Urban.co.uk are a pioneer of Online Estate Agency, having sold more than £90 million worth of property and saved landlords in excess of £7.5million since 2005. Backed by Hash Ladha (COO of Oasis) and Gideon Lask (CEO of Buyapowa), both leading names in E-commerce and retail, urban.co.uk offer a solution in an industry that is often perceived to be expensive, lacking in choice and transparency and is yet to fully embrace the 21st Century.
Urban.co.uk (formerly known as and a trading name of Urban Sales & Lettings) is a leader in the disruption of the £6.5billion annual Estate Agency market by offering an innovative, transparent and cost effective online alternative.
Backed by E-commerce and retail experts Hash Ladha (COO of Oasis and ‘Debrett’s 500’ most influential people in retail 2014) and Gideon Lask (CEO of BuyaPowa.com) urban.co.uk have sold over £90million worth of property and saved landlords in excess of £7.5million in commissions since 2005.
With the emergence of Rightmove and Zoopla, buyers and tenants are no longer secured through the shop window. Offering both sales and lettings, urban.co.uk provides a full Online Estate Agency service backed by a professionally qualified customer service team. The user picks the products and services required, and the property is listed on the major property websites, such as Rightmove and Zoopla. Our bespoke online platform offers the user full control and automation of the property transaction process from instruction to completion.
Estate Agency is a multi-billion pound industry which is yet to make a significant transition from the High Street. Aggregators in the property industry, such as Rightmove, Zoopla, Auction.com and Airbnb have already created mutli-billion pound companies. Urban.co.uk intends to emulate their success.
THE PROBLEMS – AND HOW URBAN.CO.UK SOLVES THEM
Estate Agency has been under fire for a number of years as it is perceived to be costly, lack choice and transparency. The internet has empowered consumers by offering them access to a vast choice of products and services, along with the ability to meaningfully compare competing offerings. We believe consumers are disgruntled and calling for the following problem areas to be addressed:
We believe the High Street model is perceived as poor value for money. The modern consumer seeks to understand service offering and how it is related to price. Premium High Street locations, branded cars and staff bonuses inflate overheads.
Urban.co.uk solution: Urban.co.uk provide a clear pricing structure and offer an exacting list of extras such as floor plans, photographs and For Sale/To Let boards. With prices starting from £59+VAT for a letting and £289+VAT for a sale, our customers can potentially save on average £1,000 by letting and £4,000 by selling using our service. Rationalisation of costs through economies of scale and segregation of workflows allows savings to be passed to the customer.
2. Limited flexibility and choice of products and services
We believe the High Street model offers limited flexibility, service and services. The 21st Century consumer seeks empowerment and access to a much greater choice of products and services at more competitive prices.
Urban.co.uk solution: Providing a full breadth of products and services gives the consumer the power to choose exactly what services they need, rather than being forced into the costly bundled commission system they currently face with High Street agents.
3. Disgruntled consumers
Consumers are disgruntled. Estate Agency is the third most disliked profession in the UK. In 2013 there were 15,498 complaints to the Property Ombudsman, 10,179 for lettings and 5,319 for sales.
Urban.co.uk solution: Offering transparent and low pricing, aiming for excellent customer service, and a full suite of products and services results in satisfied customers.
4. Lack of control and transparency
Empowered internet savvy consumers have the ability to meaningfully compare competing offerings. Estate Agency is arguably an industry yet to fully embrace the emergence of the digital era.
Urban.co.uk solution: Full online functionality allows the user to monitor the status of their property transaction, purchase a full suite of additional products and services, interact with staff, the purchaser or the tenant. Tools track chains, property searches and create electronic tenancy agreements. The system acts as a real-time communication tool and makes sure every transaction is transparent and efficient, ensuring all parties are kept fully updated.
IMPACT AND PROGRESS
With more experience than most other Online Estate Agents, our offering has been honed and improved over the years. We listen to our customers. We take on their feedback, both good and bad, to ensure we offer a service that is highly competitive against both online and High Street providers. It is no wonder our customers give us 5 stars for customer service.
Our reputation for excellence is driven from within. Our team are knowledgeable, friendly, professionally qualified and put the needs of the customer first. This reputation has been recognised by both the voice of the home owner ‘The Home Owners Alliance’ and The Sunday Times.
