Online Real Estate Portals Get A New Look – Livemint – 12-Dec-2014
December 23, 2014 - Uncategorized
Online real estate portals are attracting equity investors and venture capitalists. For instance, according to mergers and acquisitions tracking website, Dealcurry.com, Housing.com sold 30% stake for $70 million, IndiaHomes.com raised $50 million (Rs.310 crore) from its existing investors, Commonfloor.com secured $7.5 million from existing investors, and Grabhouse.com raised $2 million. Among the real estate portals in India, a few are established, such as 99acres.com, magicbricks.com, Indiaproperty.com and Makaan.com. However, it’s the new entrants that have brought in new technology and trends in the segment, thanks to which, now all websites are trying to offer new services to customers, from property location to even help with documents. Get a 3D view Till recently, most portals listed resale properties offered by either owners or brokers. Now they are directly offering properties available with developers, including newly launched projects. These are displayed on the sites in various ways, including custom made 3D models of buildings and interactive aerial views of project sites. The portals also give information such as floor plans for all flats, directions, commute details and nearby features. This is a step towards giving users the feeling of having actually visited the sites. One can even choose the exact apartment and take a look at it virtually. Sumit Jain, chief executive officer and founder of Commonfloor.com, said: “We use tools like Sky View, 3D Virtual Tour and e-model to help our users ‘see and feel’ the property before they actually see it.” Some, such as Housing.com, Commonfloor.com and Indiaproperty.com have begun using technologies such as drone cameras to gain an edge over the established names. Drone cameras hover over new properties and collect images from different levels of the property. Buy property online Real estate portals have always served the function of providing information. But some also sell houses. Housing.com has tied up with developers such as Tata Value Homes and Brigade Group to sell their properties online. A user can take a digital look at the overall project, the particular building, floor plan and even the apartment of choice, and then book a house online. Advitiya Sharma, co-founder and marketing head, Housing.com, said; “We have tied up with builders for a specific number of apartments which are available only through us.” Once a buyer chooses an apartment and pays an online booking amount, the house is allotted to her. Further payments and formalities have to be done offline. Before you decide in this direction, do remember that the online booking amount is not refundable. Map-based search Almost all realty portals offer map-based property search. Spaces available for rent or sale are typically linked to a Google map, which helps you trace the exact location and possible ways to reach it. You get an aerial view of the locality and other available properties in the area. You can also check the average rentals or prices in the vicinity. It also helps ascertain distances and public transport facilities. Videos and photographs While searching for a property, photographs and videos are helpful as these give a sense of having visited the place. Home owners and property agents use these tools to attract home seekers to specific properties. Portals are increasing their bandwidth to allow more photos and videos to be posted. Going a step ahead, some even send their own photographers to take good quality photos of the property, and note down details such as dimensions of rooms, bathrooms, kitchen, balconies, staircase and other spaces. This information is uploaded along with the photographs to give a better understanding of size and space of the property on offer. Search apps and more With more and more people using smartphones and tablets, websites alone would not suffice, which is why many companies have developed apps for hand-held devices. Aditya Verma, chief executive officer, Makaan.com, said, “Almost 30-35% of those looking for properties do so on their mobile phones.” Therefore, the properties are arranged in a “photo view” manner to make the properties visually more appealing, he added. Makaan.com is likely to launch a buyer app under the theme “Live your dream” around the new year. Neeraj Sharma, senior vice-president-sales, 99acres.com, said, “We get approximately 29% of our overall traffic from mobile devices, out of which 20% is from the mobile site and 9% is from 99acres app. A design revamp is being planned for our mobile apps as well.” Deciding tools When it comes to deciding which property to choose and why, many home seekers are in a dilemma. Both capital values and rentals can be high, especially in metro cities. In such a scenario, tools such as Makaan.com’s rent versus buy comes in handy. Another important tool is “housing lifestyle rating” by Housing.com. This lets users choose a particular apartment by quantifying the overall experience of living in a given apartment. While evaluating, it takes into account basic needs as well as sought after luxuries, and weighs them according to their importance. For instance, a 3 bedroom-hall-kitchen (BHK) builder floor in South Delhi’s Green Park has been given a life style ranking of 7.5 out of 10—this is based on commute, locality and society scores. It got a 7.7 ranking for commute, 8.8 for locality and 4.8 for society. A 3 BHK in Jor Bagh, an upscale locality in Central Delhi, got a score lifestyle score of 8.5—7.5 as commute score, 9.1 as locality score and 6.8 for society. Tools for investors When it comes to buying a property for investment, one needs to evaluate various factors. Beside price trend, which most portals provide, Makaan.com describes the likely returns that one can expect from a locality. “Properties are shown based on rate of appreciation (RoA) and rental benefits,” said Verma. If one is investing in the primary market, then information on developers is important. “Recently, we improved our price trends section and extended it to new projects and rentals. We also introduced builder pages on the site to give our users a sense of the builder’s track record,” said Sharma of 99acres.com. Add-on services Realty portals are going beyond property search. For instance, once you find a property to rent, Housing.com provides help in drafting the lease or rent agreement. You just need to fill in basic details, click on the clauses you want to add, such as parking, furniture, security deposit, pets policy and so on, to generate an agreement that suits your needs. Once you create it, Housing.com will do all the paperwork and deliver the rental agreement to you. “This service is available only in Bengaluru as of now, but we are planning to launch it in other cities very soon,” said Sharma of Housing.com. Commonfloor.com has a tool called Common Floor Groups, which is a community management software that enables smooth functioning of apartment communities by aiding with tools for accounting, complaint trackers and communication within the communities. Many portals are now also providing services for arranging home loans. User friendly Besides offering new services, realty portals are also focusing on user experience. “If we do not innovate we will remain stagnant,” said Ganesh Vasudevan, chief executive officer, Indiaproperty.com. The way realty portals are evolving, with more funds and newer technology, more innovation and user-friendly options can be expected. These companies have already changed the way real estate is transacted, especially in the resale market. Now, they are widening their presence in the primary market, which is good news for retail users.