New app will let both agents and private owners list properties to gauge interest

A business which allows agents and home owners to create a profile for a property and list it off-market says that it is helping agents pick up instructions.

Houso is a new app, developed by Ben Johnston, with the message: “Sell your home with or without an estate agent.”

It can be used by both owners and estate agents, and the property can be listed on- or off-market.

If listed off-market, the property appears with a location, but the profile and picture is redacted, and a potential buyer would need to be a subscriber (at £2.79 per month).

Johnston said that the principle is that sellers can get pre-market exposure, and establish likely interest in the property.

Individuals are able to list their homes free, while Johnston is looking to work with independent agents that can see the lead generation opportunities.

Initially, this is free, but Johnston plans to charge £50 a month if the concept proves attractive.

Johnston says he is not planning to work with online agents, as Houso’s own self-sale route could be more attractive to those concerned with pricing.

The app’s features include messaging and viewings management, and the ability to make and receive offers.

Johnston said that the app has been in “gentle testing” in Salisbury, Bath and London.

Johnston says that one agent – Whites, in Salisbury – has picked up four listings in four weeks, and finds that the app gives the ability to line up a list of potential buyers without a full marketing campaign.

Johnston said: “I am fully accepting that there will be a large percentage of agents that will not want to support anything whereby For Sale by Owner becomes possible.”

However, he said that Facebook Marketplace will make this a real mainstream possibility in any case.

Johnston told EYE: “We are starting with the approach of trying to work with local independent agents – not going after the sell your home yourself approach, and it is an exceptionally fine line.

“I genuinely believe in what estate agents do, but the simple fact is that there are people out there who are concerned with price point and their current route to market is a low cost, low service upfront model.”

 

 

www.houso.co.uk

 

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14 Comments

  1. Property Pundit

    We are starting with the approach of trying to work with local independent agents – not going after the sell your home yourself approach, and it is an exceptionally fine line.’

    Changing the copy on your lead image would be a great start!

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  2. Woodentop

    This is the thin end of the wedge  …….. the end of the web portals?

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    1. Houso

      Woodentop do you see that as good or bad – nervous to ask to be honest. 

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      1. Woodentop

        As you asked here is my reply to another post on Eye today. Agents will take control before portals do, which is what has happened in the past. App developers are in the thousands and not one is going to be able to control the market costs. The winner will be the one who isn’t greedy and delivers the right software.  
         
        You are right Robert. Web portals like RM fitted into the scheme of things when internet property was in its infancy. It is old hat and milked agents who jumped in with the new thing like lemmings. In the last 5 years we have seen Android and IOS is the new revolution, everywhere you go someone has their head buried in it. Smart phones have replaced PC for the general public, the customer and that is the future for the time being. Google had a stab at property in the early days and was a flop because the consumer available technology wasn’t mainstream but it is now and I said some years ago that as soon as someone comes out with an App that links to social media and the likes of Google that will be the end of property web portals which are passive marketing and had their day.  
         
        The future is Android and IOS with a simple App for agents to load their properties onto Social Media and Google. Just depends on how greedy the provider wants to be. Yesterday SpicerHaart announced a new director and it wouldn’t at all surprise me if we see the resurrection of ‘iSold’.  
         
        The distant future, agents will be offering 3D tours. That technology has jumped from its early poor quality, to some very clever stuff and when the conveyancers/Land Registry/Local Authority searches come on line from the “protective attitude” (the technology has been here for years, but self-interest is blocking it), agents and consumers will be able to receive real-time information at the push of the button.

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        1. Houso

          Hi Woodentop,

           

          many thanks, I noticed your post on the other article about portals.

          Houso is pure Apple and Android for the consumer with a full CMS system for the agents, with full BLM upload capabilities should an agent so wish.

          We can take full virtual tours, and have more technology than any other provider out there.  There are many offerings out there in terms of tech, and all we are doing is throwing ours into the mix.  I believe Houso has the technology that modern consumers will want, and rather than there be resistance to it, if agents embraced it, our app is essentially their app.

          Our revenue comes from buyers who will pay £2.79 to see pre market homes, and I believe there is a vast amount of people who would be interested in testing the market for their home.

