City analyst issues briefing note to investors on ‘portal juggling’

City analyst Jefferies has this morning issued a briefing note to investors on the practice of portal juggling.

It says that the practice is widespread, but more prevalent among hybrid than high street agents.

The note, from Anthony Codling, says it is a preliminary “first small step in a much larger research journey that seeks to understand why portal juggling occurs”.

It goes on to explain: “At this stage, we do not know why agents are portal juggling, although it appears to us that a by-product of the practice is that the agent appears busier than they would be in the absence of those juggles.”

It says that Rightmove has put an end to simple re-listing by the introduction of its 14-week rule. Of its claim that hybrid agents do more juggling than high street agents, the Jefferies note claims: “We estimate that the hybrid sector has around 4% market share but accounted for 30.5% of the top 50 juggled properties.

“When we look across the market at agents that have juggled ten or more properties, the hybrids account for 41% of all the juggles (ten times their 4% market share), while the traditional agents, with 96% market share, account for 59% of juggles.

“Are the disruptors on to something here? Our own research shows that Purplebricks’ sale agreed/listing ratio is 89/5% whereas Countrywide’s is 60.2%, LSL’s 50.6% and Foxtons’ 48.8%. These are very big differences in performance.

“Could there be a link between portal juggling and the success of an estate agent?”

This morning’s note says that the next step of the Jefferies research will take the analysis a stage further. “We have details of every property listed on Rightmove since November 2016 and will track all of those properties through to the Land Registry database during 2017.

“We hope this will definitely prove which agents are most effective at selling homes. We are also tracking the price of homes from initial listing to completed sale, and the time taken to sell.”

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60 Comments

  1. AgentV

    Why does it take a city analyst to do this research of monitoring all properties sold since November 2016 through to completion and what is their motivation for doing so…..what can they possibly gain from it?

    Since it is now illegal and supposedly being stamped out by the portals, there should be very little comparable evidence of juggling agents v non juggling agents for them to obtain!

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    1. Robert May

      Very possibly they can deliver you, all the other small, medium, large  and even corporate agents the level playing field  the  industry and public so desperately need.  Perhaps  service will be the determining factor on who wins instructions rather than  false statistics, manipulated claims and   loss leading, unsustainable fees

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      1. AgentV

        I truly hope you are right Robert. It’s just that you would have thought city analysts would have vested interests not compatible with revealing the total truth. I guess I am am getting too cynical in my old age. If they are doing what they say they are for the good of transparency I more than welcome it. I would also be willing to help in any way I can.

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        1. cyberduck46

          AgentV, I think you might be on to something there. Jefferies were the ones who made a “blistering attack” on PurpleBricks and questioned whether they were achieving 77% sales conversion. They gave the shares a 94p price target. I’ve just checked and the current price is £2.84.

           

          My understanding is that portal juggling is the deliberate act of trying to mislead home buyers. It’s a pretty strong allegation to make and proving something is deliberate is pretty impossible by just making statistical observations. I’m a purplebricks shareholder and am selling a property through purplebricks and have investigated properties that are being listed as “new” but aren’t really (in Zoopla & Rightmove) and have come to the conclusion that, in the case of PurpleBricks, the issue is caused by the fact that the homeowner has control via the platform of whether a property appears in Rightmove & Zoopla. Homeowners can withdraw a property from the market for various reasons including sold STC or simply just for a marketing break.

           

          Jefferies and others can report on their observations but showing that an agent is deliberately doing something wrong is a completely different matter and one that I don’t believe is the case with PurpleBricks. If you look in Zoopa you will see that PurpleBricks only have something like 3% of their properties listed that are sold STC. This is way below the norm and in my eyes demonstrates that owners are withdrawing their properties when they have an offer.
           

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          1. PeeBee

            “My understanding is that portal juggling is the deliberate act of trying to mislead home buyers.”

            That is one potential consequence.  There are other potentials which have been well covered here in past.

            “If you look in Zoopa you will see that PurpleBricks only have something like 3% of their properties listed that are sold STC. This is way below the norm and in my eyes demonstrates that owners are withdrawing their properties when they have an offer.”

            Looking at the ‘statistics’ on PBs own website I would disagree – UNLESS for some incomprehensible reason the PB dashboard gives the property owner access to each individual portal listing – which would be VERY interesting news…

            Thought you sold your shares – bought them back on the cheap on Monday?

            Your money – your risk.

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            1. cyberduck46

              >Looking at the ‘statistics’ on PBs own website

              No. In Zoopla. We’re talking about alleged portal juggling. This wouldn’t be PB’s own website.
              In Zoopla, look at the number of PB properties (about 10700). Add in ‘sold STC’ and the increase is to about 11000.

              Look at the market as a whole and the increase is more like 50%.

              Because these properties are being removed when becoming sold STC the figures for new properties you get from Zoopla over a longer time period than 24 hours are actually understated. How does that fit into the theory that this is a deliberate policy to make an Agent look more succesful?

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              1. PeeBee

                “No. In Zoopla. We’re talking about alleged portal juggling. This wouldn’t be PB’s own website.”

                Two separate issues here.

                Firstly, my referral to the PB website was to demonstrate that the figures there (currently alleging 22018 total properties, including ‘Sold’) would indicate that the Zoopla (which will no doubt now trigger a visit from Digital Expert – thanks for that…) totals are somehow vastly different.  As I said, the only reasonable assumption for this vast discrepancy is that either software-based or human interaction is responsible for apparent removal of individual properties by the shedload.

                Secondly – I would suggest that your interpretation and implementation of the phrase “portal juggling” is speciific but the issue is widespread and transcends the problem being confined to recognised collective websites we know as ‘portals’, as companies’ own websites are becoming more ‘the place to go’ rather than the RMs Zs and OTMs of this world. 

                We have successfully campaigned against Estate Agents (and there are many – online, hybrid and High Street based alike) using deliberate mass #relisting of properties on their registers.  It was labelled #portaljuggling (credit: Robert May) to drive a concentrated effort – and has almost become a brand of its’ own right.

