Summer finally arrived, the transport system (as always) went into meltdown, everyone complained that it was too hot and the sun went away again. It might come back, but it might not – who really knows with the British weather?
Come rain or shine, though, the property industry ploughs on regardless. Later in this blog I have an exclusive Q & A interview with Shameem Golamy, Managing Director of Properstar.
Firstly, though, I need to give a shout out to Dataloft – the innovative property market analysis company that I mentioned in a previous Natter – for winning the “Newcomer – Best #PropTech 2016” award from Estate Agent UK Networking.
Their very cool “Inform” product, an affordable and revolutionary online subscription tool that aims to give businesses a head start over their rivals, is explained very well on their website.
Also need to give a shout out to, ahem, ourselves, as ValPal took the prize for The Most Innovative Product/Service 2016. Hurrah for us!
Speaking of ValPal, our operation has really expanded in the last few weeks with the addition of around ten new staff.
I might have mentioned it before, but it's the best tool around to capture the details of landlords and vendors visiting your site, in turn upping your property stock levels each and every month. Check out the website for more info.
Now for the interview with Sham. First, a bit of background. Properstar launched in the UK in March this year, although the brand's parent company in Switzerland has been operating since 2010. Sham used to work for Rightmove's international team and was a property investor in the Noughties, but has now branched out into co-founding his own portal.
What is Properstar?
Properstar helps UK estate agents cross the chasm from local to global in respect of advertising their properties. Using the technology built by our parent company, ListGlobally, we are able to send UK listings, correctly translated, to around 80 (soon to be 120+) property portals around the globe.
The UK has always been appealing to the overseas buyer/investor because of cultural and economic factors; and whilst the current exchange rate has provided the trigger for some to take action now, UK bricks and mortar will always continue to be seen as a safe bet for the overseas buyer. Vendors, certainly the high end ones, now desire their home should be marketed to the foreign buyer as well as the UK ones.
How do you connect with so many portals?
We have a super experienced team in ListGlobally’s Swiss and Russian offices who take care of getting the listings sent around the world. It has taken years to perfect the art of integrating with a foreign portal so that the listings get displayed in a way that makes sense to the local buyer.
In the UK we search by bedrooms but everywhere else the square footage is the most important search criteria. Each portal is different so we take the time to make sure we understand the local market. Often someone in our team will visit the country to meet the portals and to get first-hand experience of buyer buyers behaviour on and offline.
What challenges do you face with language or how properties need to be presented in different cultures?
In Arabic they read right to left and in Russia the alphabet takes letters from the Cyrillic script which means you won’t find any of the letters on your keyboard! The product which makes everything possible is our in-house translation engine that has been developed to recognise property concepts.
For instance, if your listing talks about having planning permission for a swimming pool, our engine can recognise the concept of ‘planning permission’ allowing a true property translation to be created. Many of the agents we work with are already well versed in dealing with international buyers and they create their listings with the foreign buyer in mind, often highlighting local international schools or other important factors when moving abroad.
How big is the audience and how do you plan to grow it?
Right now there are over 50 million monthly visits to our global network. In the portal industry we talk a lot about the ‘virtuous circle’ which means the more properties we advertise, the more viewers we get. And the more viewers we get, the more agents are interested to advertise their properties.
We are certainly seeing improved levels of engagement on the network for UK property since launching Properstar and we are excited to see how that grows in the future. We have also been working extremely hard on our global SEO strategy so that when you visit a foreign search engine, be it Yandex in Russia or Baidu in China, and browse for ‘property to buy in London/Birmingham/Manchester etc’ you will be presented with a number of options to search on including portals we feed, power or own outright.
Why should a global reach be important to estate agents?
From a technical standpoint, sending over your existing property feed for us to process and publish around the world couldn’t be easier. A lot of agents feel there is an unexplored opportunity with international buyers but till now it has been expensive and time consuming to make happen. In the wake of Brexit, vendors want reassurance that their agents can reach the international market.
Interesting and insightful answers there. Thanks, Sham.
Once again, a company showing that innovation, technology and the germ of a good idea can bring with it great rewards.
Until next time...
*Nat Daniels is the Chief Executive Officer of Angels Media, publishers of Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today