[UNBROKE-Tech Meetup @ NoBroker] How NoBroker is disrupting the online real-estate market with innovative features like Transit Score, Liveability Score and more

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How many of you find this sight familiar – You have moved to a new city e.g. Bengaluru and you are very ecstatic to move to the Silicon Valley of India on a very good pay-package. You enjoy your early days in the company provided accommodation, but your real test would start when you go out in search for a rental accommodation. You get entangled in the ‘Broker Menace’ on the assurance that he would provide you with the best rental accommodation, keeping all your requirements intact. If you are lucky enough, you would get a good house, by paying him 1~2 months’ rent [as brokerage and other over-head costs] or the vicious cycle continues.

Image Source – Housing

The founders of Bengaluru based NoBroker had gone through a similar situation when they were searching for an accommodation while working in Mumbai and this horrendous experience prompted them to take the entrepreneurial plunge to ‘solve this problem at scale‘.

NoBroker.com is a disruptive brokerage-free property search portal that connects house owners & seekers directly by eliminating the middleman/broker. NoBroker is revolutionizing the real-estate space not just by eliminating the brokerage but also by making it convenient & hassle-free experience with its services.

NoBroker: C2C real-estate portal connecting buyers/sellers seamlessly

Though there are many portals in the online-real sector, most of them operate in the traditional classifieds model. With the evolution of Machine Learning [ML], Artificial Intelligence [AI], Augmented Reality [AR], Virtual Reality [VR] and initiatives like RERA, Housing For All, PMAY, etc. by the central & state governments, many of these portals are moving from the traditional model to more comprehensive transaction enabling models, with technology and analytics driving property discovery and financing [Source]. Though technology has been an enabler, customers still have to pay a hefty amount to the middlemen as brokerage.

Image Source – NoBroker

The primary reason the intermediation existed was that there was a huge information asymmetry in the market. NoBroker removes this information asymmetry and provides a marketplace for the free exchange of information that earlier used to cost as much as 1~2 months of rent as brokerage! The portal works on the backbone of algorithms built on latest cutting-edge technologies that identifies & restricts brokers from the portal and is the only platform in the C2C [Customer-to-Customer] space. NoBroker has been in business since 2016 and is co-founded by IIT & IIM alumni Akhil Gupta, Amit Kumar Agarwal, and Saurabh Garg.

We had a chance to catch-up with Akhil Gupta, Co-Founder & CTO of NoBroker at their office in Bengaluru where they showcased some of the latest tech innovations at NoBroker, how they

are leveraging Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence and Analytics to make their platform better, how using Google AMP has resulted in more conversion ratio and much more. Apart from technology, one of the other advantages that NoBroker has over other real-estate portals is that they follow a very frugal approach and ‘completely rely’ on technology for solving the problem [without any offline resources for handling sales/deal closure].

Akhil shared an interesting anecdote when they were approaching VC’s for institutional funding and spoke about their first-mover advantage with the following one-liner

Not every solution should be copied from the West and implemented in the East.

Some of the notable insights shared about NoBroker platform are below:

  • Only tech-enabled real-estate C2C platform in the market that focuses on transactions, rather than listings.
  • Extensive use of Machine Learning [ML]/Artificial Intelligence [AI] to solve problems using machines instead of humans.
  • 1.05 Lakh transactions logged in FY 2017~18 and close to Rs. 650 crore of brokerage saved in the last Financial Year.

NoBroker: Improving Property Discovery & Property Recommendations using Collaborative Filtering

NoBroker is a very transparent platform and property owners signed-up on the platform get real-time alerts about the number of views that the property has received, the performance of the property over a period of time and other analytics that can be transcribed to demand.

NoBroker improves as well as eases the overall property discovery process using Machine Learning to sort, select & list properties. The properties listed on the platform are ranked & listed on the following parameters

  • Quality Score, Liveability Score and Commutability Score of the property.
  • Decay Algorithm ensures only fresh and available properties are shown to the user.

One of the major hurdles that any property owner faces is ‘renting out’ the property to the right set of people so that the property is well-maintained [after renting out] and the owner receives the best-possible rent for that property. In most cases, the property owner would publish the requirement on any of the real-estate portals [that follow the classifieds model], but they would be on the mercy of brokers for finding the right tenants.

