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.
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.