I happen to be in that phase of life where we have to shift from one rented property to another. This is in the city of Bangalore, just to set the context. As any other urban adult, I started my search with the 3 most popular websites – Commonfloor, Magicbricks and Housing.
Purpose of this blog post is not to compare these sites but rather talk about certain features that customers would typically expect from such “hyped” service providers.
Before getting there, I actually wonder why the investors are pouring huge funds into ventures like these. If their USP is to translate a real world action (searching newspaper classifieds, calling house owners and visiting the house to take decision) into a virtual world experience, they are succeeding to a very small extent. Although I must admit that the UI provided by these sites is very distinct and clean.
Two things are possible:
- These sites already have a lot of other features but customers are unable to “discover” them. Which is bad
- Or, they have a good product road map where many new features and services will be integrated into their platforms . Which is good
So, what is it that I, as an active customer looking for a rented property, find missing/hidden in these websites?
Feature 1 – Give equal importance to demand, not just supply
All sites have abundant ways for owners/brokers to post their property and prospective tenants to search for the same. But many times, the rents are extremely high, thanks to the greed of brokers who the owners rely on. Since real estate is a highly dis-organized sector in India, these sites should provide intelligent ways for prospective tenants to quote what price they could afford – like a typical stock exchange. This ensures owners get a good feel of what the market situation is and help them stay away from unwanted brokers.
Feature 2 – Integrate with house cleaning and transport companies
Provide easy integration with agencies that provide house cleaning services. Since the flat a person is vacating and the flat they are moving into both requires cleaning, such a service provides good value to customer. Same is the case with package and transport of household items. These websites should create special offers/deals that provide end to end services
Feature 3 – Brick and mortar presence
The basic act of searching an apartment is to actually visit it. These companies should start their own offices in different city that works with owners and help in such site visits. They can work with local broker/agents to provide such a seamlessly integrated experience to customers.
Feature 4 – Content localization
India is a massive economy with a large and diverse user base. It is really sad that none of the new age companies are making any serious attempts to provide their services in multiple languages. In case of the real estate websites, it is lot easier to implement localization. Static content is easy to translate dynamically. Property details can be translated at upload time or using some dynamic translation services like those from Google. Then start giving good publicity to these localized content in regional newspapers and regional TV channels.
Creating services that are purely virtual is not a strategy that would help in generating wealth and value. Commoditization is the name of the game – what you think as a great new idea today just becomes the basic expectation tomorrow. Hence it is critical you keep innovating.