Connells Group ‘boosts its share of new instructions in falling market’

Connells Group’s market share of new instructions swelled by nearly 4% in 2017, despite a drop in the overall supply of new instructions to the market, according to figures it revealed yesterday.

The business, which operates almost 600 estate agency and lettings agent branches across the UK and is owned by the Skipton Building Society, also claimed it had enjoyed an “encouraging” start to 2018, with its sales pipeline marginally up on the previous year.

David Plumtree, Connells Group chief executive, said: “During the course of 2017, Connells Group’s market share has increased as a result of the unwavering focus placed within the business on winning new instructions, and our commitment to offering a full service and consistently good value to our customers via our 600-strong high street estate agency branch network.

“Although official figures for the wider market are not yet available for 2017, the general consensus is that total transaction levels across the UK will fall by at least 10%.

“So, set against this backdrop, it is pleasing that our sales for the year are only down by 3%, and clearly the increase in our share of the new instruction market has enabled us to fare better than the market as a whole in respect of our sales results.”

Connells described the final quarter of 2017 as “somewhat subdued” but said it was confident it could further increase its market share this year.

It said it calculated its market share from a “variety of sources”, one of which is Rightmove Intel data.

The announcement came after a mystery new league table, details of which EYE revealed in December, placed Connells above Countrywide as the biggest estate agency group in terms of listings.

Purplebricks was top of the leaderboard of brands, followed by Your Move, with two Connells brands (William H. Brown and Connells) in third and fourth place, followed by Haart.

By estate agency group, Connells beats Countrywide into second place, with Purplebricks third.

* Meanwhile, Humphreys of Chester, which was acquired by SDL Group in 2016, announced that it had come first in its region for the fourth year running for its sales business as well as being named as the top agent in Chester for lettings, according to Rightmove Intel Data.

It said it had “significantly” increased its market share for both new instructions and sales agreed over the course of 2017, which coincides with the first full year under the ownership of the SDL Group.

SDL Group, which bought national surveying and auction business CP Bigwood in 2015, has seen its turnover triple in the last two years from £19m to £65m.

High street agent Romans slams allAgents after being named second worst after Purplebricks

Romans has hit out at reviews site allAgents after being ‘named’ as the second worst-rated agency on the controversial site.

It said is “disappointed but not surprised” at the ranking but says it has been encouraging its customers to drop the reviews site for some time in favour of Feefo and Google.

Romans, which has repeatedly won many industry awards, told EYE yesterday evening that it will  be looking into the negative reviews it has received on the site and “taking any necessary actions”.

Vincent Courney, managing director of sales, said: “Although disappointed, we are not surprised that our rating on allAgents Reviews has come out lower than we would have hoped.

“We are aware that in recent years we have moved away from asking our customers to use this site. As a result, in the last six months we have only received 25 reviews on allAgents.

“We instead measure our customers’ satisfaction using Feefo and Google and in the last six months received 480 reviews across the two platforms.

“We encourage anyone thinking of using Romans to review our scores on the aforementioned sites where we have scored 4.5/5 stars on Feefo and 4.2/5 stars on Google.

“We made the conscious decision to utilise Feefo and Google over allAgents as we felt they were both widely recognised by the public as being trusted, independent review sites, with Feefo offering the added bonus of only genuine customers being invited to comment.”

Romans’ statement suggested that it is readying itself to take a similar approach to allAgents as the stance adopted by Purplebricks.

The response came as allAgents revealed what it judged to be the best-rated and worst-rated firms on its website over the past year, according to the reviews posted there.

Yesterday, it listed the five ‘best’ as:

1. Bradleys Estate Agents
2. Ryder & Dutton
3. Northwood
4. Manning Stainton
5. Reeds Rains

Purplebricks, with which allAgents has been engaged in a public legal dispute over the legitimacy of its reviews, topped the list of the ‘worst’ rated companies on the allAgents site.

