Opinion: Do members of the public expect ‘proper estate agents’ to have offices?

As I’m thinking of finally hanging up my clip-board (plastic covered writing equipment) and furling my tape measure (long fabric marked in feet and inches – sorry centimetre thingies) for the last time, I thought: let’s just have one final pop at these Purplebricks ads.

I had a grudging respect for the visual storyline in the guy screaming in the cupboard.

The lady with cake on her face was clever too, but naturally, like every self-respecting proper estate agent, I took exception to the intimation that there was no commission to pay!

Plenty of people made noises and the Advertising Standards Authority offered some whimpering bleats that ‘perhaps  Purplebricks wouldn’t mind being ever so nice and altering a few phrases, and so sorry to have bothered you nice Mr Brick’.

It was only when I saw the wedding scene advert that my dander was raised once again, and this time no one seemed to have picked it up.

This awful father-in-law, in his wedding breakfast speech, accuses poor Gareth of being a liar: “He said Purplebricks were just online. Well they’re not, Gareth. They are proper estate agents.”

We all know they’re not, so I made a formal complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority saying that the advert was misleading as Purplebricks are patently not ‘proper estate agents’ as they are online only and the public would rightly expect ‘proper estate agents’ to have offices.

The ASA dismissed my complaint immediately saying: “We noted that Purplebricks offer similar services to a traditional estate agent, including visiting properties and face to face valuations, and provided local property experts who were sufficiently trained and experienced. For these reasons, we can’t say the ad breaks the rules on the basis you suggest.”

I had also made the point that, without High Street offices, they couldn’t justify saying “we’re not just online”, as that’s patently all they are.

So I questioned the ASA decision and they came back with this ever more glowing commendation of PB’s credentials as ‘proper estate agents’ thus: “With regards to your complaint about the claim they are proper estate agents” I believe it would be covered by the same ruling here.

“As stated previously the ruling commented that Purplebricks offered ‘similar services to a traditional estate agent’ and that the combination of property experience, qualifications, professional membership and an internal training programme was sufficient to substantiate the claim ‘expert’. For these reasons we are unable to conclude the ad has broken our Code at this time.”

It seems to me the ASA are as gullible as PB’s  investors and believe everything PB tells them.

Was I barking up the wrong tree – am I an ill-informed old f..rt of a past-it agent?

Please let me know!

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21 Comments

  1. Robert May

    If Purplebricks think using a domineering, malignant narcissist as their best advertising strategy let them carry on.  Look around the forums and it’s quite clear what the public think of the the sort of chap who ignores his wife at a family gathering to make an aggressive, unprovoked attack on his new son in law.

    You have to be concerned for Mrs Terry, but at least the daughter’s safe now. The real sadness is not  her having to live with Terry but it’s unlikely she’ll see much of the grandchildren.

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  2. J1

    Example

    An experienced local agent, perhaps having spent many years working out of an office for an independent, decides to set themselves up as a local personal realtor, taking on only the clients they can cope with, but offering a high end personal service for a decent fee; are they a proper agent?

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    1. AgencyInsider

      That’s a reasonable question to which the answer is – they are an agent. Whether they are ‘proper’ depends on your definition of what a ‘proper agent’ is.

      To my mind a proper agent is one who is rewarded on result. That is the fundamental basis of the client/agent relationship and obligation. Not by way of upfront payment that removes any incentive whatsoever to negotiate a sale and see it through to completion.

      So long as Local Property Experts are not much more than sales reps chasing listings I will not consider them to be proper agents, no matter what experience they may have from past employments.

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      1. J1

        Proper ??

        A decent minded professionally trained agent who wants to do the best for their client ,,without conflict of interest, working on an agreed fee schedule that incentives them to get the best price for the client.

        PS There is nothing wrong about charging a registration fee of say £300 for set up costs, plus a commission at the end based on the sale price.

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    2. Robert May

      It isn’t the offices that determine a proper  estate agent but a detailed understanding of the market they are selling in or letting to.  Internet listing firms that rely on random number generation, AVM systems to guess at value and who react to portal enquiries are not proper estate agents.  Those agents working from home or non ITZA premises but who have a niche or ultra local market and have properly managed and understood applicant registers are very much proper estate, land or letting agents.
      There’s a world of difference between FSBO passive intermediary listers and proper agents and it’s down to the professional agent to explain the difference and make their case.
       

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    3. P-Daddy

      Just to remind everyone what a proper estate agent is, this is from the Estate Agents Act definition:-
      Section 1 of the Act contains the legal definition of estate agency work. The legal definition is very wide and, subject to certain limited exceptions, you will be engaging in estate agency work if, in the course of business and acting on instructions from a third party (your client) who wishes to either buy or sell property (an interest in land), you do either (or both) of the following:

      things for the purpose of, or with a view to, effecting the introduction to your client, of someone who either wishes to buy or sell property, or
      things after such an introduction has been made by you to secure the sale or purchase of the property.

