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  • Mal McCallion

BBC v Purplebricks

In a surprise to absolutely no one that knows their history, ethos, business model or success rate, Purplebricks has been hammered by a BBC consumer programme for 'dropping a customer' trying to sell his ill mother's house - and then refusing to go on viewings for another couple's home, a viewing service that came with their £1,499 'Full Package' with the firm.

These are just the visible signs of a rotten business that adds little but heightened stress for consumers. Right now the market is harder than it has been for a long time. Previously, when properties were in high demand, a service like Purplebricks can just about get away with it. They'll sell quite a few because they've priced it badly - too low - slung it up on the portals where they can dredge enough demand, the seller doesn't have to ask for too much, so their administrators can string things together with real agents, who do most of the heavy lifting to complete chains.

Now that demand is lower, however, the perils of a 'free' business model become apparent. If you claim that your service is the equal of a traditional estate agent but massively cheaper, then you're on the hook for the service of a traditional estate agent. Still, this organisation claims that it can 'save' you £3,900 using a 1.3% commission fee as the comparator for what 'High Street Agents' charge.

In a weaselly, presumably legally-enforced link underneath this, it primly offers to change the actual commission fee to a more-usual 1% - but it will not allow you to set the fee any lower.

This is clearly a device to deceive, as the average commission fee in most areas is a lot lower than 1.3%. In some - mainly as a direct result of bullshit campaigns from investor-subsidy-soaked chancers like PB - the average fee is somewhat lower even than that.

The crafted and crafty wording that accompanies the asterisk, which is intended to avoid taking any responsibility for their claimed interchangeability with 'High Street Agents', admits that this 'free' service isn't actually an estate agent service at all. It never has been. 'You'll be in control of taking your own photos and hosting viewings,' it smirks, rhyming a questionable Brexit slogan to hide a genuine lack of comparable features with what estate agency really is.

'Controlling' the hosting of my viewings? Meaning - doing the viewings myself? It's rare to see a form of words so objectionable, with the clear intention to fool people (in small print) into believing that they're getting a positive for free when it actually means the service provider shirking an crucial part of a job - if that 'job' is to get the best outcome for the seller.

So it's no surprise that a consumer affairs programme has seized on a couple of examples of shocking service from Purplebricks and publicised it. It's no surprise that PB refused the offer of commenting on the story. It's no surprise that these will be only the first few of dozens, if not hundreds, of people who are going to find that they paid for something that they thought was a service, only to find that actually the provider couldn't/wouldn't supply it because they aren't capable of doing so. They don't have the money or expertise, because experts cost and these guys are pretending it's all free.

It's a terrible shame that people have to go through this. If you find clients that have been burned by PB please do invite them to email their stories to us at Perhaps even more people who have found that this 'service' is not equivalent to High Street Agents, that it does not save you money and that it actually makes your home less attractive to potential buyers, can help those that might be about to be mugged-off from making a misguided decision.

And maybe it might move from being a single item inside a BBC consumer affairs programme, to the much more significant news story that it really is.

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