City bank Shroders behind hush-hush plans to allow major players to sell homes on-line.
City bank Schroders is in secret talks with top 10 housebuilders to launch a web site to sell their properties direct to customers.

Building has discovered that Schroders has approached a number of top housebuilders with a view to launching the site this year.

Schroders declined to comment on the venture.

However, one of the housebuilders Schroders has discussed the scheme with said: “They’ve approached a number of builders in the past couple of months. They’re brainstorming ideas across the industry and have a very good understanding of the housing world and its needs.”

Schroders has already announced plans to inject up to £40m in an Internet incubator fund that will invest in established business-to-business e-commerce financial services companies.

The housing site is the construction industry’s latest foray into e-commerce.

A number of other institutions and IT companies have approached housebuilders in recent months with a view to starting a web site, but it is understood that Schroders is in pole position because of its reputation and the fact that it will provide the bulk of the funding.

The managing director of one top 10 housebuilder said: “It’ll definitely happen within the next six to seven months. Schroders is really keen to get the whole thing moving.”

Schroders aren’t daft. A web site would give them a database for others who want to sell services to home buyers

Top Housebuilder

The content of the site has yet to be decided, but it is understood that it would be interactive and could include facilities by which buyers could negotiate purchases and interior designs directly with housebuilders.

It is understood that Schroders would invest the bulk of the money needed to start the site and would take a contribution from the firms that appear on it.

Housebuilders refused to discuss the sums involved, but one executive that had been approached said: “Schroders aren’t daft. A web site would provide them with a perfect database for others who want to sell services to home buyers, such as cable TV companies or home insurance companies.

I suspect they will be the ones who will make it pay.”

He added: “The site would contain all the new homes on the market of every major housebuilder. It’ll put all the traders in the market side by side in a single marketplace for customers.”

Another senior executive added: “If housebuilders combine on a single site, they’ll create something that will really benefit the consumer. Through a single site, customers will be able to see exactly what’s available in an area and compare each housebuilders’ product.

“Most housebuilders have their own sites, but we’re aware that potential customers want to be able to look at all the new houses in a region on one site.”