Gumtree: The Marmite tool of property?

You might not think Gumtree would be all that useful to you as a property developer or landlord, but we reckon it's one of the most under-utilised resources out there. 

Considering it's the UK's largest classifieds website, it's surprising that Gumtree isn't talked about in property forums the way other sites are. It's not even on the radar of a lot of people, which is perhaps due to the fact that the founders, Brits Michael Pennington and Simon Crookall, keep a very low profile. They rarely speak to the media, are extremely camera-shy, and don’t take advantage of the dotcom celebrity status that could quite easily be theirs. 

 In 2000 Pennington, 45 and Crookall, 44 set up Gumtree, selling it to eBay 5 years later for an undisclosed amount. Later in 2005, they launched Slando (another classifieds website) for Russia and Eastern Europe, giving eBay a 20 percent share. In 2011, both sold their shares in Slando to Naspers, South Africa’s biggest media group.

Gumtree started as a website to connect Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans (hence the name; gumtree is used in Australia and New Zealand for the eucalyptus tree and in South Africa for a different kind of tree called a gum tree) moving to the UK, and initially had only three sections: flatshares, rentals and sales. 

When it came time to monetize the site (which was started on a shoestring budget with no investment backing), Pennington and Crookall decided to charge employers to place job ads on the site but kept it free for other people to post ads. 

Today, the site is a completely different machine. Slick and easy to navigate, you can find everything from British bulldog puppies to iPhones amongst the rentals, sofas and fridge freezers.  

Love it or loathe it, you won't know how you feel about Gumtree until you try it. And we recommend that you do. Based on our Gumtree experiences over the last couple of years, here are a few pointers: 

1. Whether you're looking for white goods, furniture or tenants, Gumtree is home to some real treats. But you have to look hard for them. Take the time to look beyond the poor quality photos; you won't regret it. So far this year, we've bought a TV and two washing machines, hired a cherry picker and found two excellent tenants. We also found several short-term tenants to get us through the winter when many people are put off moving altogether. 

2. With Gumtree comes time wasters and that's unlikely to ever change.  Buying the TV and white goods were simple, no-stress transactions, but the tenants were a different story. This took time and was a real test of patience. (We don't have enough fingers to count the no-shows.) Remember, it only takes one great person to want your property to be their home. We got there in the end. 

3. If you don't ask, you don't get. Really want a dishwasher but can't collect it yourself? For a few extra quid, the buyer might be able to drop it off. And if something is just a little bit over your budget, most buyers are willing (and expect) to negotiate.  

4. Gumtree might even lead you to your next investment. Over the last few months, we've noticed more and more properties for sale on the site. We haven't bought one ourselves (never say never!) but we reckon it's another good source for finding below market value property deals. 

(Incidentally, we love Marmite, and we also think Gumtree has a lot going for it.)