By Mario Toneguzzi

The Real Estate Council of Ontario says it is looking into allegations that real estate brokerage Purplebricks Canada used staff to write online reviews about the company.

In a statement to REM, Joseph Richer, RECO’s registrar, says: “We are aware of the allegations regarding the soliciting of online reviews at Purplebricks, and we have received numerous inquiries about it as well. We are currently looking into the matter to gather more information, in order to determine whether this would constitute a violation of the legislation.”



A recent article at Forbes.com said Purplebricks Canada offered employees paid days off in exchange for made-up positive reviews on Facebook and Google.

The article said it had obtained an email sent by Purplebricks Canada’s marketing department to the company’s staff. The article reported that the email said: “No need to fabricate stories, just an ‘I think Purplebricks is great’ or ‘Purplebricks is the future of real estate’ would be fantastic,” read the email, which was sent by one of the company’s marketing directors in March 2019.

An email to REM from the public relations firm Casacom, which manages Purplebricks Canada’s media relations, says, “This is the only statement Purplebricks is issuing. No interviews will be granted.”

The statement says, “The email did not ask for fake reviews. It was sent in good faith and was a complete one-off and an error of judgment. We only offered this incentive once, in March 2019, and it generated only a handful of reviews. It followed the name change from ComFree to Purplebricks and the refusal of Google and Facebook to transfer the reviews that were already on their sites; it will never happen again. Purplebricks Canada recognizes that it’s vital for all reviews to be genuine and authentic – and we work hard to earn positive feedback from our customers through our expertise and great service.”

Purplebricks is an online real estate brokerage. It officially launched its operations in Canada in January 2019, but the company acquired the DuProprio/ComFree Network from Yellow Pages Digital & Media Solutions Limited in June 2018.

In a story in REM last June, Purplebricks Canada CEO and general manager Lukas Lhotsky said the company is a registered real estate brokerage that helps people buy and sell their home for a single fixed fee, offering the same expertise consumers would expect from a traditional real estate brokerage.

The company’s website currently advertises an up-front listing fee of $499 and a $2,499 fee payable when the home successfully sells, plus taxes. Buyer agent commission is not included.

The site says the brokerage currently has more than 80 Realtors.

Purplebricks’ parent company is based in London, England. It first expanded to North America in September 2017, operating in Los Angeles. But in July 2019 it announced it was shuttering its business in the U.S.

Romana King, director of content at Zolo Realty, said the online review issue is in a grey zone for real estate boards and for ethics committees.

“It’s unfortunate,” says King, adding issues of this nature hurt anyone who is involved in the real estate business.

“It’s not like real estate agents and brokerages have a stellar reputation in the marketplace right now as it is. Really, it’s terrible timing. You’ve got an industry that’s really desperately trying to clean itself up and the bad press it’s received in the last four or five years with all the less than reputable practices . . . This is not isolated to the real estate business but it hurts the real estate business in Canada because people aren’t just going to see Purplebricks, they’re going to see any company that’s not on the up and up.”

She said some of the long-established real estate firms in the country might get away from the public scrutiny a little easier, but the newer brokerages that are pushing the industry into the technological age might hurt a little bit more.

“We have to do it right,” says King. “We have to do it right from the start and that means being honest members of the business industry. And you can’t do that if you’re trying to game your reviews.”

Online reviews can be powerful, she says. Studies have shown that 90 per cent of consumers will look at those online reviews before they make a purchasing decision.

“That’s a huge chunk of people . . . I think consumers need to be better educated on how to actually review online reviews and see whether or not they’re legitimate,” says King.

One way to do that is to look and see if there are many similar reviews and if they are skewed in either a good or bad direction. Check out when the reviews are posted and the names used for the reviews.

53 COMMENTS

  1. OREA has a senior representative of Purplebricks as a speaker of the OREA REALITY conference which is open to the public.

    RANDALL WEESE

    Randall Weese is a licensed REALTOR® with 13 years’ experience in Ontario who currently holds Broker licenses in Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta. Randall has worked in a variety of business models within the real estate industry. He has been a REALTOR® at one of the largest franchises in Canada, managed a boutique Brokerage, and founded and operated his own Brokerage in the Greater Toronto Area; all in addition to acting as a listing agent on thousands of homes across the country during his career. Randall is currently working at Purplebricks Brokerage where he is the Broker of Record Ontario, Broker for Alberta and Associate Broker for Manitoba. He also oversees Purplebricks’ Customer Service and Compliance departments.

