Case Studies

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February 10

Property Finder: Inside Their Business Model And Revenue Generation

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Awad Makkawi

Property Finder raised $120 million in November 2018 from private equity firm General Atlantic. 


Co-founded in 2007 by Michael Lahyani and Renan Bourdeau they started as a property print magazine before developing in the largest online property portal in the UAE.


In this article we take a look at how the business works today. 


Let's dive in.

Property Finder: A Brief Intro

Starting initially under the name Al Bab World, they were a property print magazine that generated leads for real estate agencies. 


They have since developed into the largest online property portal in the UAE and grown their market share across the MENAT region through investments, acquisitions and launches in Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon, Bahrain, Morocco and Qatar.


Property finder are in the real-estate advertising industry.


They are a double sided platform business that provides the online environment whereby property seekers can connect with real estate agents and developers.


The platform consists of users on one side and real estate agents on the supply side.


Users find listings of properties (a.k.a. the supply) that meet their requirements and in turn can connect with relevant agencies quickly.


This part is straight forward so now let's get granular.

I always say to entrepreneurs when they are trying to raise VC funding, do you think you can get through the next 18 months without raising? If the answer is yes, put your head down and keep pushing.

Michael Lahyani

Co-Founder Property Finder

Property Finder Key Stakeholders

Users of the platform i.e. the website visitors, enjoy access to viewing thousands of listings any time of the day.


And they do so for free.


The supply side on the other hand, pay to get "home hunters" enquiring about their listed properties on a regular basis which they can then work on closing. We'll cover monetization in more detail a little later.


As a result:


It's easy to mistake the key stakeholder in the business model as the real estate agents since that's where the business revenue is coming from.


However,


The key stakeholder is in fact the user.


And property finder monetize their supply side because they are able to generate massive flow of users to their key asset month after month.


Think of it like Google.


Google is able to monetize advertisers because it is able to generate huge traffic towards it's main asset namely "google.com".


In fact, Google spent over $7 billion dollars in Q4 2018 to send traffic to it's search engine.


With that in mind, what would be the most important metrics for such a setup?

Google Traffic Acquisition Cost TAC

Property Finder Key Asset & Metrics

Alright.


We've established that the key asset in the business model is the Property Finder website as that is where users are directed to and where Property Finder can monetize the interaction they facilitate between users and suppliers.


As a result, we can assume that the key metrics i.e. metrics that impact the ability to secure revenue, include:

  • Traffic to the platform
  • Cost of sending traffic to the platform
  • Number of enquiries/conversions that take place on the platform
  • Quality and number of verified listings on the platform
  • Time spent on the platform
  • Platform maintenance, development, functionality and user experience

Here's how they're addressing some of these points.

How Does Property Finder Optimize Its Platform For Users?

Can you imagine if the listings on Property Finder were spammy or fake?


That would destroy the credibility of the platform almost instantly.


As with any platform business, establishing trust in users in critical.


Take a look at these 2 pictures and check out the trust factors in play:

Property Finder Trusted Listings
Property Finder Trust Factors

Images, verified listings, agent photo and license number as well as company license number all of which can be verified with the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA).


All this instils trust in the user that she isn't wasting her time or risking fraud by an imposter.


And what comes next?


They provide users with an experience that adds value in order to increase dwell time and the likelihood of finding properties they'd want to enquire about.


For example:


They show other options in the same area that might be of interest to the user


Like so:

Property Finder Listing Options

They have a Price & Trends section that compares the cost and size of the property the user is viewing with the average of all listings in that given area.


This is highly useful information that a property seeker would want to know when weighing out their options.

Property Finder Price and Trends Comparison

They even created a free Mortgage Calculator to help users make quick, informed estimations on monthly payments.

Property Finder Free Mortgage Calculator

These are some of the methods Property Finder implements to increase engagement and improve the user experience on their platform.


But what about the supplier experience?

How Does Property Finder Optimize Its Platform For Suppliers?

First and foremost:


Traffic.


Property Finder generates enormous traffic and eyeballs on agent listings. 


This comes at a cost of investments in:

  • SEO: Over 50% of it's 2.5 million monthly traffic comes via search
  • Paid Ads: Google Ads, Display Ads, Radio Ads, Retargeting Ads
  • Brand Awareness and Social Media campaigns
  • Others

Take a look at these numbers.

