How does the real estate market respond to the online business model?
We had a chance to talk to Milan Todorović, a CEO of City Expert about significant changes in the world of real estate. We discussed the digitalization of business, online agents, and tried to find out what do users think about the new online business model.
1. In 2018 City Expert became the first online real estate agency in Serbia. What were the results?
Since we started the company, we knew that City Expert had an important task ahead. We wanted to digitalize the real estate market. The first thing we did is introduced the best property presentations in this part of Europe. Media presentations make it easier for buyers and tenants to find properties that match their criteria, thereby they directly help save time for both users and property owners.
What was still missing in that process was an innovative way to book property viewings and a new way to organize the communication between interested parties. We soon realized that when it comes to booking property viewings and physically inspecting the property, the agent present at the viewing is only an obstacle. Instead of communicating via a third party, i.e., the agent, we found that direct communication works the best. City Expert found a way to overcome that issue and to simplify the entire process of renting and selling properties.
2. How does renting and buying properties now actually look like?
We created a system where user books property viewings online, on our website, directly with the property owner with just a few clicks. Besides, agents are not present at the viewings anymore because users can see how the property looks like even before going to the actual viewing. Once they come to see the property, they will only confirm what they saw online in City Expert's media presentation.
On top of that, agents are now more available than ever. Users can always reach them via phone or email. They can assist every user anytime during the day, which they absolutely couldn't while they worked in the field.
So, agents monitor the system and take care of the entire process from the beginning until the end. They are always ready to jump in and assist both sides, if and when they need help. Agents collaborate with our legal team and share their experience and practical knowledge from the real estate market. They also play a great role in finalizing the transactions of successful sale or lease of the properties.
3. What was the biggest benefit of the model change?
The switch improved communication between users and property owners. Since the agent is not present at the viewing, there are no more misinterpreted information and indirect communication. Everyone feels more comfortable than before. Also, agents are now more available than ever, and they are ready to answer all questions, to give advice and to prepare all documentation. Switching to the online model brought more comfort and relaxation for everyone involved.
The most important benefit of the new model is that on top of being free for buyers and tenants, we now offer 25% lower commission comparing to other agencies.
4. How to tenants, buyers and property owners respond to the new business model?
We were quite surprised! We thought that switching to an online business model will be followed by a drop in all metrics, but we actually had a significant increase of 15% more completed transactions in comparison with the previous model. Of course, there are still some users who find the new technologies challenging, but our support team is always ready to jump in and help.
When it comes to property viewings 52% of viewings are completed via City Expert. The rest of 48% is done via phone, which we enable through automated contact exchange on our platform. We are beyond happy that the number of suggested terms for property viewings accepted via City Expert only keeps growing. We have the entire expert team that works on optimizing the service, tracking, and analyzing user behavior at every step of the process. Their responsibility is to define the process and to simplify the entire platform to help users reach their goal.
5. Would you like to say something to your users?
We are more available than other agencies and other portals because we have a detailed presentation of every property and because we have a customer support center available during the day. This business model enabled us to keep the same quality of service and even helped us to improve our service and to offer property owners the lowest commission on the market.
There is a whole expert team behind City Expert that controls every process and takes care of the safety. Our agents check the legal status of every property before we publish it online. This is something we take very seriously, and we can guarantee that every information we publish about our properties is true.
Keep following City Expert because there's always something tasty cooking in our prop-tech kitchen.