The property rental sector is still evolving, and so is the online property business. The days of the high street agent are still a long way from numbered, but there are more agencies working exclusively online and more and more agencies signed up with listings giants like Rightmove and Zoopla. Naturally, those companies have control over what can be posted on their sites, and it’s not much of a surprise to see that Rightmove has refused to allow a listing which advertises a rental property at a price which then turns out to be a first-month-only discount.
Now, the initial nature of the offer is clear enough in the details of the listing, but you can see why Rightmove might think it’s misleading and object. But the lettings agency in the case is simply doing what business has been doing forever – trying to attract interest. And up-front offers, initial discounts and the like have been used across every sector for decades. The phrase caveat emptor is made for a world where broadband providers sell deals based on internet speeds which most customers never experience and where the devil lives in the small print. It’s made for a world where free finance is anything but and the savvy buyer knows it.
Rightmove are protecting their reputation and their site’s users. We can’t and won’t criticise them for that, but we do wonder if this is perhaps the very thin end of the wedge, with more and more restrictions on what can and can’t form part of a listing. A lot of things about property description are subjective. One man’s spacious is another man’s shoe-box, but would we enjoy reading a listing that reduced the description to a series of measurements?
Descriptions are part of the letting agent’s sales toolbox as are images. The right photography, on a sunny day, can make a dull property look anything but. And is it wrong to pique a tenant’s interest by using images of the property’s best aspect and ignore those that show the busy road on which it’s located?
There is a distinction between deliberate attempts to mislead and putting a positive spin on the truth. It’s not always easy to draw the line, but by being overly restrictive on what’s permissible and what isn’t, the art of selling could be lost. We believe that most consumers, in a country where people enjoy the adverts as much as the TV programmes, enjoy a bit of sales patter and can see through it when it goes over the top. If listings sites start to boil everything down to the plainest, numeric truths or insist that all images show the cons as well as the pros, the world would be much less inspiring.
As for the Rightmove listing, putting a tenant’s hat on, if we liked the property anyway and signed up, we’d be very happy to have that first month’s discount.
Let us know what you think. We always enjoy a good debate.