The Southeast Asian property industry is a sector that is seeing increases in media attention, VC money and affluence among potential homeowners. There are still a lot of problems inherent in the individual markets though and standardisation, accurate information and trust remain barriers for many potential buyers.
This week we spoke to Benjamin Gajkowski (pictured below), founder of recently-launched Vietnamese PropTech company HomeSyte which aims to put more information in the hands of the country's homebuyers...
What is the problem that HomeSyte solves?
HomeSyte wants to bring more transparency into the real estate market. Finding real estate online - that problem has been solved years ago. The two main issues remain: where can I find and compare housing prices and where can I find professional and trustworthy agents? These are the two concrete problems we are trying to solve.
What is HomeSyte’s USP?
We provide housing prices for apartments, houses, townhouses, villas and land in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Danang - the largest cities in Vietnam. The idea is that the home seeker can compare the prices of offers they see against the minimum, average and maximum price and evaluate if any asking price is in line with these prices or if they are potentially overpaying.
Secondly, we rank agents by their level of professionalism. The more professional listings an agent manages, the higher his/her ranking.
What is HomeSyte’s biggest challenge?
We are a new company, barely 3 weeks old. So our focus is currently on introducing our platform and offerings to home seekers and developers, agencies, agents and homeowners.
What is HomeSyte’s business model?
We are a marketplace: Every customer can post their listings for free on HomeSyte or buy a paid offering for higher visibility and a higher number of potential customers contacting them.
Where does HomeSyte get its listings and pricing data from?
We analyze literally thousands of data points in the market. From developers, real estate agencies, freelancer agents and individual homeowners and compile, sort and analyze these data points for our customers and make them easily accessible on our platform.
What is one thing our readers might not know about but would probably find interesting about the property market in Vietnam?
The ratio between primary and secondary market in Vietnam is quite remarkable: it’s about 50/50. The only other country in SEA with a similar ratio is Indonesia. That changes the product offerings for marketplaces in Vietnam significantly.
A long term subscription package is of very little value for customers, who are promoting and selling a new development. A new real estate project is a very targeted, relatively short term marketing initiative. That is why you see very few longer-term subscription offerings on marketplaces in Vietnam as you see in other countries.
Which PropTech companies in the region and elsewhere do you follow closely and why?
We obviously monitor what is happening around us. In general, I am a bit sceptical about digitizing the entire home buying process end to end in the near future. Parts of it, especially the search, discovery and mortgage part of the home buying journey - absolutely! And there are still many other areas that can be digitized.
However, buying property is still and will be for the very large majority in every country the single highest investment one will make in their lifetime if they make it a all. Something you want to see and explore in person before you make the buying decision. That, I believe, will remain an offline business with an online component for quite a while.
What is HomeSyte currently working on?
Up until the platform launch we were working on the functions and tools, now our focus is 100% on performance, performance, performance and getting feedback from our customers.
What is the most common request from clients?
We get asked two things the most. One, do you know a good agent? And second: where can I compare housing prices?
How do you see the market evolving and what will you be doing to be ahead of the curve?
The Vietnamese real estate market will - just like any other market in south-east Asia as well - evolve into a market with a higher secondary market ratio. That’s inevitable. In the mid to long term, the market will be closer to a ratio of 20% primary market and 80% secondary market (like Singapore). And the ratio of digital advertising will increase as well. Currently, the industry spends less than 20% on online advertising.