A so­cial net­work that gives home sales a facelift

Mark Zucker­berg brought us Face­book and now a York­shire en­tre­pre­neur is har­ness­ing so­cial net­work­ing to sell prop­erty. Sharon Dale re­ports.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

HOUSE hunt­ing on the in­ter­net has rev­o­lu­tionised the es­tate agency busi­ness but prop­erty por­tals have their lim­i­ta­tions.

Right­move and Zoopla can’t open your eyes to new pos­si­bil­i­ties. They only show you what you think you want, when your dream home may well be in a dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tion and one you would never think of en­ter­ing into a search box.

The other con­straint is that a por­tal can’t tell you ev­ery­thing you need to know about an area, which is why prop­erty lawyer So­hail Rashid has come up with a Mark Zucker­berg-style so­lu­tion.

Us­ing Zucker­berg’s Face­book he has teamed the so­cial net­work with on­line prop­erty searches to give buy­ers the best chance of find­ing the right home.

Prop­erty Net­work, he be­lieves, will en­able buy­ers to find a place to suit their life­styles and will al­low them to in­ter­act with lo­cal res­i­dents be­fore they de­cide whether they want to move to the area.

So when you type your pre­ferred lo­ca­tion into the Prop­erty Net­work web­site or app, it will throw up the homes for sale there along with the area’s Com­mu­nity Page on Face­book

You will then will be able to ask lo­cals about ev­ery­thing from crime rates and noise nui­sance to where the best schools, parks, shops and restau­rants are.

You can also share your searches with friends and rel­a­tives on so they can give their opin­ion.

“We are set­ting up Prop­erty Net­work Com­mu­nity Pages on Face­book for dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions and they will pro­vide in­for­ma­tion on the de­mo­graphic and per­son­al­ity of an area, the aver­age age-range, fam­ily sta­tus, fam­ily size, job sec­tor and even mu­sic taste. You can then dis­cuss ed­u­ca­tion, crime, restau­rants, bars and shop­ping with lo­cal Face­book users . It is rev­o­lu­tion­ary and es­pe­cially use­ful if you are re­lo­cat­ing.

“We give you ev­ery­thing prop­erty por­tals do and a lot more, which is why we think this is next-gen­er­a­tion prop­erty search­ing,” says So­hail, who came up with the idea three years ago when he was work­ing as a prop­erty lawyer for Lan­g­leys in Leeds. His main re­mit there was busi­ness de­vel­op­ment and mar­ket­ing us­ing his IT skills to de­velop leads through so­cial net­work­ing sites .

“That’s when I re­alised there was an op­por­tu­nity to cre­ate a por­tal and app that linked prop­erty searches with so­cial net­work­ing,” he says.

“I’m also look­ing at giv­ing the seller space to de­scribe their own home and the area in the list­ing as it adds a more per­sonal el­e­ment.”

The suc­cess of the op­er­a­tion, which launches this month, de­pends on es­tate agents sign­ing up to the £50 a month deal that al­lows them to list all their homes on Pop­erty Net­work, and on the pub­lic’s will­ing­ness to be more in­ter­ac­tive.

The early signs are pos­i­tive. Over 7,500 agents have al­ready signed up en­ticed by a spin off ben­e­fit.

“We will be com­pil­ing search in­for­ma­tion along with the so­cial me­dia data we ob­tain through our users to give es­tate agents an in­cred­i­bly de­tailed de­mo­graphic of the peo­ple in their ar­eas.

“We will be able to sin­gle out the pre­dom­i­nant re­la­tion­ship sta­tuses, work sec­tors and cul­tural sim­i­lar­i­ties of peo­ple who live there and, more im­por­tantly, of the peo­ple who want to live in the area,” he says.

With a head of­fice in Leeds, the busi­ness al­ready has 30 staff and aims to in­crease that to 50 by the end of the year.

The am­bi­tion is for Prop­erty Net­work to ri­val the prop­erty por­tal big play­ers.

De­spite the re­ces­sion, So­hail has man­aged to raise in­vest­ment to ex­pand and Yuseph Hedar, ex-Chief Of­fi­cer of Green Flag, has been brought in to help grow the busi­ness.

Mr Hedar says: “We are proud to be a York­shire com­pany and I felt it was im­por­tant to have a strong pres­ence in Leeds city cen­tre.

“In 2010 we only had one em­ployee and for us to have come this far this quickly is ev­i­dence of what a great idea Prop­erty Net­work is.”

There has been a lot of mar­ket re­search and, as a re­sult, So­hail changed his ini­tial plans.

“At first I thought of cre­at­ing an on­line es­tate agency where peo­ple could mar­ket their own properties for sale,” he says.

He quickly ditched the idea af­ter real­is­ing that most buy­ers don’t trust sell­ers who mar­ket their own properties and most sell­ers don’t want to deal di­rect with prospec­tive buy­ers.

“Peo­ple still value tra­di­tional es­tate agency. They value the agent’s in­put in the ne­go­ti­at­ing process and they like hav­ing some­one to hold their hand through what is a very stress­ful process.”

The plan he has pro­gressed is far more in­ter­est­ing.

“We’ve spent a size­able amount of money de­vel­op­ing the app and in­te­grat­ing it with Face­book and we have ev­ery faith in it,” he says.

“Prop­erty Net­work, is set to com­pete with Right­move and Zoopla and we think it will be suc­cess­ful be­cause they are one di­men­sional. Our USP is the so­cial net­work­ing and that is still a growth area.”

VIC­TO­RIAN STYLE: Glen­head is a su­perb ex­am­ple of arts and crafts ar­chi­tec­ture and the crafts­man­ship and at­ten­tion to de­tail is out­stand­ing. The prop­erty has five bed­rooms, two bath­rooms and sits in a quiet spot

HOME PAGE: So­hail Rashid, who hopes to ri­val the big prop­erty por­tals with his Prop­erty Net­work.

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