Pioneering the concept of the ‘Online Estate Agent’, urban.co.uk are the largest Online Letting Agent and are in the top six Online Sales Agents. Our progress can be illustrated by a number of key achievements:
- 12,000 registered users
- 74% of listings from repeat customers in 2014
- Customers rate us 9.5 out of 10 on independent review site Trustpilot
- Database of 200,000 landlords/sellers and over 100,000 tenants
- 86% of customers would use the service again
- Top 5 Online Estate Agents continue to show positive signs of growth
- Average 47% year on year increase in turnover with no external investment
Our reviews on independent consumer review site Trustpilot can be viewed here.
Urban.co.uk have been covered by everyone from The Financial Times, The Guardian and The Independent, to being recognised as one of the UK’s top Online Estate Agents by The Sunday Times.
Oliver Atkinson, our CEO, is an experienced property professional and as such is often asked for his comments on property related subjects by the national media. Over the years he has done everything from speaking at a live Guardian Q&A session on ‘tech start-ups’ to being filmed for part of Channel 4’s ‘How to Sell Your Home’ presented by Sarah Beeny.
A sample of the extensive media coverage that urban.co.uk has received over the past few years can be found below:
The Sunday Times
Urban.co.uk were rated one of the top ‘Online Estate Agents’ in 2014 by The Sunday Times. Oliver Atkinson, our CEO, was quoted as saying “70% of sold properties went under offer within a month and 90% within six weeks…”
Urban.co.uk were quoted in the FT.com in 2014. Oliver Atkinson, our CEO, was quoted as saying “Online Estate Agents can keep costs down because they work from one location rather than an expensive High Street office…”
London Evening Standard
Urban.co.uk were quoted in the London Evening Standard in 2014 after a customer sold their property for £10,000 over the asking price. “Online Estate Agents urban.co.uk who handled the sale say they have seen a big jump in gazumping as the London market hots up… 20% of properties going under offer were either gazumped or went to sealed bids…”
THE DIGITAL REVOLUTION
Estate Agency is arguably one of the few industries yet to have a significant online presence. Other online industries can be split between aggregators, who create leads for other businesses and non-aggregators, who sell a product or service direct to the consumer. Rightmove and Zoopla are the aggregators of the property industry. Their dominance in property search has created a shift in the way people search for property. This has created a gap in the market and has allowed for the creation of new business models such as Online Estate Agency.
There are over 18,000 Estate and Letting Agents in the UK. The annual market size of £6.5billion is split between £4.9billion in sales commissions and £1.6billion in lettings commissions. This equates to 1.1million home sales and 2million lettings instructions every year.
Currently, Online Estate Agency only accounts for between 2% and 4% of the market compared to more than 10% in the US, France, Canada and Germany. Industry experts have noted that Online Estate Agency could grow to 50% of the total market by 2020 creating a market size of over 1.5 million customers per year.
Experts have carried out various studies on the Estate Agency Market in recent years. The most notable being an OFT government report published in 2010 titled ‘Home buying and selling –A market study’ and a Jefferies Bank study carried out for Zoopla in 2014. These reports analysed the property market and reported on consumer satisfaction, price and recommendations to improve the home buying process. Key excerpts from these reports are as follows:
“Competition between Estate Agents on fees appears to be relatively weak…commission rates are sticky…there is limited evidence of agents breaking out of this” OFT Report 2010.
“We believe the best way to tackle the lack of price competition is to promote and encourage new business models which may provide choice and put pressure on the traditional model” OFT Report 2010.
“79% of consumers would list their homes directly if they were allowed to” Jefferies 2014.
Government and independent research suggests that the consumer is calling for change. This coupled with the forecasted increase in the number of properties to rent, increased population growth and the ever rising use of the internet seems likely to result in an expanding market.
Future growth opportunities include expansion into the holiday home and European wide markets, competitor acquisition and joint ventures.
COMPETITION – AND WHY URBAN.CO.UK IS DIFFERENT
As one of the pioneers of Online Estate Agency, urban.co.uk have the competitive edge when it comes to knowledge, price, customer service, and results. This ensures we are competing in a market where, unlike the majority of our competitors, we have received no external investment.
