Handbags at Dawn

The war of words has begun, accompanied by much posturing and pseudo hard man poses, (think Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson or perhaps Captain Mainwering). No, I am not meaning Putin and the world’s foremost user of hair lacquer (incidentally, it would not surprise me if The Donald had a major shareholding in some purveyor of ungents for the male bouffant), but Purplebricks (PB) and the recently formed Charter for Independent Estate Agents (CIELA). For the purposes of the tape-taken directly from their website-“CIELA is an organisation founded to represent the long term interests of small, independent owner-managed estate agents, defend against advancing corporate takeover, and to promote independent agency to the public as the best option when selling or letting your home.” Glad we got that one sorted out-and no, Cheshire & Co are not a member and do not have any intention of becoming a member of the said organisation (see previous blogs).
The move towards offensive action was preempted by the results of a survey of 1003-yes, that 3 is all important-saying how wonderful the general public think PB are. Good luck to them I say. I once conducted a survey that unequivocally proved that I am the most handsome man in Cwmbran…demonstrating that very carefully worded questions asked to a select few people will get you the result that you want. I know ladies, my modesty is. One of my most attractive features…
I have just read the release from PB and very impressive it is to. Thus experiencing further that you can fool some of the people some of the time. If people are actually taken in by this, then it does beg the question as to whether you really want them as clients? The CIELA founder, Charles Wright says that the report is, “profoundly offensive, not only to estate agents (not me, Charles), but especially to all the consumers who had money taken by PB even though they did not sell their home”. ‘Taken’ Charles? That’s a bit strong; they may not have read the small print or they may have been swayed by very persuasive presentation, but I don’t think that theft or other nefarious
behaviour can be used to describe PB’s business model.
If someone genuinely believes that they can get a ‘proper estate agent’; to sell their house for no monetary commission then I believe that they are beyond saving and probably think Diane Abbott is talking total sense about Brexit and that any ‘Brexiteer’ is fundamentally racist…. (Jezza, even allowing for the indiscretions of youth, what were you thinking?). Technically speaking, we all try and sell a house for nothing-because it is no sale, no fee-we only get paid if we are successful. PB do try and sell a property-sort of-but take the money upfront. How many people fall for this? Well at least 1003.
I must point out that there are some people people (1003?), who have had a fantastic result with PB, because they sold their property and saved thousands. Why such success? Because there is no magic or superior skill to having the right house for sale in the right location for the right price. Many vendors know this, so there is no need for floor plans, videos or freshly baked bread being eaten by cherubic offspring wearing Boden.
Where Charles should take comfort and give his blood pressure a chance to come down to an acceptable level is that there are now an increasing number of people who have not sold via PB and are frustrated because they have paid up front and have nothing to show for it. In the past 6 weeks, I have been called out by 3 different vendors who signed up with PB and now want to try a ‘proper estate agent’. All 3 properties were overvalued-quelle surprise-because they had been valued and listed by a PB Local Property Expert-who would have been paid to list them (as per the PB business model). All 3,vendors had signed up to using a PB panel solicitor and were shocked when I rang one of these solicitors ( who is local) and was given a far cheaper quote for the work.Why? Because I’m not taking a kick back. Not exactly difficult to work out.
What of course the report does not mention is that everyone who listed with PB paid for the privilege and in the event of no sale, they will not be seeing their money again. Why would it? If PB is giving you the Donald then take affirmative action. Protest groups akin to those idiots who called for a candlelit vigil to mark the death of Britain’s place in the EU (yes, really),give me the Donald. Approaching any property with a PB board outside, telling them what you do-and how well-until you get the listing or told to Foxtrot Oscar is far more productive. I wonder how PB will incorporate that in their next report.

A quarter down and some things never change…

The end of the first quarter of 2017 has dragged itself heroically to the finish line and the end of term report would read somewhere along the lines of ‘room for improvement/could do better if working harder and adopting the correct attitude’. On Friday 31 March we received a phone call in the office at 5.15 from a tearful vendor who had been told by the agent from whom she was purchasing a house that if she did not exchange the following Monday then the seller would be pulling out and she would lose her dream home. Really my friend? First up, playing that card at 5.15 on Friday; by lunchtime on any Friday most solicitors are echoing Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffet; “it’s five o’clock somewhere” and are ensconced in The Priory (the hostelry version). Secondly, 31 March; thus the end of a financial quarter. Hmm, it couldn’t possibly be that certain corporate boyos are having to submit their figures to the top table and every sale counts? The voice of experience will tell you that they kept their books open until close of business because they have yet to hit their bonus, or they are even money to be looking for a new job ob Monday if this sale doesn’t go through. Whatever the reason, it had nothing to do with my vendor because the file clearly shows that all parties have agreed on a completion on 20 April. No solicitor-however much under the influence of substances narcotic or alcoholic-is going to get the clients to exchange some three weeks before completion (new builds excepted for the spotters among you). Where does, “treating the customer fairly” feature here, when it is clearly the agent trying to influence the matter in his favour.

The onliners are also back in the news with Purplebricks (PB) having to withdraw an advert where it stated that it takes them 14 days to find a buyer. And? The right person for the right property can be found in 14 minutes if all necessary boxes are ticked. What intrigued me was whether any vendor would have had the sense to ask PB whether if they did not find a buyer within 14 days whether they-the vendor-would have returned to them their non-refundable upfront fee?

easyproperty-not dissimilar in ethos to that other company with ‘easy’ in their name-have also hit the news. Why? In short, because they need more money. In revealing their need it offered a fascinating insight into the funding required to set up an online operation. A strategic report attached to the firm’s figures, written by their chief executive, Rob Ellice stated that during the year up to September 30, 2016, the group raised £16m through the issue of shares. Hold that thought whilst I offer some background detail. In the year in question, easyProperty had a turnover of just under £875,000 and a gross profit of just over £492,200; but the pre-tax operating loss was over £11.3m. That is alot of costs. The figures show its total comprehensive  loss for the year was £10.94m. A year earlier, its total comprehensive loss was £6.7m. In his report Ellice says that the business had experienced, “a lower rate of growth than anticipated”. You bet it had, Rob. A genuine question. Who was head of the sales team? Because after the figures for 2014/2015 were released, who on earth bought £16m worth of shares and more pertinently, who was it that did the convincing for them to be bought? Give that person a medal. Roberto goes on to say that it is expected that the group, “will require additional funding in the foreseeable future”. Maybe he should ask Sir Stelios. Interestingly, when easyPropety was launched  in September 2015, Ellice went on the record to say that he aimed to “wipe out” traditional high street estate agents Daily Mirror 25 September , 2015 Live and let live Roberto.