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  • Mal McCallion

Purplebricks' BS Fail

Updated: Apr 26

One person’s hilarious April Fool gag is another person’s window into the joker’s soul. “If they find this funny,” you might end up thinking, “they are not someone I wish to share a sofa with – ever.”


Perhaps Purplebricks’ latest campaign might further encourage this polarity. Taking aim again at ‘high street estate agents’, the poundshop property listing service – sold for a peppercorn £1 last year, in case anyone has forgotten – is once more trying to wheedle its way into vendors’ lounges by advertising a ‘BS Detector App’. This, they splashed across multiple sponsored social media posts yesterday, would ‘alert’ sellers to ‘lies’ and ‘suspicious phrases’ used by other agents.

But look! It’s all a big joke, haha!! The app isn’t real. It’s just a bit of April Fool fun … that cost them thousands of pounds of their meagre revenues to advertise on Facebook.


And the tiresome message? That Purplebricks, alone, will cut through the ‘BS’ that these untrustworthy ‘high street estate agents’ are relentlessly purveying. Hoho! Hmm.


Let’s just dig a little into this claim, shall we? PB state that they’re the keepers of the truth flame in the industry – vendors and landlords can trust them to be non-BSers. However, the mildest scan of their ‘services’ shows that not everything is made clearly BS-free by these self-appointed paragons of virtue.


There are three packages available with the new Purplebricks – ‘Sell for Free’, ‘Boost’ and ‘Full House’ – plus ‘Optional Add-ons’ to let you ‘customise your sale, your way’. Perhaps your first question is the most obvious – if it’s so easy to ‘Sell for Free’, why would you need any further packages or add-ons at all?


Sadly, there is no BS-free clarity about this anywhere – each of the three is claimed to ‘show the property off to its best’ and ‘make sure you get the best price’. A suspicious waft starts to permeate out from the pages …


‘Sell for Free’ comes with a listing on ‘some of the UK’s top property portals’, according to PB’s ‘What’s included’ blurb. Exciting, huh? Well, it’s actually Zoopla/Primelocation. One other if you’re in Scotland or Northern Ireland. That’s it.


On the free package, your property most definitely won’t go on +the+ UK’s top property portal. Despite being advertised in a standalone link in the navigation pane of the site as ‘Advertising with Rightmove’ – the only portal to be mentioned so prominently – you only get RM coverage in the ‘Boost’ (£899) or ‘Full House’ (£1,499) options (not that these prices are made explicit on said page).


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This is the problem that Purplebricks will always have. They must convince sellers that the service they offer for free is as good as a ‘high street’ agent, in order to mug people into visiting their site to peruse their offerings – and then upsell the actual revenue-generating packages and add-ons.


Hence the borderline farcical ‘You could save …’ section on the homepage, which defaults to £3,640 which is what ‘high street agents’ charging 1.3% on a £280,000 property would cost – the amount that you’d allegedly ‘save’ if you took PB’s ‘Sell for Free’ package.


But that package doesn’t include a Rightmove listing, which could expand the number of potential buyers of – and therefore competition for – your property. It doesn’t include professional photography, which allows more people to visualise themselves inside. Or floorplans, which are almost universal, because buyers want to see whether there is an extra toilet – and if that third bedroom really is going to be appropriate for a teenager.


And don’t get me started on the ‘most reviewed estate agent in the UK’ spiel. 97,000 reviews, mostly for a different company (Purplebricks before it sold to Strike for £1), with different employees, different management, different products and a different pricing model (and still only 3.7 out of 5 stars, 'average'). To claim these as genuine reviews of current Purplebricks now is, frankly, BS – and I’m no fan of their previous incarnation’s approach to review-gouging, as I have made pretty clear over the years.


As far as detecting ‘lies’ and ‘suspicious phrases’ goes, Purplebricks would do well to review its own site – and, presumably by extension, its own ‘estate agent’ team. It is categorically untrue to state that you can ‘make sure that you get the best price’ when advertising on Zoopla alone, not having decent photographs or a floorplan, and not having accompanied viewings where an impartial rep can emphasise the virtues of your home.


If you can’t get the best price with PB because it has to cut these corners to offer a ‘Sell for Free’ option, then any claim to ‘save’ £3,640 (or anything, frankly) is utter garbage too. A decent agent will get you more for your most valuable asset than this ‘Sell for Free’ nonsense – and a good agent will get you much more, perhaps £10,000 or £30,000 plus. ‘Sell for Free’ is the very definition of a ‘false economy’.


So no, I don’t think that Purplebricks’ April Fool campaign is funny. I think it’s dishonest and devious. If I had to find a single word for it, I’d choose ‘bullshit’. And I don’t want them anywhere near my sofa – and I think that, pretty soon, no sensible vendor or landlord will either.


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