                There is no differentiation between a property being ‘juggled’ on Rightmove to it being juggled on the ‘PeeBee&Co’ website.  It is still an action which breaches current and past Legislation under several different Acts, and to this effect several separate bodies should be individually pursuing those that are seen to actively #portaljuggle.

                I really don’t see a need to create another label for non-portal juggling. 

                Whichever way you look at it – two wrongs don’t make one right.

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                1. cyberduck46

                  Whatever name you use the only one of real significance to investors (Jeffries is writing their note to investors) is when the act is deliberate with intent to deceive because that’s the only time it is illegal. If it’s just that a particular system is used by an agent with no deliberate intent to deceive then it’s purely a matter for the portals to decide.

                  Having seen and used the PurpleBricks platform I think it is clear there is no intent whatsoever by PurpleBricks to mislead and they actually go to lengths to stop a homeowner from trying to deceive. 

                  Jeffries say  “At this stage, we do not know why agents are portal juggling, although it appears to us that a by-product of the practice is that the agent appears busier than they would be in the absence of those juggles.”

                  Well no it’s not unless you have a blinkered view. As I mention earlier, the removal of sold STC properties makes the number of listings lower than they actually are if you look at anything other than the last 24 hours. Today at 10am I looked at Zoopla’s PB figures and they had 231 as added in the last 24 hours. 17 of these were in fact not new listings. Is that really a big deal unless you can demonstrate the intention to mislead?

                  The comment by Jeffries clearly relates to the behaviour of Agents. They talk about agents juggling and single out hybrids as the ones who do it more. Is there an implication that these hybrid agents are doing something wrong? I know what I think.

                  Having read the post again I suspect that Jeffries have seen the software that Robert May has developed. Is that right?

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          2. Chris Wood

            Which, in my understanding of such a system, is making Purplebricks effectively a ‘for sale by owner’ platform which Rightmove and Zoopla appear happy to alow on the site contrary to their T’s and Cs’.

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            1. cyberduck46

              Chris, I’m not familiar with RM’s & Zoopla’s T & C’s but as a user of the PurpleBricks platform I wouldn’t say it offers ‘for sale by owner’ functionality. There are certain functions the owner can do such as change the price but you cannot change the advert description without moderation by the LPE.
              My experience is that PurpleBricks are much more strict than local agents when it comes to what they will allow in the advert.

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  2. Shaun77

    Shouldn’t that read ” … a link between portal juggling and the PERCIEVED success of an estate agent.”

    This reads as though they think portal juggling is somehow a good thing and is helping PB sell more of their stock. Total nonsense.

    Given online agents only do a fraction of what a traditional agent does, it’s impossible they will achieve a higher listing/sales agreed ratio. If success was gained by simply advertising a property online, all agents would achieve a similar figure because all agents advertise online.

    It will be interesting to see their final analysis but I would suggest only going back to Nov 16 isn’t really putting in a huge amount of effort

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    1. Beano

      Did I read the above figures incorrectly? I thought it stated PB sell a lot more of their stock, with Countrywide coming in second? Its already been noted that PB are more likely to gain motivated sellers and are more likely to retain paid customers who mostly will ultimately want to sell. This will skew the figures against traditional agents, making PB look much better at their job.

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      1. Chris Wood

        Many have mis-read that statement. What it shows is that PB currently have a high number of properties marked as sstc and a lower number of available. This does not mean they are selling more or, are more effective at selling as the full report makes clear. In fact, PBs’ ratio was considerably lower than average just a few weeks ago. It should also be noted that as the report shgows, there are a great many anomalies in the figures with PB having withdrawn huge numbers of available listings in the past few weeks which, by itself, make their listings to sstc ratio appear more impressive than they perhaps deserve to be.
         

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  3. AgentV

    What we need from every online lister is transparency and truth. What is the total overall cost to consumers and investors for each sale you complete? It is a very simple formula;

    Total charged for all vendor property listings, plus total investors money spent to date, divided by number of provable completed sales.

    This information would show how the model truly compares to that of a typical full service traditional estate agent…..and equally how the particular listing service compares to other listers.

    So come on then all you online listers…..show us how good you truly are and release your data to show your true ‘charge including investment per completed property sale’ …CiiCPS!

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    1. Chris Wood

      What we need is total transparency and honesty from every agent and business model. It isn’t just the call-centre firms that have been identified as we have long maintained.

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  4. AgentPink92

    Not saying that it is a factor in PB’s list to sale ratio …

    But pricing a property low not half helps it to shift quickly.

    We recently had a property under offer in days that an OEA valued at £30,000 lower.

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  5. Simon Bradbury

    In truth it is difficult to be precise about actual sales success rates relative to listings. It really does depend upon your definition and method of calculation. I suspect that one of the very few people who can give an accurate analysis would be Robert May using his impressive sounding software.

    Although any measure of sales success can be questioned for many legitimate reasons, I would contend that the most robust assessment would be to look at the total number of instructions over a prolonged period of time (say a year) and compare that total to the total number of exchanges over the same period. “Sales Agreed” is such a conveniently ambiguous term and, as a measure, is very easily manipulated. It also does not reflect the often considerable efforts that an agent will go to in order to ensure that a “Sale Agreed” becomes an actual exchanged sale.

    I’d love to see a full statistical analysis based on this definition of an instructions to sales ratio.

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    1. PeeBee

      “I would contend that the most robust assessment would be to look at the total number of instructions over a prolonged period of time (say a year) and compare that total to the total number of exchanges over the same period.”

      Whilst I agree that it may give interesting statistics to compare, I would respectfully contend that such a methodology for assessment is just as flawed as any, Mr Bradbury.

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  6. WGC

    The motivation for Jefferies is their reputation as an authority on this sector from an investment perspective. There are billions of pounds invested in the agency sector and this has increased markedly in recent years with floats by Countrywide, Foxtons, Belvoir, Martin Co, Hunters and then of course all the Hybrids and onliners the problem for the advisors is that the messages and output coming from these firms is often contradictory.

