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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

In Praise of Purplebricks: a senior estate agent speaks out

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.”

Poll: Should we reassess Purplebricks? Might it be a good concept?

PLACE YOUR VOTE BELOW

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    Where to start.

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    Haha 115 valuations converts to 90-100 sale agreed... Absolute rubbish!!!
    I appreciate Purple Bricks and respect their model but let's not just throw stupid figures around.

  • Paul Singleton

    I wonder when he says “sales agreed” does he mean ‘mugs signed up?’. After all that’s ‘a sale’ to them!

  • Simon Shinerock

    I wish I read this before I ate my breakfast

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    What an odd article. Following a recent piece where Purplebricks former staff reveal misgivings within the company, a former staff member who hastily left after a dispute moves to defend the company. Then goes further by claiming Purplebricks are an “Amazing Concept” whilst adding that There is a “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”. So this amazing concept is to throw every fundamental of estate agency out the window. Genius. I’m guessing the unnecessary turnover figures in this article were there to try and prove that this person isn’t a complete David Brent, but I’m not buying it.

  • James Robinson

    Mmmmm! I wonder what he has done that forced him to write that load of old tosh, or am I being overly cynical?

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    Don’t care

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    does this work out to be an average of 60 miles average to each valuation and back ?.

  • jeremy clarke

    That's some amount of miles for a local property expert, £9,000 in petrol costs alone!
    115 appraisals a month - 4 a day!
    Is it any wonder that LPE's have little or no time to service their customers, it appears that they spend a good part of their time driving to and from appointments (200 miles a day!) and the rest of their time signing up the disillusioned for £900 a pop which, incidentally, blows a big hole in the figures in this report - 900 x 90 properties = £81,000 a month x 12 = £972,000 a year, yet by year four, was short of £400,000 which equates to about 37 units a month?

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    That's not Local

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    Not sure where to start. So won't bother.

  • Reconfigure My Home

    You have got to admire the amount of bullsh*t the LPE/ regional owner comes out with... One truth is that he’s definitely been schooled by the Bruce brothers. Why come
    Out with this contradictory statement now? Well maybe it’s in the small
    Print of his settlement with PB over his speedy departure.

  • Andrew  Estate Agent

    I am a great fan of Graham, and I find all that he writes gives both sides of the story, but I am a bit baffled regarding the figures quoted by Karl Rusk. Who I have no doubt is a very hardworking estate agent.

    The first point is that 'turnover' was £60,000 year one, £145,000 year two, £290,000 year three, and projected £400,000 year four.

    Was this Karl's personal turnover, ie, in year one did he turnover personally £60,000. Being 25% commission on the instructions he personally listed, with Purplebricks obtaining the other 75% of the fee or £180,000.

    Or does the £60,000 turnover year one represent, 61 instructions signed up at an average fee upfront of £975. From which Karl would have received 25% , or £15,000, but as he would have a guarantee over-ride of £2,000 a month he would have earned £24,000 as his turnover. Out of which he would have to run his car, pay his taxes and pay for his holiday and sickness cover etc.

    In year two if £145,000 turnover is the total fee earned, 25% to Karl, 75% to Purplebricks, at an average fee of £1,200 that would represent 121 instructions from customers paying upfront. So, Karl would have received £36,250 as his turnover before car costs and tax, given that all of these were his own instructions and not fractionalised instructions from LPE's working in his territory.

    In year three if £290,000 turnover is the total fee earned, 25% to Karl and 75% to Purplebricks, at an average fee of £1,300 that is 223 instructions from customers paying upfront. So, if all these 223 instructions were Karl's that would give a turnover figure to Karl of £72,500. But, if you work 48 weeks a year (as you take 4 weeks holiday) and you lose two weeks in December and two weeks in January as no one lists their home then, that leaves 10 months to list, so Karl is listing 22 instructions a month, which given that the industry conversion rate of MA's to instructions is 32%, means Karl went to 69 MA's a month.

    In year four if £400,000 was the predicted total fee earned, 25% to Karl and 75% to Purplebricks, at an average fee of £1,4000 that is 285 instructions from customers paying upfront. So, 100k turnover for Karl, but he was visiting 838 properties to generate his 100k. So 83 MA's a month.

    Having followed the rise and decline of many online agents, including Purplebricks, I do think at the heart of the business is the same muddled pattern when it comes to figures and profit and loss. Each unit that Purplebricks markets (and do not get me started on that) or lists costs Purplebricks the fee they receive upfront and an extra 12 to 18% more than the fee they charge, so although they have great cashflow, as no sale does not mean no fee, they can never make profit.

    And profit pays the bills, pays dividend's to the shareholders and keeps the share price buoyant. All I know is that from speaking to many ex-LPE's they annually turned over on average £24,000 to £28,000, out of which they had to pay for their own holidays and run a car, and they would go to around 100 MA's a year, not 838.

  • Steve James

    I worked at PB for almost two years and never heard of this guy!

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