A former Territory Owner at Purplebricks, who at one time managed 11 Local Property Experts, has spoken out in support of the hybrid agency.
Purplebricks has been heavily criticised across the industry and now appears to face uncertain times after over-expansion and investment concerns; and only last week a website came to light carrying criticisms by some of its past and current workforce.
But now Karl Rusk - who today works for Fine & Country in Staffordshire and has 17 years of agency experience behind him - has spoken out in favour of Purplebricks.
He approached Estate Agent Today to give what he called a balanced picture.
Rusk spent four years as a Territory Owner covering much of the Midlands (a position which involved him recruiting and managing Local Property Experts within the patch he led). Rusk was himself also a LPE in his local part of Staffordshire.
He was self-employed and one of the very first to be trained when Purplebricks opened in 2014, with founders Michael and Kenny Bruce (both now departed from the firm) amongst those doing the training.
“I was impressed right from the start. The training was intensive and robust but never involved bullying or unfair. Everyone being trained with me was an estate agent so we understand the basics and generally felt very positive - only one person didn’t get past the training” he recalls.
“Michael and Kenny came across straight away as very charismatic - Michael in particular - and because we were amongst the first to be involved in the agency it felt a very close knit team” says Rusk.
He said his first year - when Rusk was both LPE and a Territory Owner - was a learning experience. He achieved a turnover of circa £60,000 and typically would achieve up to 115 valuations per month; over the course of the year he drove 70,000 miles.
“I would routinely work six days a week and if there was a valuation to be done on a Sunday, I’d do it. But that wasn’t especially hard work, it was all manageable and I felt good working for myself. I was good at time management which was critical.”
As years went on so that skilful time management came into its own; on his second and third full years his turnover rose dramatically to £145,000 and £290,000 respectively. In year four he was on schedule to reach a remarkable £400,000 turnover but his time was cut short by a dispute with Kenny Bruce, then still a senior manager.
The result was that Rusk left Purplebricks at short notice early this year; however, he bears no enduring criticism of the agency, and says that if it was not for the personal disagreement he would wish still to be there now.
“Purplebricks was and is an amazing concept. A lot of traditional estate agents knock it without knowing much about it. Sellers really appreciated 24/7 access, arranging their own viewings, the simplicity and speed of it all. It worked and it still works.”
He says that his circa 115 valuations a month converted to between 90 and 100 sales agreed - although not necessarily completions. If vendors were disgruntled, Purplebricks quickly agreed to refunds, at least in part. “The company was very concerned about its image, even if sometimes in fact the vendor wasn’t in the right.”
However, he’s not blind to shortcomings in the online business model.
“There’s heavy reliance on Rightmove and Zoopla, and there’s little chasing or sales progression which can let sellers down. Negotiation over price goes out of the window and it’s undoubtedly the case that sellers doing their own deals won’t get the sale price that estate agents could get” concedes Rusk.
He also says that while he insisted Local Property Experts working in his team were fully compliant on Anti-Money Laundering and other paperwork, he was uncertain whether all other Territory Owners achieved the same high level of compliance.
Yet, despite such disadvantages, Rusk insists Purplebricks deserves its strong market share within the online sector and its position as - arguably - Britain’s largest estate agent in terms of listings.
“In my opinion - and I’ve been an agent for 17 years, only four with Purplebricks - you’ll find a lot more dodgy agents on the High Street that at Purplebricks. It was a good company and still is.”