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Pressure mounts on Purplebricks to release actual sales figures

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.

  • icon

    What PurpleBricks need to do is counter the Jefferies spin with some of their own. The real startling revelation from Jefferies, that few have so far picked up on, is that a conversion rate of 51.6% is a "similar success rare to the overall market".

    This of course means that those customers that sell with traditional agents are paying the costs of about 50% of the traditional agents customers who don't sell as well as the profit of the agent.

    Back in March Jefferies stated "we have details of every property listed for sale on Rightmove
    by the main corporate agents (both hybrid and traditional) since the beginning of
    November 2016. We are tracking the performance of each property and later in the year
    hope to report the efficiency and effectiveness of each agent"

    I wonder why we don't now have figures for Countrywide, LSL and Foxtons? Particularly Foxtons who charge 3% commission.

    Seeing as Jefferies are not releasing the data for some reason, If they are not already doing so, PurpleBricks or one of the other Analysts should collect their own data and fight back by exposing all those poor performing traditional agents.

    I will watch with interest to see whether the recent spate of news affects PurpleBricks' trading which is the key factor and not the share price dropping.

  • icon

    From vast experience I would say Instruction to Sale is about 60-65% and sale to contract is about 70-75%. That is for a well run agency.So out of 10 instructions 6-7 sell and form those 6-7 about 4.5 go through.

    PB are saying 78% Instruction to contract-which is a lot better than any traditional estate agent I know.

    Completely misleading the public-publish the facts.

  • Welsh  Cynic

    I regret only listening to the recording of the interview with Lee Wainwright and therefore missed opportunity of texting a question to him, for a live answer. What I would have asked, would have been about the much vaunted 36,697 5 star testimonials on Trustpilot. When are they sought? is it at the time of instruction? and is any incentive offered for them? Forgive me for being a bit cynical, but I can't imagine the best Agent in the Land gaining that level of approval, let alone Purple Bricks.

  • icon

    agreed. way to many 5 star testimonials. does not make sense.

  • icon

    Quick Calculation on Rightmove. PB have 2379 houses listed of which 992 are under offer today thats 41.69% So much for 78% SSTC. The outrageous claims need to be challenged properly


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