TECHNOLOGY

Property Apps 2.0: 4 Exciting Start-ups in Southeast Asia

Moving beyond the usual model

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BY Marishka M. Cabrera - 15 Dec 2016

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Here’s how the property app story went: For the last decade, property hunters migrated from tiny hard-to-read listings in the newspaper to the digital realm, as in PropertyGuru and iProperty, enabling users to refine their search by more narrowly defining their criteria—location, price range, size, etc.

The user experience stayed pretty much the same from the dead tree days, except it was done online. Nowadays, however, the competition is getting stiffer and buyers and brokers alike are finding the need to move beyond the usual model—whether it is by enabling property seekers to chat with agents in real-time or DIY homeowners to rent out their property through an app or by simply making search results more relevant.

“Finding real estate is something that affects everyone—and everyone is frustrated with the current set-up. The process with traditional listing sites is time consuming and inefficient,” says Tim Michael, co-founder of Get.Place, a Singapore-based real estate platform.

Even homeowners looking to rent out their property find the whole process challenging. David Nge, marketing manager of Malaysia-based Speedrent, says, “For homeowners who want to get their house rented, they either have to engage an agent and pay a fee or they have to go through the manual and laborious task of finding a tenant.”

Finding a better, more efficient way of finding, selling, leasing out property is a no-brainer. Call it property app 2.0. See how these start-ups are rethinking the online property-listing model in Southeast Asia:

1. Speedrent

Speedrent is a house rental platform based in Malaysia, which automates an agent’s role and serves as a free platform for homeowners looking to rent out their property. For tenants, unlike other classified sites, Speedrent is owner-driven hence all of the listed houses are unique, and every property listed has 45 days until expiry (unless extended by landlord) to keep listings on the platform fresh. Nge says users can get their house listed within 10 minutes, and their record for a getting a house from listed to rented was within the same day.

As for the business model, Speedrent strikes a deal with the landlords to allow tenants to move in without paying deposit, since many cannot afford to pay twice or even thrice the monthly rent on the first month. Instead, the tenant pays a one-time fee to Speedrent for enabling the deal. To protect the landlords, the company does a credit check on tenants to minimize the chances of tenants defaulting on their rent.

2. Get.Place

Singapore-based Get.Place is an online platform that connects property seekers to

brokers in real-time. It has chosen the Philippines as their launch market due to the growing property market, and it plans to launch rapidly in other markets in 2017. Clients can input their ideal property requirements and their request gets pushed to all the qualified realtors within the network through the company’s matching algorithm. It prioritizes brokers with positive reviews. Clients also have the option to chat and share photos and other media within the app or website. Brokers on the platform, meanwhile, can get high-quality leads through the companion app, Get.Leads.

3. Gowu

Gowu is an app from Malaysia that connects buyers, agents, and developers in Southeast Asia in one online community. Buyers can browse and purchase property, while agents can get access to a broader market and pool of property projects. Developers, meanwhile, are able to expand their reach regionally without high marketing costs and operational hassles through the company’s project management services.

Through the app and website, interested buyers can browse for new properties, select their preferred agents, and arrange for viewings. Once they have made a decision to buy, Gowu takes care of online payments, documents processing, loan applications, and legal paperwork. It also acts as a secure financial intermediary to handle fund transfers between various parties.

4. 99.co

Singapore-based 99.co is a property search engine founded by serial entrepreneur Darius Cheung. In 2015, the company raised $1.6 million from Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin and Sequoia Capital.

To differentiate it from bigger real estate listing sites, 99.co moves away from sponsored listings, making search results more relevant to property seekers. It ranks rental and sale listings by completeness and timeliness of information. And while competing services prioritize agents who pay more for their listing, 99.co only charges property listers when a potential buyer actually makes an inquiry, according to a report from The Business Times.