As 2015 gets underway, we look to the year ahead and wonder what it has in store for us. At the moment there is a good deal of uncertainty as to how the housing sector will perform this year. The collapse of oil prices, free falling values of some of the World’s major currencies and a weak Eurozone has led to a fragile global economy and coupled with the prospect of a close general election, the outlook is one of caution.

Despite improved trading conditions in 2014 and the recent welcome overhaul of the stamp duty system, many commentators are forecasting UK house prices to remain virtually static in 2015 and for the London market not to be quite as buoyant as it has been in recent years. However prospects for the country sector appear to be more upbeat with the expectation that rural towns and villages, particularly in Southern England, will continue to perform well.

As is ever the case, attractive rural and village cottages and houses for sale or let in the areas covered by Rural View including South Wiltshire, North Dorset, South Somerset and West Hampshire are sure to remain in strong demand particularly those in the most desirable locations.

For some years now the vast majority of home buyers have house hunted almost exclusively on-line. The days of relying just on advertisements in the local press or popping into the estate agent on the High Street have all but gone and in this digital age the mouse is king!

Bearing in mind the number of property transactions throughout the UK during the course of a year (roughly one million in 2013), it is perhaps surprising that there are so few property related portals with just three major websites; Rightmove, Zoopla and Primelocation. Rightmove is certainly the most dominant and is the 8th most viewed website in the UK. I used to refer to them as the Tesco’s of the internet but even Tesco’s at their height never had such a large share of the market.

Up until now the Zoopla Property Group has been the only serious competition for Rightmove and their heavy investment in highly visible marketing campaigns has meant that they remain a key player and attract large numbers of prospective buyers to their two sites; Zoopla and Primelocation.

Rightmove, being all too aware of their importance to estate agents and indeed, an agent not on their site might as well shut up shop, has for many years got away with commanding huge fees from their agent customers. The irritation that this has caused hundreds of estate agency firms up and down the country, large and small, has resulted in the formation of Agents Mutual and the launch on the 26th January of a new estate agents’ owned website called ‘On the Market’.

To ensure their commitment to the cause, to be able to advertise their clients’ homes on ‘On the Market’, Agents Mutual members are obliged to use only one other portal which means they have to drop either Rightmove or Zoopla/Primelocation. This is something that we at Rural View are uncomfortable with as we feel that this is restrictive and contradicts our duty to promote our vendor clients’ properties to as wide an audience as possible.

We certainly welcome the challenge to Rightmove but it is unlikely that many firms will have the nerve to ditch them and instead ZPG, whose two sites are popular and fees reasonable, will be the innocent if unintended victim leaving Rightmove as strong as they were before thereby defeating the raison d’etre of ‘On the Market’. We will be keeping a close eye on the new portal and will, as ever, act accordingly in the best interests of our clients.

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