I am quite sure that there will be a great many High Street estate agents who will not be shedding a tear for the latest casualty of the UK property market – online estate agent, Emoov.
Whilst I would concede that in recent years it has been difficult to empathise with CEO Russell Quirk at times (due largely to his seemingly insatiable appetite for self- publicity), no one can deny his undoubted commitment to his cause. History will judge whether he was a true pioneer of his time or just simply misguided (like a great many other so-called “ industry experts” I suspect) as to the size and potential of the UK online estate agency market.
Over the past few years internet operators such as Emoov, have been described by the financial press as “property industry disruptors”, “visionaries”, and even (believe it or not) “saviours of the UK property market”. Well, I have to admit that it is now hard not to smile at some of these historic headlines, that with the benefit of hindsight, look a lot more like wishful thinking than “informed” prophecy.
So, what went wrong for Emoov? Well firstly, you need a hell of a lot of cash to be a true game-changing business – which Emoov and its investors badly underestimated from the outset.
Secondly, maybe the stark reality is that the UK consumer would like lower fees, but also value talking to “real people” with a degree of local knowledge and expertise when contemplating the sale of their largest asset – thus limiting the market potential of all on – line operators. I realise of course that both Emoov and Purple bricks employ “local property experts”, but these are in a great many cases neither local or indeed expert – a fact that the great British public I believe, are slowly working out for themselves.
And lastly, as Russell Quirk has indeed both proved and subsequently admitted, it is hard to make a worthwhile profit with fees set at less than £1000 without significant market share, and/or assistance from an expanding high turnover residential property market here in the UK.
So, can Emoov be bought out of administration and be saved? Well, of course, it can – but if it is to have any chance of future success, the new buyer should heed the three points that I have made above, rather than just duplicate the mistakes of former investors.