Housing – Are They Brokers Or A Real Estate Portal? [A Broker’s Take On New New Thing]

“The Housing.com website reminds me of a lovely blonde girlfriend who wants to be friends with you only till you have money to spend on her!”

[Editorial Notes : Can Housing.com disrupt brokers? Here is a broker’s take on Housing’s model. As a platform, we belive that it is important for new new startups to engage with existing food chain for a meaningful dialogue.]
I am really not sure where to begin with when it comes to Housing.com. It originally began with an innovative design (at least where the Indian Market is concerned) for a web portal based on real estate. The concept was simple – list your properties to prospective buyers and renters in a brilliantly designed website. They made the website attractive and easy to work with.housing 2
The user interface was attractive, easy to load and came with map search. The property pictures were clicked professionally by their designated staff. This ensured that what you see is what you get. Each listing was verified by their employee.
I heard about how brilliant it was from my own clients especially the young ones. The students and the bachelors who were savvy with their purchase. To attract this crowd, I spent a reasonable amount of money on Housing.com on advertisement. It was the IT thing. The results on advertising not so good. There were way too many bargain hunters looking for something that simply did not exist in the market. They allowed listing directly by owners, which is OK.
However, the owners also gave properties to real estate agents and brokers. These same brokers have paid top dollars to advertise on the same platform as the owners. The policy that Housing.com has apparently is advertise the owners property and keep the brokers in the back end. So the same property is not listed.

Collect money for advertising from the real estate consultants, agents, brokers but display the owner’s listing directly. Now that’s a shady picture.

OK so let’s leave that point aside, and move on to the other point of contention. It is a well known fact in Mumbai’s real estate industry that owners are not loyal to one real estate broker. They prefer to work with several brokers. For some apparent reason, owners believe the Myth that their property will get sold or leased quicker that way. Anyways, lovely Housing.com has a first come first serve basis.

The first person to list their property is the ONLY one who can share the benefit. So the others who have paid subscription fees get diddly squat. No rotational listings, no multiple listings, just ONE. OK acceptable to me but then am I supposed to put only 3-4 properties where the owner has some sort of exclusivity clause with me. Good luck trying to get that in this market.

OK, now let’s leave the disloyalty of owners aside. I accept that this is the world we live in! There was great hullabaloo about how the photographers of Housing.com were trading property information among other brokers for few hundred bucks, a cup of tea or maybe just for tier friends and buddies.
Real estate brokers who trusted the photographers with their information and took them to the apartments and properties. These photographers then started trading this information to other brokers for short change. Apparently this happened in Powai. Now this is just down right ugly. The story is not far fetched. It is quite possibly happened.
OK! By now I have ignored the fact that I pay subscription fees for my property listings to not be listed. I have ignored the fact that I am competing with the actual property owners to lease or sell the property. I have ignored the fact that I am competing with other brokers for getting my listing before anyone else gets it. I also ignore the fact that their photographers are cheats and steal my property data to other scrupulous brokers.
But now I am dealing with a whole new set of EVIL from Housing.com. This one is a brilliant scheme. Buy your Flat directly from Housing.com. Yes folks – You can buy your Tata Home in Pune, Bangalore and Chennai directly on Housing.com. Check it out for yourself – https://housing.com/tatavaluehomes. So now they are real estate brokers themselves. I think I should just shoot myself in the head.

Now I have a whole new level of IT professionals and IIM graduates who want to become real estate brokers.

Here you have it folks – my one year subscription is not even over yet and Housing.com has found innumerable number of ways to cheat me of my subscription. I think I have learnt my lesson. They are bagging money from one investor to another. Getting fresh financing from every venture capital possible. I wonder how this internal scam works for them. Take more money from the latest one and return to the earlier one with additional bonus. This reminds me of Charles Ponzi.
And at that note I will leave you to make your own decision if you would like to put money in their lovely website which reminds me more and more of a lovely blonde girl friend who wants to be friends with you only till you have money to spend on her! The Rest is All …
[Guest article by RK Realtors]

  1. Hear that giant whining sound? That’s the brokerage industry complaining about the end of their fat margins.
    They better believe that the days of earning 2%/one months’ rent purely for “information arbitrage” are over. Now they need to add value to the transaction, and should expect to be paid NOTHING for just *knowing* which properties are available.
    This is not to say that brokers will be irrelevant in the future. Just look at the recruitment industry:10 years ago consultants used to compete on “access”, but Naukri changed all that. Now access is a commodity (through Naukri/Monster/Linkedin), and consultants have to compete on “service”.
    My take is that the forward-looking brokers will adapt to this change and start providing more value to the buyer and seller. The ones that refuse to adapt will find it hard to survive in a market where information is free. Either way, both the buyer and seller will benefit. It’s called disruption.

  2. Hey Manish,
    I cannot agree with you more. Everything that you have said is correct. It’s the “Value” that comes from using a Professional Broker is what they are paid for. Unfortunately most people just consider a broker as someone who simply points a finger and shows the property.
    Your 2 cents are VERY rare to come by!

