Tag Archives: online

Commisery for Purplebricks customers overpaying for tied solicitors by hundreds of pounds?

How much ‘commisery'(tm) might you feel if you had been encouraged or even required to use a specific firm of solicitors by your estate agent, only to find that over £380 was going straight into your agents pocket as a backhander from the solicitor in question? All perfectly legally of course.

In a written quotation from late 2018 recently sent to the author (see below) on conditions of strict anonymity, the firm quotes the fees for its professional services as £599 plus VAT (excluding disbursements). However, £382.85 plus VAT of this is paid straight back to Purplebricks PLC as a referral fee. So, exactly the same service that the firm of solicitors are charging customers £718.80 for, could be literally hundreds of pounds less expensive if they weren’t paying a huge introducer fee to Purplebricks.

Like many, but by no means all, estate agents Purplebricks PLC (stock market ticker #PURP ) make much of their income from referring people who buy and sell through them to a solicitor. It’s a perfectly legal practice as long as it is declared to the customer at the outset. The Property Ombudsman scheme

also requires that an agent informs the clients (the person selling) of any commission they make in this manner (see screenshot).

The quotation sent to the author makes it clear that this eyewatering sum has been correctly declared to the person being quoted. However, I have no knowledge of whether sellers are informed of how much Purplebricks might earn from a buyer who also uses the same firm, neither do I have any evidence to suggest that Purplebricks are not complying with the law.

Given that Purplebricks customers who choose to defer the typical upfront payment of around £1,100 are effectively required to use this firm of solicitors or pay an additional fee to ‘not’ use them, there may be some readers who might question whether a Publicly Listed Company that champions itself as a cheap way of selling your home but, who charge a fee even if they don’t sell* PLUS earn hefty backhanders from closely associated companies is very cheap at all.

*according to Jefferies, 49% of Purplebricks customers don’t actually sell. This has been strongly disputed by Purplebricks but the firm, who are notoriously litigious, have never supplied evidence to disprove the claim. Readers must draw their own conclusions.

QuotationORIGINAL - DO NOT USE - QUOTE-2.jpg

Do I need listed building consent to erect a timber garden shed/ studio?

An interesting discussion/ training session in the office today.

 
A potential buyer wants to erect a wooden studio (large shed) on a property we are selling.
10049121189918
 
The property itself is Grade 2 listed which would normally mean planning permission would be required* however, the land the shed would sit on is not attached to the property or its immediate surroundings but, is accessed via a shared path and a 30 yard/ meter or so walk.
The legal definition of curtilage** suggests to us that the land does not form part of the curtilage of the main property. Accordingly, it does not form part of the listing in our opinion and, so, the shed/ studio will not need planning permission as long as it complies with the other permitted developments. Outbuildings are considered to be permitted development, not needing planning permission, subject to the following limits and conditions:
Please note: PDQ are not lawyers and we have advised the buyer to consult with their legal advisors to verify this opinion and would advise readers in a similar situation to take independent legal advice before proceeding with any actions that may incur cost or time.
If you need advice on a property you are thinking of selling or developing property in Mid or West Cornwall, give us a call or drop us a line below. Before employing any agent, always ask to see their CV. Here’s mine
Director
PDQ Estates Ltd

*References:

Planning Portal

Local Government Lawyer

Call-centre estate agents national market share falls by 24% in the month*

Simon Pegg tele sales call centre.gif

In May, Mike DelPrete caused eyebrows to be raised in estate agency when he claimed that call-centre agents (incorrectly labelled online agents by some**), as a sector, had increased their market share of new listing to 7.1% from a previous (relatively) steady 5% or so for the past year or two. However, in his latest release, covered in Estate Agent Today, his research shows a 24% reversal in fortunes in the call-centre sectors share as a whole.

28/06/2018 EAT Today: “He (Mike DelPrete) also says that the total market share of the top five online agencies, based on new listings, is down to 5.4 per cent for May.”

