Purplebricks.com, arguably the biggest UK estate agent, and almost certainly the biggest and well-known online estate agent.
With such a gigantic reputation and customer base, it’s only inevitable for them to face… resistance! You can’t please everyone.
So with all the good and bad press Purplebricks receive, are they to be trusted, but more importantly, should YOU use Purplebricks to sell your property?
Let’s take a look…
Purplebricks brand is so solid that many still believe they’re “one of a kind”, in the sense that they’re the only cost-effective digital estate agent.
The reality is, there are a butt-load of them, all fighting for a slice of the pie, including the likes of Yopa and Strike (formerly HouseSimple), two also very well-known online estate agents. And, while they’re both throwing heaps of cash on marketing in an attempt to close the gap, they’re both failing to keep up with Purplebricks, which means many are still unaware of the options beyond the market leader’s.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to discourage anyone from using Purplebricks as their online agent of choice, but at the same time, I’m definitely encouraging everyone to look at the other feasible alternatives, some of which are allegedly just as good, if not better, and definitely a whole lot cheaper.
Just to give you some perspective, at the time of writing this blog post, Purplebricks are charging £999 for their services, while DoorSteps – an alternative online agent – are offering ‘comparable’ services for a mere £199… you do the maths! If that’s got you scratching your head, then Strike’s offer will blow your freaking mind. Strike are currently offering their house selling services for FREE (no strings attached), but they only service England (not the rest of the UK, like Purplebricks and DoorSteps).
|Estate Agent||Rating||Duration||Includes / Notes||Price|
Strike (formerly Housesimple)|
Includes / Notes|
No fee package
*YES, Strike will give you a 100% free service, no strings attached.
The catch is: Strike currently only sells properties in England, and in two forms. They provide a "hybrid" service (i.e. which includes an in-person valuation by a local agent) for properties in the Midlands, North West & Yorkshire etc. Specifically, the following postcodes: BB, BD, BL, CA, CH1- 4, CH25 - 34, CH41 - 49, CH60 - 66, CH70, CH88, CH99, CW, DG, DH, DL, DN, FY, HD, HG, HU, HX, IM, L, LA, LN, LS, M, NE, NG18 - 24, NG34, OL, PE10 - 12, PE20 - 25, PR, S, SK, SR, ST7 - 8, SY13 - 14, TD, TS, WA, WF, WN, YO.
|Visit WebsiteBook Free In-Person Valuation|
Door Steps||RatingTrustPilot Reviews||
Includes / Notes|
Price £188Inc VAT|
Normal price: £199
|Visit Website£11 Discount Code: PIP11|
Includes / Notes|
Pay now package
*Selling fee of £1,499 in London and surrounding areas.
|Price* £999Inc VAT||Visit Website|
Of course, Strike and DoorSteps aren’t the only online agent chomping at the heels of the market leader’s, and offering big savings…
How does Purplebricks work?
Presumably, you already know, and the only reason you’re here is because, before handing over your cash to Purplebricks, you want to do some good old fashioned due diligence. Sensible.
But on the off chance, if you’re genuinely here to understand more about the process of how Purplebricks and other online agents work, please allow me to alleviate some of your ignorance.
I think the best and easiest way to break it down is by highlighting the four main differences between an online estate agent and your regular local high-street agent (which we all know and loathe)…
There are no local branches/offices
I’d say this is the main difference, and the reason for why online agents are considerably cheaper than your local high-street agent.
Online agents do NOT operate out of local branches, everything is handled through one central office… somewhere in the UK (I’ve yet to find any online estate agent that outsources their call centres overseas). This means their running costs are significantly less than a nationwide estate agent that has branches all over the place.
Many of the online agents (Purplebrick is included with in this list) are technically ‘hybrid agents‘, which means they provide a blend of online and real-life services.
The ‘real-life’ services comes in the form of a ‘local expert’, who will visit your property and conduct a in-person valuation, and then assist you along the way until completion (although, you’re unlikely to see them again in-person after the viewing, unless you pay for ‘hosted viewings’. More on that shortly). A common misconception about online agents is that they’ll leave the vendor to their own devices, but that’s not entirely true; you won’t just be left unsupported.
These local agents typically work from their home (not from a local office or branch).
The pure online agents won’t provide a local agent and they’re generally much cheaper, but they usually provide a dedicated account manager which you can communicate with either by phone or email, right up until completion.
Rightmove, Zoopla & other Property Portals
All of the best online agents will market your property for sale across the biggest UK property portals, like Rightmove & Zoopla, and this will be the primary method of generating enquiries, if not the only way.
In fact, all the best estate agents, including high-street agents, will market their properties across the same property portals, because that’s how the majority of them generate their leads. You want the most eyeballs (i.e. potential buyers) on your property sale? Put it on Rightmove & Zoopla. Simple.
However, the average local agent will also advertise in their window, in local papers, magazines and various other localised outlets (methods which are quickly becoming less and less effective).
Perhaps the second most notable difference between an online agent and a high-street agent, the viewings.
