What is ‘portal juggling’ and why is it causing such a storm?

30th May 2016

‘Portal juggling’ is a term that has been in the news a lot recently. And reading articles around the subject it would seem that some believe it to be tantamount to a heinous crime, but what is it and how does it impact on the estate agency world?

Portal juggling is the practice of delisting and relisting a property from a portal so that the date of listing is updated to make the property look as though it’s fresh on the market. That’s it, it’s as simple as that, and yet there have been calls for the heads of estate agents and property developers who have been doing this. Is this justified or an overreaction?

I might be taking a controversial stance here, but is it really that big a deal? The ‘against’ camp argument goes something like this – buyers are being duped, they think that a property is new on the market when it’s actually been on for months and that’s a bad thing. Bad enough for National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team (NTSEAT) to say: “Such actions by estate agents could be a breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations and could ultimately result in an agent’s fitness to engage in estate agency work being questioned by the NTSEAT.” Chief executive of OnTheMarket, Ian Springett stated that: “Any apparent examples of gaming identified by our internal procedures or flagged externally by other agents will always be thoroughly investigated.” Rightmove has said that it “does not tolerate customers found to be deliberately trying to upload inaccurate listings”.

But aside from generating fake buzz around a property, what harm is actually being done? A buyer may be more likely to be encouraged to see the property, but portal juggling does not dupe them into buying it. The practice just bumps the property up the listings to be more visible, giving the seller added marketing value. Of course it’s wrong, using a loophole in a system to cheat your way to the front of the line, but surely it’s more like jumping a queue than stealing from a shop, though it’s being reported as the equivalent of the latter.

Of course, there are extreme cases, where it has been reported that properties have been relisted hundreds of times, and this both promotes these properties many more times than they should be and boosts the perceived sales numbers of the estate agents selling them. But people aren’t stupid; they’ll know if they see the same property listed as ‘new’ over and over again, that it really isn’t new – and hasn’t this practice been going on for a very long time anyway without any complaint? For as long as there have been estate agencies, there have been sellers who recognise that if their property does not sell with one agent they can place it with another agent to give them new listing status with a new audience.

Now, we’re not advocating anything naughty here, we’re just saying that when taken to the extreme this is cheating (mostly other estate agencies out of their listing positions), but in all but the most extreme situations, the harm being caused is minimal and the media hubbub about industry credibility and damage that’s being done, seems a tad unwarranted. What do

you think?

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