  2. We have Purple Bricks in Manitoba, Our market is quite balanced with lots of inventory. Interestingly, the majority of listings that expire are (you guessed it….) Purple Bricks. I’m told many of the home sellers that have tried Purple Bricks are quite disenchanted and discouraged and eventually end up listing with a reputable brokerage with proper representation & experienced Realtors that work for their money (not take their clients without performing). The public are smart enough to figure it out…

  3. I have no issue with different business models! However, I do have an issue with the Competition Bureau that has mandated that these models offer access through a Brokerage on to MLS, and they have harmed the consumer — just the people they were wanting to protect. Why do I say that? Simple, most of the low-fee/no-fee models are not embraced by the Realtors who are the ones with most of the buyers, for these reasons: a) those models do not operate in the same framework that Realtors do – they do not respect irrevocable times/dates; b) if it’s after 8 pm that your client wants to submit an offer, they are not available till after 9 am the next day, so a relocating buyer ie., military, RCMP, etc., hasn’t got the time to wait to present their offer; c) a “private” seller has no disclosure obligations whatsoever! Was the property a grow-op? Was someone murdered in the home? d) the fee paid to a buyer’s agent’s office is often minimal and by the time everyone gets their share, the agent is working for less than minimum wage!

    These listings generally take much longer to sell and the seller usually does not get the benefit of a robust seller’s market that often results in multiple offers, higher sale prices etc. It is well known that these listings can be the target of buyer agents who want to get a “deal” for their buyer client, because the seller is often representing themselves and they are usually not savvy and experienced sales professionals.

    Recently we had a situation where one of our agents offered on a low-fee/no-fee listing and the seller, who was handling all of the negotiations and offers himself, and who thought he would act like he was a Realtor, lied to our agent about the number of multiple offers he had (“many, many” was the answer) and he “shopped” our agent’s offer – which was the highest offer received – to everyone else who had submitted or who was going to submit an offer. Neither RECO or our local Board can do anything about the shenanigans of a seller because the seller is not a licensed Registrant. Of course, the BoR of that Brokerage is ultimately responsible but they have little to no control over the activities of a seller of a home who has “Seller’s Rights Reserved”.

  4. Don’t think the competition people want to get involved even though they made possible for these firms to operate and reco won’t do anything either it’s up to the industry to act by putting pressure on reco and ont govt to sort this out
    I’m a retired broker find it interesting no one is doing anything here as long as commission remain high as the are more will come to confuse the public and get the listings

  5. “it won’t happen again”
    Of course not, because you got caught!
    Shouldn’t have done it to begin with.

    It’s misleading and unethical, just like how they lie about what boards they list with. Told me I’d be on a local board and local agents would see my listing, but my home in Windsor ended up only being posted on Toronto and Hamilton boards, and those cities are HOURS away.

    Wouldn’t give me a refund when I cancelled with them. I tell everyone DON’T BOTHER with PB. Go with a real brokerage that knows what they’re doing!

  6. ALL REALTORS ARE PERFECT EXCEPT

    Thank God only Purple Bricks is misleading the consumers while all the others Realtors adhere to the advertising policies and don’t mislead the real estate consumers in anyway.

    Quote from internet -“Only 27 per cent of ads complied with RECO advertising guidelines according to a study done in 2010, says Matthews. As a result, new guidelines and a communications campaign were introduced in 2011 and compliance has greatly improved to 64 per cent, but “we still have a way to go,” he says.” Was Purple Bricks around in 2010?

    Seriously have things really improved that much since 2010? In 5 minutes you can probably find 100 advertising infraction from different brokerages on various websites. Two problems in the real estate industry 1. There are just too many Realtors. 2. The brokers need to be held accountable for the actions of their employees (salespeople). Until then don’t attack Purple Bricks just because they are trying to compete in the marketplace with an alternative service model that you don’t like. Real Estate consumer demand more choices when it comes to selling their properties. Paying 20000 to say 50000 +_ to sell a property just doesn’t make sense. Realtors should offer a menu of services to the consumers so that there are more choices when it comes to choosing a Realtor. Unfortunately today there is still cooperation amongst the brokers to “sort of” maintain a standard fee. All Realtors know that there is no set fees for selling a property, but do real estate consumers understand their rights? The real estate industry has just gotten too big in numbers to properly represent the consumers best interests. So should the real estate industry act now or wait until there are 300000 real estate salespeople in Canada.

