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Local Property Experts 'are more proud than traditional agents'

Purplebricks chief executive Michael Bruce has suggested that calling his area representatives ‘Local Property Experts’ means they can be more proud than if they were known as conventional estate agents.

In an interview with London business newspaper City AM, Bruce claims that “every time you mention the word ‘estate agent,’ everyone gets a little bit of a smile on their face and an inner feeling of unhappiness.” 

He goes on to say: “Most people wouldn’t tell you that they were an estate agent if they were in the pub, would they? What we wanted to do is make them proud to go out and tell others they’re an estate agent.”


Bruce says in the interview that a critical difference for Purplebricks’ LPEs is that because of the online/hybrid structure of the agency, they rely more heavily than traditional agents on advertising and marketing to bring in customers. 

“Agents spend most of their time chasing the next deal, so what we’ve done is take them away from that environment. We can produce those opportunities, plus advertising, marketing and a brand. They can then concentrate on the customer – and that’s proved to be really successful” he insists.

Bruce - formerly chief executive of a 16-branch traditional agency in the Midlands - describes part of the objective of floating his company on the junior AIM market of the Stock Exchange last year was to secure improved technology and more LPEs in order to “put more tanks on the lawn” of high street agents.

“[The floatation] gave the opportunity for some of the people who had been in the business for a while, who had given their heart and soul, working 17-18 hours a day. It gave us the chance to reward them for that early effort.”

Bruce uses the article to reiterate his belief that Purplebricks will be profitable within the next year. “I think for a business that’s grown to the third biggest estate agent in the UK, in such a short space of time, by committing to be profitable by its third anniversary, I think, is a huge achievement.” says Bruce.

Asked how the industry as a whole reacted to Purplebricks, Bruce says: “First of all they dismiss you as having no relevance, no importance – that’s the first cycle, denial. After that they ridicule, and after that, and it took a while, but then they seek to address the scenario.”

He concludes the piece by saying: “Virtually nobody – zero – goes into a high street agent’s office, and haven’t done since Rightmove and Zoopla came into existence. They’re nothing but a high street presence, a face for their brand.”

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    If only these LPEs' had registered with an approved redress scheme, HMRC money laundering and with the ICO as they are legally required to be. Some, no doubt, are however, when I last checked, every single LPE was not trading legally in one way or another.

  • Oliver Crudgington

    You can only call yourself a local expert if you do not need a Sat Nav to get to the property, know how much the house you are showing is on the market for, know what the school catchment is and what the walking distance to the station and town centre are. All pretty basic stuff that you would think that any "local property EXPERT" would be proud enough to know..... fail !

    Algarve  Investor

    You assume they don't? That's a pretty broad assumption, wouldn't you say?


    Algarve, Most of these LPE's cover a 100 mile squared radius, most agents at a push cover 10!

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    So funny, did make me chuckle

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    Don't make me laugh. Our office used to get regular phone calls from their LPE asking for "ball park" valuations. We clocked what was happening after our cloud phone service got installed which shows us who's calling and how many times they have rang, etc. Made us all giggle if nothing else.

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    Tell that to a friend of mine who's been on the market with you for the past year!! He has now come on with me for rental as your so called 'Local Property Experts' can't seem to sell!

    Oh and by the way! I am very proud to tell people I am a Neg in the pub!!


    Just out of interest, why can't you sell it?

  • ken hume

    Definition of expert:
    "A person who is very knowledgeable about or skilful in a particular area-"
    Why would any expert work for substantially less than their colleagues?
    Because they couldn't quite cut at the 'coal face' of agency. Changing the name to try and change perception is a clever tactic but will back fire over time as the general public cotton on to what we already know.
    It is an insult to real experts to define these low paid self employed newbies as such. As has already been stated the idea that these people are experts gives the real negotiators a laugh.
    BTW I understand that they give purchasers contact details to vendors once a sale is agreed, this is their idea of sales progression!- I am proud to be known as a negotiator, a person who can imagine how it feels for the two involved parties in the sale and use my knowledge of values, construction and people skills to ease our clients through what is often a protracted and difficult process. Any good negotiator knows that the chance of a sale falling through without a strong and smart agent in the middle is very high. My suggestion would be to be very cautious if you have a seller in a chain via PB or the like. Their incentive to help ship sailed when they got paid on day one.

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    What a load of old rubbish. It's almost as if he is saying it just to get a reaction.

  • Jon James

    More PB guff. We have had the strap line of 'Local property experts' on all advertising, boards etc for 20 years. Perhaps I should consider a legal action for using our line...

  • Lenny White

    Well that was a good joke to start the day off!! Spouting nonsense and probably trying to give confidence to concerned shareholders - PB's May peak at around £1.75 has slid down to £1.16 - a third of the value of the firm wiped out...

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    • J G
    • 22 November 2016 09:46 AM

    I'm starting my own agency soon and apart from "average" competition in the area, one other driver was the fact I saw for my own eyes how PB approach the market. So much is put on the vendor and so little paid to the LPE (or should I say lister, as they have no involvement after they take the money). So thanks PB for not making my mind up, but making my decision to start up from new even easier.... yes you'll get some customers who are driven by fee, all yours, as they clearly don’t value quality or service….until you need it. Good luck with vendors agreeing offers that are not qualified via clicking a button, very innovative! The list goes on…………….actually one other thing. I was offered an area the size of Wales, as the nearest LPE was in another county covering a ridiculous area……oh and another thing…..no sorry gotta stop….

