The former chief executive of Purplebricks UK says the agency completes on over 80 per cent of the homes it lists and a claim the figure is only 50 per cent “simply isn’t true.”
Lee Wainwright, who left as Purplebricks’ UK CEO earlier this year, strongly disputes the claim made in early 2018 by Anthony Codling, who was the working as an analyst at City consultancy Jefferies.
Codling maintained that only around half of Purplebricks’ customers in November 2016 sold their home within 10 months - far fewer than the 88 per cent figure which Purplebricks’ former global chief executive Michael Bruce cited.
Now - in a dramatic and far-reaching video interview with property consultant Christopher Watkin, offered first exclusively to Estate Agent Today readers - Lee Wainwright says Codling’s claim “simply isn’t true.”
He tells Watkin: “I can assure you the numbers that have been shared are accurate” and that over 80 per cent of Purplebricks’ listed homes were sold. He said he “felt very comfortable being the voice of Purplebricks” defending such figures in the media.
In the interview Wainwright explains how he first joined Purplebricks in early 2016 as chief executive officer; despite the criticism the hybrid agency was beginning to receive from within the industry at that time, he says his decision to join was received warmly from colleagues, and that he himself never bought in to the narrative that it was ‘online agents versus High Street agents.’
“I don’t believe in online versus High Street. I believe that estate agents have always competed” he tells Watkin in the interview.
Wainwright’s first major task at Purplebricks was to address the huge demand from sellers that the agency couldn’t meet in early 2016.
“My stand out memory is … that we had thousands of valuations that we couldn’t attend … and I thought I’d never had that challenge before … Thousands of customers wanting to talk to us about selling their homes and not being able to satisfy that demand” he says.
Consequently he succeeded in recruiting well over 100 Local Property Experts within early 2017 - only to then face the reverse problem of over-capacity in the company as demand, in the third quarter of the year, failed to meet the expected growth.
He says this problem - being appropriately staffed for varying demand - was one that had been a characteristic of Purplebricks, but was largely a result of its success he insists.
Wainwright explains to Watkin about how he joined estate agency and in particular of his highly successful 26 years at Countrywide, including 12 in charge of various brands - at one point he was responsible for 120 branches. He also speaks candidly of how and why he left the troubled agency group during the tenure of Alison Platt as chief executive.
But it is his time at Purplebricks that may be of most interest to many in the industry.
When he moved from chief operating officer to chief executive in the UK - an appointment made to strengthen the leadership team in this country as the agency was expanding into the United States - the firm was faced with substantial criticism emerging from consumers.
Wainwright speaks of Michael Bruce’s appearance on BBC Watchdog (“a tough one … a very one-sided argument”) and of his own appearance on a BBC Radio 5 Live consumer programme (“without doubt it was a witch-hunt.”)
It’s a fascinating interview and just the first of a number where Watkin will be exploring Wainwright’s views on how Countrywide and Purplebricks could manage their respective futures now that they are in apparent difficulties.
Christopher Watkin has kindly given Estate Agent Today an exclusive preview of this first interview, and you can see it in full below.