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A white space in real estate internet plays?

We have been planning to meet a friend and his family for almost 3 months now. Over the weekend, we finally managed it.

This friend stays in a place called Bilekahalli, off Bannerughatta Road in Bangalore. I have never been to any of these residential areas developing on either side of Bannerughatta Road. Like the rest of the city, even Bilekahalli has literally scores of apartment complexes coming up.

The talk soon turned to real estate, as it does between most IT professionals these days.But since neither of us are really looking for a real estate investment, it was more a general discussion on the boom than any thing else. And then, a third friend came by, carrying a bunch of glossy brochures of various residential ventures. This guy is actively looking for an apartment to buy, and is totally confused about the choices on offer.

And guess what, there is no one trying to help him make what is probably one of the most important investment decisions he will ever make.

And this is where, I think, lies a 'real' white space. There are almost a dozen or so web sites in the real estate domain. At least three of them claim to be the 'best' or 'largest' among all real estate internet plays in India. ( 99 Acres, Magic Bricks, India Properties and so on).

But all these sites do is to throw up a list of available properties based on your search criteria. And the list of available properties for a generic search in any big city ( Budget around 35 lakh, 2-3 bedroom) runs into hundreds of search results.

We also have the Classifieds in all major newspapers where at least once a week, several pages are devoted for real estate Ads.

Problems for a prospective buyer of these apartments, esp if the buyer is in IT field:

1. He/she does not know which builder to trust. Branded builders are too expensive and there are too many un-branded builders to choose from.
2.All major banks are competing for the home loan space.The buyer receives hardly any genuine advice from a non-interested party. The loan sale is made by an agent, and after the loan is taken, the buyer has to deal with the bank, not with the agent who sold him the loan.
3. Most of the apartment complexes are built in areas that do not (yet) have good roads, and other infrastructural facilities.
4.IT companies have thousands of employees working for them, and yet they do not consider this (real estate investment) as an area where HR should step in and advice people. In fact, the employees do spend most of their time thinking/talking about this aspect of their life.

The web sites are right now in the process of creating databases and getting the sites to work well. They seem to be thriving more on the advertisement revenues.

And so, the white space that I am talking about:

Create a web site aligned to an offline advisors team. Focus on employees of IT, Bio-tech, BPO, Banking and other such domains. Provide personal real estate advice to all the customers for a small fee. Go canvass with HR departments of these companies, and have a desk near the cafeterias during lunch time, where people can come and seek advice.

By doing all this, you will have created 2 kinds of databases - one that of the real estate sellers, and the second that of the real estate buyers. You can charge fees from both sides. Not only that, once you have a trusted customer database of the buyers, you can start selling them other 'goods' as well, and expand the scope of the services.

My bet is that it will take the 99 Acres and other such sites about 6-8 months to start making attempts to look at this white space. Meanwhile, if any of you are interested, you can move in fast primarily through the offline channel and create the database of 'trusted customers'.

Go for it !

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