For years, Amazon has been selling us stuff to clutter up our houses, so it was only logical that it would take the next step and start offering to sell us a bigger house so that we can buy even more.
In a press release issued today, the company announced that it has purchased hundreds of houses across the UK and will start listing them for one-click purchase via credit card (2% surcharge for Diners Club and AMEX) next week, with completion expected in "4-6 weeks". Buyers with a Prime subscription will get a free removals service and Amazon is offering 5% off all products in its Home and Garden category when bought with a house. Amazon claims that its houses will be over 10% cheaper than going to a high-street estate agent.
Each house listing will feature user-submitted photos and Amazon’s famous "look inside!" capability. Reviews from other customers will accompany every listing, and Amazon assures us that "the reviews will be completely trustworthy — although we can’t guarantee that reviewers have ever actually lived in the house."
Regular visitors to Amazon will start to see homes recommended to them based on data that Amazon has been collecting from their previous buying behaviour. "The books that you buy are a surprisingly good indicator, not just of social class and the sort of area that you want to live in, but lots of other things too. For example, people buying baby books will often be looking for a bigger house, whereas anybody buying Nigella Lawson’s ‘Meals for One’ is a poor prospect for us."
"We think our new service will revolutionise homebuying in the UK," said a spokesperson. "If you’ve bought books on gardening and fly-fishing, we’ll show you a picturesque cottage in its own grounds near a river. But we haven’t quite perfected our algorithm yet, so it might be in Luton. We’re working on that."
Amazon isn’t alone in seeking to put increased pressure on beleaguered estate agents. Rumours have started circulating that Apple is going to use its iTunes platform to allow sellers to market their homes to the world’s largest community of buyers in exchange for a 30% cut of the revenue. eBay/PayPal’s acquisition of GSI Commerce is being interpreted as a sign that it will also be entering the fray, undercutting its rivals by offering you the ability to buy and sell your home for free, in exchange for 2% of everything you earn for the rest of your life.
It’s not just traditional retailers like bookshops and estate agents that need to be worried about Amazon. Some analysts think that Amazon’s next move will be into healthcare. "Around the world governments are looking to save money and move towards eHealth solutions. Amazon sees itself as perfectly placed to capitalise on this," said Guybrush Threepwood, lead analyst at SOMI Associates. An Amazon spokesperson added, "I can’t comment on our plans, but if you needed a new liver, wouldn’t you rather buy it from Amazon than bid for it on eBay?"