    • Hi David:

      As long as there is a well paid and unaccountable bureaucracy feeding off of the overpopulated sales force, there will be too many ‘try-out’ real estate salespeople cycling in and out of the game, continually swelling the ranks with amateurs, vying for a place at the table. Ergo, there will always be too many Realtors for the job at hand, which situation will continue to maintain an atmosphere of desperation amongst the grasping failures-in-waiting. Desperation leads to rule stretching, and thence to rule breaking when one is not pulled up short in the first instance. The system as it is, and has always been, creates the environment for that which it professes to denounce…cheating, dishonesty, misrepresentation and fraud.

      Cut the numbers of Realtors by at least fifty to sixty percent, quadruple the dues, and watch the overall professionalism quotient within the sales force magically improve. Not just anyone will be able to become a Realtor, nor will just anyone want to become one, and that is the key to developing professional Realtors on a quality basis vs a quantity basis. All that quantity does is produce the requisite amount of dues needed to prop up the bureaucracy.

      Methinks this common sense argument will fall on deaf ears, as usual…because…the powers-that-be might be thinking of own their own interests first…which is a normal human nature instinct after all.

  7. The industry is ridiculously overpopulated, for which R.E.C.O. has done nothing. Hence Brokerages like Purple Bricks are trying to reinvent the wheel with some degree of adhearing to the rules. It is the directors of R.E.C.O. and C.R.E.O. sitting in their snug offices, pensioned and wage protected who should be tossed and replaced by some people with balls enough to make some positive changes to the industry that employs them. Ian Robinson Broker since 1989 Royal Le Page Ancaster.

    P.S. As I always do, I wave all rights to privacy regarding this reply, and expect as always nothing positive will be done.

    • I don’t know about that… if you go to their facebook page you’ll see many photos of happy sellers. Some reviews might be fake but a photo is worth a thousand words.

      • How long have you worked for PurpleBricks and how many fake reviews did they get you to write?
        You’re obviously an employee, given how often you’ve replied on here. Are they giving you a paid day off for every time you defend them online?

        • Don’t work there but have bought and sold a few times. Always had good service. Had a few bad experiences with other agents bashing my decision to list with Comfree/Purple Bricks. Don’t need to work for a company or be paid to give positive feedback.

  8. Interesting comments, and I must admit that the fact that their TV Ads positively imply “No Commission” when their posted listings offer up to 2 1/2% commission to selling brokers, obviously with their “fee”on top., makes for positively false advertising and should be dealt with by RECO, the body that IS there actually to protect the public, and it wouldn’t hurt to be there for the rest of the Industry.

    • Actually I sold with them and it’s true, they didn’t charge commission. You pay a flat fee to list and if you sell privately or if a Purple Bricks agent brings you a buyer, there is no commission, or rather, there was no commission. I heard things changed this year which is why they have all new tv commercials.

  9. I used com free (previously know as ) 4 years ago
    It was a perfect match. Com free made up the adverts took the pics all for max of $3000. Yes I held the open house , I sold the first open house had 4 offers took the one that was $45k over asking. Closed the deal within 2 weeks. Let me tell you, we saved a lot of money & I plan on using Purple bricks in the near future . This was the easy & problem free sale & best $3000. I spent. Realtors would have received 15k or more in this sale . I do not work for them I just use them. Thank you Com free & purple bricks.

    • Lucky you, try doing that in a buyers market or in a situation where there are issues during the process. What did you pay the co-operating brokerage and who did the ensuing paperwork for you?

  10. These comments sound like a bunch of agents upset a brokerage is willing to provide more options for property owners here. Where’s the spirit of competition? RECO certainly has their hands full, why don’t you all file complaints for every contravention of REBBA 2002 (and subsequent versions) to make their job easier?

    I see multiple instances on most lawn signs and advertising not to mention trading practices.

    Note to moderator, I will not provide my identity to avoid negative repercussions.

    • Sorry Notta, you have no idea. The co-operating brokerage usually ends up looking after both ends because the seller has no training. There are so many reasons this model does not work for the seller’s best interest.

      • Hey Rick, I enquired with Purplebricks – as of Jan 2020 they no longer allow sellers to “sell on their own”.

  11. It’s hard to believe anyone would call their company “Purplebricks”.

    Try saying “Purplebricks” ten times in a row, really fast, and see what you get.

    “Let Purplebricks do the job for you;

    Let us give you a helping hand.

    But as one plus one equals two;

    Purplebricks will soon be canned.

    As the purple bricks turn red;

    When all expectations were for black;

    Their bricks will be put to bed;

    And y’all can take up the slack.”

