A major lettings conglomerate has acquired an online-only letting agency – only to then bring all of its properties into high street branches, raising questions about the future direction of the sector.
Lomond Group, one of the UK’s fastest growing estate and lettings agencies, purchased Property Hub Lets this month, adding around 700 properties in Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Birmingham to its portfolios.
Property Hub Lets, a subsidiary of Property Hub, had operated exclusively online – but Lomond Group has decided to manage the properties acquired in the deal through their existing high street brands.
Does the move mark a wider decline of online-only agencies? From Lomond’s perspective, it certainly seems so. Will Linley, managing director, said the deal is “a model we are looking to mirror in future acquisitions”.
According to industry commentators, online-only agencies also haven’t achieved the market share that was predicted for them – and industry research suggests that they are having particular trouble gaining traction in high-value markets. High street agents still have the all-important advantage of local knowledge, while also using PropTech such as automated communication and online client portals to provide the around-the-clock service once limited to online brands.
However, it is far too early to dismiss online agencies. Earlier this month, The Property Franchise Group reported that its hybrid brands have performed well in the first half of this year – and that group income from lettings is highly resilient amid challenging market conditions.
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