Hard on the heels of news that Tesco, the UK’s largest retailer, is plotting to take on high street solicitors by launching a property conveyancing service comes intense speculation that they are also about to launch a service for house sellers.
Using the newly acquired technology company Hikso, which they bought in December last year, Tesco plans to provide a stripped down estate agency service to private sellers and are thought to be close to launch. Hikso’s MD Mark Davis remains tight lipped about what Tescos plans for his company are but if true, a service for private sellers would in effect turn Tesco into a significant player and arguably and estate agent in all but name.
Whether this would be only be an on-line offering is also of importance as commercial surveyors have confirmed that it is possible that the supermarket would require a ‘change of use’ for any stores that were deemed to be involved in ‘selling houses’. The DTi has only recently been looking at so called “FSBO” sites to see if they fall under the Estate Agents Act.
News that Tesco might even be close to launching a product has caused some panic amongst the big Property Portals. Early media reports had suggested that some might be considering supplying their listings to Tesco in much the same way that some power The Telegraph website or Channel 4. An amusing exchange of emails then followed as each tried to distance itself from the rest by suggesting that they were not going to to dilute the value of their offering to their estate agent clients by helping Tesco and indeed it would now seem that none of the big five will be doing so. Whether they can effectively shut out a Private sellers site the size of Tesco as they have done to other smaller players would seem to raise some competition issues too.
Never the less, the implications for some of these businesses could be significant if a brand as big as Tesco decided to take on the establishment. They are not a company to trifle with and whatever they do will surely have huge backing. Will many clients of the newly acquired Countrywide like the idea of seeing their houses being sold along with their weekly grocery shop and how long before individual agents decide to list direct on Tesco online rather than or as well as with a traditional Portal?
The public would get more choice but fees in the UK are amongst the lowest in the world. However, it remains to be seen what impact this could have on the value of Rightmove or DMGT shares as well as the quoted agents should individual agents or the public decide that frankly “every little helps”!