Purplebricks has “lost its way” and needs to charge more, says Russell Quirk

Russell Quirk
Russell Quirk

Purplebricks is lurching from crisis to crisis, with a pending legal action against them that could be worth tens of millions, staff resigning in droves, others are being fired, and a struggle to adapt from self-employed to employed, it is claimed.

Add in poor PR, a fundamental lack of understanding of the property industry at management level and overall poor leadership. It is fair to say that things are not going well at the moment for the online estate agency. That is according to Russell Quirk, a property specialist who founded Emoov, and now focusses on property PR as co-founder of ProperPR.

Quirk recently took part in a series of interviews with property journalist Christopher Watkin, kicking off with his views on Purplebricks.

“Purplebricks has lost its culture”, he claimed. “It’s certainly lost its way.”

Quirk identified the firm’s CEO, Vic Darvey, as a weak link whose inexperience in the property sector puts Purplebricks at “a distinct disadvantage”, as reflected by the sharp fall in the company’s financial value – in his view.

Quirked remarked: “He might have a financial services background, because obviously he was at MoneySupermarket, a comparison website, but what does he know about the property industry?”

Also, while previous owners of the business, Michael and Kenny Bruce, “looked after people” in Quirk’s opinion, he does not get the impression that Darvey is “the same approachable, warm and cuddly individual”.

Quirk also refers to the negative press coverage Purplebricks has received. He believes that will continue unless something fundamentally changes at the company.

He continued: “They’ve been under the cosh in so far as negative PR more than any other business I can remember, and it looks like it’s going to continue.”

When Watkin asked Quirk what he would do if he was in charge of the online firm, the response was clear: “I’d change the charging model,” he said. “I’d turn them into a regular estate agent.”

Property Industry Eye has offered Purplebricks an opportunity to respond to the interview, which you can watch in full below:

 

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18 Comments

  1. If Carlsberg made Estate Agents…

    There goes Quirk, banging on about experience or lack of. Why, with his experience does he think that anyone is interested in what he thinks?

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    1. Chris Watkin

      Carlsberg – yes, I agree there is a certain ‘the pot calling the kettle black’ with Russell and his Emoov days …

      yet he has gone on public record to say he made mistakes with that …

      So moving forward – you ask if anyone is interested in his opinion .. well this video was originally listed on my Linkedin profile yesterday and it received 2.5k views , 67 comments and 58 likes (all vanity metrics – I know) ..  still yet quite a few people were interested…

      Therefore, can I ask Carlsberg, what did you think to Russells point of view on the solution he would do to at PB increase their market share – and would you do the same?

      Chris

       

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      1. If Carlsberg made Estate Agents…

        Hi Chris,
         
        Thanks for the question and no I don’t agree with RQ at all and whilst he may have apologised for the way he behaved previously, as old Boris is finding out, people have long memories! I do not feel that Pb should become a regular estate agent. Again, whilst a lot of people dislike what they have done to the Industry, I know there are worse agents on the High St who have caused far worse misery to Vendors etc. Pb (were) incredibly transparent with the way the acted for their clients and that was why so many of the clients did so well.
         
        Others on here seem to get their knickers in such a twist when it comes to the online/self employed model. I will only speak for myself as a self employed agent and ask, as someone mentioned last week, what can’t someone do in their bedroom, that has to be done in an office? Unless you’re in the corporate world and employ people who can’t think for themselves and want an army of robots, then you probably want them in the same place so that you can keep order?
         
        The only thing RQ has said that has been fairly common knowledge for some time so he can’t really take the credit for highlighting, is that the top tier, ie Vic Darvey and cronies are not Estate Agents. All good and well when the markets flying but they have massively shot themselves in both feet. Personally, I think they have about 18 months left.
         
        Rant over!

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    2. Bosky

      Why, with his experience does he think that anyone is interested in what he thinks?
       
      Because he is our friend now, as, supposedly, are the Bruce Brothers!

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  2. Countrybumpkin

    Cor blimey – that’s the blind leading the blind…

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  3. John Murray

    Purple Bricks gave everyone a huge kick in the pants regarding the outdated way estate agents treated customers and marketed homes. Successful agents have certainly had to up their game in all areas as a result.

    They did disrupt the marketplace and the emphasis was on fee but here’s the issue.

    Fee is only an issue in the absence of value and low fee agents can survive in a bouyant market, but as soon as it turns, less transactions, the low-fee model crashes.

