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Graham Awards


"Cheap and nasty" Purplebricks - why it didn't work down under

A leading expert on estate agency and the housing market in Australia has lifted the lid on how Purplebricks failed down under.

The always-controversial agency launched down under almost exactly four years ago today with promises to introduce cheap flat fees to an eager market, to bring “world-beating technology” to a tired industry, and to help the Australian housing market thrive.

Agency founder Michael Bruce told The New Daily newspaper at that time: “Everyday Australian people go out there to take the risk, the leap of faith, to live the Aussie dream of owning their own home, only to find when they come to sell it they’ve got no option, until now, but to fill the pockets of real estate agents with tens of thousands of dollars.”


However, 15 months ago a humbled agency announced that as a result of “some execution errors” coupled with a difficult housing market, Purplebricks Australia would shut. The same announcement revealed Michael Bruce was leaving the company.

Now Lisa Novak, director of Australian agency Novak Properties - and a familiar voice in the UK, having been interviewed on her perspective in the past - has given forthright views on what went wrong for Purplebricks.

She says it was seen down under as a “cheap and nasty” brand, failing to win the positive brand recognition in that country which it had for a period in the UK.

In an interview with Angels Media chief executive Nat Daniels, to be published on Estate Agent Today this coming weekend, Novak says: ”There wasn’t enough on the table for the agent.”

She explains that in Australia ‘proper’ agents undertake the marketing, photography, open houses, advertising and the management of the transaction right up to completion - but that Purplebricks’ model turned that on its head without positive results.

Novak says the hybrid’s reliance on Local Property Experts covering vast regions yet leaving viewings and sales negotiations to sellers led to the firm attracting the wrong type of agents.

“As a result, there was a terrible stigma attached to it. It was seen as a joke, ridiculed almost. If you saw a Purblebricks board outside a home, you laughed, you knew it wasn’t selling quickly.”

In recent weeks Purplebricks has divested itself of its final significant overseas business, in Canada, so it can concentrate on core UK activity.

You can read the full interview with Novak here.

  • C B
    • C B
    • 14 August 2020 06:38 AM

    The sooner the industry is regulated in the UK, the better

  • Chris Arnold

    "execution errors"?
    Sounds like a strategic error in the rush to scale.

  • Paul Singleton

    Cheap and Nasty........I can agree with that!

  • icon

    It was exactly the same problem when Foxtons opened in the US in the early 2000’s. We went from a premium position in the U.K. charging higher than average fees to a downmarket, cheap and nasty agent in the US. It failed - badly.

  • icon

    When an average fee in the US is 5% or 6%, for an American to be offered a service for 2% , in their eyes something must be wrong. Funny how some of the public in the UK fall for this cheap and nasty service.

  • Hybrid Agent

    "Cheap and Nasty Service" shows the continued mis-understanding of what "Hybrid" Estate Agency actually is... Read "No.1 B*stard Estate Agent (someone no longer in their original form) How to Evolve in Property Selling" its on Amazon..

  • John Wathen

    If you think a book can show show you how to provide a seamless professional property selling service & replace a competent back up team and years of experience then your days are numbered. No wonder no other country was fooled by Purple Bricks & now the Brits are getting wise to it. The Bruce brothers have a track record of failing to reinvent the wheel and lining their own pockets in the process.

  • Hybrid Agent

    It's not about what I think, its a proven reality.
    Read the book and see how an experienced Hybrid estate agent provides a 'seamless professional property selling service without a back up team' as you and agency clients require.
    Let me know what you think after...

  • John Wathen

    Anyone can fill a book with theories which sound amazing but the proof of the pudding is in the massive list of complaints persistently made against Purple Bricks. One person can’t do the work of a whole team, it’s as simple as that and those complaints confirm that. The U.K. is the only country they haven’t failed in & those misleading TV ads are beginning to wear thin here now. The money guys who have been propping it up are getting understandably twitchy too.

  • Hybrid Agent

    Read the book,"No.1 B*stard Estate Agent (someone no longer in their original form) How to Evolve in Property Selling" you will see you are incorrect about complaints and what one agent can achieve with well managed use of great tech. T.V has just been for brand building, many local hybrid agents have built great reputations and are now selling for the third or fourth time for some clients who understand what they actually need to sell a house. Some agents now get up to half their new enquiries directly by recommendation. The estate agency industry as whole needs to look more closely at the traditional agent model, shops and phones, and realize that in the main it's no longer fit for purpose.

  • John Wathen

    Your loyalty to the One Man Band cause is admirable & I wish you well. For decades however I have watched so called innovators, supremely confident they had re-invented the Estate Agency wheel & not one single one is still around. My scepticism is also greatly reinforced knowing the notorious Bruce brothers dreamt it up.

  • Hybrid Agent

    The next generation of evolved / hybrid agent works from their home office, use technology to receive enquiries for property viewings and buyer offers, embrace social media for marketing, charges a fraction of the usual agent fee and is much closer to their clients. Evolved from a traditional estate agency. Traditional estate agents work from expensive retail premises (not too Covid safe) with teams of expensive phone answering staff taking half a dozen phone calls to book a single viewing, printing sales details that sit in the shop drawer until the property completes as no-one ever comes in to ask for them. All structured to make the job seem bigger than it actually is so that £5-£10000+vat can be demanded upon completion. Shops and phone answering VS. tech, personal service and efficiency which way normally wins in that contest? The exact same buyer for a client’s house will come from the same big internet property portals such as Rightmove and Zoopla, whether the selling client pays a large or a small fee to a hybrid or traditional estate agent. Once this is understood in the larger population, traditional high commission estate agency will naturally severely decline...read the book...


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