08/05/2017 EAT Today: “Specifically, he (Mike DelPrete) says new listings market share for the online agents in the UK is up from 5.7 per cent in January to 7.1 per cent last month.”

At a glance, DelPretes’ data does not appear to take into account properties that have been multi-listed by some agents (portal juggled) but, nonetheless, demonstrates that the call-centre agency model is struggling to gain the massive, sustained growth in market share it has long promised as a sector.

There could be a number of factors at play in this dramatic drop much of which could be further bad publicity over the model and its chief players facing negative press from ASA rulings and consumer programs but predominantly on social media with Purplebricks, in particular, facing a daily barrage of complaints and abuse from unhappy customers which may be affecting other players in the sector by association.


*7.1% in May to 5.4% in June = 1.7 percentage point, a drop of 23.94% Source EAT as referenced in the article.
**It is incorrect to state that call-centre agents (those without high  street offices) are online, as almost all estate agents are online’ with high street agents having been so in the main since the early 1990s’. A more accurate and less confusing description of the YOPAs’ eMoovs’ and Purplebricks brands then, is “call-centre”.

Does your agent knows the AIDA principle?

better at attracting views rightmove

From 10% – 1,173% more interest with PDQ than other similar listings

If you are selling a property, it’s key that you present your home in a way that will help it sell and, that your agent then knows how to present it to potential buyers that will find a buyer at a great price in the shortest possible time (before it goes stale on the market). This is where the AIDA principle comes in.
 
ATTENTION – The property must be advertised and presented in a way that catches a potential buyers attention
INTEREST – Having caught the attention of a potential buyer, their interest must be piqued as to potential buyer benefits and how the property and its features might fit with their needs, desires and aspirational lifestyle.
DESIRE – The potential buyer develops a positive emotional interest in the property.
ACTION – The potential buyers forms a purchase intention, compares with other similar properties, potentially books a viewing and, ultimately, makes a purchase.
 
Every property will sell if it is presented well and priced commensurate with the market and any special buyers*
 
*A special buyer is one that might pay above what the market might be expected to stand due to a non-market-related need, often personal or, financial (such as a ransom strip etc.)
 
As can be seen from the attached graphic, taken today from Rightmove, all of our clients’ homes are achieving a minimum of 10% more interest on Rightmove than similar properties advertised with our competitors.
 
“Where your home is number one not one of a number”
01326 561561 | 01736 339143

3 Things your agent might not be telling you about your Rightmove(tm) report.

Rightmove admin report.png

If you are selling your home with an estate agent who advertises with Rightmove, the chances are, you may receive a report like the one to the left here. (If you haven’t, it may be time to change agents)

These reports can be a useful tool for good agents to advise clients on property interest, identify problems and develop new marketing strategies if required.

Many agents, however, just send them out to clients with no explanation or follow up call to explain what each of these lines and number actually means. At PDQ, these charts, along with other useful information, gets fed back to all of our clients once every week when we make our weekly progress and review calls.

  1. “Does a drop in interest mean I’m less likely to sell?” – Not necessarily. The golden fortnight is the first two weeks of marketing will give a good indication of whether a home is likely to sell with your current marketing plan. However, as long as the ‘property views’ line is at or above the line for the ‘similar properties’ (homes like yours on with other agents on Rightmove) it suggests that your home has a certain something that makes it special. This may be price, good photographs, a good description or a combination of factors.
  2. “My home is below the line for branch average, does this mean the agent is doing a better job for other home-owners on their books?” If your home is below the branch average, it may just mean that the other properties are of a more popular/ sought after type than yours (e.g. there may be nothing wrong with your home but the agents other properties may have a real ‘wow’ factor that means more people click on them). However, it may also mean that a review of your properties photographs and description might be in order (e.g. did your home receive a Friday afternoon write-up, with the photos taken by the board man?).
  3. “My home is receiving incredible interest, way above average, but no one is viewing? I don’t understand!” A nice problem to have but it spells trouble. If a home is receiving lots of views but no one is booking viewings it almost always means one of two problems – The property is overpriced – the agent isn’t converting enquiries into viewings (possibly a combination of both of these issues). People usually have a written or mental ‘yes’, ‘no’ and ‘maybe’ pile when house hunting. If a property looks gorgeous but people aren’t booking viewings or asking for more information, it suggests that they are clicking through to look at the property (triggering the data spike on Rightmove) but then discarding the property into the no or maybe pile. Why? It looks great but, when they look at the property in more detail, there is a mismatch between how the property is described, its size, location and/ or its price. In blunt terms, it doesn’t represent value for money. However the problem may be that your agent is receiving email and phone enquiries but is failing to convert these to viewings, either because they are failing to contact the interested buyer back or, are somehow managing to put them off when they do call. If you suspect that your agent isn’t converting leads, you may wish to ask a good friend to secret shop the agent posing as a potential buyer using the Rightmove link and, also, a phone call to the office.

