Shaking up the online property market

Recent news that Tesco and Google may be gearing up to launch property websites could be a wakeup call for letting and estate agentsacross the UK and can only be good news for the user experience in this sector.

Sites like Rightmove.co.uk are already pretty well established in this space so building market share won’t be a breeze. However, both Tesco and Google are trusted names in the UK and Google already offers property search in the US and Australia, so it should be reasonably easy to port this offering across. Tesco has tried to do this in the past, but had to pull out due to legal challenges from estate agents, but now the Office of Fair Trading has recommended reforms to this industry which will allow the entry of players like Google and Tesco.

Tesco seems to be taking advantage of this by launching a website called iSold which lets people sell their home for a flat £999 fee. Moves like this have the potential to revolutionise the way property is sold in the UK and estate agent take-up may not be a crucial factor, as it could pave the way for increasing numbers of private sales.

Concerns about hidden problems and the plain unfamiliarity with the process tend to be the barriers toprivate sales at the moment. But the credibility and trust that may come with big names of Tesco and Google, along with detailed guidance for sellers, could alleviate these issues. Either way, user experience will be key and Google will likely focus on this. As a result, others may eventually have to focus on this as well to continue to compete.

If these developments take place, house buyers/sellers and renters could benefit from not only greater choice at lower costs but hopefully a higher bar set for user experience.  Making selling and buying homes easier is not just a great thing for consumers but may well act as an instrument for a quicker economic recovery.

Photo credit: I See Modern Britain via Flickr / Creative commons

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