    So with hindsight, well done Purple Bricks for being innovative and trying to do it differently – but if they look at their WHY when they started, compared to now, it is totally different and if they are going to survive and attract top estate agency talent, they need to utilise the excellent brand awareness the public has, but go to the other end of the scale – charge a high fee, offer quality service.

    The middle ground is crowded and many there will perish.

    It is either cheap or high-fee, high service, and cheap has been shown not to work – look at the debt all of the cheap agents have.

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    1. Chris Watkin

      John – it looks like you and Russell agree with the way forward for Purplebricks.

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    2. WiltsAgent

      Unfortunately they never made a profit and from their current share price are valued at however much cash is left in the bank.

      The business is and always was worthless.

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  4. Another Agent

    I agree with John. High service, low fee is unviable. A local agent has just started promoting £450 deals as a way to generate listings in a tight market. This is apparently a respected, highly regarded local outfit who do a great job, according to reviews…but seemingly cannot establish enough value to secure normal fee listings it once had. Granted it’s a reduced ‘partial’ agency offering, but the all care no responsibility approach will just reposition them as yet another discounter. PB may exit the scene but the legacy of bottom dwelling fees will continue. PB just lit the touchpaper.

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  5. midsagent197772

    I haven’t watched the videos yet, but my two-penneth is…

     

    Love em or loathe em, Kenny and Michael lived and breathed Purplebricks. It was their baby, their chance to make an absolute fortune, and so their passion to make it a success fed down through everyone else in the business, who then also wanted to make it a big success and earn good money. I’m not saying they were perfect and they certainly got some things wrong, but their drive to succeed was what got pb to the heights and value it did. You’re not going to get that from someone who wasn’t there then and who gets paid a salary, and unfortunately that feeds down through everyone else, especially now the LPEs are employed…you’re not going to work any more than you have to and you’re not going to fight tooth and nail to win an instruction as much as you did when you were self employed.

     

    Maybe they can be success by changing the few model again, I don’t know, but it’ll never get back to what it was. That ship has sailed, the opportunity’s gone.

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  6. conoco9

    Says Quirk who was charging £595 and £150 worth of B&Q vouchers. If that makes you an expert, then we are all experts!

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  7. Agent Derbyshire

    PB weren’t market disruptors, they were just cheap and they’re not successful because they give fantastic customer service….they’re cheap! If any agent is reading this and they’re charging less than a £1,000 to sell a home then you’re losing money and you’ll be down the toilet just like PB….get your excel spreadsheet out and list out your monthly costs and how long it will take you to get your fee…..it’s basic stuff….you cannot exist in this business, doing a good job and charging rubbish fees!

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  8. AgentQ73

    If PB change to no sale no fee they will have Zero revenue for months on end, probably longer if they continue to refer to their current “Conveyancers”. Given they now have a substantially bigger payroll as well as having to make provision for liabilities from their various potential court cases where is the money coming from to bridge the gap ?

    Surely no investors would chuck good money after bad ?

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  9. mo1597

    I’m fed up with this website now. All you seem to want to do is discredit PB and keep the estate agency business in the dark ages. Times have moved on and so should you. I support PB for trying something new and changing and improving the way properties are sold.

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    1. Bosky

      Will the last person to leave PB please turn out the lights.

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    2. Agent Derbyshire

      Go on then….give us one thing that they have done differently…..

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      1. Robert_May

        Not charged enough?

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  10. Estate_Agent_Memes

    WOW!!
    The previous owner of a failed online Estate agent commenting on a failing online Estate Agency – oh the irony.
     
    I don’t know Russell – seems a pleasant chap – his main personal advert is that he “Launched a business and grew it to £100m” – what happened to this….?
     
    Emoov had a “property person” at the top. 
     
    Comparing PB and Foxtons? That’s like comparing apples and oranges!!? Foxtons have experienced/trained staff at the coal front, regardless of who’s sat in head office, and they only get paid on results – literally the opposite to PB?!
     
    PB was failing under the Brucies – remember the cringe Watchdog interview!? They have never been successful or had a good name.
     
    Yes, people have heard of them, but only due to their TV advertising that implied they would not charge to sell your property!
     
    The facts are, you cannot make money from selling properties by charging less than £1000. Any company that is doing this is relying on other income – mortgage fees, solicitor referral fees, etc. All of these are mainly hidden “stealth” charges to the client.
     
    Use PB’s solicitors – pay significantly more than if you went direct to the same solicitor direct.
    Pay £300 plus VAT for a viewing package – even if you have no viewings!
     
    Looking for some more first-class business advice in the next episode!
     
    Here all week… ;0)

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