“A good agent will always talk through issues or perceived problems with you honestly and should be like your best friend who tells you what you need to hear and not necessarily what you want to hear.”

If the agent is at fault, a good one will own up, apologise and work to find a solution. If the problem is with the property or its pricing, they will work with you to find a solution that will help your home sell at the best price it is likely to in the current property market. Most homes that sell, find their buyer within the first couple of weeks. That is not to say that they all sell within that fortnight but that is when the peak activity is likely to be.

You can book an appointment for our property experts to visit your property and discuss your moving needs and goals and to formulate a strategy to achieve those goals 24 hours a day, seven days a week using this link or, you can call us on 01326 561561 – 01736 339143

You can also browse our current clients properties for sale and lease and book viewing appointments 24/7 here (please note, some clients use our ‘discreet marketing service’ so will not be publicly visible. To access these properties, you will need to register on our buyer list)

See also:

Pimlico plumbing case could create a flood of claims for Purplebricks

laurel and hardy water gif

However, a lack of clarity leaves the door open for the regulators to continue to shirk their responsibilities and for companies who use the Gig economy to avoid paying tax, worker/ employee benefits and to compete with an unfair advantage against competitors.

Yesterday’s decision at The Supreme Court , whilst being inconclusive in some respects, may well be giving the head office team of Purplebricks PLC and those investors who don’t already hold a short position a few sleepless nights over the coming weeks. Why?

When reading the following, bear in mind that National Trading Standards Estate Agency Teams‘formal position on Purplebricks LPEs’ are that LPEs’ are employed (this is contrary to The Property Ombudsmans’ position who regard LPEs’ as self-employed and to that of HMRC and the FCA).

If you are one of the many Purplebricks “local property experts” (LPEs’) who read my blog (or one of the even larger number of former LPEs’) you may be wondering why, having been sold the idea that you would be earning in excess of £60,000, that so very few do earn anything like that amount according to Companies House.

You may also wonder why, having paid for your own fuel, professional expenses, licenses, insurance etc, that you can’t afford to take time off ill or on holiday. Of course, if you are a worker and not a franchisee, you would be entitled to maternity pay, sickness and holiday pay and, salary at the level you were promised or, at very least, payment at the national minimum wage for all of the hours you’ve worked commission free.

Those LPEs’ who lost their territory or, had to give part of it up to another LPE due to failing to hit targets, whether possibly being classed as a ‘worker’ by this case, means they might now be able to sue the company for unfair dismissal.

Apart from the VAT, data protection, working time directive, national minimum wage and a multitude of workers rights issues NTSEAT also have to now make it clear why, if the LPEs’ are employed as NTSEAT are adamant they are, are NTSEAT facilitating a major PLC to allow it to trade without its employees paying appropriate NI or income tax. Which, if correct, would be a) illegal and b) trading unfairly and within their remit for action.

Investors in and law-abiding competitors of Purplebricks PLC may also draw their own conclusions and seek to make further enquiries, take appropriate positions and, consider discussing this case with their local Trading Standards Office.

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Purplebricks – and the case of the regulators who won’t.

