Traditional vs. tech: UK real estate incumbent reacts to digital disruption

  • Countrywide, the U.K.'s No. 1 real estate agency group, is under immense pressure from new online agencies.
  • Part of Countrywide's strategy is to launch its own online agency, which has faced its own challenges.

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Written in collaboration with Eddie Holmes, partner at PropTech Consult. It’s indisputable that digital transformation is occurring in real estate and changing the way people buy and sell houses. Nowhere around the world is this more evident than in the U.K., where upstart online agencies like Purplebricks have captured market share and are growing fast. Often, we spend most of our time looking at the disruptors. But for every disrupter, there are those being disrupted. In this case that’s Countrywide, the U.K.’s largest estate agency group. Countrywide’s stock price is down over 50 percent during the past 12 months, shedding hundreds of millions of pounds in value. But the firm hasn’t stayed still; in 2016 it launched its own online offering, which is now rolling out across its massive network. But while credit should be given for moving early and quickly, Countrywide’s strategy raises serious questions around the viability of the offering and if it was, in f...