    Advisers don’t believe and cant or wont rely on research unless they have done it themselves.

    They need to cover there backs. I know first hand that they are becoming increasingly concerned that they are going to be very embarrassed and potentially culpable for losses if, or indeed when, the truth comes out as it inevitably will, that much of what is being pedalled especially but not exclusively by the new entrants is hogwash and as a result their private and corporate investor client lose a bundle on investments that prove to have been a huge sham but that they in their infinite wisdom or greed for fees recommended.

    Believe me this is it – the start of the unveiling of the emperors clothes !

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  7. Woodentop

    We all know why any company portal juggles …. it is dishonest …. it is to make one look better than they are …. it is to dupe the public and investors …. it is to raise any share capital value …… nothing more than lying.

     

    On that sticky subject of PB … how is that investigation going with NTSEAT and why isn’t the city watchdog jumping on PLC’s who use the practice so dishonestly?

     

    It is also time the ASA was abolished as unfit for purpose and replaced by someone with teeth. Reform is needed with TPO remit.

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  8. PeeWee

    Oooooo matron.  A massive twitchy b.m moment?

    A few good people (non-gender specific) have peeled back the layers and a variety of homosapiens now know that they, along with those homosapiens who may or may not have been named in the above article and those who may or may not have handed over bundles of legal tender and the mass population have potentially been (insert your own libellous word here if you choose).

    Re-arrange the following popular words.

    Closing

    The

    Horse

    After

    The

    Stable

    Door

    Has

    Bolted

     

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    1. PeeBee

      Valid comment, PeeWee – however there are a good many stable entrance/exit facilitators and an awful lot more mammals of the genus Equus that can be saved from having a phrase rearranged around them by action now.

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  9. cyberduck46

    > “We estimate that the hybrid sector has around 4% market share but accounted for 30.5% of the top 50 juggled properties.

     

    Again, this is another misinterpretation of what is being observed by certain people. Some of PurpleBricks’ properties are off the market for 12 weeks, then come back and then go off the market again. Some people think this is portal juggling but alleging this simply on observing this phenomenon is a risky game to play.

     

    PurpleBricks set a maximum time for a property to be on a marketing break to be 12 weeks. Note, this is below the 14 week threshold that Rightmove enforce.

     

    After this 12 weeks the property automatically gets put back on the market and the owner is emailed to tell them this and informed they may take it off the market for another 12 weeks if they wish.

     

    So what are PB’s possible motives here? Why limit it to 12 weeks if the intention is to portal juggle?

     

    It is my interpretation that PurpleBricks are actually trying to stop their customers from portal juggling by working to Rightmove’s 14 week threshold. What you actually observe, whether this is somebody looking at new Zoopla listings or some software that is monitoring Zoopla or PurpleBricks’ own site is a property that might well be off the market, then on the market, then off and so on. This would most likely put this property in Jefferies’ list of the 50 most juggled properties but it’s just a consequence of PB’s automated system and the homeowners own wishes to keep the property off the market.

     

    Zoopla simply have to change to the same 14 week policy and we wouldn’t be seeing any of the portal juggling allegations.

     

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    1. PeeBee

      cyberduck46

      You clearly like the name “marketing break” – it somehow makes the practice of yo-yo listing of a property all right and good for you.

      So please tell the readers – either your own opinion or what you may have been advised by your Agent…

      Why have a “marketing break”?

      What benefit is there to the owner of taking a property off the market for a 12-week period?

      Thank you in advance.

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      1. cyberduck46

        The advantage is that you don’t have to pay the fee again. For example if you list your property to rent and sell at the same time but find a tenant you will not want to cancel your listing and have to pay should you end up wanting to sell in the future. Or you may have personal reasons why you want to take the property off the market for a while.

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        1. PeeBee

          The circumstances you have offered as justification – what in your opinion would be the likelihood of their occurrence in any one period of, say, twelve months out of a possible, say, 30,000 possibles?

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          1. cyberduck46

            I think the number of cases would be small. I wouldn’t like to guess. Another reason might be trying another agent for a property that’s not selling. I’m always getting calls from local agents trying to get my business “how’s it going with PurpleBricks?” and promises of having a list of clients looking for properties like mine – funny they’re not looking in Rightmove 🙂
             
            If the “non new” listings coming back on Zoopla shortly after midnight are the ones that have been on a marketing break then the numbers are only 1 or 2 daily. That wouldn’t strike me as being excessive.
             
             

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      2. observer

        How about the owner goes away on holiday for 12 weeks.
        Therefore, can’t do the viewings, so doesn’t want it marketed.
        I believe, if I read the stats correctly, that a lot of PurpleBricks’ customers take very long holidays!
        Maybe if I sell through PB I can have a 12 week holiday – I’ll check with my boss and get back to you!

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    2. Chris Wood

      Just an observation but whatever Rightmove or Purplebricks set as an acceptable time for a “marketing brek” National Trading Standards has primacy on this and it sets a minimum tarrif of 26 weeks before being allowed to be marked as ‘new in’ again. It should also be noted that portal juggling is an offence whether used to decieve people or not. Any agent knowingly using false figures derived from manipulated data to secure investment or business is committing fraud.

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      1. cyberduck46

        >It should also be noted that portal juggling is an offence whether used to decieve people or not

        Hi Chris, where do you get that idea? 

        That’s not what the Trading Standards website says :
        “If an estate agent has relisted a property and described it as ‘new on the market’ (or implying it as such), or using re-listings as a mechanism for falsely inflating sales statistics, this would constitute an offence under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008”

        So you see the intent to mislead has to be there. The intent has to be to falsely inflate sales statistics. Any case trying to prove intent is a nightmare. I bet you there have been no prosecutions.

        >Just an observation but whatever Rightmove or Purplebricks set as an acceptable time for a “marketing brek” National Trading Standards has primacy on this and it sets a minimum tarrif of 26 weeks before being allowed to be marked as ‘new in’ again

        Yes but RM & Zoopla don’t actually say when the property is first marketed. For all they know an agent may have been trying to sell it before they add it their site. They both have different criteria to determine when a particular property is classed as added to their site and presumably the Agent has no control over this date.