      The law only requires you to do things for the purpose of, or with a view to introducing your client to a buyer or seller in order for you to be acting as an estate agent. It is not necessary for you to actually introduce your client to a buyer or seller in order to fall within the legal definition of estate agency work.
      If you do any of the following things, you will be, or are likely to be, engaging in estate agency work:

      sending out property particulars and arranging viewings
      dealing with queries from potential sellers or buyers on behalf of your clients.

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      1. Beano200062

        So, yes that ‘Estate agency’, but NOT ‘proper’ estate agency…..

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      2. Robert May

        But  in addition to that there are pecedent defined, contract law, duties placed on an agent that says quite clearly an agent has to do more than that scant definition in order to fulfil their obligations to their principal.
        Duty of care and skill is the biggie that puts any investment in looky likey agency at very seriious risk of litigation. Looking up a number on Zoopla or any other AVM is not enough to satisfy DoC&S.

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  3. EAMD172

    What everyone has to remember is that PB’s business model is not Estate agency in the long term. There end game is to make money out of advertising on their web site. The Estate Agency element of the business is just to drive traffic to the web site. Is that proper estate agency? No, but it’s business. Wish I’d thought of doing it first

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  4. Hillofwad71

    A proper estate agent will ensure that  prior to marketing a property and attaching their reputation  to the instruction some due diligence .Maybe suggesting  some  further advice on potential structural  problems (more than likely to have  a building surveyor in house) .  Checking out boundaries, party walls planning  and any legal issues which might  affect value or saleability

    This is a shining example of an instruction where it  smacks of the Bricks expert taking the money  popping a board  up not fully understanding what the vendor is seeking to do and leaving an unholy mess for any potential buyers to  stutter through

    ihttps://www.purplebricks.co.uk/brochure/417313

    No details of the  planning  consent online

    You cant undertake the basic of  due diligence prior to inspection . You have to   book an appointment  with the owner  first before they allow you access online  and a long  schlep over

    Its a property likely  to have a wide appeal with its panoramic views over Cardigan Bay

    Furthermore if you open up the brochure online  the poor saps thinking of buying a second holiday home, lifestsyle change opening up a restaurant  will find out when they arrive and meet the owner not only are they required to be a developer and carry out the reconfiguration works they have to give one of the 2 flats on completion  back to the owner  gratis!

     

    No mention of this at all in the details.The works are not going to leave you must change from £500k You couldn’t make it up! Likely   to be more disgruntled not  finding Dylan propping  up the bar either !

     

     

     

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  5. AgentV

    A proper estate agent will act as a buffer between buyer and seller, negotiating the final sale price to the best of their ability and dealing with any issues and problems along the path to completion of the sale.

    They don’t just put a few photos up online, collect the review of what they have done, do a few viewings if paid extra, and then abandon their client after that….to move onto their next payment. That is Call Centre Listing.

    A proper estate agent acts on behalf of their vendor from start to end, to try and make the whole process as least stressful for their client as possible, only asking for a review that can be seen by other people after the final completion of the sale!!!

    A proper estate agent will always earn the majority oftheir fees only from successfully completed sales. 

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  6. LD1602

    I suspect  the answer lies not in whether or not someone has on office but rather more opaquely in the ability for consumer redress should/when things go wrong.

    LPE’s are under the PB model sole traders are they covered by their own PI insurance or is there a blanket policy offered to them by PB?

    When the wheels come off and people start asking for their money back who will pick up the tab?

    Moreover is it legal for an “Estate Agent” to offer financial services advice or sign someone into a loan agreement? My understanding is not…

    “Proper” ought to mean trading legally and offering a professional service, you can do that anywhere.

     

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  7. cyberduck46

     

    I made a complaint about a traditional agent in February who posts on here regularly and who complains about others breaking rules (hypocrite) and on the front page of his website he was advertising properties as “just completed” when they weren’t. One of them completed in May 2017 and others were more recent but not what a typical person would consider recent. There were 24 properties listed on the main page of the website and just 4 of them were for sale, there were 12 “just completed” properties.

     

    Where is Chris Wood, PeeBee & Robert May when it comes to checking their friends’ websites? Too busy chasing PurpleBricks probably. No hypocrisy there is there?

     

    The ASA agreed that rules probably had been broken in this case but all they did was send a letter and when they do that they don’t even check to see if any changes have been made. Other Agents have had informal action taken for similar false claims which give a false impression of how good an agent they are.

     

    Another complaint that they could not substantiate their claim “We Guarantee To Give Your Home The Best Marketing” didn’t get anywhere as according to the ASA this is just puffery and the average consumer will realise it.

     

    Look around. You find misleading comments that can’t be substantiated on a lot of traditional agents’ sites. They’re not all hypocrites though.

