Around three months after raising more than £1.8m (€2bn) in crowdfunding, Emoov, an online-only estate agent and second only to rival Purplebricks, is under pressure.
Cash is said to be tight and an M&A adviser has been hired to find a buyer. The estate agent’s backers have included venture capital firms Episode 1 Ventures, Maxfield Capital Partners, and Startive Ventures, as well as Channel 4’s Commercial Growth Fund and former Daily Express owner Richard Desmond, the largest shareholder.
Emoov’s woes are symptomatic of an estate agency model that has yet to fully prove itself. Market leader Purplebricks’ share price has dived more than 50 per cent this year. Many have questioned the cost-saving benefits of paying an online agent a flat fee, rather than a commission, when house sales routinely fall through. That said, all estate agents are currently suffering due to a lack of inventory. Selling houses is an inherently cyclical business.
If Emoov disappoints those who supported its recent crowdfunding, questions about the information asymmetry inherent in the crowdfunding model generally will be raised. Any reluctance to invest in start-ups on the part of the average Joe, however, may work in favour of VCs’, who have had to learn to compete with crowdfunding platforms.