaps we ought to wait to see if these make it into any signed-off corporate accounts, where numbers are legally required to be accurate.

 

On those – up until Savills and Daily Mail went all-in and bought everyone else out at the beginning of 2023 (through their vehicle Andor Holdco), there had been an estimated £91m invested in Yopa. On top of this, the 2022 accounts (published in Feb this year) acknowledge an additional £3.1m in loans going into the business from these two companies.

 

2022 saw Net Loss increase by 48% to £6.8m for the year, on 5% decreased revenues of £17.7m. Yopa does not say how many listings it achieved in this year but, even assuming it was as high as Jan-April this year, that would be (4,318 x 3 =) 12,954 – so it’s subsidising each transaction to the tune of at least £525, probably a lot more as they’ll have listed a lot less and still lost £6.8m.

 

In its 9 years of existence, it’s lost around £96m. It’s burned through £91m+ in investment.

 

Frankish refers to her numbers being an ‘inconvenient truth’ for her competitors. It’s the inconvenient P&L that is likely to be far more relevant in the medium term because, as Purplebricks has shown (and Emoov and easyProperty and Tepilo and Doorsteps and …) gravity has a horrible habit of catching up with you in the end.

 

“Now, we have proof of our performance and we will wear it as the ultimate badge of honour,” Frankish avows, grandly.

 

Most company’s proof of performance, certainly after nine years of trying, is generally taken to be profitability. Not sure that this ‘ultimate badge of honour’ will be showcased as widely by Your Online Property Agent in the next few months …

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