In the dynamic world of PropTech, the seamless integration of business and digital technology is paramount to success. As the Chief Product Officer, Christophe de Rassenfosse at Property Finder brings a unique blend of business acumen and product performance, driving a higher return on investment for the company and revolutionizing the way consumers engage with real estate.
In this exclusive interview with Communicate, Rassenfosse shares his insights into the current state of the Middle East's real estate industry and how Property Finder's digitally smart solutions are making property more accessible and transparent for the target audience.
What is the condition of the Middle East’s real estate industry today? What digitally smart solutions can mediator platforms like Property Finder offer?
I have observed a significant increase in maturity and transparency in Dubai, which can be attributed to the efforts of the elite in raising the bar and enhancing the overall quality. This progress stands out in the Middle East, setting a super high baseline for other countries in the region to follow. Our strong relationship with the DLD (Dubai Land Department) goes beyond just integrating permit checks; we also provide a unique index called 'Mo'asher' that serves as a blueprint to educate other regions. We are actively engaging with governments and regulators in other countries to replicate the successful practices we have implemented. Digitalization has been a key focus for us, and we have encountered offices where paper-based processes still prevail, causing issues with property title claims. Our aim is to establish a trustworthy marketplace, even in the absence of strict regulations, by offering a blueprint that can be adapted and applied to facilitate digitalization and regulation in other countries. That sums up our current efforts and initiatives.
Are there any consumer insights that you've tracked in the realm of making the real estate industry in the region more accessible to the target audience?
Technology plays a crucial role in our ability to scale effectively. For instance, when considering master plans and the prospect of doubling our population, technology becomes indispensable for facilitating transactions and instilling trust, especially for international investors. We understand the importance of ensuring investors a seamless and trustworthy experience, which is why we rely on technology to streamline processes.
Our approach to using technology differs from the typical consumer perspective. We actively track all interactions between consumers and agents, assessing the quality of responses based on response rate and time. By employing technology to facilitate queries and confirm property availability, we can combat fake listings and ensure that all listings on our platform are legitimate.
In this context, technology also enables us to involve consumers in a feedback loop, empowering them to contribute to the verification process. Their inputs are invaluable in validating listing accuracy, and if any discrepancies arise, we promptly remove or update the listings accordingly. These capabilities are simply not feasible on a one-to-one basis with manual work. By leveraging technology effectively, we can enhance trust and transparency throughout the system, providing a reliable marketplace for all stakeholders.
Are there any trends actively emerging in the prop-tech industry? How are you planning to address them in your role for Property Finder?
Our primary focus lies in bridging the gap between advertising properties and fostering a strong relationship between consumers and the agents involved in selling or renting those properties. This is the core of our journey, where it all begins and ends.
An example of our commitment to enhancing the consumer experience is our acquisition of a start-up last year, which initially had a business-to-business (B2B) proposition centered around property valuation and asset management. We successfully transformed this into a consumer-oriented proposition, making complex property information more accessible and understandable for individuals who may not be well-versed in real estate matters.
As part of our ongoing efforts to educate consumers, we will soon be launching an interactive platform designed to provide valuable insights. Through this tool, consumers can explore an affordability map, enabling them to identify suitable areas to live in based on their family size and specific preferences. For instance, if they have small children, the map will guide them toward family-oriented neighborhoods with appropriate amenities.
Our approach also involves staying attuned to changing trends and evolving market demands. By analyzing master plans and monitoring shifts in property development, we recognize the growing emphasis on lifestyle and amenities in various communities. Our acquisition of the start-up has facilitated our ability to follow and adapt to these trends, further enriching our consumer proposition.
How do you envision Property Finder becoming a significant part of the digital transformation this industry is going through now?
The crux of our approach lies not solely in the technology itself but rather in how technology serves as a powerful enabler. When addressing a professional audience, we emphasize the importance of essential real estate fundamentals, such as accuracy, availability, and authorization. These form the bedrock of our platform's reliability.
To ensure accurate listings, we employ advanced technology to meticulously examine and verify the vast number of property images available on our website, ensuring they accurately represent the properties and eliminating duplicates or misleading content. This process involves sophisticated algorithms and diligent checks, providing users with a trustworthy experience.
Similarly, the concept of authorization is crucial in maintaining integrity throughout the platform. We take inspiration from Dubai's blueprints, utilizing permits and APIs provided by the government to ensure authenticity. While we may not directly rely on government processes, we have automated the verification process, confirming that sellers are genuine landlords. This validation can be accomplished through various means, such as cross-referencing utility bills or other relevant documents, all facilitated by technology.
By staying true to these fundamental principles and employing technology strategically, we create a robust and reliable platform that instils trust in our users and enhances their overall real estate experience.