  • icon

    He's on the button with this line "Virtually nobody – zero – goes into a high street agent’s office, and haven’t done since Rightmove and Zoopla came into existence."


    Not a problem with us. We're in Hackney and have very high walk in rate.

    Chris Arnold

    Do high street agencies actually encourage potential vendors to visit their offices? Not seen much evidence that they do and I think more should be made of this benefit. The vendor is finding out about the agency and not relying on a one hour appraisal to decide. Something that hybrids/online can't offer

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    Think PB 'local property experts' should be rather concerned if their Chief Executive is spouting off such nonsense!

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    • J G
    • 22 November 2016 10:23 AM

    They are too busy driving around like headless bricks to notice! I would be more worried if I were a shareholder.

  • Jon  Tarrey

    Predictably hostile response to PB. I'm going to put my neck on the line and say he's not far wrong. People might not like it, but agents are just above politicians and just below traffic wardens in the list of the most disliked professions. The stereotype exists for a reason, even if in the vast majority of cases it's hugely unfair.

    Local property experts, though, just sounds naff. So I'm not sure they've called it right on that one.

    PB clearly get people's goat up, but they are having an impact. Whether you love or loathe their bright purple branding and naff adverts, people have heard of PB in a way they haven't heard of eMoov or Tepilo or the other main online agents. Ask the public to name one online agent and the first name that will come to their lips is PB. That can't just be written off.

    Also, I don't know if it's just where I live, but I've seen quite a few PB sold, For Sale and To Let signs in recent months - much more than any other high-profile online agent.

    I know there are massive question marks over their profitability and their long-time prospects, but I think it's dangerous to write them off completely.

    Terence Dicks

    Predictably hostile response to estate agents. You are certainly quick off the mark to insult agents at every opportunity Jon Tarrey. Has one or more upset you at any time?? Would you like to talk about it??

  • Algarve  Investor

    I'm no fan of Purplebricks, but he might have a point here.

    "Asked how the industry as a whole reacted to Purplebricks, Bruce says: “First of all they dismiss you as having no relevance, no importance – that’s the first cycle, denial. After that they ridicule, and after that, and it took a while, but then they seek to address the scenario.”

    Many agents were writing off Rightmove and Zoopla when they first appeared on the scene, many in the property world refused to see the huge potential offered by online services. Many wrote off social media and the internet as short-term fads.

    I'm not saying it's the same with PB, but there does seem to be an excessive amount of hostility towards them. It's the same with Foxtons and CW - people desperate to see these firms fail, desperate to say "I told you so". I guess it's the old tall poppy syndrome coming into play. No-one should get above their base. If they do, they will be immediately knocked down.

    I suppose it's why some people have taken glee in OTM's travails. An agent-owned and agent-led portal that has made very little impact and very little impression, despite all the hype, adverts and money pumped into it. It works both ways. Traditional agents don't always know best. Experience doesn't always trump new, fresh ideas. Complacency is never a good thing, especially in a world that moves so fast. Those who are stuck in the mud tend to shout the loudest when anything new, scary or different comes along.

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    Just to be curious to see what they offered I invited a "local property expert" from Purple Bricks to value my property. Not only did they not have a clue on the valuation for my area it turns out she lived 30 miles away and covered the whole of Nottingham and Mansfield. So much for local!

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    Some agents undoubtedly dislike change however, that is not the issue here. The issue is that PB seem to continually flout the law (many LPEs' did/ continue to lack of membership of a redress scheme, not registered for HMRC , ICO, strong evidence suggesting there may be systemic, endemic portal juggling, as well as pre IPO claiming 'experts' had formal qualifications when they didn't etc.). Being innovative is to be applauded, doing so legally is a must.

    Algarve  Investor

    Good points. How are they able to get away with it, though? Isn't there some body or power who should he holding them to account?

  • Jim Sykes

    I know for a fact that they are having a panic over the lettings guys not having the mandatory quals, memberships like redress etc. Cousin being chased. Masses spent on sales ads but next to nothing on processes, technology (looks like just a big diary) and other stuff youd thiink a big compnay would be careful off. Not just a busines model question a quality question.

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    Really? Guy's you do need to get your facts straight here. I did a finacial report on PB last year for my company and although none of us like change and are, of course, threatened by PB there is no point fooling ourselves... Two points to I'd like to address:

    1) All of their "Property Experts" (bad name I agree) MUST be registered with the NAEA, must be registered with HMRC for money laundering regulations and have a NFoPP qualification for estate agency. I wonder how many of you have that to their name? This may be registered under their individual company name...

    2) They have a 9.4 rating out of 10 on Trustpoint so how unhappy are their customers?

    I get the hostility, but please make sure you get your facts straight or this forum becomes an uniformed rant - Lets keep it professional guys...