While some online agents are starting to provide “viewing services”, most of them don’t, so that means you’ll need to take the viewings yourself.
The online agents do provide the service, demand an extra premium for it, because it’s an ‘add-on’.
In my opinion, I think an online agent solution is better suited for vendors that are willing to take their own viewings, because the cost of an online agent doesn’t become all that appealing when you start bulking on the viewing services. Purplebricks currently charge an additional £300 for their viewing service, which gets thrown on top of their base cost of £999. If I’m going to have to splash out £1299 on agency fees, I’d personally be very tempted to negotiate a deal with my local high street agent, even if I have to pay a little more.
So there we have it.
Hopefully you’ve been enlightened, even if only a smidgen. Admittedly, I only covered the highlights in this blog post, but for a much more detailed coverage, I recommend heading over to my online estate guide. There’s plenty more in there.
The negatives of using Purplebricks
PurpleBricks have managed to gather tens of thousands of reviews on TrustPilot, and while the vast majority of them are positive, there are noticeable complaints, many of which are based on the same reoccurring issues.
- Extra fees – while online agents live by the premise of offering a “fixed fee” service, some people have complained that PurpleBricks bolt on unnecessary costs if you want to use the “pay after sale” option.
I quote, “You can defer your fees until the house is sold, but you will have to use their choice of solicitor, who of course charges over the odds. You can use your own solicitor, IF you pay ANOTHER fee. Alot of hidden charges, as usual, if it appears to good to be true…then it probably is.”
Side note, PurpleBricks outsource their conveyancing service to MyHomeMove/eZieConveyancing.
To re-clarify, PurpleBricks are definitely one of the most expensive solutions to selling property online!
- Poor Communication – perhaps the most vocalised complaint is about the unsatisfactory experience when it comes to communication. My guess is that the local agents cover vast areas, more ground than the average local high-street estate agent, which obviously means they have less time to answer phone calls and reply to queries. I quote, “Service at start was excellent. But when the offer was received no negotiations done for a better price. Estate agent was hard to contact at the most crucial of times”
It must be noted though, the very nature of online estate agents entails less “hand-holding”, so I recommend only using an online agent if you’re fully prepared for its genetic makeup. Basically, don’t expect the same personable one-on-one experience you’d expect from your local high street agent when you’re using an online agent and paying online fees. Otherwise the joke will be on you when you’re left disappointed.
Why do so many hate Purplebricks?
I have a couple of theories.
Firstly, I think they’ve made some grave mistakes with their marketing. The old classic: promising the world, and falling way short. In August 2017, Purplebricks appeared on the BBC TV show Watchdog because they were accused of misleading advertising. It’s fair to say that they left an unsavoury taste in many of their customers’ mouths.
But I don’t think that’s been their biggest battle. While I have no doubt that there has been a fair share of shocking service dished out, I actually think their biggest issue has been consumer ignorance. And it’s the same issue that ALL online agents face. Just my personal opinion.
I’ve worked with many of the biggest online letting and estate agents for several years now, and I frequently interact with their customers. So I know how many of them see the cheap price-tag (compared to how much their traditional high-street agent charges) and instantly sign on the dotted line without actually understanding the details of the service they’re purchasing.
The reality is, no one should expect to receive a high-street agent service when paying a fraction of the cost. But many do. I think that’s the crux of the issue, that consumers aren’t managing their expectations. So the result is a lot of disgruntled customers.
So my advice is, in order to minimise your disappointment with ANY online agent, including PurpleBricks, you should fully understand how online agents work so you know what to expect, and I also recommend checking out the cheaper alternatives so you weigh up your options.
Would I personally use Purplebricks to sell my home?
But equally, I wouldn’t stop you from using them if you want to.
Rightly or wrongly so, I believe all online agents more or less do the same thing, which includes providing the most useful features, a professional photography service (which is critical for marketing purposes) and Rightmove and Zoopla listings (critical to generate enquiries). Most estate agents, both online and high street, generate most of their enquiries from those online portals. So as long as I’m getting the enquiries, I don’t really need much more.
I personally think Purplebricks are way too expensive (£999 for their baseline service), and they get away with it because of their gigantic brand. Fair play to them. In some cases, it can be a little more expensive to use a high street agent, if not cheaper altogether. If that’s the case, why even use an online estate agent? The basis of their appeal is the huge money-saving opportunity on agency fees.
But besides that, Purplebricks isn’t providing a unique service or providing any extra value compared to other online agents. At least, I don’t feel their price justifies the value compared to the cheaper options available, and that’s precisely why I’d use a cheaper alternative instead. Actually, since I’m in England, I’d use Strike’s highly rated FREE service, which I discuss in more detail in my Strike review.
For those of you who have used Purplebricks, or are contemplating it, I’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts in the comments section below…
Disclaimer: I'm just a landlord blogger; I'm 100% not qualified to give legal or financial advice. I'm a doofus. Any information I share is my unqualified opinion, and should never be construed as professional legal or financial advice. You should definitely get advice from a qualified professional for any legal or financial matters. For more information, please read my full disclaimer.