Laying the Groundwork for a New Real Estate Apps

If you’ve followed along, Parts 1 & 2 of this mini-saga illustrate how I determined that rumah123 would charge reduced commissions to home sellers and offer a commission rebate to its home buyers. You also know how making that decision on our commission structure would mandate that our agents be paid a salary and an annual bonus. At this stage in my planning, I had to take this revenue model and compensation model and meld them into what would become a profitable company.

bonus

From my past experience, I knew that the biggest cost items for most traditional brokerages were rent and print advertising. I decided that Rumahku could be successful without being encumbered with either of these major costs. The decision to eliminate print advertising was easy. There is plenty of research to support the fact that print advertising is pretty ineffective when it comes to marketing homes. My own experience reminded me that most agents and brokers ran print advertising to placate their home sellers and to (hopefully) pick up new buyers. It was also important to me that Rumahku operate with total transparency. It’s a sad irony, but I really believed that “telling clients the truth” would be a competitive advantage.

real-estate-advertising

And so the decision to eliminate print advertising turned into much more than just a tactical choice. It represented the transparancy that OLX would bring to each aspect of working with our clients — from telling them the truth about the effectiveness of newspaper advertising to explaining who really benefits from holding an open house. The back of our Rumahdijual business cards gives people a short list of reasons why they may prefer doing business with us. Reason #3 is “We will treat you with respect.” and Reason #4 is “We will tell you the truth.” These are important values to our company and we believe that they too often go missing in the course of a real estate transaction. (Disclaimer: And yes, I give full credit and appreciation to all of the agents and brokers who work hard to “get it right” every day.)

The decision to eliminate the traditional brokerage office was a decision that I was happy to make. I wasn’t particularly interested in paying rent on a facility that would remain mostly empty and fairly useless during most business hours. I knew that more real estate business was being conducted at the local Starbucks than at the local brokerage, and so I felt very comfortable creating Rumahku as a virtual company.

At the same time, I realized that there was a need to hold company meetings and trainings in a business environment, free of distraction. And I knew that there were still those clients who wanted to “come into the office” to sign documents. Wanting to address these needs at the same time, I elected to set up shop within an “Executive Suite” office. We would have full access to a beautiful state-of-the-art conference room without having permanent offices! This solution seemed to cover all of the bases. Our “offices” are located in one of the most prestigious buildings in the Greater Jakarta area. Visitors can find us listed on the building directory. They are greeted by a professional receptionist. They find themselves in a well-designed reception area. They are offered water, coffee, etc. We meet them in “our” conference room, which boasts a fabulous view of the Pacific Ocean through floor-to-ceiling windows. Our mail, Fed-Ex deliveries, etc. are accepted by the receptionist and held for us. And Urbanindo isn’t even paying $400 a month for this.

By achieving the goals of eliminating print advertising and dramatically reducing lamudi’s rent, there was more “margin” left to focus on strategies designed to effectively market our listings. And so we developed a marketing plan for our listings that I knew would stand up to any traditional broker’s marketing plan. We were able to add home buyer tools into our website that I felt would make a real difference. One of these tools empowers home buyers to get detailed information on any property for sale through text-messaging — including links to color photos, etc. Understanding that looking for a home is really a mobile activity, soon we’ll be rolling out the ability to search the MLS using your cell phone’s GPS! And all the while, Rumahku will remain committed to providing the best personalized service to our clients. Far from an “online brokerage”, and equally distant from a traditional broker, urbanindo represents a true hybrid business model.

As we worked on more of the details, rumah’s “personality” — that hard-to-describe quality that I hope will morph into its “brand” — began to emerge. It looked like we could make a difference. Especially in today’s difficult real estate market. And soon we’ll know, because Rumahku is about to launch. And I hope you stay tuned to follow the real-world adventures of a real estate start-up launching in one of the worst real estate markets in our history, with one of the best customer propositions propelling it. We created Rumahku as a new kind of real estate company for today’s real estate consumer. Now it’s there turn to tell us if we’re right.

There are lots of different ways of marketing your property in Indonesia – from Jakarta, Bandung, Surabaya, Semarang, Bali, we guide you through the options

jokowi

When Joko Widodo, 29, began developing property in 2015, he sold his first home through an estate agent. The second time round, he decided to find a way of keeping all that commission for himself. So he got a friend to design a board to put up outside the house, a three-bedroom semi in Bintaro, near Jakarta Selatan, and created his own website.