First to Market – Customer before Product
We have many years’ experience of acquiring customers and over this time have developed and improved our customer acquisition strategy. We found the customer and created a product and service to suit their requirements. Over the years it has been tailored to ensure we offer a service that is highly competitive against both online and High Street providers.
Customer Acquisition Strategy
We have many years’ experience of acquiring customers and over this time have developed and improved our customer acquisition strategy. This strategy includes a method of collecting potential customers’ details which we have developed in house and, based on our research, is unmatched in the market. Once the potential customer is found we engage with them through affiliated websites, interactive tools, and information rich content which allows us to market at key trigger points in the decision making process. We call this method our ‘Silver Bullet’ and it gives us a conversion cost that we do not think is beatable by our competitors. This method is supported by traditional on and offline strategies such as Natural Search (SEO), Pay Per Click (PPC), Content Marketing, Online PR, Social Media, TV (in future years), Radio (in future years) and Offline PR.
Gathering, refining and analysing new and existing data sources identifies sellers, landlords, tenants and buyers at different stages of the property transaction cycle and enables upselling of various products and services.
Unrivalled Customer Service
We have built a trusted brand over the years with a reputation for impeccable customer service and results. Selling or letting a property can be a daunting and complex transaction which is why every customer enjoys the full support of qualified industry professionals 7 days a week.
Proven Results and Technology
Our results speak for themselves; we have sold over £90million of property and saved landlords £7.5million in commissions since 2005. Many of our listings in 2014 were from repeat customers. Our bespoke technology will continue to be built on and will further empower the customer by giving complete control and automation to the transaction. We aim to develop a real-time multi device platform enabling the user to monitor each part of the process such as booking viewings, reviewing marketing statistics, reading feedback on viewings, obtaining updates on the property chain and signing contracts.
Our management team are educated, professional and proven entrepreneurs with a passion for property and change. Our advisory boards experience could not be closer aligned for the disruption of the traditional High Street Estate Agency model. Hash Ladha was instrumental in the transition of High Street fashion online through his role at ASOS. Gideon Lask has worked in E-commerce for over 15 years and has first-hand experience of transitioning various industries online.
Oliver Atkinson ACA – CEO & Co-Founder
Oliver is a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) trained Chartered Accountant. On leaving PwC he worked within in the Oil and Gas industry. Oliver is an entrepreneur and experienced property professional. He provides regular commentary to the national media on all aspects of the property market and his vast commercial knowledge aids the successful running of urban.co.uk.
Adam Male – COO & Co-Founder
Having studied Mathematics at Southampton University and later at Exeter College Oxford, Adam began his career in banking working for Goldman Sachs and more recently for Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Adam’s background in Financial Management and Operations supports the day to day running and future upscaling of urban.co.uk.
Hash Ladha – Advisory Board Member
Hash started his career in marketing working for Arcadia Group. In 2003 Hash joined New Look and was part of the management buyout team as Marketing Director. In 2007 he joined ASOS as Marketing and Operations Director, playing a key role in moving fashion online. More recently he was group Multichannel Director at Aurora and is now COO of Oasis and Warehouse. Hash is listed in the 2014 ‘Debrett’s 500’ list of the most influential people in retail. Hash has vast experience in moving traditional High Street industries online.
Gideon Lask- Advisory Board Member
Gideon has worked in E-commerce for over 15 years. He built LetsBuyIt.com and as CEO led a management buyout and subsequent sale of the business. He joined the board of HMV as MD and Multichannel Director, developing the online business to represent 20% of group sales, before leaving to aid the transition of Universal Music from a record label into a multichannel business. Gideon is currently the founder and CEO of BuyaPowa.com, an E-commerce platform that uses social media to engage the consumer.
Stephen Deadmon- Strategy & Innovation Director
Having studied at Christ’s College Cambridge, Stephen started his career in growth and innovation strategy at L.E.K. Consulting and has most recently worked for ‘?What If!’ Innovation and Inzenka, both leaders in the field of disruptive innovation. He has successfully built new propositions, business models and adjacent businesses for some of the world’s leading brands and worked on Danone’s first forays into Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) E-commerce.