        Do you really think Trading Standards are going to be doing anything about an agent that allows an owner to take their property off the market? If I go into my traditional Estate Agent and tell them I’m fed up with my lack of success in selling my house and can’t even find a house i want to buy so i want to take my property off the market. Are you going to stop them from doing it and then coming back in 3 months and trying to list it again?

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        1. Chris Wood

          I’m sorry, but your interpreation of the law is incorrect.
          The status of a property must not be misdescribed whether there is intent or not is immaterial. This is a follow on from the the 1991 Property misdescriptions Act and many prosecutions have followed as case law where no deception was intended by the agent but prosecutions and significant damages were awarded.
          If a status is such that it causes a member of the public to make a transactional decision, that is the trigger for a potential offence in law. For example, if someone believed a property was new to the market when, in fact, it was not, or, had just become re-available, when it had never sold, they may well be ‘bumped’ into viewing or offering on that property. That is a transactional decision.
          https://www.estateagenttoday.co.uk/news_features/Landmark-case-over-property-description-to-set-precedent Paragraph six illustrates the lack of intent being no defence
          And for the full bells and whistles, no holds barred, three pins or a submission definitive argument, check here http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2008/1277/regulation/5/made 
          Q.E.D.

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          1. cyberduck46

            Hi Chris,
             
            I think you’re reading far to much into the cited case. There’s a whole world of difference between a mine shaft in your back garden and neglecting to state whether a property is new to the market or not. Case law is only binding when deciding subsequent cases with similar facts and issues.
             
            I have previously been told that when switching between agents the new agent may state “new to this agency” if they are aware that the property has been with another agent. Is that not the case?
             
            The online agents and the savings available to the public will influence any future decisions in my opinion, with cases possibly having to go through all levels of appeal before the actual law is determined in regard to these matters. I’ve seen this with the development of other online models in other industries and the feelings of traditional Estate Agents may well be ignored, especially if they are portrayed as trying to deprive consumers of savings in order to look after themselves.
             
            Of course, if trading standards could pursuade Zoopla to implement a 14 week threshold then it could sort out 90% of the cocnerns of Estate Agents.
             
             
             

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          2. cyberduck46

            Chris, looking at your tweet referencing statute http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2008/1277/regulation/5/made. I think it is debatable whether non-deliberate portaljuggling satisfies section 2(a) because the action that causes any potential misunderstanding is not by the agent alone. It is arguable that it is the portals procedure that is at fault, not the Agents.
             
            Property Ombudsman states “Manipulating internet portals (and any other channels of marketing) to give the impression a property is new to the market, when it is not, is simply misleading.”
             
            Note the use of “manipulating”.
             
            Trading Standards say “It is clear that portal juggling is a concern to many in the estate agency industry and we are today warning those estate agents involved in portal juggling that they may be breaking the law”
             
            Note the use of “may”
             
            One for the lawyers perhaps. Probably not something the Trading Standards would persue unless it actually caused a transaction to happen and there was an agrieved customer pursuing the matter.
             

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  10. Robert May

    A report of activity has been produced from a neutral perspective it  has looked at all business models, corporate and independent agencies, I am  surprised give the redaction of other stories why the  concerted attempt  to highlight one agency is being tolerated.

    The report is highlighting that practices outlined by  NTSEAT as breaching CPR and  BPR are still going on. Anyone who wishes to challenge what is being observed should probably take the matter up with NTSEAT rather than yattering on trying to justify why demonstrable deviation from  the portals T&C’s, the TPO code of conduct etc should be allowed for some and not others.

    The Jefferies report is  simply showing what can be observed and  how easy it is to police any deviation from best practice or breaches of consumer and business protection regulations.

    That might make it difficult for some agencies to trade as they have been doing, it might make it difficult to substantiate advertised claims  now data manipulations are so apparent but the rules that govern the majority of agents  also govern the minority.  Anyone now  making false performance claims can be challenged

     

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    1. cyberduck46

      Robert the Jefferies Report includes false posiitives. Mere reporting of what you are seeing doesn’t show motive which is important when considering whether there is a breach of T&C’s etc. It doesn’t even show whether any particular problem is caused by the Agent, the homeowner or the Portal itself and puts everything on the plate of the Agents.
       
      It’s a shame you declined my offer when I emailed you to tell you that I was a PurpleBricks customer and could explain some of the things being observed.

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      1. Robert May

        What you are not recognising is that I can only report what can be observed, the motivation for all the activities observed doesn’t concern me.  There are no false positives there are  status changes, prices changes and duplications, If that is down to vendors more fool the agent who allows their standing to be compromised  by their customers.
        The law of agency is quite clear on the role of a contracted agent, in accepting a contract to act as  agent the agent is putting themselves in the firing line. The legal duties of an agent are clearly laid out so it is down to every agent to ensure they are complying with those duties, codes of conduct and terms and conditions.
        The explanation above states, “first small step in a much larger research journey that seeks to understand why portal juggling occur”. If there is no wrongdoing  no-one need worry, if it is down to software  or the portals the agents concerned  have the opportunity to drive change  with the software suppliers and portals. If the activities aren’t a breach of CPR and BPR every agent can join in. Whatever happens the playingfield will be levelled and every agent can compete  fairly based on the service they offer.
        As I said in my reply to you this is not about any particulare agent so I am at a loss why you are so persistent to make this about  your agent and a firm you  have/haven’t invested in, and seem to want to incite discussion that would likely  be redacted simply because the comments do not fall in line with groupthink mentality of the party line.
         

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      2. Frown Please

        It’s a shame a purplebricks customer thinks h knows everything. 

        Go back to trolling peebee

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    2. cyberduck46

      >The report is highlighting that practices outlined by  NTSEAT as breaching CPR and  BPR are still going on. Anyone who wishes to challenge what is being observed should probably take the matter up with NTSEAT rather than yattering on trying to justify why demonstrable deviation from  the portals T&C’s, the TPO code of conduct etc should be allowed for some and not others.
      Robert, I’ve now checked what NTSEAT say on the matter of portal juggling and its quite clear that the intent has to be to mislead.
       
