Attempts are to be made to form a new mutual body, complete with portal should members decide they want one, for independent estate and letting agents.
A meeting of founder agents is to be held in London in a week’s time to discuss getting the Charter for Independent Estate and Letting Agents (CIELA) off the ground.
It is understood that the meeting will be limited to no more than a dozen people, all owner-managers of their own high street firms, who have expressed enthusiasm for the project.
If they decide to go ahead, the ambitious target is for a membership of 10,000 businesses, who would be gifted majority ownership and control in the organisation.
CIELA would primarily be banging the drum for independents – but, crucially, also aimed at allowing them to hang on to their own data.
Literature which EYE has seen says the new organisation would represent the collective commercial interests of all independent agents, allowing them to take control of their future, “monetize the value of their collective data and repatriate the £5bn of value taken by corporates, portals and online agents”.
CIELA would also strongly back independents in the eyes of the consumer, and one of its main aims would be to run an ongoing public relations campaign, designed to help members of the public choose agents.
If the agents at next Wednesday’s meeting decide to go ahead, then CIELA would be formally inaugurated on March 1, with nationwide recruitment then following.
First would be the appointment of 12 regional chairs, followed by the appointment of local chairs covering every county and each London borough. All would be given shares in the business, as would all further recruits. Formal launch would be in September.
It is intended that entry-level membership will always be free, unless members vote otherwise.
The condition of free membership is the uploading of properties to the CIELA database, which may or may not be published as a portal later on, should members decide they wish to compete in that arena.
A spokesperson for CIELA said such a decision would be at least 18 months away, adding: “CIELA is concerned at what we see as the recent growing threat of dominance of ownership of agent data by third parties.”
He went on: “We would not intend to pose any competition to any portal, at least at the outset, and accordingly we would welcome all agents who can join and upload properties to the club database without fear of contravening any other portal’s rules.”
However, should members decide to launch a portal, the spokesman predicted: “This will succeed where others have failed, in providing a new challenger portal which will ultimately become the lead property portal.
“It would be free to members and direct traffic straight to members’ own websites if desired, and defend against the advancing threats of incumbent portals.
“Through potential technology partnerships, CIELA would seek to offer independent agents a more attractive alternative, controlled by the agent members themselves, without restricting any choice of advertising properties elsewhere.”
CIELA would be run on the principle of collective votes on issues affecting not just the organisation but the industry itself.
Members would be encouraged to refer fellow independent agents and would be able to buy services from CIELA such as utilities and web hosting.