Exclusive: Purplebricks buys high street agent’s lettings management business

Purplebricks has acquired the lettings management business of a traditional, and prominent, high street firm.

In answer to EYE’s questions, Purplebricks has confirmed the purchase has gone ahead, but has not explained the reasons for the acquisition or gone into any detail.

The firm whose lettings business it has bought is Venmores, well known in the north-west.

It is unclear whether the  purchase heralds a change of direction for Purplebricks, including whether this is the start of an acquisition programme of high street agents, or whether this is a deal allowing Purplebricks to beef up its lettings portfolio online.

The price paid has not been disclosed as Purplebricks confirmed the acquisition but was tight-lipped about any detail.

The Venmore Group has three brands across the Wirral, Liverpool, Sefton, Southport and Chester. They are Venmore, with two branches in Liverpool city centre; Bradshaw Farnham & Lea, in Wirrall and Chester; and Ball & Percival, with two branches in Southport.

We asked whether the acquisition means that Purplebricks will now have a bricks and mortar presence on the high street, whether it will retain the existing Venmores brands, or whether the property portfolio will be brought online into Purplebricks.

At the weekend, a Purplebricks spokesperson told us: “We are pleased to confirm the acquisition of Venmores and the various brands that make up their lettings management business. This strengthens and expands our lettings management business.”

However, the spokesperson said Purplebricks would provide no comment on any of our questions.

The Venmores business dates back to 1849, and began by managing rows of terrace houses let on weekly tenancies.

In late 2008, at the worst of the housing crash, Liverpool’s prominent Venmore Partnership, together with Ball & Percival, was acquired by Bradshaw, Farnham & Lea. Venmore had been actively seeking a rescue deal after it was reported as having been unable to pay its staff salaries, having already closed offices and made redundancies.

Today the Venmore Group business is headed by chairman Paul Lea and Rob Farnham, chief executive.

  • Separately, yesterday’s Mail on Sunday carried a story about online firms under the headline of “A few home truths about estate agents”. The story said that sellers can save a lot of money by going through online agents. It quoted as an example: “High street agents charge around 1.5% on the sale price. If you sell a property for £330,000 when VAT has been added you will see around £5,400  of the proceeds go the the agent. Sell for £600,000 and the agent pockets a whopping £10,800.” We are sure our readers may want to do something with the maths.  The Mail story also said that  Purplebricks is listing 9,000 properties for sale, while House Simple sold over 1,800 homes last year, more than double the number than in 2015. The story also quotes Countrywide’s ‘managing director for retail’, Sam Tyrer, who told the paper that online services can work for some sellers.
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15 Comments

  1. Simon Bradbury

    Absolutely fascinating!

    Who saw that coming?

    This can only be an endorsement of the view that estate agents ought to have a “High Street” presence of some sort whether in lettings and or in sales.

    I think this is a very clever move on the part of Purplebricks.

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    1. Ric

      Wow…..who’d have thought.
      More concerned the next advert will be….
      PB – We really aren’t JustOnline! We are Online & OnTheHighStreet & Still Cheap……. clever move to have a base for LPE perhaps to nip in and out of and therefore spin their marketing even further.
      All that said, another bottom line cost they could do without……
      Oh well….. PB Shares up 368% by 10am I would image LOL – brilliant really.

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      1. Hillofwad71

        Ric you had your crystal ball out Bricks up 15p to 299p at 11.41

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  2. Hillofwad71

    Their lettings side has failed to take off for Bricks with a paucity of instructions.Its the area they have  received most negative feedback from  on Trustpilot  Firstly ,they arent much cheaper than the high street  and their offer had failed to take account  the fact   that landlords  dont tend to live at the properties  for viewings

     

    What is more surpising is that they havent  swopped for one of the big boys like Belvoir  for an instant   nationwide cover It seems that this annoucement signals they are going to increase their offer incrementally  in amore pedestrian fashion

     

    Maybe some happy  faces here waiting for the purple  knock on the door.Cash or shares?

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  3. lettingsguru

    It simply proves that property management specifically, is near impossible without a branch within a reasonable drive of the property, simply to service the logistic of key holding for contractors – very difficult to do that on-line.

    I wonder which side of the letting fee ban PB stand now they have branches to pay rent on etc?

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  4. RealAgent

    It’s interesting actually because I had heard from a few of their reps in the south they were negotiating on a few lettings businesses in their areas.

    It’s difficult to see how this will give them anything than a short term gain as with many acquisitions you maybe hang in to what 60% of the landlords?… That will be less in PB’s case I would have thought.

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    1. Beano

      60%? Really?, where has this figure come from? After purchasing a local rival my firm lost less than 2% of the acquired business. One of those was a previous client of ours – who had left us not on the best terms! 

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      1. RealAgent

        With no disrespect Beano I was talking about bigger corporate aquisitions where there is little or no local recognition from Landlords.
        Also these Landlords wont disappear day 1 as many will be obligated to stay, but when the tenant leaves they will start falling away. 

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  5. StanLaurel35

    Had an interesting talk with one of my vendors yesterday, We’ve sold his house and is moving out of the area, viewed a property with PB and said the girl couldn’t have been more uninterested, opened the door let them in, crossed her arms and just stood there by the front door, they were left to walk round the property on their own, when my vendor asked questions about nearest shops etc, the comeback was ‘I don’t know I’m not from round here’. Having viewed several other properties he decided that this one was without doubt the best he had seen and called PB for a second look, she informed him that she had just had an offer on the property, my vendor said ‘I just want one more look to make sure and will be prepared to offer the asking price – The response ‘ I’m not driving 12 miles to do a viewing when it looks like I’ve already sold the property’.

     

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    1. mrharvey

      it seems like local property experts can also be miserable sods too.

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      1. StanLaurel35

        Yep, and If the owner knew this story. and that PB has potentially lost him thousands of pounds he would have probably stuck his face in a cake or shouted into a cupboard.

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  6. J1

    Interesting geographical choice

    I think they may  be acquaintances already

    strange decision to sell your lettings book at the moment

     

     

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  7. dave_d

    Lettings is the only viable way of safeguarding your business – PB are doing just that.

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  8. Property Paddy

    Gosh, next PB will open up a branch on your local high street !!!!

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  9. PaulC

    It will happen, as their density in an area grows they will want a base or hub to operate from..

    Just will work better as area teams grow. Central for keys for viewings etc. Place to do admin etc.

    Then they will offer a no sale no fee basis as an option, more expensive but once through the door upsell to it if required.

    A mix of paid upfront, no sale no fee (higher margin) business

    No Doubt in my mind..

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