BLOG: With Purplebricks in trouble again, is DIY estate agency dead?

Glentree International boss Trevor Abrahmsohn casts his eyes over the latest Purplebricks developments and ponders whether this is the end for DIY estate agency.

trevor housing market purplebricks

Well, well, well. It would appear that the founding shareholders of Purplebricks have had a rude awakening.

For a company floated on AIM in 2016 at £1 and which rose stratospherically at one point in 2018 to over £5 it is now languishing at under 10p and is probably only worth the goodwill of the name.

Many moons ago I predicted that the great British residential property owning public would rather ‘run naked through the village high street’ than make a feeble attempt to sell their own property.

This flawed and doomed model effectively put inexperienced ‘lay people’ in charge of selling their single, most important, tax free, asset. That’s the equivalent of a surgeon sending you a scalpel in the post along with some bandages, a YouTube video and wishes of good luck for the operation that you desperately need.

DISRESPECT

There has been a love-hate relationship between consumers and estate agents since time immemorial and it is only recently that politicians and bankers have reached a lower echelon of disrespect in the hierarchy of the most deplorable.

Nevertheless, estate agents are, after all, a necessary evil since they provide the marketing, administration, spin-doctoring and nursing service that effectively constitutes the business.

Some of the naïve DIY estate agency victims have been lambs to slaughter and some have been vulnerable to the avaricious appetite from hungry bargain hunters.

CHEAP

The much-used adage of cheap is dear springs to mind. Here consumers are lured in by thinking that a fixed rate, relatively modest fee would be a great benefit to the property owner. But ignorance and naivety blur their vision such that they can inadvertently give away tens of thousands of pounds by underselling, which is a cruel outcome for these innocent souls.

I have always believed that the fees estate agents charge are worth their weight in gold, particularly in difficult markets where homes do not fly off the shelves and need an insatiable amount of nurturing.

A fly on the wall documentary of the intricate, painstaking, work that estate agents do to sell some properties – which can consume many months and often years and sometimes never – would reveal a lot. The skill set required is not just property knowledge but also an object lesson in psychology, empathy and valuable human skills which are so lacking in the DIY model.

ROGUES

I appreciate there are rogues in the business but the far-reaching draconian laws which now police the business today have weeded out most of the serial offenders.

Although Purplebricks did give it a ‘good go’, it was a flawed model and I am not sure that the British public will ever be ready for this passive, DIY service which may be better suited to our American counterparts.

There is an endearing, quintessential reserve, and self-deprecation, which makes the British such a lovable nation.

As Brits we are happy to queue without a complaint and a perfect example was the orderly, five-mile-long line to pay respect to the late Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s coffin.

This was British reverence at its best, without a whinge or a gripe.

British understated-ness is endemic in our culture and a further reason why a DIY self-sell residential property service will never succeed in this country. It was a good try though,

Trevor Abrahmsohn (main picture) is founder and MD of London estate agency Glentree International.


2 Comments

  1. Purple Bricks was dreamt up by people with a dubious track record and relied on up front fees (proven not to work over decades) and a single ‘expert’ doing everything normally carried out by a whole team in traditional agency. They raised sufficient backing to pay for slick but misleading national advertising way beyond normal budgets which created a false impression of competence. Once the Bruces had cashed in their inflated shares those left behind realised the model was unworkable & dumped the self employed professionals struggling so hard to make it work. The management were sloppy with regulations and the demise has been inevitable. Trying to reinvent the wheel has been going on in agency for decades and never worked. We are in a service industry and doing it properly does not and never will come cheap!

  2. Are we really surprised?
    Always thought these type of set ups were “the kings new clothes” syndrome
    The novelty gave it some Kudos early on like all the other similar set ups

    It could never work in the long term
    The property public are far to savvy in the long term to have the wool pulled over their eyes

    The 2 or 3 current contenders will not last either
    Get you money out now

    Service always will reign

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