The head of online agency Housesimple has made another strident attack on the integrity of High Street agents by saying some are playing “games” over valuations.
Sam Mitchell says in an interview for a business website: “You have some estate agents come round in their shiny suits, they come into your house and they play this game where they try and guess how much you think your house is worth and then they tell you a little bit more so that they win the business.”
Then he adds: “It’s why estate agents have a bad reputation.”
Mitchell - who before becoming chief executive of HouseSimple was head of lettings at Rightmove - has made a previous attack on traditional agents.
Last year he accused them of “living in the past, charging exorbitant fees and not doing enough to justify their meaty commissions” and said they were “cashing in” on almost half a billion pounds of fees paid as commission by sellers in the previous 12 months. And in February this year Mitchell took to Twitter to describe the National Association of Estate Agents’ conference as “a sea of old white men with grey hair.”
In this latest interview, with Business Live, Mitchell says of his own agency’s representatives: “Our valuers aren’t in suits and because we don’t have a fee, it takes the heat of that conversation out of the equation, so we give honest advice about what’s the best way to sell your property.”
Plugging Housesimple’s recently-announced ‘we sell for free’ business model - which will soon be the subject of extensive advertising - Mitchell tells the website: “A typical estate agent will probably charge you £3,000 to £5,000 to sell your house and other models have emerged that charge you the best part of £1,000 up front, whether or not your property sells. We’re the first estate agency to come along and say we can do everything but we’ll do it completely free, no catches.”
He also says: “We want to give people advice as if we were giving our own mum advice about selling a house.”
Housesimple will rely on referral fees and the sales of additional services instead of levying a conventional no sale-no pay fee, or an upfront payment.
The website also quotes Mitchell as saying: “[Housesimple] has always been a distant number two to Purplebricks, however, I joined the business 18 months ago from Rightmove and we’ve completely restructured it over the last year. We relaunched on January 1, so while we’ve got a heritage and we’ve been around for a long time, it’s really a completely new concept.”
In reality, the latest data from The Advisory - an independent market consultancy - looks at the performance of the top 10 online estate agencies over two-week periods.
It latest assessment, in the two weeks to June 28, Housesimple had only 15 per cent of the new listings volume won by Purplebricks, and no more than Yopa.
Purplebricks had 2,618 new listings in that fortnight; Housesimple and Yopa had 396.
Mitchell’s renewed attack on High Street agents who dominate the industry contrasts sharply with the approach taken by other onliners recently.
In a weekend interview with the Press Association, Purplebricks’ new chief executive Vic Darvey hinted at a possible new pricing structure - widely believed throughout the industry to be no sale-no fee, being introduced at the end of this year - without engaging in any criticism of the rest of the agency world.
Last week the new chairman of Yopa - ex-Rightmove and Countrywide supremo Grenville Turner - spoke of his plans for the agency without criticising rivals, whether online or on the High Street.
You can see the Business Live/Housesimple interview here.