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Two-thirds of offices at The Property Franchise Group are now listing their properties at OnTheMarket, chief executive Ian Wilson has revealed.

He said: “I made no secret of it that I was not a fan when it launched. I actually advised our franchisees not to participate at launch.

“I thought it was not a good enough reason for agents to get together to have a pop at Rightmove – there had to be something in it for the consumer.”

However, a meeting with OTM chief executive Ian Springett persuaded Wilson that his franchisees might benefit by giving it a try – especially as it would be free.

Were all The Property Franchise Group’s offices to sign up to OTM – with a probable sweetener of free shares – it would be a major coup for the portal, to recruit what looks like its second biggest group after Spicerhaart.

Wilson said there was evidence that the launch of OTM has made no difference to Rightmove’s pricing plans, with increases continuing in line with what they were before the OTM launch.

Related: The Property Franchise Group snaps up city independent agency

However, there was evidence that Zoopla had had to ‘soften’ its own pricing ambitions.

Wilson says that offices now on OTM are averaging 50 leads from it per month.

Were the franchisees paying – and the large majority are not – Wilson says this would equate to £6 per lead.

He said: “What we cannot tell is whether these are unique leads or duplicates.

“However, we have a new group CRM system being switched on in September, from which we will be able to see whether leads we get from Rightmove, Zoopla and OTM are unique or duplicates.

“By next spring, we will be able to trace back each sale and each let back to the lead, and to which portal that lead came from.

“That information will help us decide whether OTM, charging around £300 a month, will be worth continuing with.

“We will be able to provide our francisees with fact-based evidence showing which portal produces the cheapest leads, which produces the highest proportion of unique leads, and which portal produces the most leads resulting in a sale or let.”

Wilson said that franchisees who sign up after a free trial could be in line for free shares in OTM.

He told EYE: “OTM has £36m of free shares to give away.” He said that the prospect of equity in OTM could be a compelling proposition for franchisees.

In a twist, though, it has emerged that some early OTM adopters in the group’s Xperience and Whitegates brands are in contractual disputes.

Wilson believes these can be overcome, given OTM’s clear enthusiasm to recruit a group of some 300 franchisees.

Wilson said he is concerned that Rightmove’s prices will continue to rise.

He said that, because of his firm’s group buying power, The Property Franchise Group pays less than the average £1,100 charged to small independents.

But, Wilson said, if because of poor market conditions and loss of income from the tenant fee ban, smaller agents go out of business, Rightmove could make up the lost revenue by reducing the volume discount.

Source: Property Industry Eye

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