Pressure continues to mount on Purplebricks to reveal its sales data after a weekend during which claims about its effectiveness continued to dominate some sections of the media.
Yesterday the BBC gave a substantial chunk of its one hour 5 Live Investigates programme - dedicated to looking at online agents - to the report by City consultancy Jefferies, which stated that in a one-month analysis Purplebricks sold only 51.6 per cent of the properties it listed within 10 months.
The agency’s UK chief executive - former Countrywide director Lee Wainwright - countered the figure by saying that the accurate assessment was around 78 per cent; he also cited the agency’s high number of satisfied customers as measured by reviews on the Trustpilot website.
The programme featured case studies of unhappy customers of both Purplebricks and Yopa; there were also claims expressed by online agencies eMoov and HouseSimple disputing the accuracy of the Jefferies figures.
Most of the social media comment during and after the Radio 5 Live programme came from high-profile critics of Purplebricks.
Cornish estate agent Chris Wood - who has in the past complained to the Advertising Standards Authority, The Property Ombudsman and the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team about aspects of Purplebricks’ activities - tweeted: “Hats off to @bbc5live for a well balanced, challenging investigative piece.”
Several others praised independent property expert Kate Faulkner for her claim that while online agents had shifted the industry, including High Street firms, towards a more customer-focussed model, the shine had come off the online players given the shortcomings of their listings-centric approach.
A different view was expressed by buying agent Henry Pryor.
Although he said Purplebricks’ Lee Wainwright was “dying live” during his contribution to the programme, Pryor went on to tweet that: “To be fair, you can find unhappy clients for any online or High Street estate agent. The BBC 5 Live investigation has some slack ends.” Separately, Pryor also said after hearing of the case study who had failed to sell via Yopa that he [Pryor] had “little sympathy for someone who paid up-front to list rather than to sell.”
Meanwhile there was a welter of weekend mainstream press comment about the spat between Jefferies and Purplebricks.
Most gave a vanilla treatment to the claim and counter-claim on figures, as reported here on Friday. However, the Lex Opinion piece in the Financial Times at the weekend concentrated on how Purplebricks should, in its view, publish actual sales figures.
This would not be to “satisfy nosy rivals jealous of its ballooning market value”, it said, “but to protect that value from erosion.” This follows sharp falls in the estate agency’s share price on Thursday and Friday last week.
The piece - which is behind the FT’s online paywall but appeared in the print version of the newspaper on Saturday - said that the sales figure row has been brewing for some time.
It said: “Purplebricks is too well established to lean on the Trustpilot reviews touted as measures of its success. There are two questions the agency should answer. One is the volume and speed of sale completions. Next is what it regards as ‘completed obligations’. If it suffices to post a house online without ensuring it sells, customers might think twice about paying a £1,100 fixed fee.”
It goes on to say that there is much to like about the Purplebricks model, but the new sellers required for it to boost business may be hit by a faltering housing market in the UK.
“By branding itself as a straighter dealer than traditional estate agents, the group has set high standards for itself. It needs to reassure investors it really is the success story they price it as” says the column.
To listen to the BBC 5 Live programme via the BBC iPlayer or as a podcast, go to this page.