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Property Portals: House hunting

Property Portals: House hunting
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First Published: Mon, Jul 30 2007. 12 44 AM IST
Updated: Mon, Jul 30 2007. 12 44 AM IST
It’s a crowded space. People looking to buy or rent accommodation are increasingly turning to the Internet to get information on homes. For 24-year-old Ananya Saha, a journalist with Impact Magazine, relocating from New Delhi to Mumbai wasn’t as stressful as it could have been. Before shifting, Saha spent more than two weeks browsing real estate websites. She gleaned information about brokers and went through one of them to rent an apartment in a Mumbai suburb.
Myrtle Maxwell, a coaching institute principal from Kollam, Kerala, wanted to sell her 775sq. ft Mumbai apartment but didn’t have any knowledge about the current real estate market. Her brother, Donald Dcruez, who had put up his Mumbai apartment for rent and found a tenant by placing an advertisement on a real estate website, asked Maxwell to take the same route. Maxwell placed an advertisement on www.99.acres.com, owned by Info Edge (India) Ltd. Within a week, she was inundated with calls from prospective buyers and brokers and hopes to finalize a sale soon.
Real estate portals with national reach, such as 99acres.com, Magicbricks.com and Indiaproperty.com, which were mostly launched in the last two years, have come as a blessing for people such as Saha and Maxwell. According to San Francisco-based Alexa.com, which monitors Internet use, Indiaproperty, 99acres, Magicbricks and Indiaproperties are among the top players in the field in terms of daily reach.
New players are entering the business, with Mumbai-based People Interactive (I) Pvt. Ltd, which runs the matrimonial portal, Shaadi.com, planning to launch a real estate portal, 2bhk.com, soon.
Naresh Malkani, a Pune-based real estate professional and chairman of the India Institute of Real Estate (IIRE), a non-profit organization that seeks to promote the real estate business, set up Indiaproperties in 1999. Arguably the first real estate portal to be launched in India, Indiaproperties claims to be for individual buyers and sellers. “Around 82% of listings on our website are from individuals and the rest from builders and brokers,” says Malkani.
Real estate classified ads in newspapers cannot provide the scope of information that housing portals can, such as a virtual walk-through of the living space. “Portals are slowly but surely proving to be a substitute for classified ads,” says Varun Arya, a Gurgaon-based property consultant who placed an advertisement about his services on Magicbricks.com, a portal launched by Times Business Solutions. “It helps prospective buyers and sellers reduce the time spent on doing preliminary research.” He adds that after he inserted the advertisement, he has had a 25% increase in the number of queries he gets every day.
The Internet is also home to regional housing websites, such as Teluguproperties.com, which service specific regions. “Nearly 80-90% of our clients on the website are end-users who are looking to buy or sell residential property and we have a 95% renewal rate,” says Deepali Singh, business head, 99acres.com, which has a database of 150,000 buyers.
Pramod Pereira, 35, assistant manager at Cargo Service Centre, a Mumbai-based freight handling company, who has been going through property portals to buy an apartment, says real estate portals make the home shopping process easier. “In a place such as Mumbai, where it’s difficult to find a single broker who covers far-flung areas, the property search portals help in shortlisting homes in preferred locations,” he says.
Before you bookmark these portals on your browser though, don’t assume that you will be able to do away with that greedy broker from the home buying/renting process completely.
Saurav Mukherjee, 31, regional manager with Interactive Television Pvt. Ltd, who recently relocated from New Delhi to Mumbai, checked out real estate portals hoping to come across an owner to cut down the expense of paying commission to a broker. He says he was disappointed to find a long list of brokers but very few individual sellers on the websites. He was ultimately forced to go through a broker to get to the apartment of his choice.
Being aware of the fact that brokers are an integral part of the real estate industry, promoters of the portals don’t intend to displace the middlemen. “Unfortunately, brokers have got a bad name,” says R. Sundar, president, Times Business Solutions, which manages Magicbricks.com. “Through property portals such as Magicbricks, we need to change that perception and bring about a higher level of professionalism in the industry. In the property buying process, the first basic need is to get information on available properties and shortlist them. Our site addresses this basic need for the individual. We help the customer generate leads.”
Property portals also have their flaws. There have been instances where these websites have displayed wrong contact numbers of advertisers, prices and incomplete or dated information about the property, which may no longer be available for sale.
