The Truth About Purple Bricks

What does $2.7 million marketing budget buy you in half a year? It buys you a ‘dent,’ I suppose.

That’s what Purple Bricks spent during their first 7 months in the US and a lot of people – ok: most of them were Realtors – took note.

At Help-U-Sell we are (as always) a little flattered that a ‘new’ competitor tries to mimic something we’ve been doing for more than 40 years: Set Fee Pricing.  At the same time we chuckle when it becomes clear that the marketable part of the Set Fee is all that was copied.  The spirit behind the fee – the passion for saving consumers tons of money while delivering exceptional service -always seems to be left behind.

Set Fee pricing – where everybody in a local market pretty much pays the same thing to sell their houses – makes perfect sense.  It is logical; which means that the % nonsense the other guys are doing, whether 6% or 5% or even 1%, makes no sense at all! So, good for Purple Bricks for (kinda) adopting that pricing structure.  A little digging on the company website reveals that their Set Fee is mostly smoke and marketing mirrors.

Here is one of my favorite passages on purplebricks.com (it is on their FAQ page, in answer to the question, ‘When do I pay my fees and how do I make payment? ‘):

You can either pay the Sell Side fee on the sale of your home, after 6 months from appointing us as your Broker or when you withdraw the Property from the market, whichever happens sooner – so you can ‘pay later’ or you can just pay on appointment ‘pay now’. The choice is yours. . .

Did you catch that?  The fee is due and payable at one of 3 junctures:

  • At closing
  • Or at the six-month anniversary of your listing date
  • Or when you withdraw the listing or it expires

Whichever comes first.  In other words, you pay the $3,600 fee* no matter what.  Even if your Purple Bricks home selling project sinks like the Titanic, you’re going to pay the fee.  The Help-U-Sell Set Fee is payable only at closing.

The part that is not so obvious is that buy-side fees are always paid in Purple Bricks transactions. You don’t have the option to find your own buyer and then pay less. It’s not in the verbiage because that’s pretty standard in the industry.  To my knowledge, Help-U-Sell Real Estate is the only brand that makes this feature part of our offering.  We unbundle commissions so that your Listing Fee (the Set Fee) is paid at closing and if you find your own buyer, say through your network of friends or by holding an open house, that’s all you pay.  Buy side fees are only paid when an agent – ours or somebody else’s – brings the buyer. Like I said, it’s logical.

Another gem hidden in the fine print of the Purple Bricks website is their complaint procedure. I can’t copy/paste it here because it’s sooo long! Eleven points in all!  But you can read it here.  I don’t know how many complaints they get, but you have to wonder why a real estate company would publish an elaborate procedure like this on their website.  I don’t find a similar page on any other real estate website – so this must be one of Purple Bricks’ unique features!

Purple Bricks, like most of the new real estate companies emerging today, is a corporate entity. The people you work with are often employees, empowered to do very specific tasks, usually for very specific fees.  Any higher level arrangements or negotiations are handled by someone else, usually faceless and located miles away.  At Purple Bricks, an agent comes to your house and takes your listing (it is rumored that they get paid about $800 for doing that), and then turns you over to their corporate office in New York or Southern California. From that point on, your home selling project is managed by phone and internet.

At Help-U-Sell Real Estate, we see things differently. We believe that a transaction involving the biggst financial asset most of us have (our homes), deserves the knowledgable assistance of a trusted advisor: a Help-U-Sell Broker or Agent. Sure, we market the heck out of our listings, online and everywhere else; but we also stay with you every step of the way, answering your questions, advising, negotiating when an offer appears, and managing the transaction from beginning to end.  We are not a machine, not some nebulous, faceless entity in the cloud. We are real people who care very much for our business and our customers. We are local and our success depends on how well we take care of our local buyers and sellers.

We have a Tag Line at Help-U-Sell:  Sell Fast – Save Thousands.  I think we should add another imperative to that:  Be Delighted. Because, that’s what our home sellers and buyers generally are at closing: Delighted.

*Changes seem to be coming fast and swift at Purple Bricks! When they arrived in the US, their listing fee, proudly proclaimed at the top of their website home page, was $3,200.  A few months later, it was $3,600.  Today, the word ‘From’ has been instered before the fee:  ‘From $3,600.’ To determine your fee, you first have to input your Zip Code – so the fee varies by marketplace. In 10001, New York City, for example, it’s $5,900.

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