There is a plethora of property listing platforms that serve Singapore-based homeseekers — DREA.sg, PropertyGuru, 99.co, to name a few. But with a market this small, competition for users and revenue is increasingly intense. Like many e-commerce portals, most of these real estate platforms’ value propositions hardly deviate from each other. Thus, the proptech space has not only become saturated, but it is also stagnating.
“PropertyGuru, 99.co and many others are classifieds and compete in the same crowded space. They generate revenues from agents paying to list properties who are often not being authorised to do so,” said Michael Chaille, Founder of Singapore-based real estate listings app POPETY.
For Chaille, the fact that most online real estate platforms are, by and large, operating on the same fundamental classifieds model is a good problem to have. Because this gives new players – such as his startup – opportunities to fill the gap.
“Their [current incumbents’] objective is to assist seekers and other agents in their search. In terms of data, users can list anything and everything with no control of accuracy or eligibility leading to duplicates and false content. This model exists for about 20 years with no or limited change,” says Chaille.
So how does POPETY seek to tackle these pain points?
Building a comprehensive platform
Homeseekers often have to scour through multiple portals to find the right homes. But POPETY claims to have created one of the most exhaustive property databases in Singapore, listing about 1.3 million private and public residential homes pulled from across multiple channels.
And not only do homeseekers get to view all homes available for rent or sale, they can also seek out homeowners who are not actively seeking deals but are open to a good offer.
“About 9 per cent of current homeowners are actively looking to sell or rent, but 50 per cent of homeowners are open to conversations and offers,” he says.
POPETY also takes a cue from LinkedIn’s features – all property profiles are rated according to their level of completeness. Each profile allows homeowners to list the number of bedrooms, floor plans, amenities, developer details, tenure, distance to train stations and even schools.
For agents, POPETY helps them to market properties and acquire leads. Chaille says there is also a dedicated app that lets agents manage their portfolio.
Homeseekers who do not need an agent as an intermediary can make an offer directly through the app. In renting situations, the in-app messaging function allows tenants and landlords to communicate and track defects and quotations.
But perhaps one of the more interesting features of POPETY is how it helps homeseekers manage the mountain of administrative tasks, such as renovation and setting up utilities, before the house is ready to be lived in.
“The user experience on POPETY doesn’t end at search or transacting properties. The platform supports all steps such as negotiating the deal, storing electronic documents or manage repairs with reliable service providers. To name a few, we have: AXA Insurance, Citibank, OrangeTee, MyRepublic or SendHelper. So we cover the full lifecycle,” said Chaille.
The resulting product is a platform that gives homeowners more control over their properties — a property listing and property management platform combined into a single app.
“We believe in empowering our customers whether seekers, owners, agents and service partners with automation and collaboration … This approach makes real estate fair and efficient, as it should be. It might appear as a harsh comment but we believe days of classifieds are numbered.”
POPETY generates revenue based on selling leads to real estate agents through a bidding system, connecting homeowners to homeseekers for a flat free for viewing and offers to purchase, referral of service providers to homeowners and advertisements with developers and service providers.
Blockchain tech to ensure authenticity
Some property listing startups such as Averspace have implemented blockchain technology to ensure real estate contracts such as tenancy or purchase agreements are secure (it also recently introduced blockchain for p2p renting).
POPETY has also been quick to integrate this feature, though, in another aspect of property management – the ‘log book’ containing every detail of the property’s details and history.
“No one would buy a preowned car without the related log book of maintenance and warranties, so why not for homes? Homes are significant investments and having a logbook to show property details, owner and tenant history, list of issues and repairs are valuable in negotiation of rentals and purchases,” said Chaille.
Blockchain tech ensures that such critical details can be altered. Every generated logbook goes through the Ethereum network, getting a specific reference hash and record on the distributed ledger. Any person with a logbook in hand can then verify its authenticity with a simple “OK / Not OK” feature on the website.
Beyond that, POPETY will also roll out blockchain for smart contracts in the future.
Over the past year, POPETY claims to have had positive growth, reaching a few thousand users and generating a GMV of about S$1 million (US$690,000). So far, 90 per cent of its deals were rentals, while 10 per cent were sales.
It has raised S$1.69 million (US$1.16 million) in seed money from Mediacorp and a few angel investors, with Mediacorp as the only corporate shareholder. It plans to raise a pre-series A of S$2 million (US$1.4 million) by Q1 2017 to focus on driving customer adoption as well as looking to expanding in new markets.
As far as new functionalities on the horizon, Chaille declined to elaborate but hinted at new fintech and IoT components.
As more property platforms such as POPETY come online, we may see a major paradigm shift in the real estate market. It is possible that that real estate transactions will become completely autonomous in the near future, and if that is case, a whole industry of property agents will be made redundant.
Image Credit: POPETY