The potential for property portals is huge as only half of around 4,000 builders in the country are online now.
While online buying — be it stocks or electronic goods or books — has taken strong roots, Indians are slowly warming up to the idea of accessing online portals in their search for property purchases.
The hold of print media on property advertisements continues to be strong. But a wider reach of property portals, multiple options that the sites offer and the larger number of properties available at the click of a mouse seem to be making them popular choice for property hunters.
Mr Ganesh Vasudevan, Vice President and Business Head, IndiaProperty.com, a property portal, said while print is strong and has its own strength, online too was offering a good value proposition. Among the reasons are that the information is available for a longer period, searches can be filtered by individual requirements, and the advertisers can keep modifying the ads, apart from convenient access to information.
He said his company began operations in 2006 as a property listing search engine and has been adding several new features to the site such as video walk-through, interview with the builders and live chat with customer service professionals.
Customers could access the websites from anywhere in the world which worked to the advantage of online portals when they launched about five years back when the penetration of the Internet was low then.
But there has been a sea change, he says, not only in terms of the content but also quality of information, the interactive nature of the portals and the ease with which someone could navigate them through multiple modes — desktops, mobiles, tablets and even use SMSes.
Mr Vasudevan said the emergence of e-commerce in the recent past was a testimony to the phenomenal growth in the number of people relying on online sources for information. There has been a 35-40 per cent growth quarter-on-quarter in the traffic of real estate portals. In February this year the unique-visitor traffic was 11.6 lakh for IndiaProperty.com.
The number of people searching and putting up queries has also increased. IndiaProperty.com's search volume has gone up much faster than the traffic growth and has more than doubled to about 45 per cent (of the visitors) in the past 18-24 months.
Customers have a wider choice now since buyers can search by area, size, price and can specify amenities they want like the distance from schools, hospitals, etc.
By using additional filters viewers can now narrow down to properties without a spot inspection.
Mr Vasudevan said his company also has relationship managers who help scan the market for properties matching a customer's requirements. The company has just launched a paid service under which the property search manager of IndiaProperty.com does all the searches for the customer for a fee and offers secondary legal advice.
For a fee of Rs 20,000-25,000 a dedicated search manager helps the client clinch a deal. With real estate being a touch-and-feel market in India, the relationship that begins online extends into the offline space with the company providing end-to-end services. His company largely focuses on new properties and is not active in the re-sale segment, but has started looking at it.
He said IndiaProperty.com gets around 10,000 visits everyday, of which about 10 per cent resulted in transaction over a thre-four month period. Of this, 1 per cent constituted people who responded to the search for the property they were interested in.
The rest end up buying some other property in the same area and this happened as the site facilitated exchange of information from various builders. With the pick-up in assisted search, he expects these numbers to go up substantially. Nearly 60 per cent of the Web site traffic was from the top six metros and 30 per cent of the inbound traffic for his company was from NRIs. The company has also launched an SMS integration system.
Explaining the growth of the online property portals, he said online classifieds for real estate was a Rs 120-130 crore business and was growing at 35-40 per cent annually. His own company however was growing by more than 150 per cent. It had positioned itself as a property portal focusing on new launches, offering a range of information.
Already, nearly 800 builders across India are associated with IndiaProperty.com and the Internet has become an essential part of any media plan of builders as it is cost-effective and conversion rate of online search into purchases is high. The potential is huge as only about half of around 4,000 builders in the country are online now.
Mr Vasudevan said the print medium has a lion's share of property advertisements, estimated to be about Rs 5,000 crore. Since they provide neutral information, the online portals are more reliable as they ensure transparency, he said.