 

This article follows on from related articles
PURPLEBRICKS – WHAT IS REALLY GOING ON?
ATTEMPTED INTIMIDATION BY A PLC OR FAIR COMMENT?
IS MY AGENT, LOCAL, AN EXPERT OR EVEN LEGAL?! HOW DO I CHECK?

UPDATE 1608/2018 Purplebricks admits hundreds of breaches of Anti Money Laundering legislation “Altogether, the business itself agrees there are 450 properties listed in the last fortnight in July that were not compliant with the law…

In the last few weeks and almost immediately after their last trading statement, Purplebricks listing numbers showed an incredible number of listing anomalies, with thousands of properties suddenly disappearing from the website over the period of a few hours and days and, a significant number of duplicate and quadruplicate listings with differing unique identifier numbers being identified by individuals and public source data from Zoopla/ Rightmove etc.

It is impossible to say with certainty whether this anomalous activity is innocent or an attempt to manipulate figures although the company  have previously admitted to having to ‘audit’ their listings when questioned about re and multiple listings by The Times)

Since my last blog, I have been trying to ascertain why the regulators appear reluctant to do their job. There appears to be an embarrassing game of pass the legislative parcel and a wall of silence between The Property Ombudsman Scheme (TPOS), The National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team (NTSEAT – who oversee the property redress schemes) and the National Association of Estate Agents/ Propertymark (NAEA) who are an estate agency membership organisation and one of the Nationally recognised awarding bodies for the NVQ qualifications in estate agency.

If you want to work as an estate agent in the UK running your own business, even as a franchisee, the law says you must (amongst other things):

  1. Belong to a recognised Government redress scheme as approved by NTSEAT
  2. Be registered for Anti Money Laundering with Her Majestys Revenue and Customs (HMRC – Section 1.9)
  3. Be registered as a Data Controller with The Information Commissioners Office (ICO)**

Failing to comply with numbers two and three are a criminal offence. Failing to be a member of a redress scheme is a civil offence under the 1979 Estate Agents Act.

As previously revealed, Purplebricks PLC failed to register any of their franchisees with an approved redress scheme until June 2016. The Law states that Agents must register with an approved redress scheme, not that consumers must have access to redress however, neither NTSEAT seem keen to take any action despite this apparently clear breach of the 1979 Estate Agents Act and, TPOS were more than happy to take a large number of lucrative registration fees (they are a commercial company, not a government organisation) despite knowing that none of these firms had previously been trading lawfully with no redress and no ICO or AML registration.

Now here’s the first very odd bit.

  • Purplebricks make it clear that all of their franchisees are self-employed.
  • The franchisees are all registered separately at Companies house as independent limited companies (Ltd.)
  • The NAEA compliance team (who take advice from Warwickshire Trading Standards as Primary Authority on such matters) regard all these franchisees as self-employed and, to have individual redress, AML and ICO registration
  • TPOS require all franchisees to register with them as independent companies (as many legitimate franchise firms do)
  • NTSEAT, however, take the formal view that the franchisees are ’employed’ and thus, do not require to be registered for ICO or AML.

NTSEAT, as part of Powys Council, who bid for the taxpayer funded role, initially appeared to be strongly in support of taking action against portal juggling, (rightly) invoking the Fraud Act, Consumer Protection Regulations and Businesss Protection Regulations Act in various press releases and at conferences.

However, after a year with an immense amount of independent data and yet without a single prosecutions and an apparently isolated and unique view on the status of Purplebricks Franchisees (all other franchise firms such as Northwood PLC etc. are all individually registered) it seems that NTSEAT, as part of Powys Coucil do not want to take action against a company that is well-known for flexing expensive litigious muscles.

The NAEA too, are acting rather oddly. Despite having clear rules on membership and transparency etc. they are refusing to answer some rather simple questions or make clear statements about trading legally. They are also very reticent about their relationship with Purplebricks who their MD, Mark Hayward recently publicly praised for their transparency, despite PB PLC being serial offenders on the ASA naughty step and appearing on BBC consumer programs Watchdog, Moneybox and You and Yours for all the wrong reasons. Read more

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