Tech-driven real estate brokerage Purplebricks released its 2019 results last week. After a failed U.S. expansion, the core U.K. business is still growing and remains profitable, but is facing headwinds in a soft property market. The results highlight the critical importance of scale and customer acquisition costs, and offer a reminder that tech-enabled platforms continue to command a rising percentage of the real estate transaction.
Profitable, but mounting headwinds
Purplebricks’ impressive growth in the U.K. market continues, albeit at a slowing pace. Overall instructions (or instructions to list) are up again, but only 9% compared to the previous year.
At this scale, the trend is unsurprising. As I said last year in this Financial Times article, “Real estate is very fragmented, there are relatively low barriers to entry to get into the business of selling houses, the products are undifferentiated and there’s no customer loyalty. That leads to natural fragmentation.”
Meanwhile, Purplebricks’ finances for the U.K. operation — while up for the entire year — have taken a hit in the most recent six months (December to April, 2019).