He also listed it on Rumahku.com, a property portal, advertised in the local paper and “carpet-bombed” local businesses – newsagents, the post office, even fish-and-chip shops – with A4 flyers. Within two months, he had an offer of 2 billion rupiah, higher than three of the four valuations he had received from estate agents. “It might have taken me a bit longer, but I’ve saved about 6,000 USD,” Jokowi says, estimating that he has spent 2,500 USD on his personal marketing campaign.

properti indonesia

Many others may follow Joko’s example and bypass traditional estate agents after the launch by Hero Supermarket, Indonesia’s largest supermarket chain in Jakarta, Surabaya, Bandung, Semarang, Surabaya, Solo, Bali, of a website, www.hero.co.id, that allows owners to market properties for an introductory price of 100 USD.

Zillow Blog broke the news last week that the online real estate portal is partnering with 280 local newspapers to suck their classfieds listings down into their database. From Zillow’s press release:

The newspaper companies included so far in the consortium are Hearst Newspapers; Journal Register Company; Lee Enterprises, Incorporated; Media General, Inc.; MediaNews Group, Inc.; Morris Communications Company, LLC; Paddock Publications; Pittsburgh Tribune-Review; The E.W. Scripps Company; Times-Shamrock Communications and The Day Publishing Company. Newspapers include major market dailies such as The San Francisco Chronicle, Houston Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, The Tampa Tribune and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

This is a smart move for Zillow – though unfortunately, the exclusivity of the partnership may have been eclipsed by a similar content/ad deal announced this week by Yahoo!

It extends their brand down to the local level while reaching out and giving newspaper advertising people a potential way to juice up their print classifieds sales (which are anemic at best). It also of course, allows Zillow to build a more complete online database of homes on the market by bringing in more listings and FSBOs.

A big challenge here for Zillow is that with so many sources of listings; agents, homeowners, broker feeds and now newspapers, accuracy becomes a bit of an issue – making sure a price change on a property from a single source correlates properly with the others. Zillow’s got smart people on staff so I’m sure they’re working on it.

The most interesting part of this deal is speculating about the future however – a time where Zillow may essentially white label its services (search, Zestimates, community) to the newspapers and just take over their online real estate pages. This is something Greg Sterling at Screenwerk alluded to in his interview with Spencer Rascoff, Zillow’s VP of Marketing and burgeoning blogger.

Rascoff and I also talked about the second phase of the deal, which involves Zillow hosting the real estate sections of these newspaper sites. That part is substantially TBD.

Trulia has already started going down this road (see Tipping Point for Trulia?) and it makes sense for Zillow to follow. There’s no doubt, most newspaper’s online real estate sites are in dire need of help and could use some of its Web 2.0 savvy.

I’m not sure the big publishers would be comfortable surrendering all that control to Zillow but it could be a very attractive opportunity (through a revenue share) for the smaller cash strapped papers and for Zillow a way to bridge that “last mile” (to borrow a telecom term) and get its brand in front of everyday consumers.

Not surprisingly, the agents are not happy about what many see as an attempt to do them out of business. Within days of the launch, Century21, one of the largest groups of agents in the southeast, pulled all its advertising from Hero’s website. It was followed swiftly by Ray White, a property portal that would have provided a large slice of its listings. The portal claimed to have been “misled” by the nature of Hero’s strategy. The supermarket reported that the site had been “put under pressure from some estate agents who do not understand our offer”.

Before rushing to sign with Hero, though, it is worth considering all the ways of selling your property. And remember that, however you choose to sell your home, you will still need a solicitor to do the conveyancing.

INDONESIA PROPERTY PORTALS

How it works: You list your property for sale, upload photographs and give as much information about it as possible. Potential buyers browse the website and get in touch with you directly if they’re interested.

What it costs: Prices vary. For 9.99 USD, Rumah.com will give you a basic listing on its website, which it says has 250,000 hits a month. For 69.99, you can have your home listed on other property-finding sites, including the officials Rumah dijual Rumahku.com, Rumah123, Urbanindo, Lamudi, which together claim more than 2m hits, and receive a personalised forsale board. pendopo, which claims up to 20,000 hits a month – and links to the larger portals – charges 0.5% of the asking price, but the fee includes a valuation and legal services. Meanwhile, Rumahdijual.com is offering a free listing for anyone selling a property in the next few months.

