One of our most eagerly anticipated Sensible Development collaborations of 2015 was our first property website, a project for UK start-up welovesold.
Disrupting the UK Property Market
The last few years have seen major developments in the UK residential property market, with over 95% of sales now facilitated by online portals Rightmove and Zoopla. New online propositions, offering lower fixed-fee structures instead of the traditional commission percentage, are challenging the long-established high street model and there is widespread evidence that the UK consumer is disillusioned with paying a national average of £5,000 to agents who it is felt now provide less value for money. The market is ripe for change and it is a time of exciting opportunity for disruptive business models seeking to rise to the challenge. This is where We Love Sold (WLS) came in.
In 2014, we were approached by the Directors to scope an online service aimed at providing consumers with an attractive, easy to use and fully-responsive system to cover all their home buying and selling needs. This required us to adapt our auction platform to accommodate the different volume and needs of the property industry and the UK consumer.
WLS had analysed the strengths and weaknesses of significant online competitors (including Purple Bricks, Sell My Home, Tepilo and Hatched) in comparison to the traditional model, and then took the best of both worlds to create a unique ‘hybrid’ model.
Challenging the Online Agents
The research found that many of the national online agents lacked the local market knowledge needed to make an accurate house valuation, and customers also missed out on the local presence and contacts needed to push the sale through to completion. Instead, the WLS proposition combines the convenience of a 24/7 online service with offices in key UK towns (starting with the Bedford launch near London) to offer local expertise and face-to-face service.
A key aim of the user experience was to introduce transparency by facilitating online negotiation directly between buyer and seller, thus cutting out the agent intermediary. It is a process that our specialist online auction platform is perfectly suited to.
Traditionally renowned for our work in B2B auction markets, the visual and operational success of this project is new and exciting for Sensible Development. But whilst the terminology has been changed, the underlying functionality is the same and the platform has adapted to a new industry sector with ease. By offering what is essentially a real-time ‘bidding’ process, the system has a clear USP – and could immediately take on national online agents with big budgets.
Market-Leading Property Software
Key players are now winning major investment and press coverage, so all eyes are on new breakthroughs using the most innovative technology. With cutting-edge back-office capability and a stunning, simple front-end that outshines its competitors, the WLS website showcases the future of the industry and user experience.
Brand identity is reflected throughout the site terminology, fonts and colour palette. Responsive cross-platform UX meets latest consumer expectations and includes special custom features:
- instant savings calculator
- integration of API data feeds to Rightmove & Zoopla for one-touch uploads
- bespoke buyer/seller registration and customer verification
- online calendar to book and manage house viewings
- system-generated customer notifications – email + SMS functionality
- unique, secure offer negotiation direct between buyer and seller
- consumer-led price point options, including
- Guide Price/Range (to determine maximum exposure via portal searches)
- Starting Price (to control level of minimum bids) and
- Buy It Now (to set a the highest price at which an offer is instantly accepted).
welovesold.com launched in July 2015. Since going live, the system has achieved the following results:
- record sales (time from property going live to offer accepted and number of properties sold within 24 hours for more than the asking price)
- a higher level of buyer interest prior to offers
- more offers per sale generated by the open competitive ‘bidding’ process, resulting in more sales in excess of the asking price
- a significant competitive advantage – ranked 5th out of all 45 local estate agents within first 6 weeks of launch (for sales and acquisitions) and ranked 1st out of all local online agents
welovesold.com has already attracted the attention of national influencers, from politicians such as MP and former businessman Richard Fuller to Dragons’ Den entrepreneur Sarah Willingham.
In response to the interest in this project, we are now looking at other property markets, particularly those overseas where auction sales are well established and non-traditional models are gaining traction. It will be interesting to see where things move in 2016.