      Your software is not able to establish intent and clearly includes in its reports observations that are related to the systems that are in place with at least one of the hybrid agents. This is skewing the results. 
       
      The report from Jeffries claims “This note seeks to explain the phenomenon of such ‘portal juggling’ and is the first small step in a much larger research journey that seeks to understand why portal juggling occurs.”
       
      Did their conclusion that hybrid agents rank highly in your software results not suggest to them that perhaps it was something to do with the reliance on automated processes by hybrid agents? Did they not think to ask the agents about their processes?
       
      Here’s a simple dialogue with PB online chat which explains the process Jefferies describe as “the bat out of hell”…
       
      Chat Transcript
      14:14:07 [Debbie] Welcome to Purplebricks. My name is Debbie, may I take your name please?
      14:14:20 [Visitor] Hi Debbie, my name is John
      14:15:35 [Debbie] Hi John, how can I help?
      14:16:04 [Visitor] I was wondering what I need to do to give my property a marketing break.
      14:16:22 [Debbie] You can just log in and it is an option on the front page, you can choose up to 12 weeks at a time
      14:16:59 [Visitor] What happens after the 12 weeks? Does it come back onto the market automatically?
      14:17:29 [Debbie] Yes it does, you’ll get an email the day before to remind you – you can place it on another break then if you wisj
      14:18:12 [Visitor] OK, many thanks. I’ll disconnect now.
       
      14:18:30 [Debbie] No problem have a lovely day
       
      I think if you examine the hybrids implementation you will find the intent is to provide as much functionality to owners that involves as little intervention as possible by the LPE. This enables them to charge a lot less than the average commission.
       
      I think your efforts will backfire on the industry and will come across as trying to deny the public access to a low cost way to sell their homes in order to take away the competition to commission rates.

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      1. Robert May

        What you are describing is a FSBO, passive intermediary service not full service estate agency. That’s fine but  if that is the case there is no justification for passing off one service as another and making direct price comparisons between two distinctly different sevices.
        Estate agents have to  adhere to legal duties, as soon as anyone attempts to blur that line difficulties and confusions are created.
         

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        1. cyberduck46

          I agree that more should be done to distinguish the different services on offer but don’t get tricked into thinking people just sign up with PB after seeing the TV adverts.

          There’s information on the PB website which describes the service they offer. You then speak to an LPE and go through the signup process online. If anybody is confused and think they are employing a typical estate agent then they’re going to be confused by most things in life.

          There are of course things that need to be done from the traditional Estate Agent side of things to make it a trustworthy professional business in the eyes of the public. Published rates that apply to every customer. VAT needs to be at all times added to quoted rates.

          Plenty of things for you guys with the best interests of the public at heart to be getting on with.

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          1. Robert May

            Perhaps you should make Rightmove and Zoopla aware that  what is purported to be an Estate agency service with the full protection of an agent’s statutory duties is actually nothing more than a passive intermediary  FSBO listing service which is  an ‘Agency’ in name only. ( If that is what you are saying)
            Private vendors can do what they like with their property, they aren’t governed by any of the contraints of agency but  blurring the line between PI/FSBO and  Agency is where there are concerns over breaches of both CPR and BPR.
            It is because there are agents  who show no trace of  gaming or manipltating listings or performance statistic that so much work is being put into identifying  those who are deliberately misleading and making false claim. The whole point of BPR is that honest traders are allowed to operate fairly with others doing the same.

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            1. cyberduck46

              Robert, I still don’t think you are understanding what is happening. Much of what your software is flagging up is not gaming of the system. It is a natural result of the automated processes used by at least one of the hybrid agencies.
               
              Just because it flags up in your system doens’t mean its the result of gaming the system. You are flagging false positives and the conclusions being drawn are skewed because of this.
               
              Unless you convince Rightmove or Zoopla to change, the results your software is producing in terms of the online agents, are useless.
               
              My experience with the forementioned Hybrid Agent is not one of working with a passive intermediary. They certainly minimise their LPE involvement but from what I can see all laws are complied with. For example the text of the adverts and pictures cannot be changed unless approved by the LPE. There is no intention to mislead by allowing owners to change the price of properties and remove a property from the market if they wish. Whether removal actually helps or hinders is debatable in terms of the effect on statistics.
               
              All in all, unless you can show trading standards laws or portal T&C’s are being breached then I think your efforts will be wasted in respect of the online agents. Unless laws are being broken then I don’t think RM or Zoopla will start interfering with the automated processes of the agents because this will have an effect on the consumer in terms of cost.
               
              A valid question is whether anybody other than Estate Agents and investors even look at these statistics? They certainly haven’t been referred to in my experience by anyone involved with PurpleBricks and anyway some of them can be used to paint a negative or positive picture depending on how you spin them.
               

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              1. PeeBee

                “Robert, I still don’t think you are understanding what is happening. Much of what your software is flagging up is not gaming of the system.”

                cyberduck46 – I would respectfully suggest that it is you that does not understanding of the situation.

                RElisting of a property IS ‘gaming the system’.  How can you possibly suggest anyrthing else.

                WHY it is being done is irrelevant to us – as the practtice simply needs to be stopped.  It is up to various groups, associations and bodies to ascertain the reasons behind the act on a case-by-case basis – and then deal with that accordingly.  

                WHO it is being done by is relevant in more than one respect – but that isn’t the issue here and again will be dealt with separately by those who have jurisdiction in the particular field of relevance.

                IF there is no case to answer – then I and a few others have lost part of our lives for nothing.

                To be frank – nothing would be more welcome to me than that being proven to be the case – simply for the sake of the reputation of my industry.

                I can but live in hope of that outcome.
                 

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                1. cyberduck46

                  PeeBee – see my comment to Chris Wood above. It is the intention of the act that makes it illegal. Similar to fraud – intent has to be shown.