The ‘worst’ list is:

1. Purplebricks
2. Romans
3. Entwistle Green
4. Farrell Heyworth
5. Goodchilds Estate Agents

Late last year, allAgents reinstated reviews of Purplebricks on its site after a period of removal which followed legal letters questioning the authenticity of a number of the reviews.

Purplebricks has been using Trustpilot, where it has around 35,000 reviews listed, and also announced the launch of a second review platform with Feefo starting early this year.

At the time, it said: “In the overall scheme of things allAgents is now listing just 73 reviews of Purplebricks (which may or may not be authentic), covering a period of over three years, which represents just 0.07% of the over 100,000 customers Purplebricks has acted for since it was founded.”

Purplebricks declined to comment about the rankings released by allAgents yesterday.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Belvoir, which owns the Goodchilds brand and which is a sister company to Northwood which scores well on allAgents, said: “Goodchilds is a small west midlands-based network that is 100% franchise operated.

“The Belvoir Group acquired the network in October 2015 and is currently in the process of rebranding the Goodchilds offices to either Belvoir or Newton Fallowell.

“A renewed focus on generating genuine, positive reviews will become part of this rebranding process in the coming months, as their trading style changes to be in line with their new respective brand.”

Entwistle Green and Farrell Heyworth have also been approached by EYE for comment.

Alongside its lists of the best- and worst-rated agents on the site, allAgents also made the accusation that more than a quarter of estate agents get property valuations “completely wrong” in the view of consumers.

It claimed that of the vendors who posted reviews on its site in 2017, 27% thought agents were “way off the mark” when it came to valuing their home, up from 20% in 2016.

AllAgents claimed 60,000 consumers posted reviews on its site last year.

AllAgents also claimed that 38% were unhappy with the fees they were charged, up from 30% in 2016.

Martin McKenzie of allAgents said: “When a consumer gives a negative score for valuation accuracy, this means the estate agent has got it completely wrong.

“Everyone accepts a little wiggle room over price, but this sizable increase in valuation dissatisfaction is extremely worrying for the consumer and the industry as a whole.

“If estate agents are getting it so wide of the mark, questions need to be asked about why they’re overvaluing a property so significantly. Are they doing it to try and secure the business? Or because they don’t have a proper grasp of the real state of the market?

“There are clearly some rogue agents out there, trying to deceive vendors by hiking valuations in order to get their business.”

Meanwhile, McKenzie, whose site claims to have seen a 23% increase in traffic in 2017, said the increase in the number of consumers who were unhappy with fees was a “very worrying trend which the industry needs to address”.

No evidence of Purplebricks contravening reviews guidelines, says Trustpilot

Reviews website Trustpilot has clarified its policy on postings amid concern by agents over the validity of posts about Purplebricks, stating that the online agent hasn’t breached any guidelines.

Agents have taken to Twitter in recent months to question why certain Purplebricks reviews have been removed and how genuine some are.

Trustpilot said its investigations haven’t identified any behaviour that contravenes its guidelines.

The online agent says all reviews, positive and negative, are validated to ensure they are genuine, and Trustpilot says the firm has reported more four- or five-star reviews than one-star ratings.

In an attempt to appease “a small handful of individuals” who raise regular queries on Purplebricks’ posts and Trustpilot’s policies, the reviews website has issued an open letter detailing guidelines for how posts are monitored.

The open letter says the Trustpilot platform is “open to all” and reviews aren’t pre-moderated, while incentives to leave positive reviews are forbidden. Additionally, it says companies can’t pay for reviews to be removed.

Any company or individual can report a review it believes to be incorrect or libellous.

The letter said: “When reviews are reported by companies they are temporarily taken offline and investigated carefully.

“When those reviews are found to be authentic and compliant they are reinstated. Reviews only remain offline when the consumer does not provide the further information requested after a week.

“Should a consumer’s review not meet our guidelines then they have the opportunity to edit their review to ensure compliance (for example, by removing foul language).”

The letter says fake reviews are treated seriously and consumers can be banned for persistent violations, while businesses can have notices added to their profile or be suspended.

Read the full open letter.