PROPTECH-X ‘Proptech & Property News’: Purplebricks | AskHomey | John Lewis

Daily bite-sized proptech and real estate news in partnership with Estate Agent Networking. Today, Andrew Stanton looks at Purplebricks, AskHomey, John Lewis, and more.

Purplebricks has its day of reckoning

Later today, Purplebricks CEO Vic Darvey will be revealing, among other things, if the online estate agent will change its pricing model.

Its USP once appeared to be ‘pay upfront, we are cheap and do not charge commission like those agents you loathe.’ So, will the low fee sale or no sale model get a refresh or abandoned altogether? More to the point, what will the Purplebricks’ financials reveal when they are put under the microscope?

What we do know is that its share price is, at present 85p. This is 10p lower than its 95p starting value back in 2015 when it first listed on the LSE’s Alternative Investment Market, and a world away from the whopping 498p per share in July 2017.

Will Darvey be adding to the share price today? In a few hours, all will be revealed. 

Dharmesh Mistry sees into the future, says all the dots will join up

In a marketplace where numerous proptech companies are putting together shiny new solutions that will help either the real estate broker or the general public looking to do property, a helpful summation of the likely path of innovation has come from Dharmesh Mistry, a Fintech veteran who has successfully pivoted into the proptech space. 

Dharmesh Mistry, the founder and CEO of AskHomey, has just publically stated: “The future is about serving end-to-end customer journeys. Stitch the whole journey together in a seamless way to customers and they will be there for the whole ride. The days of customers juggling several apps, sites, providers are numbered.”

“Time is something that customers can’t buy,” Mistry said, “so making journeys like buying a house, renting a place, or renovating will have to be replaced with people that manage everything: design, find, finance, insure, whatever the journey needs.”

John Lewis follows Lloyds Bank into lettings

Recently, Lloyds Bank surprisingly launched itself into the rental space after it bought a rental asset in Peterborough. It was to be the start of their strategy of becoming a “professional landlord.” Given that it used to have 2,500 physical branches, and now have just 800, I would have thought it could have built rather than acquired. 

This leads on to the next level Build to Rent strategy from Dame Sharon Michele White DBE, the incumbent Chair of John Lewis Partnership, who since joining has seen 16 of the 51 branches close and the withholding of the annual bonus, which last happened in 1953. Dame White is now fronting the concept of 100,000 new properties to be built as John Lewis & Partners re-shapes itself as a Build to Rent concern over the coming years.

Utilising the space above branches, around their depots and in their car parks, as well as utilising (presumably) the land and assets they own across the country, where planning will likely be received warmly. I hear that the tens of thousands of Partners may be in line for discounted rents. 

Whilst I understand that Amazon has cannibalised the way we buy and sell goods, “never knowingly undersold” is no longer a commercial reality for JLP. It does seem, in some strange way, that we may be entering some dystopian Victorian age, where workers live on or near-site in dwellings provided by their paternal benefactors. Not very 2030s, is it?

Others may say that the new JLP model is just good old fashioned asset stripping, utilising the core materials of a business in a different way. In my view, Countrywide PLC, the UK’s largest real estate agent, went from hero to zero when helmed by people from Tesco and private medical backgrounds. They tried to apply their business logic to a property firm, resulting in the company being brought to its knees and sold.

Dame White’s background, as illustrious as it is, as a civil servant and years at the Treasury, Number 10, and the World Bank still makes me wonder if her skill set centres more around figures than the operational heart of JLP and its 70,000 plus partners.

NRLA: The laws underpinning the PRS are not fit for purpose

I must candidly admit, I like Ben Beadle, the CEO of the National Residential Landlords Association. He has wisdom in his head and fire in his stomach. He was recently quoted as saying: “The laws underpinning the private rented sector are not fit for purpose.”

An even-handed expression that on both sides the rental sector has been badly bent out of shape. Pointing to the fact that government legislation in the PRS has increased by 40% in the past decade, Beadle’s major thrust is that there is too much red tape and not enough policing of certain areas, and a confusion of what the housing policy is.

And all this against a backdrop of rising rents, private landlords getting taxed out of the picture and, of course, tenants squeezed at the margins particularly due to the pandemic.   

Conveyancers and their solicitors burning the midnight oil

As reported in The Law Society Gazette, Kate Atkinson of the Partnership Property Solicitors said she was under huge pressure during the SDLT holiday period, having to field hundreds of emails and calls each day, getting to her desk at 7 am and ending the day gone 9 pm.

Atkinson said: “Having worked in property for over 10 years, I can safely say I have never experienced the relentless pressure I have seen over the past few months, during the SDLT holiday period.”

“Technology makes a huge difference. I really don’t know what I would have done if we had not been paperless…”

Take note.

In partnership with Estate Agent Networking

Andrew Stanton is the founder and CEO of Proptech-PR, a consultancy for Founders of Proptechs looking to grow and exit, using his influence from decades of industry experience. Separately he is a consultant to some of the biggest names in global real estate, advising on sales and acquisitions, market positioning, and operations. He is also the founder and editor of Proptech-X Proptech & Property News, where his insights, connections and detailed analysis and commentary on proptech and real estate are second to none.

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