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              2. Robert May

                please explain in detail what it is I don’t understand,  please give a full and detailed explanation of the automated processes that you are referring to and why it is necessary to re-list properties, just after midnight and remove them just before 7am.
                I have no idea why that would be a legitimate activity. PS that is manually observed not software  recorded.

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                1. Robert May

                  Sorry it just occurred  to me you might not know that the software  I have  developed  is used to verify  data collected manually and  screen shot evidenced.  The claims of false positives don’t  explain why things that are being observed and documented  thoughout the night are somehow being imagined 

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                  1. cyberduck46

                    Robert, whether it’s manual or automatic all that is being made are observations. You can’t demonstrate why these things are happening and for some reason you haven’t looked into it. They could be down to automated software functions or even software malfunctions by either the agent or the portal. They could be down to manual operations by the portal, agent or even the homeowner.
                     
                    I think the misunderstanding is that you are under the impression that all portal juggling is illegal. It isn’t unless there is an intent to deceive. Look at what NTSEAT say:
                     
                    “It is clear that portal juggling is a concern to many in the estate agency industry and we are today warning those estate agents involved in portal juggling that they may be breaking the law”
                     
                    If it was always against the law then they wouldn’t use the word “may”. Despite all the evidence of portal juggling in the note from Jefferies there is no mention of breaking the law in the above article or in the research note itself.
                     
                    So for the ‘bat out of hell’ example properties are reappearing automatically just after midnight if the end of their marketing break is reached. You’ve decided that this is portal juggling and gaming the system.
                     
                    As far as the property being removed before 7am is concerned, I never witnessed that during my investigations and discussions with PeeBee. My conclusion was that the time of removal could be early in the morning but not at a time you wouldn’t expect it being a manual operation but it could occur later even.
                     
                    If it had always been before 7am then I would have concluded that it was most likely an automated process however the properties were being removed at different times, sometimes days later.
                     
                    This suggests to me that it is being taken off the market when the homeowner deals with the email that accompanies the relisting. Mostly first thing in the morning. Sometimes later, even days later.
                     
                    This fits in with the mechanism that PB explained to me. Reintroduction is automatic but removal is manual by the homeowner.

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                    1. Robert May

                      See below
                       

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  11. Robert May

    Come on Cyberduck, you wanted this conversation, now I have a bit more time let’s have it. The reason I couldn’t engage with you earlier was because I was verifying the results of my software before presenting  to a meeting. I am not at liberty to discuss the attendees or details of the meeting it would compromise my position as an independent observer.

    I have not built software to detect portaljuggling, I have built software that allows agency/ franchise owners to monitor their  performance/franchisees and competitors. I have  been a single industry software service supplier since 1994 covering Dos, Windows and Cloud software design for estate agency, property management and lettings. I am now consultant to the industry providing 20/20 hindsight and domain knowledge to sector service suppliers.

    The software you  seemingly know all about and are critical of  does not operate in the way you have obvious guessed at. It is  an evidential system that simply shows what is going on, so rather then having to rely on portal  search systems that control  search results it provides operators with the ability to ” have a look at this”  Since July 2015 that is what has been doing, allowing manual investigation of anomalies and where anomalies are found it simply allows the anomolies to be investigated easily, by proving links to the appropriate  evidence whether that is the individual portal listing or previous cached Google page which provides confirmation of change.

    I have previously been supplier to the main franchise groups, Belvoir & Martin & Co.  such groups have a need to monitor what is  actually going on not just rely on what the franchisees are telling them, that is what my software is designed to do, it allows bosses to  spot what is going on. I monitor everything, everyday in a way not even the portals can monitor. I monitor in in such granular detail that all activity is noted at least 4 times a day, where there are anomalies 48 times a day.  This allows me to see  information  the data analysis teams can’t identify due to the  volume of activity and nature/ speed of the changing information.

    The Jefferies report looks alarming, it is,  but it allows industry owners and regulators to drill down and see what is happening in their  branches and where necessary take  action.

    You have several times questioned the validity of my system (without ever seeing it)  There is now documented screen shot evidence (about 15 gb)  that verifies  the drill down content of headline reports. The software has been  provided to independent beta testers who have been asked to confirm  the contents and test the system.  Chris Wood was heavily involved  with compliance matters at NAEA  and has other high level consultancies. He was asked to deliberately juggle a listing, at random, at any part of one day. we spotted his juggle and were able to call within 3 minutes of the activity to identify the changes made. We were spot on, we were correct.  Since September 2015 none of the beta testers have found a single  failing in our results. It has been shown to NTSEAT, Rightmove and all 3 redress schemes,  independent agency groups, franchise groups and corporate agencies. none have found fault with what we have built.

    In one of your posts you have made mention of  sales performance checked against Land registry, you are aware land registry doesn’t record the selling agent?  Are you aware that some agents are recording as sold  properties that have been “sold by another agent”?   I  have so far identified over 160,000 errors in the land registry data, errors we clean out on a monthly basis. We now have the ability to check land registry against portal listings and are working on the holly grail of establishing exactly who sold what.

    Hopefully you are now satisfied why I haven’t had time to engage with you on social media, I am rather busy ensuring the validity of my system and showing it to  people interested in its compliance capabilities for their organisations.

    Could I respectfully request you refrain from your accusations and aspersions until you  have seen what the software does, how it does it. You might have the time and need for engagement on  this, for you it might be a  way of filling your time but for me it is work, please respect that. Please also have some respect for the effort, independence and  integrity required for this project.

    I am guessing you are not acting in an official capacity for Purplebricks, I suspect they would  prefer you didn’t keep trying to focus on their activity when I have  made it clear I  want this to be about the whole industry not individual firms.

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    1. cyberduck46

      Robert, I don’t think i have ever questioned your software being up to the job it does. Of course ‘the system’ includes human interpretation of the observations. The human conclusions that all you observe is gaming the system and illegal is what I am questioning.
       
