Fifteen top housebuilders set to sign exclusive deal with internet site
THE UK's Top 15 housebuilders are in negotiations to sell their homes using a virtual estate agent called

The website offers links to about 220 national and specialist estate agents, who sell new and old houses on the internet. This would be the first time housebuilders sold their houses online, rather than simply uploading details to websites for potential customers to view.

The firms are expected to decide whether to sign up to the site in the next four weeks. It is understood that talks have centred around resolving the problem of exclusivity, with companies such as Bryant, Wimpey and Bovis Homes reluctant to give primelocation exclusive rights to sell their products on the internet.

Most of the companies sell through estate agents, many of which have their own websites.

Redrow chief executive Paul Pedley said: "We want to do this as a group. It has been on the agenda for several months. I would hope for a decision the next time we meet, early next month." He added that another stumbling block was the amount of co-branding on the literature of the parties to the venture.

I think there will be an agreement before the end of the month

Paul Pedley, Redrow

A source close to the discussions said takeover bids in the sector had distracted chief executives.

He said: "I think there will be an agreement before the end of the month. Boardrooms are busy talking about the corporate shake-up in the sector. Understandably, they are not too preoccupied with their e-commerce strategies at present." Primelocation's launch date was advertised as being 15 January, but only a home page belonging to parent group Fastcrop is currently available. Fastcrop were unavailable for comment.

Previous bids to set up a website for housebuilders to buy materials at discount have yet to show results. Last year, several top 10 firms set up a taskforce to investigate a site to combine e-commerce, marketing and customer services, but nothing has been heard since.

An initiative by investment bank Schroders to sell housebuilder's new units direct to customers has also gone quiet.