Moving Cities, And How Housing Portals Fail Its Users

Real estate search portals in India are of little to no use to people who wish to rent a house in a city. Or maybe it’s just in Bangalore.
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Real estate search portals in India are of little to no use to people who wish to rent a house in a city. Or maybe it’s just in Bangalore. This is my third week in the city, having moved from CNBC Mumbai to join NextBigWhat. In spite of relentlessly searching, there’s no house in sight for me as yet.

Initially, upon advice from many residents of the city, the internet and portals became my tool to locate a house, and in the absence of that – a good real estate broker – who would find me a decent house. What followed, is chaos that I haven’t seen even in Mumbai, a city of over 11 million people.

House Search Online : A Review
House Search Online : A Review

It began with 99acres, MagicBricks and . Here’s what I liked about them:

  • All three have options to key in multiple areas to search for. That’s helpful, no need to go back and forth to key in different areas.

  • MagicBricks has an ‘Advanced Property Search’ where status of possession, house posted since, floor number etc., are fields. Searches can be streamlined better with these.

And here’s what I didn’t like about them:

  • Pages that are way too cluttered and filled with distracting advertisements. Commonfloor has relatively better interface though.

  • Ads for houses posted by dealers that have are in no way descriptive or helpful.

  • In most cases, the said apartment doesn’t even exist. Once contacted, the agent will most likely tell you that the apartment has already been leased out, but he has other apartments available. And proceed to take you to the dingiest corners of earth and ask for obscene amounts as rent. This point would have been easier to make had they had pictures.

  • So, no pictures or false pictures in most cases, no description, just a number of a dealer/owner/ dealers who know other dealers who know other dealers and so on. It’s as if I’m dying to network with real estate agents.

So I gave up on these websites after I realized that it’s of no use, and moved on to a website called , which people said was way better. And it was, in most aspects.

What I liked about Housing.com

  • Absolutely super interface! A clean map view, and now even has a gridview with pictures of the houses.

  • Yes, pictures are mandatory for any house that is posted. That was a nice change, and you’d at least know whether you want to spend time on taking a look at the house.

  • Has a tool that let’s you increase or decrease the area to search in. But doesn’t allow keying in of multiple areas.

  • Has a variety of filters including lease type, amenities required, but I feel still doesn’t have as many options as MagicBricks’.

  • Gives locality, lifestyle, rent and child friendly area ratings

  • Has a report button to report wrong pictures, misinformation.

  • Shows the nearest atms, banks, hospitals etc near the house.

What I disliked about it:

  • Pictures of some houses are copied from elsewhere, so while there is hope, the houses you see won’t be the same as those posted online.

  • At times, houses have been posted multiple times, at the same address, with the same pictures, the same agent, but at different rents and lifestyle ratings. This particular listing was reported, but no action has been taken so far.

  • No expiry date for houses, so you never know when it’s taken. The website says it has its own method of making a house automatically expire. Don’t know how that works, because a house that was still available as of two days ago, had expired on the website. Instead it should have been made mandatory for real estate agents to shut posts once the house is taken.

  • Which they don’t do. Therefore, as with the other portals, here too the agents end up showing houses you have seen already. That’s if you’re lucky. Worse still, is when you travel all the way, and find out that the house is locked/ taken already, “would you like to see other places?”

  • All four portals have houses listed at rates that seem like they’re within your budget, but are inflated once you catch the bait and visit the house.

In short, after inspecting over 10 agents, co-agents, and 40 houses (no, that’s not made up) later, it’s now obvious what a scam most real estate agents run online especially when it comes to using housing portals.

This is not to say Housing.com is terrible. It sure has made an earnest attempt at making a good website, definitely has an edge over competitors and they do come through on most things. But, their model of relying on real estate agents to increase listings is their single biggest failing.

The real problem actually lies in the deregulated real estate sector in India. A completely unorganised sector, almost anyone can become a real estate agent. This is also why there is a high degree of unprofessionalism in the sector, as agents are not trained, nor are they accountable to anyone unlike the USA where agents are regulated by anti-trust laws and are required to be licensed. Therefore in India, those who buy/get the house on lease, end up renting houses at a premium to the market rate simply because real estate agents want to further their commission and choose to be bad negotiators.

All in all, until the Real Estate Bill 2013 becomes an act, and rules for real estate agents to follow are established, there is little realty websites can do to make their websites perfectly useful.

 Recommended Read : The Broken Online Classified Services in India [And An Opportunity To Create Value]

Image credit: shutterstock

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