      The Jeffreys note states “Portal juggling is an umbrella term covering a range of methods that adjust a property listing on a portal.” What exactly does this cover? Does a price change get classed as portal juggling? What about a marketing break with no change of status? What about a change to the advert or a new picture? Do you have a full list?
       
      In the PurpleBricks platform when you accept an offer there is an option to withdraw your property from the market. If the property doesn’t get sold it would come back on the market. Would this be classed as portal juggling and in your eyes as gaming the system and illegal?
       

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      1. Robert May

        No,
        this is not a witchhunt against any firm so please let’s talk in general terms. 
        No status, price change or relisting in the normal process of estate agency is illegal. What is a breach of CPR and BPR is the deliberate manipulation of data.
        We are seeking to establish what is innocent, what is deliberate. The whole point of isoltaing all activities is  to slowly narrow down and close in on the wrong doing.
        We are working with  some agents on the list to establish what they, their staff or their software is doing to create the anomolies.
        Widespread duplicating properties is not accidental,  changing the status of a property 22 times in 24 hours is a process not a manual event that might be a programmed deliberate act or accidental, reducing and increasiong the privce of property 50 odd times is a deliberate act designed to generate auto notification to applicants.
        The Jefferies report has highlighted what can be observed, the extent of the acivities  and the neutrality of the reporting. 90% of deliberate portaljuggling has already stopped and was stopped by NTSEAT announcing portaljuggling can breach CPR, BPR and the refress schemes’ codes of conduct.
        The next phase is to isolate what is innocent and what is deliberate. That way  the innocent corruptions can be  resolved the deliberate manipulations controlled.
        I reitterate this is not about individual agents until they make  claims that can be proven as incorrect or  have been deliberately falsified.
        With respect your know it all  declaration of false positives based on  scant insights and redacted screen shots along with a self declared expertise in the subject are causing unneccessary justifications of a system that has be tested for integrity at every stage of its development. That has been done under full and daily disclosure to cooperating portals, TPO, Trading standards and the trade press who have full access to the products day by day development over the past 18 months  since deliberate portal juggling was first identified.
        I am affraid I need to concentrate on developement and hope  you are now convinced this is not about  your agent or  compromising your investment in your agent. If Purplebrick wipe the floor with traditional agency using fair means I wish them the very best of luck. I am surpised no-one commented on the  postive note about Purplebricks included in the briefing note.
         

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        1. cyberduck46

          >We are seeking to establish what is innocent, what is deliberate. The whole point of isoltaing all activities is  to slowly narrow down and close in on the wrong doing.
           
          So why not do that before publishing the note on portal juggling? Do you not think that some people think it’s always illegal? We’ve seen that opinion from respected Estate Agent Chris Wood on this forum as well as others.
          Now you have lumped in together in a big list agents who may be doing nothing wrong with agents who may well be and made it available publicly.
           
          >Widespread duplicating properties is not accidental
           
          Something can be on purpose and still not with an intention to mislead. Also, one area to look at is whether this dopple ganger could be something to do with Rightmove itself. I have seen evidence that suggsests this might be something to do with marketing breaks of less than 14 weeks since the change was implemented by them in January – perhaps their software creates a duplicate property for some reason and it is nothing to with homeowner or agent.
           
          >changing the status of a property 22 times in 24 hours is a process not a manual event that might be a programmed deliberate act or accidental
           
          I’d say you’d have to see a lot of it to determine it was an automatic process. If it’s only a small percentage of an agents properties then it could just be homeowners messing around with their listings. If it’s a process I’d expect to see this on hundreds of properties for an agent with thousands listed to start thinking it was deliberate. Looking at how it would affect the statistics – if it isn’t widespread then it would hardly affect the statistics and would be very unlilely to be the agent acting with intent to mislead.
           
          It could also be a homeowner trying to game the system or as you say a bug somehwere.
           
          Yet in the Jeffreys report a conclusion was jumped to “at which point we hope the Local Property Expert called it a day and had a well-earned sleep”
           
          Going public without giving agents a chance to respond seems wrong to me.

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          1. Chris Wood

            As said above, there is no need to have intention to be in breach of CPR. Intention just adds the offence of attempted or actual fraud to the offence of a breach of CPR. There is plenty of case law on this subject.
            http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2008/1277/regulation/5/made 
            https://www.estateagenttoday.co.uk/news_features/Landmark-case-over-property-description-to-set-precedent Paragraph 6 

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          2. Robert May

             In 18 months I have seen a lot of a lot of things, hence the requirement of software to focus the manual observation.The software allows targetted review of observation starting with the most prolific. The same patterns repeat and repeat consistently.
            Do you mind if I ask whether your determined and single subject fascination is because you have a   personal, professional or contractual  connection with Purplebricks outside that of being a vendor and shareholder?
            Reviewing your posts  show both defence and attempted explanation  almost to the point where you might be the one responsible for the software being used.
             

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            1. cyberduck46

              Robert, no I have no connection to PurpleBricks other than as a customer and a shareholder as previously stated. The only person I know connected with PurpleBricks is the Local Propert Expert and that is only as a customer of PurpleBricks. My sole relationship as a customer is in regard to selling a single property that I own and live in.
               
              Now that I have come clean, could you please do likewise? What is the benefit to you in developing this software? Is somebody paying you? If so, who?
               
              As somebody who has been developing software myself for close to 35 years prior to retirement it appears to me that your software is all very well and good at making observations but from reading the note by Jefferies they appear to have been left to jump to conclusions from data presented by your software. All these terms such as “bat out of hell” and “doppelganger” must make a good sales pitch but in reality at least one of them has a completely legitimate cause in my opinion.
               
              What is the story behind Market Analyst Jefferies aquiring your software? What are their motives? You wouldn’t really expect them to be interested unless they’d come to the conclusion that the data they were being shown had some connection to one of the companies they follow. They don’t appear to understand that a lot of what they are seeing in regard to the hybrid agents can be explained by the customers use of the platform, they seem to think the LPE is responsible and not appreciate the other possibilities.
               