    The facts are that prior to June of this year when the TPO received a very urgent batch request to process all of PBs LPEs', almost none of PBs LPEs were registered with an approved redress scheme and, as of three weeks ago, none of the sample of ten LPEs' I checked were registered for HMRC money laundering or ICO. Basic legal requirements. This is a company trading as a PLC. There is also a great deal of evidence which suggests that their property stock requires and is, I understand, now under investigation.

    Terence Dicks

    And you believe that PB do not manipulate Trust Pilot?? Grow up Martin.

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    • J G
    • 22 November 2016 14:09 PM

    Point 1 Addressed: - I was offered the role of LPE for extensive area on the basis that "at some point" I looked to qualify for NFoPP with their support (not financial). No mention of being registered with NAEA? and could start as soon as possible.........

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    Be careful about review sites, not easy to see who are genuine.

    I fear for sellers who do not get the highest price they could when using upfront payment online estate agents, leaving the agent with no incentive to squeeze for best prices. Or such agents who force sellers to use their lawyers who are mediocre in the extreme.

    I have only heard negative comments from buyers, though never upset at the price THEY are paying, and as for taking an interest in the legal process to help keep the chain together...nothing, ever. Not a word.

    My advise to friends and family let alone clients and the public...don't go there.

    Algarve  Investor

    Only anecdotal - but then so is what you've said - but a couple of friends of mine who have used PB have said they provided a perfectly good, fast and efficient service.

    My anecdotal evidence doesn't trump your anecdotal evidence, but the idea that no-one has a satisfactory selling or buying experience with PB seems too much of a leap for me. I know they divide opinion - and I find their style of gaudy colour schemes, heavy PR campaigns and outrageous promises (like being a 24/7 estate agent, for example) very grating, but I'm not so blind to the fact that they've made an impact. They have a big chunk of the online estate agent market and are clearly keen to advertise themselves as hybrid, knowing how much traction that model is getting.

    I think the hostility is a little unfair. It suggests that all traditional agents are angels who know exactly what they're doing and have never put a foot wrong in their lives, which we know isn't true. It's this protectionism I can't stand. I fully appreciate why the hostility is there, but if PB were of such little threat why do they attract such opprobrium.

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    • J C
    • 22 November 2016 15:33 PM

    Ha, I think they need one of these www dot ebay dot co.uk /itm/ Estate-Agents-Digital-Display-System-VDU-Visual-Display-Unit-/262730113112?hash=item3d2bef6058:g:Sn4AAOSw5cNYNFUC

  • icon

    Embrace change, take the positives from other people's processes and evolve. PB actually do a lot over very good things, most of them pre-valuation but I bet a lot of the accusers could up their game a little there. They are smart enough to get their reviews done at point of instruction when sellers are obviously over the moon as they just signed a contract. I'd be interested to see the reviews after 12-16 weeks though. I know 2 very good estate agents who work for PB (I don't work there) but I also know 1 very bad agent who works for them. Similar to every agent in our town and the surrounding ones.
    Some of the claims they make are ridiculous but also some of the claims made on here by the usual names are equally ridiculous.
    It is funny though, no other EAT posts generate anywhere near as ,any comments as online agent posts.

  • James Scollard

    21% of all our registered buyers and tenants are from walk in's. Therefore, it stands to reason we have a fifth more buyers and tenants than purely online, that's not counting newspapers, magazines, yellow pages, yell and other the other areas we generate enquiries from.

  • James Scollard

    Thinking about it, we actually register buyers, have a database and proactively sell properties. Unlike Purple Bricks who only get paid for listing the property for sale. We don't sit around and wait for someone to check Rightmove. Proactive selling is the order of the day. I understand people paying less to put their property on a notice board and wait.

  • Nick Small

    Just a little point. How do you square a radius?

  • David OConnor

    Simple; PB and the like are bad for the industry, & will not last in my view.

    They drives down the price point and attempt to devalue the service traditional agent offer.

    You can not employee an 'expert' to sell your property for £695. That is 3 hours work of a real expert and it takes longer than that to sell a property.

    Without a real expect you risk selling at the wrong price or not at all. Estate agency is a skilled business and traditional agent should not chase the price down or we will all have problems.

  • icon

    I'm not sure how proud PB listers can be knowing in themselves that even though they are supposedly 'head hunted' into the company they have failed to grasp one of the most important concepts of estate agency which is negotiation...which cant be done via an emailed offer.
    The cheapest agent is the one who gets you the best price. How can any PB listers be confident of this when they're not taking the offers for their clients. Yes PB are in our area but when they get a property its all about fee and I'm not personally that motivated to take on a client who is fee inclined over anything else. When Ive competed against PB for a listing...lets face it they can be lynched so badly that we only have ourselves to blame if we lose the listing to them.
    The chief exec seems to enjoy stirring up the pot...but I don't see PB publishing any stats regarding sales agreed, length of time on market, sale price against opening asking price etc...Until these are even remotely close to mine...bring it on!!

  • Chris Arnold

    Michael Bruce isn't in business to offer a great service. He's in it to make money and he's succeeded despite the dreadful business model. You can, therefore, fool some of the people all of the time.


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