Property Guru is under attack. 1600 agents have banded together and pledged to boycott the site. Why? Because prices had been raised ranging from $880 to $9,880. Previous packages cost between $630 and $2,240.
The property portal had increased agent’s costs by 400% and also increased the cost of their Boost feature by 4 to 7 times. If you had an account that was $980 last year, you may have to pay about $6-8k approximately to market your listings effectively.
It is expensive to be able to continue advertising with PropertyGuru. Expensive because it does not appear to bring value to the one paying the money.
But how much will agents be affected by?
“Trying to be on top of the search (within the first few pages) is very competitive and we will see agents fighting each other to remain high in the search ranking”, said Glynis Tan, an Associate Marketing Director at PropNex.
1600 agents out of a pool of 28,000 agents may not sound like a large number, but it does help if you want to make a statement and that is what Glynis and the people behind Facebook Page “Agents United”, will be doing. The agents are rallying together to make a point that they won’t take the arbitrary price increase without a fight.
The agents appear to be rallying behind 99.co, the competitor to Property Guru.
“Ever since 99.co came along, they appear to be on par with Guru in the rentals segment, statistically speaking. We believe the tide will turn within six months to a year – when agents no longer see value in their subscription to Guru.”
However, there must be a reason why Property Guru would pull such a move and endanger their relationship with these agents. I can think of two:
a.) They want to reduce ad clutter and,
b.) They will soon want to attract more direct users
Ads are great on a site, but they must be relevant ads. When one looks at screen after screen of irrelevant ads, most are click baits to tempt you to call the agent, the site fails to meet its purpose. When this happens, having too many advertisements actually cause the site to lose viewers.
There is already a rising trend of users doing it themselves. New apps such as OhMyHome (https://omh.sg), DirectHome (https://www.directhome.com.sg) and SnappyHouse (http://snappyhouse.com.sg) are all designed to encourage end users to perform the transactions themselves, cutting out the middleman completely. Even HDB’s website has detailed information on how one can perform this and their instructions are clear and unambiguous.
“Technological disruptions will come along, we cannot stop nor help it that there are portals who let sellers and buyers connect. However, our role as agents is to give value through service, knowledge and negotiation skills”, explained Glynis.
She pointed out that although one may save $10k in commissions, you may have lost out on $30k through an agent. Or perhaps, by leveraging their networks and co-broking systems, you could have sold your property faster and at better market timings.
Agents United has plans to take it further.
For now, it appears they are focused on addressing the matter at hand. To do so, they have been working with associations such as the Institute of Estate Agents (IEA) and the Singapore Estate Agents Association (SEAA). These associations already have processes and dispute mechanisms for use.
However, if these fail, Glynnis has expressed interest in building an association from scratch.
“We want a fair representation of agents such as the unions that other industries have for professionals like doctors or lawyers. Currently, the CEA does handle disputes but it is more protective of consumers against errant agents”.
“We aspire to be a voice that can voice out when injustice happens”.