Provides property listing … with a twist
Aims to sign up 200,000 users over next two years
ALTHOUGH the property portal space seems crowded, Magdelin Tan (pic above) of Prop Community Sdn Bhd believes that there is still space for her and her company to make a difference.
The company, via its PropSocial portal, offers property listings … but with a twist. “If you look at the property portals out there today, they are mostly agent-based ... not so much consumer- or buyer-based,” says Tan, who is also general manager of Prop Community.
“We developed PropSocial with buyers in mind,” she adds. “Today, smart property buyers are not getting much help from property portals. This is one gap that we hope to fill.”
With such a focus, the experience for users will be entirely different. For example, if you want to look for property in Kota Damansara, all you need to do is to type in ‘Kota Damansara’ and you will immediately get a brief description, prepared by PropSocial writers, of the area.
You will know that there are 16 convenience stores, two shopping malls, 11 petrol stations, 28 bank branches, and 12 universities/ schools in the area, for instance.
PropSocial even tells you that the crime rate in Kota Damansara is ‘average.’ A search on ‘Damansara Utama’ reveals that the crime rate there is ‘high.’
“In terms of crime rate data, we will soon put in actual statistics [from the police], but for now, since we do not have this information, we are putting in a generic crime level based on research,” Tan says.
Of course, on top of all this information, the portal also shows users properties that are for sale or rent in the area.
PropSocial also encourages users to contribute reviews on a property or neighbourhood.
“This is because as a buyer, you want to know the truth about the property and not just the ‘nice things’ – for example, if there was any major crime committed on the property before,” says Tan.
“We believe that when home buyers are looking for property, they will also be looking for information related to the neighbourhood, so what we are trying to do is to provide users with all this vital information under one platform,” she adds.
PropSocial competes not only against older players such as iProperty, PropertyGuru and StarProperty, but also relative newcomers such as TheEdgeProperty, DurianProperty, MyProperty, Brickz.my and Estate123, to name just a few.
The regional space is just as crowded. While PropSocial touts its buyer focus, Singapore’s 99.co and Thailand’s FazWaz do the same, as does Malaysia’s own Brickz.my.
While Prop Community the company was established in May last year, the PropSocial portal was operational only last December.
So far, Tan is pleased with progress, claiming some 2,400 registered users on the portal.
“We hope that over the next two years, we can have at least 200,000 registered users on our portal,” she says.
Not a newbie
Although Tan is only in her early 30s, she has some experience driving a property portal startup.
She was previously the general manager of property portal Propwall, which was acquired by The Star Media Group, then known as Star Publications, in 2013. The Star bought Propwall, along with two other online portals, for RM13.5 million (US$3.7 million at current rates).
Not long after the acquisition, Tan left to join PropSocial, a portfolio company of private investment company and incubator IdeaRiverRun (IRR), whose chairman Vincent Lee was deputy executive chairman at The Star from 2011 to early 2014.
[Disclosure: In November 2014, IRR invested US$300,000 in Digital News Asia for a substantial stake. All editorials are independent.]
PropSocial’s services and ambitions to leverage digital technologies to empower people are also in line with the Digital Malaysia programme, which aims to transform the nation into a digital economy by 2020.
One of the three main thrusts of Digital Malaysia is to shift behaviour from being consumption-centric to becoming more production-centric, or to change the consumer mindset so that Malaysian individuals and businesses produce as much as they consume from digital technologies.
Another thrust is to evolve from low knowledge-add to high knowledge-add, or increasing the development of local talent in key industries to become innovators and knowledge workers.
PropSocial’s business model and services fulfil the first thrust to move from consumption to production, where part of its longer-term goal is create new income generation opportunities via new digital business models.
Just as importantly, it allows ‘brick-and-mortar’ businesses to improve their operations through the use of digital technologies – in this case, for property agents to leverage on digital technology to get new business.
Although Tan is confident about PropSocial, she nevertheless concedes that it will take time and a lot of effort to grow the portal.
In terms of effort, she is knocking on the doors of property agencies on a daily basis.
“I try to meet two to three agencies a day. There are usually about 20-30 agents in each agency, so we meet the agency, and talk to the agents to try and convince them to sign up,” she says.
Signing up more agents will help the portal boost its number of property listings, which in turn will give home buyers more options.
Besides going door-to-door, Tan and her team of writers will also be expanding their research to property projects and areas outside the Klang Valley.
“By the end of this year, we hope to be able to expand into Penang and Johor,” says Tan, who is also looking at more marketing activities to help boost the portal’s popularity.
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