J. Bharucha, 31, executive assistant of a family-run textile company in Mumbai, searched two portals but found no information about the neighbourhood where the homes were located. Neither could she access any photographs of the properties. Bharucha is looking for a home in a Parsi colony. “We can’t really remove the advertisement on behalf of the advertisers,” says Yash Asher, product manager at Indiaproperty.com, a vertical portal of the matrimonial website, Bharatmatrimony.com. “If the advertisers do not respond even after three reminders, we remove their listing from our website.”
Other portals put the onus of making content current on the visitors and advertisers. “Removing or updating the information on the website is the responsibility of the client (builders and agents),” says Sunder. “They are the ones who can edit the information on the site. With more than 600,000 properties on our site, buyers need to be informed consumers in such a complex and high-investment sector.”
Consumers cannot just approach real estate portals and treat these like one-stop shops. It is essential to carry out appropriate research before making any decision to buy or rent property. Consumers are on their own in the property market because there is no central authority to regulate the builders or any defined set of guidelines for the real estate industry. Do due diligence before making any decision.
Indiaproperty.com
This portal is managed by BharatMatrimony Enterprise, which also manages Bharatmatrimony.com, a popular marriage portal. The website lists around 250,000 properties and says it gets 2.5 million visitors every month. The website is managed by a team of about 40 people and has offices in nine cities in India.
Features:
1) The website’s home page prominently displays various search tools for buyers, sellers and those looking to rent.
2) Unlike other websites, broker and builder advertisements don’t overwhelm the home page and the portal is easy to navigate.
3) The website usually sends three reminders to the advertisers to update their listings. Failure to respond to the reminders results in the entry being removed from the website.
Property search tools:
1) The property search tool isn’t very comprehensive, but allows searches for a paying guest accommodation or a partner—a unique feature when compared with other real estate portals.
2) In addition to the basics, the individual listings page also provides a detailed map of the area in which the property is located, as well as the floor plan, but in several instances, the map is basic and not very informative. The portal allows for a virtual tour of select properties.
Value add-ons:
1) The only prominent research tool on the website is the home loan section for which it partners with another of the group’s vertical portals, Loanwala.com.
2) The individual listings page provides calculators, which can give one an idea of affordability and equated monthly instalment payments.
3) The Propertybytes blog of this website has articles on property law, city and property rate trends, a vaastu shastra guide and architecture and design information.
The cost:
Indiaproperty allows a free listing for the first month. After the month is over, a single listing also comes at no fee, but multiple property listings are charged Rs 350 per entry for a three-month period.
Other features:
1) The website is easy to navigate.
2) Search for paying guest accommodation available.
3) You can search for a home loan on this portal, which also has an EMI calculator.
4) A single listing is available free of charge for a month.
99acres.com
This website is run by Info Edge (India) Ltd, which owns Naukri.com, a job portal, and Jeevansaathi.com, a matrimonial portal. It carries 55,000 property listings from 25 cities and covers more than 100 projects of developers. A team of 100 people manages the website.
Features:
1) The home page of this website is full of advertisements from developers and brokers.
2) The property search option for residential and commercial properties is displayed upfront and key projects across nine cities and the list of developers are shown prominently on the home page.
3) You have to navigate the home page of the website to locate research tools related to the real estate sector.
4) After a property is listed for two months, reminders are sent to the advertiser, who has to respond, failing which the entry is removed from the website.
Property search tools:
1) There isn’t much difference in the quick and the advanced search options on 99acres. It broadly allows for search on the basis of the price, advertiser—who could be a broker, builder or an individual—and rent-paying capacity of people looking to lease space.
2) The individual property listings do not give all the details about the property that has been advertised, but one can contact or email the advertiser.
Value add-ons:
1) The only prominent research tool on this website is the home finance tool. It allows visitors to apply for a home loan, has a few calculators and carries content such as property news and tips, which are outsourced from other websites such as Moneycontrol.com.
2) The data on property prices is sourced from Cushman & Wakefield (India) Pvt. Ltd and may not be current.
The cost:
The website allows free listing of property by individuals for an initial period of 15 days, after which the fee is Rs500 per listing for a two-month period.
Other features:
Key projects in nine cities and a list of developers get prominent display.
1) You have to navigate the whole website to locate research tools.
2) The quick and the advanced search options on 99acres are similar.
3) The only research tool on this website is the home finance tool.