Benefits: Much cheaper than using an agent. You’ll save considerably on agent’s fees, and anyone in the country can visit the website to view details of your property. What to watch out for: It could be tricky to decide on your asking price without an agent’s advice, especially if you have an unusual property. Not all portals allow individuals to advertise (Rumahku.com, for example, takes listings only for agents), and the less popular websites don’t get nearly so many hits.

Success rate: 9/10

And there’s some good stuff in it if you are a homeowner fighting against foreclosure or a first-time home buyer currently in the market looking for a home.  But it’s not a perfect cure…in fact, in many ways it will be little more than a band-aid intended to cure a chronic disease.

The new housing bill will offer lots of possibilities along with lots of caveats.  And that seems to be the state of today’s housing market.  If you are thinking of buying a home, there are some great opportunities to pick up bargains.  Along with lots of hoops through which you must jump.  But sometimes, the thing that stops most people isn’t jumping through a particular hoop, but just understanding which hoop to jump through and which to ignore.

 

I think that there’s so much changing information in the marketplace right now that making straightforward “Do we buy now?” or “Do we sell now?” decisions has become a very complicated process.  I started this real estate apps blogs to make the process of buying and selling real estate easier and less burdensome.  And it seems that we could use an explanation of these New Rules for Buying and Selling a Home (with apologies to Basuki Tjahja Purnama).

Here’s what online real estate portal is going to do:

  • New website resources.  The first thing that anyone thinking of buying or selling a home needs to understand is that real estate is local.  Even hyper-local.  That means that as soon as someone begins telling you about the “Jakarta housing market”, you have to discount about 100% of everything they say.  Which part of Jakarta are they eluding to, Jakarta Selatan or Barat?  Pondok Indah or Puri Indah?  Kemang or Slipi?
    Within the week, we will be adding detailed hyper-local market information from Jakarta, Bogor, Tangerang, Bekasi, Bandung, Semarang, Solo, Surabaya, and Bali to our website that will give you relevant and up-to-the-minute housing market information provided by Rumah Dijual for every zip code within big cities area!  If you find this information useful, you’ll be able to subscribe to a free weekly email update.
  • Town hall meetings.   Judging from the email that I get and the questions I’m asked, I know that there’s a lot of confusion among today’s prospective home buyers and home sellers.   Sometimes the simplest way to eliminate confusion is to explain the process and dispel all of the rumors and mis-information.  This Real Estate Android Apps will be scheduling a series of Real Estate Town Hall meetings in Jakarta over the next several weeks.  It will be an opportunity to get your questions answered and walk away with a clear understanding of where the market stands today and where it may be headed.  All of the details about our Town Hall Meetings will be posted to our website as soon as we secure dates and locations for these events.

I founded this application to be a different kind of a real estate apps.  One of the first ways that we can start making a difference is by becoming a source of trusted, accurate market information.  But beyond just providing information, we want to be the place that you know you can always get your questions answered — without worrying that someone is going to abduct you, throw you in their car and force you to look at properties that are for sale!   In other words, it’s more important to me to answer your most pressing housing market questions than it is to plaster our name and face on the bus bench that you drive by each day.  So you won’t find us on any bus benches, but hopefully you’ll find this apps will offer you the kind of housing market information that you can use to plan the next steps in your life.

NEWSPAPERS

newspapers

How it works: Place an advertisement in the classified section for as long as you like; buyers will then get in touch with you directly.

What it costs: An advertisement in Home (two columns wide by 5cm), seen by a potential 3.3m readers, costs 250 USD. Loot, a newspaper dedicated entirely to classified adverts, charges the same for a three-month national listing, appearing in its Jakarta, Bandung and Surabaya editions. A single 6cm x 6cm box in the Jakarta Post will cost you 175.99 USD.

Benefits: You can catch the browser who may not have been consciously searching for property. What to watch out for: Check the newspaper’s circulation figures – and make sure it attracts the right kind of reader.

Success rate: 7/10

BUYING AGENTS

agen

How it works: You approach a local buying agent, who has a list of clients looking for property in the area such as BSD, Bintaro, Kelapa Gading, Pondok Indah, Menteng, Kemang, Jakarta Selatan. If one likes the look of your home, you can arrange a private sale.

What it costs: Nothing; the agent is paid by the buyer. Those looking in this way are mainly high net-worth individuals not interested in anything for less than 650,000 USD.

Success rate: 6/10

In an era where people buy their Christmas presents from eBay, it’s not surprising that buying property at auctions has never been more popular – one in twenty houses now go under the hammer.

properti agen

With no commission paid to an estate agent, no gazumping, no failure to complete, and full payment in 28 days, auctions are a fast way to buy and sell.

