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5 property start-ups to change the real estate market
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5 property start-ups to change the real estate market

Five online real estate start-ups have caught the eye of investors and clients with their original ideas. Real estate expert, Yulia Kozhevnikova, investigates what makes these newcomers so unique.

Online real estate start-ups attract investor attention

Japanese-born US entrepreneur Ken Hakuta once said, "Lack of money is no obstacle. Lack of an idea is an obstacle." This timeless formula is particularly well embodied by the world’s new generation of tech-savvy businesses and their creators. In order for a start-up to succeed, it must be original and respond to a need not yet plugged by traditional business if it is to survive and thrive in a highly competitive market, like real estate.

Yulia Kozhevnikova, leading expert at Tranio, a start-up which conquered Russia with its online platform selling property overseas, went further afield to see what other real estate start-ups are making waves with investors and clients…

1. 99.co — property hunting for urban dwellers

99.co, a new online platform with property for sale and to let in Singapore, is a reactive platform designed for efficient urban property searches in the Internet era. The website analyses the behaviour of each visitor and offers tailor-made property suggestions.

There are also sophisticated search options that can save hopeful buyers precious time and disappointment: search by district, metro stations, distance and travel time to a particular location and even political beliefs of the local community.

99.co allows buyers to search for property by driving distance from a set location

This 2014 start-up hooked investor attention immediately, turning 99.co into the fastest growing web portal in Singapore. It raised a total capital of $2,160,000 from seven private investors and funds including 500 Startups, East Ventures and Sequoia Capital.

2. OnTheMarket — tackling UK property giants

OnTheMarket could be dubbed the real estate take on David and Goliath: one website to dethrone property giants Rightmove and Zoopla from their online hegemony over UK property. New OnTheMarket listings appear 24–48 hours before they go up anywhere else and property advertised may not appear on more than one other online platform.

To lock in victory, OnTheMarket also brought some new age weapons: agency contracts guaranteeing the listing’s exclusivity and cheaper advertising than on their competitors’ websites.

OnTheMarket has user-friendly search options and property listings before anyone else

Launched in January 2015, OnTheMarket is not so much a start-up as a proxy attack launched by a consortium of other major market players including Chesterton Humberts, Douglas & Gordon, Glentree, Knight Frank, Savills and Strutt & Parker. More than 5,000 realtors sell property on OnTheMarket.

3. Spacious — making room affordable

Spacious, an online platform with property for sale and to let in Hong Kong, differs from its competitors by letting visitors search by price but also by earnings, showing visitors the most and least affordable properties according to their personal income.

Spacious shows neighbourhoods with affordable homes by personal income

Established in Hong Kong in 2013, Spacious is the brainchild of Asif Ghafoor, former development manager and IT director at Goldman Sachs and Standard Chartered Bank. The start-up raised $500,000 from investors in March 2014 and another $3,000,000 in June 2015.

4. Splacer — rent-an-event (space)

Splacer is the Airbnb for event spaces: the service finds venues for meetings, parties, lectures and exhibitions leased by the hour rather than by the day.

It’s a sound principle in these times of “collaborative consumption” which continues to confound legislative bodies and taxi drivers: a photographer arranging a photo-shoot can rent a property for four or five hours at a time necessary for him. Splacer offers a wide array of listings: residential houses and lofts, bars, play grounds, studios, breweries, museums, roofs, galleries and garages - everything you could ever wish for.

Splacer’s rent-an-event-space idea is moving in on Airbnb’s territory

The company was launched in autumn 2014 in Tel Aviv by Adi Biran and Lihi Gerstner. It raised seed funding of $1,400,000 from Carmel Ventures and three other investors. The service is currently only available in Tel Aviv and New York.

5. Surefield — more time for the American dream

Surefield, a website selling real estate in Washington state (USA), has taken the time out of visits: 3D virtual tours inside and outside each property and even bird's eye views. Thus, buyers may no longer be deterred by changing seasons, rain or late-night curiosity: they can visit property at the touch of a button.

It has also crushed agency fees, charging just 1.5% for a sale worth $500,000, which is just a quarter of the usual commission (i.e. 6%).

Surefield saves forward-thinking buyers time and money if they can trust 3D viewing

The start-up was launched in Seattle in 2013 by David Eraker, founder of Redfin brokerage firm and former Microsoft Research consultant, and Rob McGarty, former Redfin and EnergySavvy associate. Surefield raised investments of an undisclosed amount from Portland Seed Fund in March 2014.

Smart technology is great but what defines a smart start-up is the company’s ability to challenge status quo on the market. Newcomers like 99.co, OnTheMarket, Spacious, Splacer and Surefield all share this trait: they save clients time and money while bringing more transparency and competition to the market — it can only be good news for buyers.

Yulia Kozhevnikova, Tranio

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