Magicbricks.com
Promoted by Times Business Solutions, a division of Bennet, Coleman & Co. Ltd, it carries about 600,000 property listings from more than 100 cities and says it gets 18 million page views in a month. Magicbricks has 300,000 registered users and is staffed by 120 people.
Features:
1) With advertisements of builders and brokers popping up from everywhere, the home page looks busy, but it’s the most comprehensive website in terms of property listings, search tools and additional information.
2) The home page is divided according to user categories—developers, prime properties and key agents in various cities. There are separate sections for those who want to look for property and for those who want to put up their property for sale. Registration is required for these services.
Property search tools:
1) Magicbricks has an option for a quick search where one just needs to give specs of the kind of property one is looking for and the location. The advanced search provides the option to select the property on the basis of the price, area and availability of pictures.
2) A separate tool allows a search of builders, agents and buyers. It also allows a person to zero in on individually listed property or a broker- or builder-listed property, but one cannot search for paying guest accommodation.
3) The portal provides a map of the area where the property is located and, in some cases, a virtual tour of the property.
Value add-ons:
1) The website regularly updates news related to commercial real estate, foreign direct investment, infrastructure and retail. It also provides property prices across eight cities and carries property reports of international consultancy firms such as Colliers International and Cushman & Wakefield.
2) Apart from legal and tax advice, the website also gives visitors the option to apply for home loans. It provides a stamp duty calculator for a few cities. The website has an active blog for visitors.
The cost:
The website doesn’t charge buyers and sellers for listing their property or requirements. It only bills developers and brokers.
Other features:
1) Ads of builders and brokers make the home page look complex.
2) Comprehensive site in terms of listings, features and search tools. The home page is divided based on user categories.
3) It provides a map of the area where the property is located.
Indiaproperties.com
The website gets an average of 1,24,000 visitors a month and covers property listings in around 200 cities across the country. The portal is managed by a team of 37 people and is headquartered in Pune.
Features:
1) Uncluttered by advertisements of brokers and builders, the home page is simple and resources and features are displayed upfront.
2) Only builders and brokers are required to undergo a registration process. Individual buyers and sellers of property need to register only when they wish to post their property for buying or selling.
3) The website follows a three-step policy of authenticating and verifying individuals who register. Once they put in their personal details, verification is conducted by sending an email and the visitor’s access is activated only when the individual acknowledges the email. Second, it makes calls to the contact numbers mentioned by the advertisers for verification. Third, it scans the listing of the property to ensure that the advertiser sticks to a prescribed format.
4) After two weeks of listing, the website sends an automatic reminder to the advertiser asking him if the property has been sold and if there are any changes in the information about the property.
Property search tools:
1) Indiaproperties doesn’t have a comprehensive property search tool as compared with other sites. There is a separate tool for the buyers and sellers, but no separate option for those looking to find paying guest accommodation.
2) The basic search allows one to hunt for a property on two parameters — the city and the kind of the property. There is an advanced search on the basis of the number of rooms, size, locality and level of furnishing.
Value add-ons:
The portal provides property prices across 11 cities, gives the list of legal documents required, carries articles on how to calculate property tax, trends in property prices across various cities and tips on buying residential or commercial property.
The cost:
Free, but if buyers and sellers want their property to be featured prominently, then Rs500 is charged for a monthly display.
Other features:
1) Home page is simple and displays its resources and features upfront.
2) The website doesn’t have a comprehensive property search tool.
3) Only builders and brokers are required to undergo a registration process.
A BENCHMARK SITE: Findaproperty.com
This Bighton-based international website is owned by Associated Newspapers, publisher of daily newspapers in England. The website lists overseas properties modestly, but the portal’s design, layout and ease of navigation makes the property search process very easy.
Unlike Indian real estate portals, this website doesn’t bombard you with advertisements of brokers and builders on every page. The home page provides a search option for all major cities in the UK and also allows you to search properties in neighbourhoods within those cities. In addition, the portal contains a plethora of information on real estate topics. The home page comprises three sections, which carry well-researched write-ups on property issues for the uninitiated, relevant news and articles related to the industry.
Each property list page is comprehensive. The pages on Findaproperty provide the prices at which the properties in nearby areas have sold so that the consumer gets a fair idea of the market price of properties in a certain city and neighbourhood. The portal also provides information on the neighbourhood, gleaned from area residents, in addition to details on schools, crime rates, hospitals, railway stations and airports.
Write to us at businessoflife@livemint.com
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First Published: Mon, Jul 30 2007. 12 44 AM IST