PropertyIndex: Darren Richards and Lee Bramzell

Darren Richards and Lee Bramzell tell GB why their property portal is unique

Plummeting house prices. Soaring negative equity. Struggling mortgage seekers. Now may not be the best time to launch a business in the property market. Or so you’d think.

Yet this September, that’s exactly what DatingDirect founder Darren Richards did. However, Richards believes that PropertyIndex.com, which lists Rightmove and Propertyfinder among its rivals, has something unique which will help it prosper during the downturn.

PropertyIndex is a property portal which allows agents to list on its website with one crucial difference: instead of charging customers a monthly subscription, they pay on a cost per lead basis, similar to the advertising model of Google. “This means they only pay for results,” says Lee Bramzell, the new firm’s managing director.

Taking this tried and tested approach to advertising and applying it to the property portal market will help PropertyIndex stand out from the competition, especially during times of economic turmoil, says Bramzell.

The company’s strength, it would seem, is in its heritage – both Richards and Bramzell come from internet backgrounds. Richards’ concept for DatingDirect revolutionised the dating scheme in the UK and Bramzell was responsible for launching Currys.co.uk and Thomson.co.uk.

“We are web entrepreneurs coming into the property market whereas a lot of the incumbent players come at it from the other way round; they’re either estate agents or property magazine publishers coming into the web market,” explains Bramzell.

At present, the consumer has a wide range of property portals to choose from and by Bramzell’s own admission, the majority of them chose Rightmove “because they’ve been around the longest and they’re high profile”.

However, longevity and profile may no longer be enough to keep them in the game – Rightmove recently announced it would be culling a fifth of its workforce after admitting that the housing market is unlikely to recover next year.

Meanwhile, PropertyIndex goes from strength to strength. While Richards’ UK offering was only launched in September, the overseas arm has been live since September 2007. The idea came to Richards as he pondered exiting DatingDirect, which he eventually sold early last year for almost £30m.

“The offers were starting to come in and so I began thinking about what I would do when I sold my business,” recalls Richards. “I decided to buy some property abroad and I found myself visiting half a dozen different portals. I found it a bit odd that there isn’t one good portal I could visit where all the agents and developers put all their property in one place.”

And so PropertyIndex was born. Launching the overseas arm of the business gave Richards and Bramzell a much needed 12 months before the launch of the UK site to learn about the property market. “It’s a steep learning curve,” admits Richards.

The 12 month time lapse also gave them the opportunity to tweak and modify the business before launching to the all-important UK market. “The methodology that we laid out last September is very different to the methodology which we deploy today,” confesses Bramzell.

This learning process has enabled PropertyIndex to take an educated view of what its customers’ requirements are and provide a better service than its rivals. “In the past, some of the agents have been under-served by competitors who have given them fairly shoddy leads,” says Bramzell conspiratorially.

“What we offer is the full name, email address and full contact details for people who have visited a property portal and sought out the particular property or properties they are interested in. That’s very different to what a lot of agents are used to being promoted as a lead.”

Contrary to popular belief, Bramzell claims this is the perfect time to launch PropertyIndex, as estate agents are eager to try out new approaches to encourage sales or cut costs. “Up until now they haven’t had to question their marketing strategy,” he explains. But PropertyIndex’s Google-influenced pay per results model is certainly engaging their attention. “It’s just about getting them talking a new language.”

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