Rush to join Internet

Copyright: David Lawson March 1996

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The property industry is making a sudden rush to join the Internet. Eight top agencies announced this week that they will put information about more than  2,000  buildings online by the end of the month. In a separate move, FOCUS, the sector's biggest information provider, is launching a special service which gives  professionals access to the Internet  as well as a data feed.

 All the top agents have been considering how to use services that can be accessed by ordinary desktop computers over the phone. Nine months of secret negotiations led  Chesterton, DTZ Debenham Thorpe, Hillier Parker, Jones Lang Wootton and Richard Ellis to pool their efforts  on a system called PropertyLink. Strutt & Parker and Weatherall Green & Smith joined last week and more top  names are expected to come in before the launch. The service has been designed by LRG Net Media, which also owns private development company London & Regional Property.

  Meanwhile, FOCUS  is set to offer free trials for a special service  which will give members  their own e-mail addresses.  'We want to get surveyors sending each other messages so they become comfortable with using the Internet,' says managing director Mike Nicholson. FOCUSnet will also offer a cut-down version of the private subscriber service, with access to data such as lists of active investors, yield reports from the Valuation Office and auction results.

  Membership will be restricted to the property industry, giving professionals a sense of belonging to a club and avoiding the overloading problems common on public access services.  PropertyLink is tackling a different audience and a separate weakness. The service is aimed more at occupiers and incorporates a simple search mechanism for finding particular types of space. 'We were being asked by clients about the possibilities of using the Internet for marketing,'  says Jeff Worboys, agency partner at Richard Ellis.

 But tenants  have been swamped by similar sources in the last six months, so the big agents decided to cut out any potential confusion. 'We decided it was better to work together rather than have information fragmented over many locations,' says Worboys.  This has not prevented RE from also feeding research reports  into  FOCUSnet, however. There will also be some rivalry, as King Sturge is set to put 100 properties and the bulk of its research on another system called Estates Today in the next few weeks.  Another service is also being planned by a leading property professional.