Editor’s note: This is the second part of an occasional series. Inman News Publisher Brad Inman is chronicling his real estate observations in Europe as he meets up with real estate industry officials abroad. His travels will take him to Amsterdam, Berlin and Paris, among other destinations. See Part 1, "Brits get thumped like U.S."; and Part 3, "Dutch toughen up for downturn."

LONDON — Despite the housing mess in the U.K., there is no shortage of innovation in the technology real estate sector as start-up companies and mainstream media firms like News International race to take advantage of the opportunity online with property sales and rentals.

"In some ways, we are ahead (of the states), and in other ways we are behind," said Ed Freyfogle who founded and runs real estate Web site Nestoria, which provides real estate traffic to a range of European Internet sites, charging for clicks.

Competition in the online sector heated up in the last year as ""free-to-list" sites popped up competing with the dominant online real estate company in the U.K., Rightmove, which was once unaffectionately called Doorknob. Organized by the country’s largest estate agencies at the beginning of the decade, Rightmove is the leading portal for consumers and estate agents.

The company chose a winning business strategy a few years ago charging estate agency offices a monthly subscription fee for showing listings on Rightmove.

As its revenue ramped up, the company launched an advertising campaign with a popular soccer player that built the brand with the public and with the industry.

Today, the site is further popularized as estate agents show the URL on property signs and in print and offline ads. Today, most sellers expect their listings to be put on Rightmove.

Nevertheless, the publicly traded company will likely face a revenue squeeze as the housing market sputters. Estate agencies are beginning to close offices, which is Rightmove’s core revenue source. Further pressure is being brought by free listings sites.

One of those is Globrix.com, which is a free-to-list property portal that is backed by News International. It has an estimated 500,000 unique visitors per month, around 20 percent of the traffic going to Rightmove, according to Globrix. Rightmove claims to have six times the traffic of any other real estate portal, according to a report in online property magazine EstateAgentToday, which did a survey of estate agents on the question of free sites and where estate agents would put their listings.

Globrix is also planning to expand to the U.S.

The National Federation of Property Professionals was preparing to launch a new free listing site this week, dubbed Propertylive.co.uk, according to EstateAgentToday.

The listings debate in the U.K. is familiar to the tension in the U.S. with Realtor.com and Web upstarts over the last decade. However, the tension is somewhat different because there is no MLS in the U.K. and Realtors in the U.S. do not have to pay for uploading listings.

Consumer home valuations are offered in the U.K. with sites like Mouseprice. In beta, the site is offered by Calnea Analytics, which provides market information to institutions, estate agencies and government boards.

And global search sites are emerging all over Europe as the inventory of homes explodes and sellers are looking for buyers everywhere.

Globaledge offers real estate companies marketing programs for global marketing and provides updates on leading property portals.

Property swap sites are becoming more popular in the down housing market as home sellers consider swapping property as an alternative to selling. One is PropertySwapShop.

Bloggers have also popped up in the U.K., offering market insight and analysis of the market and the industry.

TheRatandMouse Blog is well read, and written in the spirit of the Curbed.com in the U.S., snarky but factual with supporting pictures. Blogs in the U.K. do not have as many commenters as found in the U.S., as posters are more discreet and less hysterical than commenters stateside.

A popular item last week was the sale of a mile-long underground Cold War tunnel.

It may be a good place to hide out during Europe’s economic travails.


What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor. To contact the writer, click the byline at the top of the story.

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