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Is this why Countywide, Purplebricks and Foxtons are struggling?

An outspoken industry commentator says some of the country’s leading agencies are failing because they’re not actually run by experienced agents.

Russell Quirk - founder of the former Emoov agency and now a director of a Keller Williams franchise - has analysed agencies that are listed on the stock market, and so are obliged to be transparent about their financial and branch operations. He has added a small number of other agencies which, although not listed, have revealed substantial details about their performance. 

He has split these into The Ugly Sisters - Countrywide, Purplebricks and Foxtons; and into Cinderellas - Belvoir, Connells, Hunters, LSL, Dexters and Chestertons.


The Ugly Sisters are doing badly, Quirk says, because unlike the Cinderellas they have senior figures lacking in agency experience. 

Quick write on his LinkedIn blog: “The commonality is that those agency businesses that are doing well are led by people that have actually been estate agents. Those that are doing poorly are led by people that do not have coal-face estate agency experience. Just a coincidence? I don’t think so.

“Peter Long of Countrywide (see also [previous chiefs] Alison Platt and Sam Tyrer), Nic Budden of Foxtons, Vic Darvey of PurpleBricks etc are, probably, consummate managers in some respects. BUT the businesses which they lead are all in the doldrums. Those companies that are evidently not doing well are all led by those that do not have brass tacks experience in an industry that by my contention absolutely requires such - especially in harder times.”

Quirk says he was provoked into making the analysis by the diversity of performance by agents: despite the difficult market and economic uncertainty of recent years, some agencies have performed strongly while others have been dismal by comparison.

“My argument is that to run an estate agency business when the market is challenging, requires the knowledge, the nouse and the experience that only comes from being of the industry itself” he writes.

“This is probably why Connells in particular does very well overall as the most profitable UK estate agency given that most of their management seems to have been with them for decades and has worked their way up from negs and branch managers to top positions.

“So, when the boards of some of our biggest estate agencies are looking for senior hires to lead their property companies they might be well advised to look within the industry rather then being tempted to look wider for ‘top-drawer’ talent. 

“It’s clear to me that recent history is telling us that estate agency work is special. It’s specific. It’s nuanced. Quirky even (no pun intended). It’s far, far more complicated than it seems at first glance. It looks easy, but it isn’t.”

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  • Chris Arnold

    False comparison, bad example, ignorance as proof, tautology, false choice, red herring, the wrong conclusion - every example of illogical argument in so concise an article.
    My underlying suspicion is that the author seeks to keep this 'secret society' of estate agency for the privileged few. Shunning outside knowledge that has worked since time began in favour of agents hustling for their worth. One only has to look at the perception the public has for estate agents to realise that something is fundamentally wrong with how it has functioned in the past. Agencies aren't trusted and no amount of pinning the blame on a few executives that bring a fresh perspective will alter that fact.
    Whilst the likes of Keller Williams foster the belief that bigger is better, interruption is permissable when done from a contributing stance and thinking for oneself is not to be encouraged, the conclusion that "it looks easy, but it isn't" isn't supported by this proof.
    "Knowledge, nous and experience" of how it's always been done won't help in deciding how it needs to be done in future. The goal of any CEO is not to fix what's not working, but to replace what's not working with something better.


    The anti agent sentiment was explained to me at my interview in 1986- Robert - you will show 10 people round a property, 1 will be able to move in the other 9 won't, expect resentment. People will blame you that they weren't the best purchaser for that property. Don't take it personally and find them something else.


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