New Way to Search for Homes with Homespace

Homespace, a service by a Singapore-based start-up The Real Group, provides an interesting and more interactive way for home buyers to search for-sales homes in Singapore. The company was founded by 26-year-old Vinod Nair together with his four classmates at the National University of Singapore in May 2007.

Homespace facilitates the ‘meeting’ of home buyers and sellers. It’s a step forward in organizing and ‘packaging’ real-estate data to reduce the search cost (and time) for home buyers. It uses Google Maps and overlay icons to display real-estate information in a new and refreshing way. Its information-rich environment enables home-buyers to make informed purchase decisions.

The followings are some of the features that make Homespace a pleasant website to search for homes in Singapore:

1. Search engine, which offers suggestions as you type (almost like Firefox 3.0 Awesome Bar).

2. Rich Interactive Map – This is probably what makes Homespace quite special. Specify key variables like Property Type, Price (min and max), number of rooms, home size and then click on the region on the map (which you are interested to search for homes). A full list of homes-for-sales within each locality will pop up.

Click on the locality of interest brings you to a page that shows all the for-sales homes, indicated by icons overlaying the Google Map. Click on the desired properties, a pop-up window will display more details about the properties (eg. price, nearby amenities, condo facilities). If a buyer is interested to negotiate with the seller, he/she need to sign-on and use the site to SMS to the seller (or agent).

3. Trending

Its HomeValue features displaying Price-Per-Square-Foot trends, in graph format, for similar home within the same locality. It displays transaction / listing prices and transaction volume and able to display such data for up to 2-years back.

With this data, it’s easier for buyer to see how far the asking price deviates from the average and how much the price has increased over time. Besides home buyers, these information are useful for property market investors and researchers. (Homespace collects its information from the Singapore’s Urban Redevelopment Authority, Housing Development Board and real-estate agents).

4. As Easy as ZAP

Homespace also makes life a lot easier for home-sellers. Home-sellers no need to spend a lot of time entering relevant details of their for-sales properties eg. past transaction prices, nearby schools, amenities, public transport, distances from amenities, etc.). Using its proprietary SmartPins technology, the sellers only need to input zip-code, floor area and price (ZAP). Then, the system can automatically retrieve all the other related and relevant information for the property and display them on the home listing page.

Launch and Learn

Currently, Homespace is free to both home buyers and sellers (about 300 to 400 users using the site daily). For the company, it’s about building critical mass of users first, then discover ways to monetize the user-base (think Twitter’s business strategy). In addition to Homespace, the Real Group is planning to launch its for-rent properties site in August this year, called RentSpace.

However, Homespace seems to be structured around the Singapore real estate market. It would be interesting to see how the the service is replicated in other cities. It is because each city is different, in terms of market structure and data availability. Homespace has to be flexible in handling such differences and at the same time, offers similar level of intuitiveness, depth of information and user-experience (which are the key ingredients that make it ‘special’). Probably, partnering with local real-estate players (eg. information providers) is an important strategic option for Homespace to expand and extend its market reach beyond Singapore. Nevertheless, Homespace is, indeed, ‘the smarter way to find homes for sale.’

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