Property Finder Traffic

Next up:


Property Finders product team continuously talks with customers to ensure they have a pulse on changing pain points so that they can respond with products that create value.


One such result was the free tool they released called Price Finder.


It provides real estate agents with a dashboard and data that can be used to better advise clients on market trends and asking prices for both sales and rentals.


Here's a video on how it works.

Another example is the Quality Score for realtors.


This allows agents to be more descriptive about their listings and the opportunity to use the same keywords that visitors use. 


In turn this can improve their rankings in Property Finders algorithm and as a result generate even more targeted leads for their business.


Take a look at this explanation from members of their product team.

Furthermore:


The platform is optimized for conversions which lends further support to both users and suppliers.


For example:


Users can shortlist properties with a single click and return to review or contact the agent later time which reduces the chance of a property being lost or forgotten whilst the user is searching.


Second:


Property Finder can notify users when new properties are available in the location that they are searching for.


This is a double pronged strategy in that agents receive highly qualified leads and at the same time Property Finder grows its email list.


Hands down way more effective than any "Join our Newsletter" call to action!

Property Finder User Engagement

Now that we know how users are directed to the platform, how they engage and get value out of the experience resulting in enquiries about listings i.e. becoming leads for agents.


The next question to ask is:


How does Property Finder generate revenue through this interaction?

Property Finder Revenue Streams

Property Finder has built a diversified set of revenue streams.


Let's begin.

Property Finder Premium Listings
  1. 1
    Subscription Model for Agents and Advertisers: tiered packages where the agents get services depending on the membership packages selected. This can include things like banner ad impressions, support with creation of banner ads, Access to "Smart Ads" and "Call Tracking" product, properties signified as Premium for added exposure and whole lot more.
  2. 2
    Exclusive Listing: allows agents or developers to purchase credits to have listings signified as an "Exclusive Listing" for improved ranking and exposure
  3. 3
    Single Use Premium: follows a subscriptions based model where agents can purchase one or more Single Use Premium Listing Credits to help them receive a boost in rankings and exposure to clients
  4. 4
    CRM Providers: Propertyfinder allows CRM providers to offer their services to real estate agencies. This means that CRM providers are charged for their ability to upload agency data through the Propertyfinder XML setup
  5. 5
    myCRM: this is Property Finders own CRM software that it offers to agencies. It also uses a subscription based model consisting of 2 packages myCRM Lite and myCRM Pro. Agents receive data dashboards, intelligence and the ability to track complete customer journeys to name a few benefits
Property Finders myCRM

Property Finders Cost Structure

How does Property Finder spend its money to maintain it's competitive advantage?


We already menitoned above that Propertyfinders business model involves taking an active approach to developing and upgrading the technology framework of their platform.


They also invest in driving traffic to their website, improving both user and customer experiences as well as continuous product development to grow their market share.


Another approach that they utilize to expand market share is investments and acquisitions.


To date they have acquired and invested in


  • realestate.com.lb: the number 1 property portal in Lebanon
  • eSimar.com: the number 1 property portal in Saudi Arabia
  • A 16.95% stake in 2017 in Zingat the Turksih property portal leader which it then increased to 40% in 2019
  • Property World Bahrain in 2018
  • UAE based competitor JRD Group
Property Finder Investment and Acquisitions

Key Takeaways

Property Finder had close to 15 million page views in Jan 2020.


Their business model revolves around actively investing to drive enormous traffic to their platform.


Search results present their primary distribution channel among several other strategies to get eyeballs on agent listings.


Then they ensure that the website is effectively optimized to provide what users are looking for and allow those user to seamlessly enquire or contact agents.


This is the environment that they have built to facilitate a transparent interaction between these two sides of the platform.


They invest in creating products that engage and create value for both users and suppliers and also produce paid products such as the myCRM software.


The subscription model that they use for monetization means that they generate recurring income and as a results can make informed financial forecasts and decisions for growth.


And with over 2000 real estate agencies in Dubai alone. 


There's huge room for growth across MENA.


The important thing now is:


Take action and level up your model using what you learnt.


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