Looks familiar? New ‘online agent’ Hausmart bears similarities to American site

Mystery continues to surround the online agent Hausmart and who is behind it. Its timing and motivation has also been called into question.

Yesterday EYE – still unable to contact the site, which appeared to make a number of frantic-looking changes yesterday including trying to remove a property EYE had drawn attention to – tweeted warnings that the public should be wary.

Some claims had been removed, including that Hausmart belonged to the NAEA and TPO, but it still said it listed properties on the likes of Rightmove and Zoopla.

However NAEA Propertymark – whose logo was being used on the Hausmart site without permission – has reported the matter to both local Trading Standards and the regulator, and suggested an investigation could be in order.

Similarities also yesterday emerged between Hausmart and  Houzez, which is American. However, Houzez is not an agent but a WordPress theme, designed for ‘real estate agents’ and which can be licensed for use for $59 by agents trying to build websites – https://themeforest.net/item/houzez-real-estate-wordpress-theme/15752549

This explains why the same pictures were used – for example, yesterday we found “Brittany Watkins” pictured on Houzez and also on Hausmart as a local property expert in Watford.

Other similarities noticeable yesterday were that both Hausmart and Houzez have chunks of their site unfinished – the Houzez template presumably allowing users to put in their own wording.

The domain name hausmart.co.uk was registered last year by GoDaddy, but the registrant information is incomplete, meaning we do not know who actually registered it.

EYE’s tweet advised the public to be “extremely cautious” about Hausmart, and our tweet was copied to BBC Watchdog, the Advertising Standards Authority and Trading Standards.

We also asked Rightmove, Zoopla and Primelocation, plus TPO and NAEA – all of whose names are used on the site, despite Hausmart not belonging to any of them – to comment.

David Cox, chief executive of ARLA Propertymark, hit back with a furious statement on behalf of NAEA whose boss Mark Hayward is on annual leave.

Cox said yesterday evening: “Despite displaying the NAEA logo on their website, Hausmart are not members of NAEA Propertymark and never have been.

“We have tried to contact them today and have been unsuccessful, with the phone number ringing out and our emails bouncing back.

“We have been in touch with City of Westminster Trading Standards and the National Trading Standards Estate Agency team. During the day we noticed the NAEA logo has been removed from the site, as have all the properties that were listed for sale and rent earlier today.

“This is a prime example of a company trying to establish credibility and legitimacy through unlawful use of our logo.

“This is why the Government needs to take appropriate resourcing for trading standards teams seriously. This would provide far more effective protection for consumers than applying increasing regulations and laws which cannot be policed by under-resourced and over-stretched local authority enforcement officers.”

The letter to Westminster Trading Standards, from Propertymark head of regulation David Oliver, was copied to industry regulator the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team, and included screen grabs.

The letter said: “Throughout the day, whilst investigating the matter, we noticed that various pages were being taken down and/or amended; one such amendment included the removal of our logo from the website.

“Nevertheless, we felt it pertinent to inform you of the situation and confirm that we are willing to assist in any investigation which you undertake.”

A spokesperson for TPO said: “I can confirm that TPO has no knowledge of this company or any pending application from them.”

A spokesperson for Zoopla said: “Thanks for bringing this to our attention. Hausmart has never advertised with us. We will be contacting them and insisting they remove our brand logos from their website immediately.”

A spokesperson for Rightmove said: “They are not a Rightmove customer. We have contacted them to request that they remove any references to Rightmove from their channels.”

Below, Brittany Watkins as she appears on the houzes WordPress template – and as a local property expert in Watford

 

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3 Comments

  1. Robert May

    So why go in hard on this firm when other firms have made similar claims of membership, regulation compliance and qualification and  still nothing has been done? Is it because the other firms have aggressive litigation lawyers or  because this one got caught before their false claims and non compliance became an embarrassment?

    All credit to the team who identified this.

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  2. Essjaydee51

    Moreover, did Mr.Cox have permission to speak! surely even on holiday Hayward could speak after all he managed a few words whilst in Washington!!

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  3. PeeBee

    As posted last night, the Hausmart website has been essentially stripped of much of the offending material.  The NAEA and TPOs logos have gone, although those of RM & Z remain.  The PurpleBricks cut’n’paste Ts & Cs have vanished, as have the actors and their listings.

    The ‘Pricing’ page has also bitten the dust – but there still appears to be the facility to list a property on the site – although I have not tried to do so, and can’t therefore tell you whether it eats your money or not.  Anyone wanna give it a go?

    Their Tw@tter page still appears active – as someone has decided it wasn’t such a good idea to ‘follow’ me and has left my building, as the old saying goes.  Pity – I was just getting to know them – but I’ve sent them a couple of reminders of our short association…

    I would again ask that anyone with a Tw@tter page post up a warning about this highly dubious looking company.

    If they want to come out and prove us wrong – then let them.  Somehow I doubt it.

    Thank you, EYE, for your efforts to keep the industry free from further harm and to help protect the interests of the public – as I sincerely hope this will.

    More proof of EYE being the place where REAL NEWS is not only printed – but often MADE!

    ;o)

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