But as you might expect, there’s a pretty mixed bag of properties, ranging from repossessions to local authority housing stock to quirky or unique houses that are difficult to value. Some are there for a quick sale because their owner wants to go abroad; others are hoping the buyer will overlook the property’s faults. Amateurs should be wary of placing a hasty bid in the excitement of it all – read why, by clicking here.

Whatever the property, it is essential that you do your homework well and prepare.

Follow these steps:

due-diligince

1. Do your research.

Identify what type of property and area you’re interested in and find out how much houses are worth. Websites such as www.hometrack.co.uk, www.provisor.com and www.mouseprice.co.uk all have house price data; while www.upmystreet.com has area guides.Talk to estate agents about who’s selling what. Talk to locals and find out if there are any problems with the area. Google the address – you might be surprised what comes up. Get on the mailing lists of local auction houses. Go to a couple of auctions and ask experienced bidders for their tips. Get used to the atmosphere.

properti- management

2. Sort your finances:

  • Get a mortgage agreement in principle. Expect to be questioned about your plans – lenders will be worried about their money and usually want to make sure the borrower understands both the auction process and the costs involved.
  • Find out not only how much they’ll lend you but also how fast they can move. You’ll have to hand over 10% of the final price there and then as a deposit and pay the rest within 28 days.
  • Remember to factor in the auctioneers’ fees and stamp duty. (Stamp duty is 1% of the sale price on properties between and £250,000, 3% between £250,001 and £500,000, and 4% on properties worth more than £500,000.)

buyers beware

3. Buyers beware:

You’ll need to get a survey done before you bid, even if you don’t win it. This means you could spend a thousand pounds on a house you’ll never own – it’s the major disadvantage of buying at auction, but don’t even think of skipping this stage.

4. Try getting in first:

The seller may take bids in advance if the property is listed as “unless previously sold” and could well be in a hurry. Alternatively, it’s worth asking the auctioneer if they’ll accept a bid for a property that’s failed to meet its reserve price.

5. Set a bidding limit:

Don’t exceed what you can afford. It’s easy to get carried away in the adrenalin-soaked atmosphere of an auction, and the auctioneer’s job is to get you to spend more than you want to. If you don’t trust yourself, try getting a friend or relative to bid for you.

For further information, see:

  1. www.eigroup.co.uk – the industry standard for information on auctions
  2. www.ukauctionguides.co.uk – a major source of information on auctions and auction houses
  3. www.wheresmyproperty.com – UK property search engine
  4. www.propertyauctionnews.co.uk – members-only newsletter with advice and news
  5. www.rics.org.uk – The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors provides a guide to buying at auction
  6. www.allsop.co.uk – one of the leading auction houses

In an ever-advancing world of content creation, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is downright important. There are 100 million blogs being tracked by Technorati today. Where do you fit into that scheme? It’s an impossible amount of information for anyone to completely process, and it’s expanding every day. It is your responsibility as a blogger, reporter, or company to make your information findable; otherwise, your content will never find an audience and your product will never find customers.

There’s something to be applied on every level, but today we’re breaking it down to what is probably most applicable to you – the software your blog is built on. To that end, you want to choose a software that is going to help you effectively advance those goals. This is, admittedly, not a straightforward process. Like many things in life, this decision is one of trade-offs, between ease of use, search presence, complexity, and customization.

SEO

It should be stressed that the most important element of blog SEO will (hopefully) always be content based. If you don’t create content on a regular basis you’ll be at a disadvantage when it comes to SEO, and most importantly, with your audience base. After all, SEO results are really just metrics and facilitators for the real prize, people finding and exploring you. But beyond that, popular use engines like Google, Yahoo, and even Technorati put a heavy bias on anything that is updated recently and often.

Each of the major blogging sofwares has its advantages and disadvantages when it comes to SEO. We’ll explore two popular options today, WordPress and Blogger. Both are availible for free download, and blogger even provides a freely hosted option, if you can withstand having .blogspot.com appended to the end of your url. WordPress, while not freely hosted, is a relatively easy install (it’s often provided free by third party hosts) and offers a vast library of plug-ins, articles, and social networks that can help you to meet your optimization ends in a straightforward and efficient manner.

seo-forum

One of the biggest advantages of the out-of-the-box solution, and this applies relatively equally to these two programs, is in website structure. Each has been coordinated to provide a site-wide organizational system that that plays well with the search engines, using well designed indexes, headers, and meta tools that not only organize your site, but make it browseable by the engines.

