A new business has launched, backed by ex-Countrywide residential boss Bob Scarff, which says it will offer competition to Rightmove and Zoopla.
Ems is a digital search agent that uses artificial intelligence, meaning that an individual’s search for a property is tailored specifically to them. Visitors to Ems are asked certain questions and artificial intelligence also tracks how they use the site – the more renters visit the site, the more is learned about them.
Leads are then delivered to agents on the basis that prospective tenants have been pre-qualified, with something known about their lifestyles and behaviour patterns.
The business went live at the end of January, and is currently in beta mode, serving the rental market in London. However, it plans to roll out nationally in the second half of this year.
Currently, there are no plans to expand into the sales market.
The service is free to agents and, says CEO and founder Alex Sullivan, they have no need to upload properties.
He said that it already has 70,000 properties in the London area alone, scraped from a number of sources including Rightmove and Zoopla.
However, a large number of properties do not make it to the Ems platform, said Sullivan, who claimed that “about a third” are out of date.
Sullivan, who was an estate agent for three years at the start of a career which has included helping to found a global payments company, has called his new business Ems for personal reasons.
“Three years ago, I went through a big life change. My younger sister, Emily, died aged 26, and a few weeks later my daughter Ella was born.
“The business is named after both, and has been designed to have a personality – we always refer to it as ‘she’, to emphasise that this is a personal service offered.
“We are in competition with Rightmove and Zoopla, and also MoveBubble. What sets us apart from the portals is that our service is personalised.
“The portals offer a ‘one size fits all’ approach, where the users have to do all the work, including their own searching.
“Our property searches are entirely personalised to that one person.
“For example, a prospective renter will often search by postcode, whereas Ems may recommend neighbourhoods based on what we learn about that person.”
Ems, which only works with agents and not landlords, will also book viewings.
While free for agents, renters can choose to pay nothing or upgrade.
There is a £50 package, where Ems negotiates the lease with the agent, while £75 is charged as a “settling in” service.
Scarff, who was responsible for 800 branches at Countrywide and was among the first wave of departures as its disastrous lurch into ‘retail’ took hold, said: “I’ve lost count of the number of prop-tech start-ups that I’ve been approached by in the two years since I left Countrywide.
“Most of them had good ideas or a good implementation team. Ems has both, and that’s why I have invested.
“Ems will deliver a much better experience for customers, and will help agents generate low-cost, high-quality, pre-qualified leads better than anyone else in the market. Agents will save time, save money and be able to deliver a better service.”
As well as investing, Scarff will also be acting as an adviser to Ems, helping to develop the offering to agents.