DELHI: Shreya Shah will be moving from Nashik to Mumbai soon and has finalized a house to be taken up on rent. Oddly, she has never really laid eyes on it. “I got to know of the girl who lives there online, spoke to the landlord on the phone, and saw the photos on email. I will actually see it the day I move,” says Shah, who works with a multinational bank.
And, miraculously, all of this was managed without a third party broker or any brokerage being paid. As with much else in the brick and mortar world this past decade the internet has played disrupter here too. A handful of new websites, and even social media networks, are helping people like Shah who move to big metros every year, and have to struggle with and duplicitous real estate agents and hefty brokerage, cut out the middlemen.
Shah, incidentally, found her house on a new website, Grabhouse, which has an algorithm that matches landlords to renters, much like matrimonial profiles.
Social media is also in on the act. Amir Rizvi, a communication designer who runs Flats Without Brokers (FWB), says he started the Facebook page (13,000 members) because he was sick of the way renters were treated everywhere. “I have stayed in many cities — Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai. I found the same problems everywhere. No one wants to rent out to me — a single man and also because I am a Muslim. But if you think about it, renting a house is such a simple thing. Its brokers that create a problem,” he says.
FWB now has a separate site. “Everyday, around about 20-30 people are getting PGs through FWB,” says Rizvi, who adds that it is a free service. Conventional property sites also have rental options but most of these are populated by real estate brokers and their listings. Also, new websites such as Eezyrent specialize in rentals and PGs.
Most of these sites are understandably targeting the young demographic which is comfortable with virtual ads. The big problem though, is getting landlords on board, since they tend to be older and often not that comfortable with social media. Jordyn Steig, an FWB administrator, who got his landlord to enlist, says that the future of the movement would be determined by the ability to get more houseowners online.
Brokers, however, are not pleased. Rizvi gets several angry text messages from brokers every day. He says the success of PGs finding accommodation has been angering them. And these websites are also now trying to set up security buffers.
Though some startups, Grabhouse and Eezyrent among them, will move to a revenue generating model once they stabilize, Rizvi says he will not charge people.
“Many people have approached me to make a mobile app and charge for downloads. But the moment you charge, you become liable for a lot of things. I see this as a society of tenants who can be self sufficient.”
Source: The Economic Times