The Rat and Mouse interview – Colby Short from GetAgent
One of the most interesting and innovative property-related startups in a while, GetAgent is a dating agency for vendors and estate agents, analysing sales to match home–sellers with the agents who are performing best in their neighbourhood and property type. Only recently out of beta, they’re signing agents at a rapid rate. CEO Colby Short took time out for a chat with the Rat.
Why don’t we start the time-honoured way with the elevator pitch. What’s GetAgent, what makes it different and who needs it?
GetAgent is a data-driven estate agent comparison site. Every day we analyse Rightmove, Zoopla and OnTheMarket, and match listings data with land registry to create an objective measure of estate agent performance. We allow homeowners to leverage this data to get the best agent for them and in turn the most money for their home. On the estate agent side, we allow the best agents to back up their claims of being the best and win more instructions.
It’s a startup that’s all about the data. The Land Registry data is obviously public domain, what about the rest? Are you reliant on a supply from the portals or are you capturing the data independently?
We capture the data independently through a variety of sources. The listings data is then de-duplicated to ensure that we are not counting the same property twice for a single agent and then our outlier identification algorithm pulls out any anomalies for us to look at manually.
This has created the most complete and accurate set of property listings data available in the UK.
Can you tell me about your background and that of your partners? Do any of you have experience in the property industry?
GetAgent was created by three cofounders.
I am the CEO and have worked in Business Development across several countries before founding a previous company in the finance space. I have no property industry background.
Peter, our CTO, previously founded and managed a property portal called Find Properly, which he later sold to Nestoria. Find Properly was well known for its interesting property widgets.
Seb, head of product and design, previously ran a food subscription business before heading up Adbrain’s design team.
We are not property market veterans, which is a good thing as we are not trying to be estate agents. Estate Agents know about selling homes and we won’t try and tell them how to do it. What we are good at is data capture and analysis and building strong businesses with strong foundations that can scale quickly.
I did however spend the first 6 months of GetAgent going to knock on estate agents’ doors to tell them about our product and gauge their reactions and gather their feedback.
It’s obvious why a vendor might want to use the service. But if you promise to provide unbiased results whether an agent signs up (and pays) or not, what’s the incentive for an estate agent to put his hand in his pocket? High Street agents can be quite conservative and resistant to change. Was GetAgent a tricky sell?
GetAgent has been quite an easy sell so far to estate agents. Yes, it is possible for a homeowner to circumnavigate us and yes we will have leakage from the site but this is a surmountable problem. We simply have to make the user experience so seamless and friction free that they wouldn’t even consider going around us.
When I was out speaking to estate agents, the overriding emotion I heard when discussing the challenge of obtaining new instructions was one of frustration. Many of the best estate agents were annoyed that they were the best estate agent in their area yet only had 6% market share.
People appoint an estate agent every 5-8 years so never really build up enough experience in doing so to be able to identify the best estate agent every time. Additionally, every estate agent claims to be the best making the task even more difficult for the ill informed homeowner.
GetAgent allows the best estate agents to win the volume of instructions they deserve by pulling out the objective evidence of their quality. Why would any good agent not want to support that?
Also, although we do charge a commission, by taking this on completion only take all the cashflow risk for the estate agent and allow them to grow their volumes without any additional up front marketing spend.
Are online agents ranked too? And – on the subject of modern, disruptive, alternative estate agent business – how do you intend to differentiate between the different styles and levels of service offered under what is nowadays something of an umbrella term?
Online estate agents are not ranked, as they do not sell your property for you, they simply advertise it. If there comes a stage when that model changes then we will certainly look at including them. PurpleBricks don’t have enough local volumes to warrant inclusion in any of our shortlists and with the whole online estate agency space only accounting for 2.02% of the market, it is not something we are concerning ourselves with currently.
When did you come out of beta? Can you give me a rough idea of where you are so far in terms of agents signed up and property completions?
There have been a few different stages in the development of GetAgent. We realistically came out of Beta in the middle of September when we were closing out our financing round.
We have now helped find estate agents for well over £100m worth of property and have signed up 570 agents to date.
We are signing up around 200 estate agents a week currently.
Where next? Is the immediate plan to consolidate with a marketing campaign or do you have more features in the pipeline? (Or both?)
We do have some more features in the pipeline for both the homeowner and the agents.
Currently, by signing up to work with GetAgent – which is free I hasten to add – estate agents get access to our “For Pros” section where they can pull out statistics on any estate agent in the country. We are planning to add in a comparison feature to this so agents can see how they compare to their competitors and/or other branches of their company.
On the homeowner side, we would like to provide more information about what to expect during the selling process and help demystify some parts.
But mainly we are looking for a big drive on marketing so that we can help as many people as possible maximise the return on their home.