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Disruption is coming but it ain’t Purplebricks

By Tim Neary
13 October 2016 | 1 minute read
Real estate industry disruption

The real estate industry is set for a shake-up, but if you think it’s in the form of agencies such as Purplebricks, you are mistaken.

There is an appetite to disrupt the global real estate industry, evident in the level of investment in the US and the UK in left field real estate start-ups.

It hasn’t happened in Australia yet, despite Purplebricks’ recent entry into the market. However, one industry pundit says somebody, somewhere is going to get it right soon.


Starr Partners CEO Douglas Driscoll says the industry is intrigued by who the disruptor will be and what form it will take.

“The short answer is we don’t know. Either it doesn’t exist yet or more likely, it is still in its embryonic stage,” Mr Driscoll told REB.

He pointed to the existence of “very shrewd, erudite business people with very deep pockets” who are prepared to invest in disruptors as evidence that a shake-up is probably not too far off.

“What we do know is the genuine disintermediaters are the people that will create a different paradigm to the one that currently exists, and that is certainly not Purplebricks.

“It is going to be something digital and it is going to be someone big. I mean you only need to look at something like Uber, which is partly owned by Google.”   

Mr Driscoll dismissed Purplebricks, saying its impact on the UK market was modest prior to its launch in Australia.

“Purplebricks is getting a bit too much airplay and agents shouldn’t be worried about it taking over the world.”

Mr Driscoll said Purplebricks was making plenty of noise, but it was a discounter, not a disrupter.

“What it brings to the table is a slightly diluted version of what already exists,” he said.

“It does have a few clever toys and tools, but nothing new. Many other businesses have them as well.”

Mr Driscoll said that while genuine disruption is inevitable, the industry “shouldn’t be running for the hills”, as there will always be demand for a good agent. 

“If you are sincerely and genuinely customer-centric, and you put your customers’ needs and wants at the centre of absolutely everything that you do, you will be rewarded,” he said.

“Because there is no automated system or artificial intelligence anywhere in the world that will ever replicate that.”

Disruption is coming but it ain’t Purplebricks
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