              I just wonder whether there are a lot of expectations from Estate Agents & Jefferies in regard to your software that will not actually materialise. I’ve seen that at least one Agent has put in a hell of a lot of time helping you and they could well be dissapointed by the outcome. If that is the case, will you have benefited?  
               
               
               

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  12. Robert May

    I have funded the development of the software, it gives me something to do and is proving a point  to people who have attempted to discredit my abilities  and motivation.

    As it’s my system I can call the reports whatever I like; when properties are inexplicably listed just after midnight and gone before  before the morning comes, bat out of hell makes for a fun and memorable explanation of what is going on.  What would you call  identical in every respect  listings that have unique identifiers. I guess you won’t think much of the Zombie juggles where properties mysteriously come back from  being withdrawn from the portal in an attempt to circumvent the 14 week  listing rule! No one is saying  all the activity is illegal it will be down to someone other than me to decide on that. If it isn’t every agent should engage in the same practices.

    Jefferies haven’t acquired my software, they  have used it for  independent data analysis in the same way other companies do. I think from the original story it is clear Jefferies are working towards a full  and clear understanding of investment in the property industry so they are best placed to advise their clients on the opportunities and risks  based on factual information rather than manipulated data, hearsay and group think fervour.

    A lot of expectations from  the software?  already 90% of data manipulations have stopped along with the  misleading  advertising claims they supported.  If nothing more comes out of the project than that I have achieved more that the industry trade bodies, the ASA, the redress schemes and NTSEAT.

    In respect of the support I have received from agents, you have that wrong I am supporting them and I don’t think they are at all disappointed with  the help I am providing.

    I am sure you are well qualified to take an interest  in what is going on and have valid opinions but until you have over 18 months in depth analysis, research and evidence to assist your understanding  along with 31 years sector knowledge I really can’t see you are properly positioned to criticise or comment on what I am doing with my time and my money. If I am stupid enough to spend two years  building a system to prove a point that is down to me.

     

     

     

     

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    1. cyberduck46

      Robert, thank you for addressing my concerns. You failed to mention whether you will benefit from it. The information you will provide to Jeffries is of course invaluable as whoever they decide to tell will be able to act before the public become aware. They could sell short if they have any negative information or buy before the price rises if positive.
       
      You questioned my motives and I replied so that is why I feel that I am entitled to question yours.
       
      I’m also in a position to comment on this matter because of my own experience as somebody who has developed and debugged software over a period of nearly 35 years tied to the fact that I seem to be the only person commenting with actual experience of using the software that seems to be causing some, if not all, of what you are observing.
       
      I still question whether a report like the one Jeffries has come out with, where conclusions have been jumped to and just some of the potential explanations are detailed should have come out publicly. Would you be happy if your company was in a list of those accused of portal juggling if you had done nothing wrong? The very name has negative connotations and certainly suggests a deliberate act.
       
      One further question. Does your software abide by the terms & conditions of the portals? Or have you had special license? In terms of Rightmove I’m thinking of “You must not use or attempt to use any automated program (including, without limitation, any spider or other web crawler) to access our system or this Site,or to fill in and/or send forms on our Site, or to search, display or obtain links to any part of this Site, other than the home page at www.rightmove.co.uk, unless the automated program identifies itself uniquely in the User Agent field and is fully compliant with the Robots Exclusion Protocol (a “Permitted Program”). You must not use any scraping technology on the Site. Any such use or attempted use of an automated program (other than a Permitted Program) shall be a misuse of our system and this Site. Obtaining access to any part of our system or this Site by means of any such automated programs (other than a Permitted Program) is strictly unauthorised.”
       
       

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      1. Robert May

         First off I am not scraping any data, I have been to Soho Sqaure and shown  Rightmove what I am doing.

        In respect of the information Jefferies are given it provides no material advantage to anyone, they don’t have exclusive view of the data which is collated  and meaningful a minimum 12 hours after the previous days activity.

        Will I benefit? I hope so I am building a system that will  show from initial listing through to completion every agent’s performance.  The top agents per property type per outcode will be on  my system, some agents won’t get on my system even if they want to.

        Before you question my motive further, excess profits are to be passed to charity. The fundraising for the  first project, a dedicated sports and leisure centre  at a school for children with special needs has already begun. £6000 has got to be raised to allow  the environment agency to say that the  ground  floor car park might flood  but the first floor gym  is unlikely to flood unless it rains for 40 days and 40 nights.  I designed the first version of the Access recreation centre to float on its  displacement basement if that should happen.

        If you have  now read the next part of the story you will  give us some credit for the independent, unbiased nature of the observations.

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        1. cyberduck46

          >In respect of the information Jefferies are given it provides no material advantage to anyone, they don’t have exclusive view of the data which is collated  and meaningful a minimum 12 hours after the previous days activity.
           
          Of course it does. They may not have exclusive access but will all of the public have access to the information at the same time? That gives the people that know a huge material advantage. It only takes a push of a button to buy or sell a share short (selling without actually owning the share so benefitting from any price drop) so knowing 10 seconds before somebody elese gives them a huge advantage.
           
          >If you have  now read the next part of the story you will  give us some credit for the independent, unbiased nature of the observations.
           
          I’m guessing you’re talking about the ‘Sold STC’ data. So is this new data on a like for like basis? Given that you are questioning the accuracy of the data from the portals does it actually mean anything? Could these figures later be discovered to have been incorect and used to create a big stink perhaps?
           
           

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  13. cyberduck46

    >First off I am not scraping any data, I have been to Soho Square and shown  Rightmove what I am doing.

     

    OK, so where are you getting the data from then? Google or one of the other search engines? Wherever you are getting it from, are you abiding by their Terms & Conditions? Until now I haven’t looked at what you have said about your software because I see the weakness being the human interpretation, however I am now going to look into this so that I am up to date with what is going on in terms of access to data.

     

    I’ve had a look at your site http://rummage4.property/ – there’s a bug. Clicking on the about button you get a http 404 error:
    Server Error in ‘/’ Application.

    The resource cannot be found.
     

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