    • Brian, I tried saying Purple Bricks 10 X – no problem. It is a strange name but everyone seems to have heard of Purple Bricks. They could have picked Red Bricks or Black Bricks, but Purple Bricks does make you ask the question – Why Purple Bricks. So it does work. Anyhow, the Realtors are doing their best to educate the consumers about Purple Bricks. Purple Bricks are getting enough feedback from Realtors that they will be able to sit down with their board of directors and make the Best Little Real Estate Company in Canada.

  12. Ms. Romana King must think twice before making grand sweeping defamatory statements about an industry she most likely has never worked in. As a Broker of many years, I have met my share of disreputable agents but fortunately very few. Thankfully I have worked with and know more realtors that are dedicated to their profession and go to great lengths to ensure their client satisfaction.

    Many companies out there can scrape all our data, you know who you are…and what of it?? At the end of the day someone has to make sense of it and offer stellar client service if they want to stay in business.

    Please refrain in future from suggesting that realtors have a bad reputation unless you can factually back this up by a reputable study and not hearsay. Every profession has it’s bad apples yet sadly Realtors have become walking targets when propaganda like this is continually circulated.

    Choose your comments wisely.

  13. Purple Bricks advertises they charge no commissions! In their fine print they note Just a flat fee no matter if your home sells or not in my opinion any fee for selling a home is a commission. Taking a fee no matter if the property sells or not is certainly a commission for no service If the home doesn’t sell. Why is RECA allowing these ads to continue? RECA should investigate like RECO is doing.

  14. It won’t happen again ? It should of never happened in the first place . This is just a test to see how far and how much they can get away with

  15. RECO should be looking into all the false and misleading advertising from these company’s, as they are supposed to be Real Estate Brokers and Sales Representatives with all courses completed before giving any information or documentation out to prospects. If that was the case Reco should have laid hundreds of penalties, fines and suspensions.

  16. We expect RECO to take this matter seriously. They are constantly negative in their advertising , insinuating that full service professionals are ripping the public off and now this. A disgrace to all the hard work we do to uphold professional standards.

  17. Just goes to show you Purple Bricks can’t do business the honest way so they have to deceive the public. If they aren’t honest about that, what happens when someone actually hires them!

    They make it bad for the honest Real Estate Sales Representative trying to earn trust which has been a constant hurdle in an industry where many are trying to make a fast buck versus a career with integrity.

  18. In what way can Purple Bricks be identified, or registered as a real estate brokerage? Yes, it provides services related to real estate sales, but that is not brokerage. Their main function is providing marketing tools and publicity to people who want to sell their own real estate properties. We should avoid using the misnomer they apply to themselves and thus confuse the public. By blowing their horn we are hurting ourselves.

      • Fletcher you seem pretty chirpy on here. What do you do for a living that allows you so much time to comment on an industry you do not work in. Please help us here – what is your profession. I suspect we will not get an honest answer.

        • Robert with no last name: I’ve used Comfree/Purple Bricks a few times and always had good service. Colleagues and friends have also bought and sold with them. Sue me for chirping but I like to follow real estate as much as I like Tesla or Rogers. It’s a free country and last I checked there’s no law against expressing our opinion.

  19. Frankly I am appalled that RECO has allowed Purplebricks to continue running ads (especially TV ads) that are clearly demeaning to fellow Realtors claiming that they their clients “saved real estate commisions” (when they clearly DO pay fees/commisions) and that their clients don’t suffer “Commisary” a very derogatory attack that contravenes our Code of Ethics and Standard of Conduct toward fellow Realtors.

    • Purple Bricks is echoing what most consumers are already saying. And when you “save real estate commissions” it means you didn’t have to pay the full 5%. I think most people understand that they need to pay “some commission” but by paying less with a company like Purple Bricks they pay less which means they “saved”…

  20. In what way can Purple Bricks be identified or registered as a real estate brokerage? They provide marketing services to sellers, and we, licensed brokers or agents, should not use the misnomer “real estate brokerage” in reference to their services. The fact that they may collect a performance fee after a sale is only marginally related to one of the functions of a licensed real estate broker. We are helping to confuse the public by repeating the words they use without justification.

  21. Their advertising is misleading. I don’t know why that hasn’t been investigated. Several people contacted me the first week their ads came out. I was asked, how can they do this for free.

  22. These on line firms will eventually dominate real estate , consumers are mislead into thinking commissions are avoided when in fact they are not, does reco have any ability to do anything about these misleading ads, I doubt it more will come to take advantage of our real estate industry.

    • Purple Bricks isn’t saying anything new… consumers have been saying it for YEARS! If you have bone to pick it should be with the Competition Bureau.

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