          Have you managed to download it yet, please do as I would love to hear your thoughts once you have seen it working, search in Salisbury if you do.

          As I said our offering is free to establish interest circa 3 months and then we will look for £50 a month, hardly a kings ransom considering one active agent in Salisbury has secured 4 listings in 4 weeks.

           

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          1. Woodentop

            Our revenue comes from buyers who will pay £2.79 to see pre market homes, and I believe there is a vast amount of people who would be interested in testing the market for their home.

             

            Not going to happen in my opinion. Wish you luck on that one, while they can do it for free now. Consumers want everything for free and so many will trawl the property web sites not knowing what they want or is available and will look at this as being one big bill out of their pocket. Case in point, the big portals claim millions of hits a month (always questionable considering the number of properties for sale never match the so called hits) and consumer have the encouragement to browse as and when it pleases for free.

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  3. Houso

    Hi PP.  I have been following both EA today and PIE for the past couple of years watching the comments and articles and I have been absolutely terrified about appearing in these forums.

    I have never been an agent, but I have been a resi developer for 14 years, and have sold every home we have built and I deal with all land appraisals etc.  All sales have been conducted through local independent agents in Salisbury and I have been working with some of them on this concept since inception.  I meet with potential purchasers at the viewing stages, and I work with them all the way through to completion and beyond, so I do have a small understanding of some of the pain points that go with a transaction.

    One of the most common comments I receive is “I wish I had known about this house sooner.”  It is to this vain that we are trying a different approach.  The majority of second steppers and downsizers (our market) need to sell their home before they can move to their next.  How many times have agents on this forum undertaken a viewing with someone that hasn’t even listed their property yet? how many times have people made offers on homes before they are ready? How many times have sales fallen through because a chain falters due to a knee jerked rushed approach? How many times have you undertaken a valuation and not secured the contract because the potential vendor hasn’t found the right home to move too?  How many times has someone said if you find the right buyer show them ours, but with no signed contract you can’t.

    What isn’t mentioned within the article are some of the features that agents will benefit from.

    1. An overview of a purchasers history within the app – Location, Visited homes, active properties, offers made, offers received.

    2. Feedback once a viewing has been undertaken only visible to agents/owner.  Price, Location, size/layout and condition – how many agents are even dignified with a response when trying to collate feedback – RM has made the home moving process so desensitised and voyeuristic that often potential purchasers don’t even bother dignifying the agent with answering the phone.  With Houso they have no choice.

    3. Profile redaction – if a sale happens through Houso then the profile of the buyer/seller is redacted so that no further contact can be made to other parties. I.e no viewing requests on other properties and should the chain falter then the offending party can be graded and this will forever show up on their log – do it lots of times then I am hopeful that people wouldn’t even take the meeting with them in the first place.  It’s our way of trying to get some form of honour back into the process and not allowing gazumping and gazundering.

    4. HomeVault a full document storage facility for everything that goes with your home TA8/10 PIQ, Building regs, NHBC right the way to the warranties in the draw snap a pic load it into home vault and send it to the solicitor which can then be passed to the new owner and beyond, make changes, just update the folder.

    I strongly believe that there is a large market of UK households who are interested in moving but are yet to be inspired enough by the current stock on the market.  I also believe that RM et al can not continue to generate 78% gross margin on circa £290m simply by charging agents more.  Due to the decreasing number of agency branches the price rises of 10% pa will not be sufficient to maintain that level of profitability.  Therefore their MO needs to change, either charge agents even more, or indeed look at different operating models.

     

    I would much rather be upfront and honest and say that we are looking to create a mass market low cost avenue for all people and agents, whatever their circumstances.  Yes there might be interest from FSBO but is this market as large as the second steppers and downsizers that are ripe for representation on this platform by an agent.  An agent gets all contact from buyers, there is no restricted data and an agent represents their clients on Houso at their required fee level.  Furthermore are the FSBO market ever likely to go to a traditional agency or are they more likely to go to facebook market place or indeed an online provider, as such what market are we actually removing from the agents pipeline. Agents that join us are essentially having their own piece of technology with their logo on it built by us.  We do not need all agents, we would love all agents, but if one or two in a locality choose to work with us then potentially they might gain a competitive advantage in their area, the tech is also perfect for the first time buyer market demographics.

