Case Study — HomeFinder



HomeFinder - Evolution of online property portals

Exhibit C5.1   Evolution of online property portals.


November 2019

Singapore’s Property Portals

Technology disrupted the way properties are transacted; fundamentally altering how prospective buyers and tenants search for properties, and how they connect with property owners and their agents. This resulted in the emergence and growth online property portals.

Initially these platforms provided basic listing service. Overtime however, they grew more sophisticated through the use of technologies such as data analytics, virtual reality, block chain and artificial intelligence (refer Exhibit C5.1).

As their role expanded, and as their influence grew, the balance of power shifted markedly in their favour. Today, in Singapore, with a share of about 60-70%, PropertyGuru commands extraordinarily high market leverage over real estate agencies.

That being said, property agents remain deeply entrenched. While they rely greatly on online platforms to connect with prospects, they continue to remain heavily engaged in the transaction process. This despite the advent of For Sale By Owner (FSBO) portals.

A large base of online platforms are active in the crowded and highly saturated Singapore property market. Leading players are PropertyGuru, iProperty, SRX, 99.co, EdgeProp and RealHome. Additionally, the FSBO segment includes Carousell, OhMyHome, DirectHome and Soho.

Despite the growth in intensity of competition, PropertyGuru remains the dominant force. The company claims that it accounts for 70 per cent of the market transactions, with more than 5.5 million property hunters in Singapore using their site every month.

Exploiting its leverage, the portal is becoming notorious for its price hikes. Two years after a backlash over prices, PropertyGuru adjusted prices up this September by a further 10% to 25%, across its four different packages.


HomeFinder

mas-HomeFinder.com or HomeFinder for short, is the latest entrant to this crowded base of property portals. Positioned as a search engine, the portal claims it offers the quickest way to surf the internet for properties.

What truly distinguished the platform is its cost structure. HomeFinder is developed and sustained primarily by its founder who focusses on maintaining a minimum cost base. So much so that the platform can survive without charging subscription fees, relying predominantly on nominal listing charges and post boosting income. It does nonetheless, offer the subscription option, at a fraction of the fees charged by the established players. Big agents are likely to prefer subscriptions over listing fees since it becomes the more viable option when transaction levels are high.

With the view to keeping costs down, HomeFinder remains focussed on the core purpose of match-making buyers and sellers, without adding any extras. It is heavily centred on the use of technology to make it quicker and easier for its users to buy, sell or rent properties, as well as to keep down the cost of doing business.

In light of entrenched competition, HomeFinder is relying primarily on a pull strategy to attract prospective property buyers and tenants, offering an easier and faster path to their new homes. The assumption being that if prospective buyers and tenants flock in, property agents and home owners will embrace the platform.

The strategy is complicated by the fact that buyers and tenants will only come if in addition to superior in-use experience, the platform maintains rich content, i.e., a wide range of genuine listings. In this chicken and egg scenario, the platform needs to pull both ways. Sellers attract buyers to the online portal, as much as buyers attract sellers.

The challenge lies in gaining support from property agents. Despite lower fees, agents and agencies are reluctant to embrace HomeFinder. They are already listed on a number of well-established portals, and believe that it will take time for the new entrant to gain momentum. They would rather wait for the portal to grow before taking the effort to list on yet another platform.

Considering that the support from agents is vital, HomeFinder is seeking ways to build strategic alliances with property agencies.


Digital Marketing Strategy and Plan

You are required to chalk out HomeFinder’s digital go-to market strategy and game plan. This exercise entails the following tasks:

Objectives: List out HomeFinder’s key digital marketing objectives?

Segments and Personalization:

  • What are HomeFinder’s key segments and customer groups?
  • Describe the profile of two/three key customer groups. Consider the differing need states of distinct property buyers/tenants, as well as property agents/owners. (Examples of need states [verbalized] – “I need to be close to the MRT [Singapore’s metro service] so that I can cut my travel time to work”, “I am currently renting an apartment at Chuan Park. As my lease expires, I am looking for a bigger apartment at the same condo”).
  • How is HomeFinder targeting the distinct need states?

Content and Design: Go to a page showing search results. Compared to competing portals such as Property Guru and SRX, how does HomeFinder differ in its content on result pages? What are the advantages and drawback of this approach?

Website Grading: Use a website grading facility such as HubSpot’s Website Grader (https://website.grader.com/) to grade www.mas-HomeFinder.com. What does the site need to do to improve?

Search Engine Optimization:

  • What keywords should the site be targeting? Consider generic (short) as well as specific (long) keywords. Consider the need states, as well as the landing pages.
  • Outline the structure of website, in terms of layers of web pages. Which of these layers can serve as landing pages?
  • How effective are the internal linkages in directing traffic towards conversion? What additional linkages could help improve the flow?
  • What tactics are required for HomeFinder to attract external links?

NOTE: You can use Google Console (provided you have access) for search analytics. The platform supports metrics such as clicks, impressions, CTR and average position, across queries, pages countries, devices and time periods. Console also provides details of external and internal links.


Advertising:

  • What keywords should the site be targeting for paid search? Consider generic (short) as well as specific (long) keywords. Consider the need states, as well as the landing pages.
  • What are the different types of advertising campaigns that HomeFinder should consider running?
  • How would you structure advertisements in terms of campaigns and groups?
  • What ad extensions are best suited for HomeFinder?

Google Ads – Workshop (refer @Workshop – Google Ads.pptx) (applicable only for Workshop participants)

Performance Metric and KPIs: At its current stage of development what are the key metrics/KPIs that HomeFinder should focus on?

Previous