In a move that could have massive ramifications, the Private Sale website BuyMyPlace appears to have had it’s access to realestate.com.au revoked by REA last week. This is in contrast to Domain who openly accepted BuyMyplace’s listings last year Domain.com.au Agrees To Upload Over 1700 Private Sellers In One Go.
According to a source close to BuyMyPlace, REA first wrote to the fsbo website several weeks ago and told the company that it’s listings would be removed due apparently to not holding a real estate license. Word on the street is that REA failed to recognise the License which the company was using (through another company called Vertex Consulting) as appropriate for it’s REA account.
Sure enough as the 1 week deadline expired all the companies listings were removed and if you perform an agent search for “Vertex Consulting” they no longer appear in REA.
It’s not known what the reaction has been from the clients of BuyMyPlace, however one can imagine that the clients would have been quite upset, given that they immediately lost access to realestate.com.au, which presumably was the major reason for signing up in the first place.
Interestingly while this was happening some other similar agent assisted sales sites, have at the time of writing, remained unaffected. One such site PropertyNow, retains it’s access pending further determinations and communications from REA. PropertyNow was approached by REA in relation to its business model over 2 months ago and is now awaiting their determination.
I interviewed Andrew Blachut ( the Director of PropertyNow Pty Ltd ) and asked him for some clarification on this evolving story.
Q – Andrew, how is it that you continue to market on REA when BuyMyPlace have been denied access?
A – One can never fully know why REA make the decisions they do, but I believe that BuyMyPlace had a licensing issue in relation to their REA account. Having said that, REA also quizzed PropertyNow about its various licenses as well as its methodologies in dealing with sellers and buyers via its agent assisted system. We were first approached about December 8th last year and have also been under the REA microscope for almost half a decade. We expect clarification from the REA legal team this week, but since we believe that we fully comply with their TOS, it’s business as usual at PropertyNow.
Q – Are you aware of any other companies being looked at by REA in relation to the REA private listing policy?
A – REA are always monitoring not only private sale companies but also agent assisted firms who market on realestate.com.au. They consider whether these firms fully comply with the REA Terms of Service. Certainly right now, REA are looking at the service offerings of at least 3 other companies who are similar to BMP. In relation to whether those companies comply, it is of course a matter between REA and themselves. As mentioned, our own company has gone to extraordinary lengths to comply and yet that still may not be enough – time will tell.
Q – Andrew, what are the bones of contention in your mind, that REA scrutinise when assessing a clients compliance with the REA private listing policy.
A – I can only go on their stated TOS and also the questions they asked of us which included – how we handle enquiries, how me manage negotiations etc.
Q – Andrew, how far reaching is the action against BuyMyPlace ( and the potential actions against other companies ? )
A – You know Ryan, it would be hard to overstate the potentially massive consequences that could spring from this action. I know for example that if our own service was limited or interfered with unreasonably by REA, we would likely seek a Federal Court Injunction. The ramifications of a legal battle about the rights of companies like PropertyNow and ByMyPlace to market their clients on REA, are truly staggering. Such an action , where it to occur would no doubt be looking at potential perceived breaches of The Trade Practices Act. In particular Section 46 of the ACT which very clearly speaks about the misuse of Market Power. It also speak to the rights of competitors to enter a market fairly. Other issues could involve a debate as to whether there had occured a Third Party Forcing upon companies such as our own, in which it was dictated by a third party as to the level of servicing that the clients want…..or indeed are forced to have. For example if a PropertyNow client was “forced ” to obtain and have ProeprtyNow supply a service which they categorically did not want ( lest they not be listed on REA ) then one might call into question the legality of that stance by REA. I am not a solicitor but my legal advice has always been that it is likely to fall under the heading of ” Third Party Forcing ”
To be blunt Ryan, I don’t believe it’s any exaggeration to say that this could change the entire industry in Australia. I cannot see BMP just lying down over this and not seeking to get back on REA. Given the huge investment they have already made. Of course their situation may be different from our own and they may choose not to proceed to courts and such. I certainly hope that we don’t need to look at those options and certainly we perceive that we will not need to do so.
However if several of these types of companies are removed from REA it’s conceivable that REA might face an almighty backlash from thousands of disaffected sellers, several damaged companies and the media. It’s a story with legs and as mentioned Ryan, it’s one that could potentially and irrevocably alter the real estate landscape in Australian forever.
To my knowledge BuyMyPlace is the first private selling/agent assisted company which is a casualty of REA’s Private Listing Policy launched in mid 2009. Although I’m an advocate of all real estate related web businesses and don’t agree with REA’s Private Listing Policy, I’m impressed with the fact REA have pulled their head out of the sand and made it clear where they stand. Up until now, their Policy was to tell traditional real estate agents they were not allowing these companies yet at the same time they hadn’t banned these companies and were continuing to accept their properties and monthly fees.
This will be a very interesting space over the coming months, as Andrew has pointed out their could be legal ramifications for REA in relation to the position they have taken, and certainly you wouldn’t expect the BuyMyPlaces of the world to go down quietly.
BuyMyPlace were not available for comment yesterday. Andrew Blachut can be reached on 0408 000 552 or firstname.lastname@example.org