Case study: How Purplebricks is changing estate agency

Two years ago Paul Brown, pictured above, joined Purplebricks and began spreading the word about a revolutionary new way of selling homes, one that is available to customers 24/7. He loved it.

He now leads his own business with a team of 16 local property experts and four support staff, chooses his own hours, has the healthy work-life balance he always wanted and has seen his income soar as his business expanded.

Paul, 47, married with one teenager, became engaged with the fledgling company when many industry observers were openly sceptical about a business model which turned on its head over a century of accepted practice in the property market.

With 20 years’ experience working in property, starting out as a humble negotiator in a traditional estate agent office, becoming regional manager for a major chain, establishing an upmarket estate agent handling £1m plus properties for exclusive clients and dealing in commercial and residential development, Paul knew the business inside out.

He knew that sellers were calling for a new, better way to buy and sell homes, one that used the benefits of the latest technology but also had the personal touch and knowledge that only a local agent on the ground can provide.

The other key difference was in the charges. Traditional agents demand a percentage commission on the property purchase price. Purplebricks asks for a fixed flat fee regardless of the value of the home, saving customers money and also offering a better service.

Paul admits that when he became the local property expert covering Sheffield, Doncaster and South Yorkshire it was a challenge and customers had to be convinced that the Purplebricks way was for them.

He needed to educate sellers that there was an alternative to the traditional model. There was no high street office, he alone would do the valuation, draw up the floorplan, prepare the advert and organise the property going on sale online.

“Initially I got a few leads and had to do a lot of talking,” he said. “People listened and soon saw there was a difference, in both the service they received and in the money they could save. They had one person who handled everything throughout the whole process and who would look after the customer from start to finish.

“Purplebricks would get a sale, I’d get a 5-star Trustpilot review and word of mouth would spread. They would tell other people at their work place or their relatives and neighbours what an incredible product it is and how easy the process was.  It really started rolling. I was getting more work than I could initially handle.”

He discussed the problem with one of the founder brothers and the advice was simple. “Invest in getting yourself more people. If I was to grow market share and expand the business then I needed more people.”

Paul gradually built a team of experts around him while continuing to cover South Yorkshire which has become one of the biggest growth areas for Purplebricks. While he oversees the business, his colleagues each operate individually, dealing with their own clients and covering their own particular areas.

Right from the start Paul was absolutely convinced that Purplebricks had a game-changing concept: “I really believed in the idea. I had come from a traditional background where you have a customer who gets in touch and then a valuer goes to see them. It’s their job to get the customer to sign a contract. A negotiator from a local branch then takes over and tries to sell at the agreed price, and then someone else may handle viewings. There might be as many as six people dealing with one customer, and they only offer a service during office hours.

“We live different lives now and people want a service that operates 24/7. They want to see how much interest there is in their property and book viewings at a time that suits them, often evenings or weekends.”

The sheer speed of Paul’s success has identified the only challenge to the company’s continued rapid expansion: “My biggest problem is finding new local property experts. I spend much of my time trying to find good people as my business grows. The story we are telling now is so different from two years ago. People have seen the product, know it works and want a great service.”

In order to meet overwhelming demand, Purplebricks is looking to engage hundreds of new experts as it continues on its growth trajectory to become the biggest estate agent in the UK. Local Property Experts run their own businesses, look after dedicated, local postcode areas and tend to earn significantly more than they did when an estate agent on the high street.