Purplebricks expands into Canada through acquisition

The U.K.-based flat-free brokerage has made its first competitive purchase: DuProprio/ComFree, a similarly priced Canadian real estate network

The disruptive flat-fee brokerage Purplebricks is expanding into Canada through the $38 million acquisition of a Canadian real estate network, DuProprio/ComFree (DPCF).

Purplebricks launched in the United Kingdom in 2014 and has since expanded to Australia and the United States, courting some controversy along the way with misleading advertising and marketing. It will enter its fourth country with the addition of DPCF.

Like Purplebricks, DPCF is a “commission-free” real estate company. Purplebricks pitches itself to buyers and sellers with a promise they won’t pay any commission, only a flat fee to list their house.

In the U.S., unlike in other markets, Purplebricks customers still have to pay the cost of a buyer’s agent commission, but don’t pay the seller’s agent commission. The flat fee in the United States to list a home with Purplebricks is $3,600, paid before a house sells and not refundable if it doesn’t sell.

“DPCF has developed a strong presence in Canada by delivering a flat-fee, cost-effective, professional real estate service challenging the conventional agency market,” Purplebricks Global CEO Michael Bruce said in a statement. “Their model of bringing a range of service packages and support, with access to expertise from coaches to legal professionals, is proving highly attractive to the Canadian public, and has aspects in common with the Purplebricks model and ethos in the U.K., Australia and the U.S.”

In its entries into Australia and the United States, Purplebricks didn’t acquire established brokerages, instead opting to build Purplebricks’ presence from the ground up. Within the U.S., Purplebricks now operates in California, the New York metro area, Las Vegas and Phoenix.

DPCF operates as DuProprio in French-speaking Canada and ComFree in English-speaking Canada. The brokerage also operates through flat-fee listings. In ComFree’s territory, the company is an online brokerage. A subsidiary of Yellow Pages acquired the company in 2015.

Purplebricks raised $177 million earlier this year from Axel Springer, a German publisher known for backing digital media companies including Business Insider, in part to fund the global expansion that this acquisition is part of.

“We admire Purplebricks for what they have achieved across three continents in just four years,” DPCF CEO Marco Dodier said in a statement. “We share the team’s ambition and desire to offer consumers a new and better way to buy and sell property. To have their support, expertise and financial backing will help propel DPCF to even greater heights and allow us to replicate our success in Québec across the rest of Canada.”

Email Emma Hinchliffe