     

     

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    1. AgentQ73

      Hi Duck I responded to one of you posts the other day but you must have missed it. Here it is
       “I dont trust estate agents any more or less than anybody else. I just find it hard to believe that anybody with more than half a brain cell would base investment decisions on this forum and i cant believe you or Dom think that anyone would which makes me wonder why you both defend Purplebricks but no other companies (that I am aware of)?If you are crusaders for the truth and objectivity in order to inform potential investors I haven’t seen you challenge any of Purplebricks claims or their lack of transparency. Both yourself and Dom seem to be as Pro Purplebricks ad the vast majority of posters are anti. I can see the motivation in the posters being Anti PB but i cant for the life of me understand why you and Dom invest so much time and effort in supporting PB ?”

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    2. Elmer Fudd

      My, my you’re an angry man! Was the father of the bride chap based on you by any chance?

      Now you’ve sold and moved isn’t it about time to let this all go and enjoy your retirement? If all you’ve got is anger, envy and resentment that’s not going to be cured by being a tw@t on here.

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    3. PeeBee

      ducky

      You’ve somewhat fudged the phraseology of your post – allow me to decipher for the readership.

      “It’s like this.

      Enraged with certain posters on PropertyIndustryEye, I made it my business to ascertain the potential identity of one such person, who posts under an alias.

      Once I had established who I believed that person to be, I went further out of my way, expending considerably more of my time to dissect every potential aspect of his business’ website for the sole purpose of finding something – anything, in fact – that could be seen, taken or in any way construed as subjective in the eyes of the ASA.  The only hopeful morsel of material which I found to feed to the them by way of formal complaint was that several properties shown on said website were marked as “Just Completed”; and that further extensive investigation revealed their respective sale completion dates – which didn’t fall under what I believe can be claimed as “recent”.

      So – a formal complaint was raised with ASA in respect of this belief.  Costs me nothing, so what the heck.  I’ll teach the bu99er to pick on a poor, defenceless**, multi-national PLC with a current market cap of £800 or so millions.

      If it falls flat – so what.  I’ve p!$$ed in the bloke’s paddling pool – and best of all, let it be seen as a warning to others (with the exception of those that I’ve already done it to, that is, who already know the lengths I am prepared to go to) not to mess with my #Purple_Pals.”

      ** apart from their ever-hungry Legal firm who seemingly exist solely to whack out C&D orders on behalf of said “poor, defenceless, multi-national PLC client”.

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      1. PeeBee

         
        Thing is, ducky – as it is ASA apparently weren’t too clear as to what is “recent” and what isn’t – it being a subjective terminology and all… open to individual interpretation. 
        You only have to look at our natural world itself to prove that point, as in the lifespan of a member of the insectoid order Ephemeroptera, every hour is like several years to a human – but to a specimen of Chelonoidis nigra, it’s a mere heartbeat by comparison. 
         
        And let’s not even begin to debate where the term “recent” stands in respect of the origins and age of our Universe – but it doesn’t take a genius to point out that “several months ago” doesn’t register as much more than the instant of the Big Bang from whence all we are was formed…
        And on the basis that they can’t work out what the correct definitions of
        “Local”,
        “Property”, and
        “Expert” are – despite there being pretty good definitions widely available,
        you’re on a one-way journey to Chuff-all’sville with a bolt well and truly shot, pal.
        That being said – it wasn’t a completely wasted exercise.
        You’ve confirmed what the majority of the EYE readership already knew about you and your agenda – and removed any shadow of doubt from the rest.
        Nice one.
        #duckshot

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        1. Property Pundit

          Best advice is just to ignore the vindictive half-wit. The ‘Dumb and Dumber’ show has run its course. #FanBoy appears occupied in trying to destroy a rental agent’s business on twitter. Keeps him away from here I suppose.

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  8. Beano200062

    I think some people need to get a life. Spending time searching out errors or exaggerations on websites is not a positive way to spend your time. If you have kids invest that time with them, or in your business, or with your loved ones.

    Agents have always policed their competition, particularly when blatantly misleading. You are naive to think otherwise. All they are doing with Purplebricks is much of the same. Who can blame them.

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    1. Quags

      Well said.

      Agents will always pick other agents up locally to them if they feel that agent is getting more business or reputation by spouting lies and falsehoods.  That’s why so many people pick up on the PB fake train.  They promote their twaddle nationally, and relentlessly.  Of course it’s going to bring more criticism than they average small estate agency tucked away somewhere.

      What I find more interesting is the sheer level of dedication and the length that the double D’s will go to in order to ‘defend’ (actually all they do is help emphasize our points) their beloved Purple faith.  Any human with half a brain cell can see that Purple*ricks mislead, lie and provide a below-par service.  Even people that have sold through them have said the same thing. You get what you pay for.

      The ASA are toothless.  PB’s can afford more expensive lawyers, that’s it.  If the ASA came down on them too hard, the PB legal body guards would sue the hell out of them, claiming all kinds of bias etc

       

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  9. DanRobo68

    Reads to me like a past-it agent. Sorry TK but you asked the question! Isn’t this just evolution and modernisation of the profession? Missing the point to say that an office is the differentiating factor, do travel agents still need high street shops? Even without a shop i am sure you would still consider them travel agents. In my eyes and clearly the ASA the service is pretty much the same just delivered with modern methodology. Would love your reply to this comment as very much enjoyed reading this.

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