Houser.co.uk promotes itself as "the one you didn't see coming". It claims to be "property hunting reinvented". They also have an underlying philosophy of "We don't believe charging real estate agents for listing properties is the right business model. Houser's solution: 5 free years of listings for all your 'for sale' and 'to rent' properties."
These are bold words and while the business is yet to launch, there is enough information on the site to suggest that this is something that we have seen before and something that already exists in the UK market.
Houser.co.uk describes its business model as "[we] will do for real estate in UK what Google has done for search. We will give you access to the largest index of property related pages, leading house hunters directly to the source of listings. Now you can say goodbye to spending hours browsing tens of different sites searching for your ideal home."
The problem with this claim is that there are already numerous vertical search sites in the UK. Mitula, Trovit, and Nestoria come to top of mind. Combined, they already index millions of housing listings in the UK and have millions of visits per month.
A potential point of differentiation is that houser.co.uk will be offering something that the existing UK based vertical search players don't - they will be offering free websites for agents. According to houser.co.uk, "We believe every real estate agent & company should have their own website where they can list their properties and market them. If you don’t have a website, we’ll give you one for free!"
While this sounds great, it is unlikely to have a high take up as their business model is based on sourcing listings from agents and then driving traffic back to the agent's site. These listings have to come from somewhere and are likely to come from the software providers. However, these software providers often also provide agents with their own sites. Therefore, while the offer sounds great, the bottom line is that very few, if any, are likely to take up the offer.
The real question is what is the likely business model for houser.co.uk. For them to reinvent property hunting, they have to survive and cash is oxygen. Unless these are operating as a charity, they will have to monetise the site.
Houser.co.uk clearly states "Charging agents to list their properties is a thing of the past. All property portals in the UK want to charge real estate agents ever increasing fees for listings because these agents have no viable alternatives. Real search engines on the other hand, never charge for organic listings."
Assuming they are taking the lead from the other vertical search sites, they are likely to charge the agents for clicks. The way vertical search operates is that there are a natural volume of clicks a provider of listings will generate. However, if the provider wants to capture an above average number of clicks, the vertical search engine can shape the presentation of listings and the consumer experience to generate an above average number of clicks for the provider that is willing to pay for the clicks.
Houser.co.uk will probably also want to generate revenue from Google AdSense. These are Google Ads that are placed around the listings content.
The real challenge will be how to drive traffic to the site. Mitula, Trovit and Nestoria are already targeting the long tail keywords on Google and generating the majority of their traffic from this strategy. The portals do a great job at the shorter key words and also at buying traffic as they have significant marketing budgets.
While Houser.co.uk has great aspirations and a strong belief in what it wants to do, there is a large gap between words and action.