Ten Questions With Paul Elliott, MD at Propp.io

February 21, 2024
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We've all read plenty of industry news about real estate portals building mortgage businesses but what about mortgage businesses building out portals?

Founded as a price comparison site for specialist property finance in 2018 by a team with a background in mortgage businesses, UK-based Propp recently announced it was building out a portal on top of its core services.

We spoke to the company's Managing Director Paul Elliott (pictured above) to find out how and why...

 

What is the problem that Propp solves?

PE: Propp, the comparison site was built to bring transparency to the specialist property finance space. Previously, if you needed a bridging loan or a commercial mortgage you would need to speak to a range of brokers to get a few rates, and it was difficult to know you were getting the best deal. So, we built a bespoke comparison engine to display rates, costs and fees from across the whole market for users to access for free, without even handing over their precious personal data.

We wanted to put the power back into the hands of borrowers, and bring the specialist finance space out of the pen-and-paper dark ages to serve customers in a way they expect in modern times; with speed, control and transparency.

 

What’s the founding team’s background and how did the idea for Propp come up?

Before Propp, our founders Peter and Ben had successfully grown traditional mortgage brokerages. They had more than 40 years of combined experience in the mortgage sector and were property investors themselves.

The idea for Propp was born when our CEO, Peter, tried to help a friend find a commercial mortgage for their business. He found it impossible to compare the quote his friend had received from their bank, and even when a site claimed to offer such comparisons, they overpromised and underdelivered before embarking on a campaign of harassing sales calls. This sowed the seed for a free comparison site to democratize the data that the murky world of commercial finance seemed so intent on keeping behind a paywall. 

 

What does a customer get from Propp that they wouldn’t get by going through a traditional broker?

Our optimiser. We’ve built a system that sends enquiry details to multiple lenders to get them competing for the client’s business, with the idea that they return a reduced rate or fee. We’ve saved our clients nearly £2m in interest and fees since we launched in 2021.

 

Propp started as a comparison site for specialist real estate investment financing. Why have you built out a specialist portal on top of that?

Our founders are property investors and use various tools to assess deals. So, we wanted to build a place where you could access all of the tools you need in one place.

It all comes back to our mission; we want to become the starting point for every property finance deal in the UK. Propp Portal gives us the opportunity to reach people earlier in their journey, while they’re seeking education or browsing properties; as opposed to coming to us only when they need finance. 

 

The new Propp Portal uses Zoopla’s API to pull in listings. What do both parties get out of that relationship?

Zoopla has created a steady revenue stream by allowing third parties to access their API to build their own platforms for various uses. So Zoopla is benefitting commercially. Whereas for us, browsing properties is the first step in making an investment, so it made sense to bring this in-house and capture people earlier in the funnel.

 

What is Propp’s monetization model and has it changed at all since you set out?

Propp’s current revenue model is built around successful property finance transactions and ancillary product sales such as property insurance. This has been the model since we launched and is the primary growth strategy for the business. However, the idea with Portal is that it opens us up to a range of other routes to monetization such as product placement, advertising and value for money paid for education. 

Next on our agenda is to go after so-called “property influencers” who charge thousands for “get rich quick” courses to aspiring investors. Our breadth of understanding of the market as finance experts and property investors is much more extensive than these influencers, and we’ll be able to offer courses and seminars that offer true value, at a fraction of the cost. 

 

PropTech companies and marketplaces working in the commercial real estate segment tend to get a lot less press coverage and hype. Why do you think that is?

Residential property ownership in the UK is close to a national obsession, but the vast majority of us will never make a commercial investment. Simply put, the general public is just less interested in the commercial space because it doesn’t pertain to them.

 

Are there any innovative companies or models out there that you pay particular attention to or that you think will take off in a big way in the near future?

Something that excites me is in the conveyancing space with Pexa. They revolutionised the Australian conveyancing process by bringing the exchange process online, reducing paperwork and using automation to speed up completion times and looks set to do the same in the UK. It’s advancements in the space on the edge of the property market that will end up having an enormous impact on the way we transact property, and it’s exciting to see businesses investing in modern solutions for a modern world.

 

What is Propp currently working on and what is the most common request from clients?

The beauty of specialist finance is the variation you enjoy day-to-day. We do get lots of standard bridging loans for property investors purchasing at auction, and that’s really our bread and butter. But we get to work on some really interesting cases. One client has just bought a derelict hospital to convert into 36 flats, another has bought the airspace rights of a property to build up, and we recently did the mortgage for an award-winning turkey farm! Never a dull day.

In terms of business development, we’ve already started Phase 2 of the portal development, which will include an education section, investment modelling software and a few other tools that investors need to grow their portfolios.

 

How do you see the market evolving and what will you be doing to be ahead of the curve?

The market is moving towards more regulation, which is hugely positive. It will squeeze out standard brokers who advise on bridging without knowing a thing about the market and protect customers from getting ripped off. 

We’re also starting to see lenders finally embrace digital transformation in a space that has really lagged behind the retail market for many years. Lenders investing in API integrations is the sort of advancements that will drive the market forward and fit perfectly with our model.

We’ll stay ahead of the curve by continuing to build upon the tech that currently sets us miles apart from the rest of the broker market. We’re always building new solutions to the problems our customers face, and we’re confident that will keep us at the forefront.

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February 21, 2024
Since March 2020 Edmund's job has been to read about, write about, collect data on, analyse and generally know about real estate marketplaces and the companies that run them. Before that he worked at the aggregator Mitula Group (which became Lifull Connect) for five years.

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