For these features Blogger is particularly attractive if you’re trying to simply get presence on Google, since it is owned and the software is provided by the search company itself. In fact, a Blogger site created in ten minutes will register just as quickly in a google search (of course where it registers in that search involves a little more work), especially after submitting it into the index.

These inherent opimizations can be broken down over the course of editing and redesigning the site, so it’s important to employ a designer who’s familiar with the core tennants of information architecture and web standards, or to make the best of publicly moderated themes.

Once you move beyond the initially provided theme and structure of the site, the differences between these two softwares starts to really grow. WordPress, with its indavidually catered host and more in-depth CRM client, has a lot of potential to be not just a run-of-the-mill blog but a full-on engaging website. For SEO, plug-ins become indespensible. By adding in popular feed tools and community categorizatation features, you can encourage your visitors to help connect you to the rest of the internet; another essential element of SEO. Adding buttons for RSS, Digg, or Technorati submit, as well as advertising trackback and pingback urls, can greatly and quickly enhance your interconnectivity and thereby your web presence.

SEO-Tools

In their free versions, both brands of blog creation software make it easy to get in the game and start writing. Ultimately, WordPress offers a wider range of customization, especially in the host process. Furthermore, the recent advent of the Google Sitemaps plug-in, which generates a Google compliant site map, closes the gap between the two in terms of immediate findability. But while WordPress might allow you the option of plug-ins, tools, and other goodies, it all comes back to link building, interconnectivity, and content creation. So the best element of Blog SEO is never going to be what you download, it’s what you create and who reads it. But of course there will always be a few tactics and tools to get what you wite onto more people’s desktops. And if you’ve done everything you can and still don’t have the audience you’re after, well, that’s what we’re here for.

I did something yesterday that I never really thought I would do: I took out an online ad for my personal blog. Now you have to understand that my blog only gets a few hundred hits a day, and I don’t make any money off of it and probably won’t, ever (I have AdSense, but only show ads to visitors who come from search engines, which nets me $2 or 3 per month). So why did I suddenly decide to try to advertise it?

project-wonderful

Because it sounded fun. You see, R Stevens, author of my favorite webcomic Diesel Sweeties, announced yesterday that he had begun running little ads–117×30 pixels each–through Project Wonderful, a brand new ad network that works on a “perpetual auction” system. You put up a bid for a particular ad block on a particular site and as long as your bid is the highest, you get to keep that ad block. You can choose how long your ad will run and the maximum you’re willing to spend.

The model will be familiar to anyone who’s used eBay: You sign up, fund your account (minimum $5 deposit), upload your ad graphic, and choose your site and ad block. Then you specify your maximum bid, when you would like it to start and when you would like it to end. As long as your maximum bid is greater than everyone else’s maximum bid for that ad block, your ad runs in the space. But you don’t pay your maximum bid, you pay ten cents higher than the next guy’s maximum bid. For example, if the current high bidder’s maximum bid is $0.40 and you put in a maximum bid of $1.00, you’ll be charged $0.50 (ten cents greater than his maximum bid) per day for your ad to run.

You can choose when your ad (and your bidding) will start, when it’ll end, and the maximum you’re willing to spend. If you run out of funds in your account, that’s that–they don’t automatically charge you anything beyond what you put in or what you specify as your maximum spending.

So why is any of this noteworthy? Like I said, it sounded fun, and it is fun, which is more than I can say for most ad networks. I got to run an ad for my own personal blog on my favorite webcomic’s site for, quite literally, pocket change. And I got to create a little ad graphic. Also, the site is well-designed and easy to use. It took me longer to create my 117×30 button (they also do larger sizes for some sites) than it did to set up my account, place a bid, and get my ad up on a site. If you’re the competitive type, it could be a bit dangerous–getting the email that says “you’ve been outbid!” really sparks the competitive spirit, and for some it could be hard to resist dropping $20 into your account and getting into a bidding war. An interesting side effect of the “perpetual auction” is that if even if you get outbid, if the high bidder’s bid expires before yours, you can become the high bidder again without doing anything.

As for advertisers, Project Wonderful was invite-only. Anyone can buy ads, but sites that want to sell ads will have to fish for an invitation. Currently there are more than 5,000 advertisers, range from webcomic to real estate biz, but I suspect the network will grow quickly, as might the prices.