3rd Quarter Launch for Easy Property

Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou’s easyProperty online sales and lettings agency will not launch this summer as originally suggested but will instead begin operating “sometime from September to December” says chief executive Robert Ellice.

In an exclusive interview with Estate Agent Today, Ellice confirmed that a lettings service would come first and that a homepage anonymously sent to EAT last week – and featuring a wide range of ancillary services in addition to merely advertising properties – was one of a number of versions being tested by the firm.

“I can’t think of any service that a high street agent would have that we will not be providing, apart from a shopfront” he says.

Shortly after the lettings debut, a sales arm of the agency will launch – the culmination, he says, of some two years of development work undertaken by the firm already.

He says there would be some public signs of easyProperty entering the marketplace ahead of the site launch. This is thought to include marketing, for which the firm has a reported £5m budget, but Ellice promises that publicity for easyProperty would not be confined to traditional outlets such as billboards, newspaper and broadcast advertising.

Ellice started his working life in a Bishops Stortford agency when he was 16 and, in his words, “I’ve worked in a traditional estate agency model for 20-odd years.” He is not a believer that traditional high street offices will die out but he says the time is right for the industry to move increasingly online.

“How many buyers or sellers actually walk through the door of an office these days? The number is almost negligible. Buyers are far more consumer-savvy now. Back in the past they had to be shown 20 properties because they’d walked in the door – now they’ve already short-listed what they want to see online” he says.

Ellice also says being low-cost – one of the alleged advantages of many online agents – does not mean being ‘cheap’. “For years Foxtons has had zero per cent commission when its offices have opened so it’s not unique to online to be low-cost or no-cost” he says.

“Estate agents used to have customer loyalty. People would use an agent again and again because they’d used them before or because their family or friends had used them. But it’s a different world today – the sector is much more competitive” he insists.

And he forecasts dramatic growth for online players in the mid- to far-term.

“I’m not naive enough to think offices are going to disappear completely but I’d hope those who knock the likes of easyProperty aren’t so naive as to think online agency won’t grow to take 30, 40 or 50 per cent of the market in the next five to 10 years.”