A new website that aims to take the sting out of moving home has split the property industry in two, with the potential to benefit mortgage intermediaries but hinder estate agents.
easier.co.uk is a free online service for anyone buying and selling a home which is designed to cut out the estate agent. Users of the service will pay no commission and registration is free.
Unlike many property websites, easier does not generate its revenue from advertising but by selling customer data to its ‘corporate partners’, which include Scottish Widows Bank, Friends Provident and Scottish Legal Life. The site is also willing to sell on the lead information to mortgage brokers. easier plc, owner of the service, floated successfully on the Alternative Investment Market in February, having raised £11.9m in a placing undertaken by stockbrokers Peel, Hunt & Co. The site launched in the South East in February but has plans to roll out a £13m national TV advertising campaign later in the year, well in excess of what was spent by Prudential when it launched egg.
Steve Rist, joint chief executive, said: “We are aiming for rapid consumer awareness and to turn the brand into a household name. The UK domestic property market has been seeking an alternative to estate agents for many years. easier.co.uk offers consumers a fast, free and fair alternative to the status quo for the first time.”
But the site appears to have split the property industry in two and has presented some firms with a difficult conflict of interest.
Winterthur Life marketing manager, Garry Hurry, said that lead data supplied by easier could prove fruitful to its mortgage operation. But he added that the site also presented a somewhat limited danger to Winterthur’s network of more than 1,000 tied estate agencies.
He said: “The market needs to move on and we need to evolve by integrating our distribution channels. I logged on to easier and did not think much of it. People are still going to need face-to-face service when they buy and sell their home.”
Hugh Dunsmore-Hardy, chief executive of the National Association of Estate Agents, urged sellers to be wary.
He said: “There is no such thing as a free lunch. Sellers using this service will probably find they are bombarded left right and centre by companies trying to sell them financial services. The one thing the internet cannot do is provide a personal service that can deal with the many problems associated with the homebuying process as they arise.”