UK house prices: Mergers, IPOs and property tech disruption - how online estate agents will change the housing market in 2016

 
Russell Quirk
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This year has been an explosive one for the online estate agency sector. We have seen the space develop, increase in size dramatically and show that it is here to stay.

It's not just a fad, as the high street so desperately claims.

I believe the central plank behind the success of the online sector has been the fact that until now, the property industry was one of the last remaining industry to be disrupted by the internet.

This is despite the fact that in Britain we seem to be especially passionate about property and the subject of house prices and their change. 68 per cent of homes are owner occupied here, far more than most other countries and the UK has more than its fair share of transactional liquidity, making property as a whole a subject close to many people’s hearts and wallets.

Read more: This is how long you have to sell your house before estate agents lose interest

Yet with the exception of Rightmove and Zoopla, technology has not up until now not challenged or disrupted the property industry status quo.

The estate agency and letting market is worth over £5bn per annum, without all the plug-ins that sit around the property transaction process itself. Investors have been and will continue to chomp at the bit to back the right horses in the prop tech space.

In 2015 we’ve seen our first acquisition of an online agent by a traditional business, although whether or not that was a wise move for that particular target remains to be seen. But increasingly we are starting to see more interest from incumbents, who have realised they must be do something to move towards the online space, but quite frankly they haven’t a clue what that is at present.

Read more: Pros and cons of using online-only agents

The excitement within the property tech sector has been nicely capped this year with the IPO of Purple Bricks. The chunky valuation of £240m clearly speaks for itself and I think, justified or not, highlights that the online sector is only going in one direction, up.

I think this will become evident as 2016 unfolds. It will be a year that sees hundreds of millions of pounds more ploughed into UK property tech and we will see some very interesting mergers and acquisitions as a result, and who knows, maybe even another IPO or two.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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