  3. Hey Abhijeet,
    I am not a journalist. Sorry it wasn’t up to mark. The point I was trying to make was simple “Deliver on the promises you made and Give me what I paid for!”

  4. Hey Rosh An,
    Yup that’s right! Brokers are Doomed! I am the perfect example of a “Loser” successfully running a 2nd generation real estate investment and brokerage business. There’s no argument there whatsoever!

  5. Hey Aditya,
    That’s absolutely correct. The reason why I wrote the blog article was to bring out the two faced nature of housing.com

  6. Dear Deepinside,
    Yes, I agree with you regarding the way things work in the real estate industry. It is an extremely unorganized dog eat dog industry. However, the one’s that cry are the one’s who normally are not professional or a bit immature to deal with the situation.

  7. Searching for a house on Housing.com is just one part of the equation and its understandable that buyers/renters like it as this service is FREE – it is in this area that Housing.com and others are causing disruption. However, good brokers/consultants bring on board intangible value proposition as below for which there will always be a need
    1. Building trust relation between buyers and sellers.
    2. Providing local area expertise.
    3. Negotiating rates thereby saving money for clients.
    4. Providing Procedural / Transaction insights.
    5. Providing Legal/Loan/Tax insights.
    In addition, here is a list of FREE services that a broker provides
    1. Spending time with clients, understanding requirements and scheduling inspections. I read somewhere that Housing.com is looking to make this as a chargeable service.
    2. Share ongoing ‘Real Rates’ in a area.
    3. Share investment insights on upcoming projects/location.
    I believe such services abroad are not FREE.
    A broker gets paid only when a transaction completes whereas Housing.com and others are charging upfront fees. To be fair – How about Housing.com allow brokers to list the apartments and charge them when their transaction completes?
    Similar to other profession it’ll be nice to have brokers get a license to practice their profession but until then there will always be questions for their need.
    Finally, clicking a apt picture and posting/viewing it on a website doesn’t conclude a transaction in-fact it’s just the beginning.
    Just my 2 cents.

  8. From the comments it looks like all real-estate brokers are pissed off for being by-passed. If brokers don’t read (or maybe can’t read/understand) the fine-print before buying subscription then its there problem.
    Brokers have turned existing portals (99acres/commonfloor) into all junk listing. Even after filtering for owner posting one is still bombarded with broker junk. That way (& ofcourse user-interface design wise) housing.com is ten times better than existing portals.

  9. and BTW, their so called spiffy website is direct rip off of AirBnB. So much for innovation and disruption. In the meantime, I will stick to 99acres and magicbricks for better performance.

  10. @Prashant, exactly! What is the business model of Housing.com. and as far the article bemoaning the direct listing from owners is concerned, I think the whole point of these websites is to bypass brokers, which from the consumer’s point of view, is not a bad thing after all.
    Second, I just had a look at the website and I wondered why the above Realtor even bothered dealing with them. All style and absolutely no substance. Quantity is sub-par and the quality…well, I looked at the listings and the rent quotations are simply out of whack. What market segment are they targeting? if with this kind of business model and website, they managed to get funding, well, then I would say money really is cheap.

  11. “Collect money for advertising from the real estate consultants, agents, brokers but display the owner’s listing directly.”
    Housing never claimed to be a broker-only platform. Showing owner listings directly is economical for both owners and buyers/renters. Subscription charges from brokers doesn’t imply owners must be charged.

    “The first person to list their property is the ONLY one who can share the benefit.”
    The following link will be a fit answer –
    There are 4 brokers associated with one property.

    “Now I have a whole new level of IT professionals and IIM graduates who want to become real estate brokers.”
    Yes. Housing has a vision that made all these tech and B-school graduates be a part of it. Brace up and find a way to grow with the competition.
    And slight correction: *IT -> IIT 🙂

    Your subscription means you will be connected with people looking for houses like the one you posted. It doesn’t mean Housing will stop expanding its business.

  12. That’s why I said its not “fair”. In the end they will figure out and by then a lot of blood will be shed ( You can think of what Uber does in this context). Sure they will alienate the brokers and they will become the new digital brokers. The only difference there will be the end consumer will not pay any brokerage directly (but they will always bear the cost charged to the owners). More transparency, less hassle.
    Service is going to critical here. I would still happily pay a broker who can take me to good house and show them around. But the game is slowly shifting out of the broker hands ( Bharatmatrimony context ) to be honest.
    Well half of internet business is about becoming a better digital broker.

  13. The point is not about them being disrupted. The point is about give a raw deal to your customers. If you claim to be a broker free portal then so be it and stick to that. Do not take money from the brokers and then not give them value for money. Housing for all the money they have raised do not yet have a sustainable business model.

  14. You will hear hundreds of brokers crying like this when the house hunting is being disrupted. While it might not be entirely fair, this is the way it works.

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