G Anand, a resident of Andheri, in Mumbai, recently found himself in the unenviable position of having to shift out of his rented house.

Other than the expenses involved in finding a new house, packing and transporting his possessions, Anand was worried about the broker’s fee that he would have to incur, which is generally equivalent to one month’s rent.

Having moved three times in the last 33 months to avoid a 10 per cent hike in rent when his lease expired — and each time to a new flat where the rent was ₹25,000 — his outgo on broker expense effectively increased his rental cost by over ₹2,000 every month.

But there’s a way out of this never-ending struggle with brokers and their demands, thanks to the mushrooming number of websites that help people find flats for rent, or tenants for properties, without brokerage fees. These are websites that host broker-free platforms.

Free of cost

“The biggest problem in the real estate industry now is inaccurate data with thousands of fake properties being listed on websites. At the root of this problem are brokers who have been given unrestricted access to online platforms that are becoming the preferred medium for house-hunting, especially by the youth,” says Pankhuri Shrivastava, co-founder and CMO of Grabhouse.com , a website that aims to solve this problem through technology and by building a 100 per cent broker-free platform.

Then there are websites such as NoBroker.in, Flatswithoutbroker.com and Eezyrent.com . “ NoBroker.in has been set up to help tenants and owners interact directly without any middlemen. There are lots of people who do not need the services of the brokers, and we are providing a platform for them,” says CEO Amit Kumar Agarwal.

And Eezyrent makes no secret that the website was started when one of its founders had difficulty finding a place to live.

Using these websites is very simple. Search by the desired area, make a shortlist of attractive residences and directly get in touch with their owners.

A similar procedure is followed on Eezyrent’s website, which even allows users to filter results on whether non-vegetarians are welcome at a specific accommodation and whether it is situated close to a train station. Not just homes, paying guest accommodations are also available.

But note that the Eezyrent website is presently in beta-testing and there’s no guarantee they won’t charge a fee for use of the service or launch a value-added service offerings once it is fully functional.

But Agarwal underlines that his company does not charge anything for the service yet and indicates that the immediate plan is to scale up the website to provide services across all major cities within the next one year.

The immensely popular “Flats without Brokers” group on Facebook spawned a website as well, Flatswithoutbroker.com , which similarly helps link up tenants and landlords without the cost of going through a broker.

The website is minimalist in design, similar to a bulletin board, where house-seekers and landlords list their offerings. And unlike the Facebook group, the website caters to properties in cities other than Mumbai as well.

Pay for service

While most of these websites are free, a few do charge a fee such as RentBHK.com , though it will still be cheaper than going through a broker.

Grabhouse.com works on both a free and paid-for model. Grabhouse.com has 70,738 properties across Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune and Hyderabad listed on its websites for prospective tenants. The site allows users to browse through properties for free. If you want to contact a landlord, you have to register on the site (again, for free). But you are only entitled to one free contact number.

If you want more, you have two options. The first is to paste an advertisement of the company on one of your social networks such as Facebook or Twitter, in return for which you are promised two to five more rental options and the contact numbers of three more landlords.

Then, there’s the company’s “Privileged Services” plan for ₹999, which promises 15 days of service. In this service, you will be presented with unlimited house options and contact numbers, a relationship manager, help in price negotiations and facilitation of a legal agreement.

The website also advertises a 100 per cent, no-questions-asked money-back guarantee in case it is unable to assist a Privileged Services user in finding a suitable accommodation.