Savills has jumped into the online estate agent market with both feet, after it ploughed "a substantial amount" into "hybrid" estate agency Yopa.
Yopa said today that it had raised £16m, including investment from Grosvenor Hill Ventures, Savills' proprietary investment arm.
Yopa, which was only launched at the beginning of this year, allows people to sell their homes for a fixed fee of £780, using its site to bring together buyers, sellers, agents and customer service teams.
It suggested its biggest advantage was that users can do business outside traditional hours.
"[Our] data shows that the most popular time for buyers and sellers to interact with their website is 8pm, [with] almost a third of viewings being conducted after 5pm and 45 per cent over the weekend," it said.
The investment is timely stuff: the company reckons five per cent of homes are now sold through online or hybrid estate agencies each year – that equates to about 50,000 properties. That's expected to grow to 50 per cent of all sales by 2020.
An end-of-year forecast published by Savills in January suggested that while it expected underlying results to be ahead of expectations, uncertainty over the economic outlook was likely to dampen deal volumes.
At the end of last year Neil Woodford-backed online estate agent Purplebricks listed on Aim. Since then, its shares have risen 33 per cent, to 126.6p.
“We have followed the rapid advance of the online ‘hybrid’ estate agency model over the last year," said Savills chief executive Jeremy Helsby today.
"This investment broadens the group’s access to the UK residential sector by enabling us to take an interest in the high volume segment of the market, comprising over 1m transactions annually, to which Savills has had little exposure to date.
“We have been consistently impressed by Yopa, whose technological edge, dedication to service, clarity and focus on the client at the heart of the sales process all resonate strongly with our core values and the way we do business.”