One of the country’s leading high-end buying agencies says it has ‘mystery shopped’ Purplebricks - with mixed results.
For while it found its Local Property Experts wanting, it says some version of the hybrid agency may nonetheless become a kind of model for mainstream house sales of the future.
Property Vision, an independent buying agency which routinely handles clients with seven and eight figure purchasing budgets in prime central London and the Home Counties in particular, says it undertook a mystery shopping exercise on Purplebricks after seeing it advertise its total fee for selling a property as being £1,158 including VAT.
In a blog explaining the results of the mystery shop, PV says that “the responsiveness and speed of reply were good and the 'local expert' was punctual and pleasant.” However, then things take a turn for the worse.
“The only problem was that he was neither local nor an expert in that he had never worked in the areas he was an 'expert' in and he was covering 11 - that is 11 - London post codes. How he would have time to see all the potential instructions, let alone help in any negotiation, is hard to fathom. Purplebrick's aim is to have one 'local expert' per postcode. Even then that would be a stretch for a service which is, by definition, mass market” says the PV blog.
However, Property Vision then says two recent announcements by traditional estate agencies - Countrywide’s piloting of a hybrid system in three of its ‘volume’ brands and the investment in hybrid agency YOPA by high end traditional firm Savills - shows that the concept of a local property expert of a kind may be the future.
PV particularly backs the Countrywide interpretation which it says is like an easyJet flight - a cheap basic cost “but you pay through the nose for every sandwich you eat and suitcase you put in the hold.”
It concludes by asking whether all estate agencies will end up like that - although it says it doubts it will happen “at the top end of the market.”
Meanwhile Purplebricks has received a more favourable review from the Business section of the Sunday Times, ahead of the release of the agency’s first set of annual results on Thursday.
City commentator Danny Fortson says that while Purplebricks’ current share values are clearly somewhat ahead of its performance to date, and while it certainly needs to improve its conversion rate of listings into actual sales, it is nonetheless worth buying into.
“The company reminds me of Uber” he says. “What it has done, like Uber, is zero in on an industry notorious for being expensive, inconvenient and leaving one feeling like you need a shower after using its service.”
And Fortson contrasts its City performance this year (it has risen more than 50 per cent since its December floatation) with the likes of Savills, Foxtons and Countrywide which Fortson describes as having “staggered” in share value terms, in the light of the threat of a Brexit.