BENGALURU: Realty websites firms are making a daunting leap into e-commerce. Housing.com and Snapdeal, both backed by Japan's Softbank, are building technology and teams to sell new properties online to tap India's billion-dollar real estate market.
To instill customer trust in a high-risk market, the companies banking on wealth of data, offline partners and brand recognition. "Selling houses online isn't an easy problem to solve," said Advitiya Sharma, cofounder Housing.com. "It was because of the lack of a focused realty technology product that selling real estate online hadn't picked up."
The Mumbai-based company sold 115 apartments online for Tata Value Homes, generating gross merchandise value of at least Rs 50 crore over five days. The website also launched a technology called 'Slice View' that allows users to go through each floor of a building project; hovering over a particular flat shows availability and built-up area.
For this year, Housing.com already has 500 builder campaigns in the pipeline.
Snapdeal, too, has aggressive plans to sell new projects on its website. The marketplace was the first to sell Tata Value Home projects online, in September.
"We are going very deep into the real estate category," said Amit Maheshwari, vice-president at Snapdeal, which sells mobile phones to clothes and jewellery. Some experts argue selling real estate is a different ball game
"Real estate transactions should be handled by the growing number of online real estate sites. The nature of consumer products and real estate is different and do not match with Snapdeal's core competence," said Sunil Wattal, who teaches management information systems at Temple University in the US.
Maheshwari, however, said the differentiator for Snapdeal is its scale. "We bring much more visibility and customer footfall to developers.
That translates into economies of scale and we pass over benefits to our customers." Ashish Gupta, co-founder of Helion Venture Partners and a member on Housing.com's board, said Housing takes on some of a broker's responsibility, which is good because most people do not trust brokers and technology can help break that.
However, not all realty websites are rushing to sell online. "We empower customers with expert locality insights and an exhaustive listings of properties," said CommonFloor.com cofounder Sumit Jain.