    With Brexit, SDLT, Political uncertainty looming, transactional volume is down, chains falter and break.  I believe a large percentage of this is because the purchasers or vendors are never actually fully committed to their decision as the houses isn’t perfect, its just available.

    With Houso you can collate a list of buyers that are interested in a home, so whether people want to move in 2 months, 2 year for 10 years, if you as an agent are representing them with a signed contract, what does it matter how long it takes to sell, there is none of this its been on the market since, or the price has been reduced by Y if you alter the price it just enters into a different buyers category.  Yes some or most of the interested parties might have fallen by the wayside, but with a continually updated list of potential buyers it might give us the confidence to look more in Ernest.

     

    If you would be kind enough to download it and use it and give me constructive criticism I would be most grateful, I am selling a House on Tidworth Road, Porton which would enable you to test the functionality if you would be interested.

    I am fully aware of the sentiment towards prop tech companies, believe me I do not see myself as one of those.  I have rolled the dice, paid for it myself fully aware that it is probably going to be a massive flop.  But I would have regretted not trying more than I would trying and failing.

    Ben

     

     

     

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    1. bridget

      Please change your last line! – you are probably only trying to be cautious in case you get a big back lash from everyone, (to be fair if it goes the way of all the rest it probably will be a flop!) but if you, who have invested all your time and energy into it, think its probably going to be a big flop then it certainly will be!  – at least the others have tried bigging their products up!  Even Eddie the Eagle believed he could ski jump!

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      1. Houso

        Hi Bridget, 
        Thanks for your comment – it’s definitley a fair point, and Ill change my approach! 
        I learnt to build houses out of a B&Q book 450 miles from home and family because it was the only place I could afford. Now we are one of the areas best homebuilders.  But this is new territory, I back the concept and I back myself but I would much rather be humble and try to learn and adapt than I would come shouting from the rooftops, especially when I am not from within the industry and you guys are sick and tired of people shouting from the roof tops.  I absolutely 100% back the concept, tech and my commitment but I also have seen so many negative comments towards people that I would rather just be honest and start from the bottom again and see how it goes.  Belive me my commitment is is stong, and I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t beleive I could make it work. 

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    2. Glasgow Andy

      Assuming this would only work in England and Wales as the Scottish selling system is very different.

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      1. Houso

        Hi Andy, 
         
        Im not sure, do you use any portals to advertise your listings? if so we are different mechanisation to that.  I started in Scotland but been a while, but I can’t see why you couldn’t list with us.  My email is ben@houso.co.uk if your interested in further information. 

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  4. Mike Drew

    Great idea, get local business to help launch your business, and then aim to destroy them by getting their clients to list direct with you

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  5. TOZ4

    I’d stick to building mate.

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  6. Tony Williams

    I am on houso and although small numbers, we are picking up business. I have just arranged our first sale on a property that the client listed herself on houso, but didn’t sell and so came to us as the most active agents on the site. That has paid for and made me a good profit on everything I’ve done with houso so far, so I am delighted! I wonder how many have read about houso, been curious and really investigated further. If you really stop to think about it, what do we estate agents want? INSTRUCTIONS. Everyone seems very stuck on the fact that private sellers can cut out the estate agent, which they have always been able to do anyway. When I started we used to go through newspaper ads to find potential vendors and this is no different. If sellers want to have a go themselves, let them, they would probably use internet agents anyway, and if it doesn’t work, then they’ll need to call the professionals in. And I am waiting for them. Meantime I am also picking up instructions from vendors who don’t want to fully list on rightmove or alert their neighbour to a sale (we used to bottom drawer them ) as I conduct an “off market” campaign on houso, which actually gives me a list of buyers who have houses to sell! I can’t see any downside and would really like more agents to pick houso up, just trial it, so that we have alternatives to the big sites. It really does work for us, nothing dramatic but a nice trickle of extra properties to sell, not necessarily today, but next year probably. I’ve been in agency for 41 years and I really like having something else to talk to potential clients about that I truly believe is an alternative to everything else we do.

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