Italian real estate platform WikiCasa is launching a new, improved website with a better search function, SEO and aesthetics, and plans a capital raising in the next few months on the back of substantial growth.
Founder Pietro Pellizzari (Pictured left) says in the past three months the WikiCasa platform, which incorporates his original WikiRe listing service, has increased its user base of realtors by 63 per cent to 4,240 agencies.
“Our properties have also grown by 83 per cent reaching to 206,000. Of these more than 17,000 properties were listed in the MLS,” says Pellizzari, who is COO of WikiRe srl.
“As far as traffic growth we have experienced in the past three months, monthly site visits have grown by 67.9 per cent reaching 415,000.
Pellizzari launched WikiCasa in July, 2015 shortly after WikiRe MLS, a free multiple listing service (MLS) he says “has a social side” allowing realtor users to collaborate if they choose.
Meanwhile, WikiCasa.it aimed to allow real estate agents to publish properties at a relatively cheaper price than competitors. While the websites are separate, the service is connected.
“There are regular automatic matches between client requests and properties in the portfolio and the MLS,” Pellizzari explains. “This renders the whole process instantaneous and simple.”
According to Pellizzari, the recent economic crisis has the transformed the Italian real estate market, placing property portals at its center. As a result, he says real estate agents have lost ground with many facing declining revenues.
“This phenomenon has been worsened by the fact that the property portals in Italy allow privates to post their houses for free while they charge ever increasing prices to realtors,” Pellizzari adds.
He says there was a real a need for a property portal site to support realtors professionally, by helping them to innovate and advance their services.
The combined Wikire multi listing service and WikiCasa property portal achieves just that. And Pellizzari says it is the only one of its kind in Italy.
“WikiCasa not only offers advantageous services to realtors but it also assures a higher quality service to the final users,” he asserts.
“In fact WikiCasa is the only one within the Italian market that requires realtors to post pictures, price and description, to ensure a higher quality with respect to its competitors. Soon other information will become obligatory to further improve listings’ quality.
“Also as a unique service, WikiCasa automatically matches every request sent from the portal to a given realtor with potential properties present in the MLS. This provides a better chance for the realtor to find a perfect house for his/her client.”
Pellizzari makes no bones of the fact that within two years time he expects WikiCasa to be among the top three property portals in terms of visits and number one in terms of quality properties listed.
“All this will be possible through our unique value proposition. First, once the realtors understand that WikiCasa is the only property portal that really represents them, they will start moving their properties to our website.
“The more we grow in numbers, the more attractive we become to the final client. The marketing effort will ensure that soon WikiCasa will become synonymous with quality and professionalism.”
“We would like to turn stakeholders in the real estate business such as estate agents, franchising networks, category associations into shareholders in our project as a whole,” Pellizzari enthuses.
“We think that content is the king and we believe that once professional real estate agents understand their importance in generating value for property portals, they will start investing more and more on WikiCasa.
“At that point WikiCasa will become the first property portal in our country.”
At launch in march 2015, Wikire was financed by various investors such as Gabetti Group, which controls three of Italy’s main estates agencies networks; Gabetti, Professionecasa and Grimaldi.
It also received funding from Antlia and one of the most important accelerators in Italy, Digital Magics. In September 2015, Re/Max joined the project.
Pellizzari says the company has the endorsement of the FIMAA, the major category association of estate agents in Italy.
“We plan to raise capital in the next months,” he reveals.
At this stage, he says various industrial players and angel investors have declared interest in WikiRe. The new capital raised will be invested in marketing and IT.
“The IT investment will include various site improvements, app creation and maintenance. We will also put funds towards marketing throughout Itlay with a focus on establishing the WikiCasa brand.
“A second step of capital raising will be to open also to retail investors, especially estate agents, through an equity crowd funding campaign,” Pellizzari says.