This is the fourth in a four-part series of articles chronicling notable real estate disrupters fueled by property and neighborhood data from ATTOM Data Solutions.
Real estate tech company Purplebricks, which allows homeowners to list their homes for a flat fee rather than using the traditional commission-based fee structure, secured a $177 million investment in Q1 2018, the second largest in the real estate tech space during the quarter, according to RE:Tech.
“We’re giving consumers a viable alternative versus the traditional real estate model,” said U.S. CEO Eric Eckardt, noting that the company appeals to investors because it is cashflow positive on an adjusted EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization) basis, “which is almost unheard of for a tech company.”
Purplebricks was founded in 2014 in the U.K. and has expanded to six states since its U.S. launch in September 2017: California, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Arizona and Nevada.
“We’re moving quickly,” said Eckardt, noting the first quarter infusion of capital helped to fuel this rapid expansion. “I think that’s a really validation of great value, great service.”
Purplebricks charges home sellers a flat fee of $3,600 to list and market their home for sale. On a property that sells for $500,000 that amounts to a savings of $8,900 overpaying the typical seller-side commission of 2.5 percent. Included in the fee is a local real estate agent to help with the process along with professional photography, a 3D virtual tour of the home, yard signage, and the property is listed for sale on the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS) along with popular listing portals such as Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com — everything one would expect paying a real estate agent the full commission, according to Eckardt.
“If you compare it to a quote-on-quote traditional real estate firm they are getting the same service,” he said, adding that every home seller gets the same level of service, whether the home is selling for $250,000 or $1 million. “Everything we do is built around the consumer.”
Prospective homebuyers using Purplebricks get a $1,000 rebate out of the buy-side commission to use toward closing costs, and Eckardt noted that buyers using Purplebricks also get access to additional online offering and negotiation tools that are not available through a traditional real estate agent.
“(Buyers) can transact online 24/7,” he said, adding that the online platform enables peer-to-peer transactions. “If you see a home that you like, you can make an offer directly through the platform. … “When you want to schedule a showing, it goes directly to the home sellers.”
The Market Has Spoken Regarding the Traditional Realtor Role
At its heart, the Purplebricks model disrupts the traditional role of real estate agents.
“The market has spoken. The shift has taken place,” Eckardt said. “There is pressure on commissions. Ten years ago the gatekeeper was the agent, but now consumers have access to that information so now the role of the agent is more of the trusted.”
Along with a plethora of other online listing platforms now available, Purplebricks utilizes technology along with property and neighborhood data on its website to provide consumers with self-service access to the information and services that previously would have been provided by agents.
“Data and technology is helping buyers and sellers make more informed decisions,” Eckardt said, noting that Purplebricks users can “not just look at price and features of the property, but also look at the community to help them make a more informed buying decision.”
The Purplebricks’ model also releases agents from time spent prospecting for new clients given that each agent has an exclusive territory, assigned to all buyers and sellers in those territories, according to Eckardt.
“We estimate that a traditional agent spends 70 percent of their time finding new business,” he said, noting that the average Purplebricks agents has seven years of experience — an indication that even veteran agents are interested in hanging up their prospecting hat. “(Our agents are) professional, full-time, ethical, just want to work with customers, not deal with online lead gen or CRM. There is a home at Purplebricks for them.
“We still believe the agent is the center of the transaction,” he added. “Their role is more as a trusted advisor rather than gathering information.”