Unlike those portals, a platform like NoBroker uses various data points in association with a Property Age Calculator, an algorithm which figures out what is the optimal time for a property to let out. The other differentiating factor is that a customer would find one copy of a ‘particular’ property on NoBroker, whereas the other real-estate portals [operating on the typical classifieds model] can have ‘multiple copies’ of the same property thereby resulting in inflation of the overall inventory on the platform.

NoBroker provides Property Recommendations to its customers using Collaborative Filtering, details about which are below:

  • Property Recommendation algorithm, a hybrid collaborative filtering algorithm for recommending relevant properties to the customers.
  • Instant Property Alerts, when a new property is activated on the NoBroker platform.

Helping users to stay at the RIGHT Place: Travel Time Search, Liveability Score and much more

Indians spend a huge amount of time in commute, though this report is not latest, the facts & figures mentioned in it are still applicable even in 2018. About 60% of the city’s working population spends more than 30 minutes in commuting. As a matter of fact, travel woes have eased & worsened at the same time, with the advent of ride-hailing companies and increasing number vehicles entering on our roads. This not only hampers the productivity, but also increases the frustration levels in a person. That is why we all look at accessibility to our points of interest such as work location, kid’s school, grocery store, etc., while selecting a home. However, it is almost impossible to find the best location that meets all these requirements and this is one problem that NoBroker aims to solve using its proprietary solution – Travel Time.

Travel time feature displays properties based on customer’s search criterion of the point of interest and the commuting time you are willing to travel. The feature has made it possible for people to search for the right location according to their travel schedules. In a nutshell, Travel Time helps users stay at the right place filter properties based on the commute time. This also helps reduce the overall carbon footprint which is the primary event associated with climate change & global warming.

Snapshot from the Travel Time feature in NoBroker

Travel time search uses APIs from ride-hailing companies like Uber, Ola, transport organizations [Metro], etc. to arrive at the approximate value [in time]. NoBroker technology team also uses many other parameters, which are specific to the city in order to compute Travel time.

Transit Score & Livability Score help users determine how well is the connectivity of a property to essential facilities, like hospitals, metro stations, bus stations, malls, etc. It is a known fact that the lesser you travel, more you save and you can lead a much happier life since you no longer have to go through the tiresome commute. This is what Life Score is all about. It is another innovative solution powered by Machine Learning & Artificial Intelligence which gives a savings report to calculate how much user can save by staying at the right place.

[L] Akhil Gupta, Co-Founder & CTO – No Broker addressing the bloggers present at the meetup

Rent Prediction and Seamless On-Boarding using ML & AI

When a flat-owner is looking to rent out his flat, he expects rent that is in line with the market condition and also expects that the property is rented to the right set of people so that less intervention is required from his side. This is where Rent-O-Meter from NoBroker is instrumental for the flat owners as well as the rentees. It is a machine learning algorithm to predict prevailing rent based on the attributes of the listing and historical data. Features like Transit Score, Livability Score, and Travel Time when used in conjunction with Rent-O-Meter brings out the best results for all the stakeholders involved in the buyer/seller ecosystem on NoBroker.

For seamless customer on-boarding, NoBroker uses AI and ML to ensure that the platform is free from brokers and to achieve the same, their team has developed Vigilante, an ML based algorithm so that only genuine buyers & sellers are present on the platform. During the interaction, Akhil Gupta mentioned that the algorithm is 99.9% accurate and based on user patterns [and many other data points], they are able to figure out whether a user is a buyer/seller or a broker [in which case, he is barred from the platform].

Before an actual visit is made to the flat, the buyer/rentee would have to solely depend on the images of the flat, amenities in the apartment, etc. in order to take the first leap. Hence it becomes very important that owners upload the best images of their flats and this is where NoBroker plays a pivotal role in ensuring that the best images of the flat are uploaded to their platform. In this case as well, it uses Machine Learning to sort the right property and identify rooms from images. It also weeds out objectionable images in the listings.

Closing the loop for Owners & Seekers: Geo-Fencing, Caller Id Cards

In order for the deal to reach the closure stage, it is very important that very less hurdles for the flat seeker to reach the owner. For any online real-estate portal, this stage is important but in case of NoBroker, it is very critical since there is no middlemen involved in the deal!.

NoBroker has come up with a simple yet effective solution to address the ‘communication’ problem. It has come up with Caller ID cards to help the owners & seekers get in touch. Since the buyer’s number is kept discrete on the NoBroker platform [for security concerns], this feature on the app is helpful for prospective buyers to reach the owners. In case, the owner of the house does not pick up the call, he will get a missed call alert from the NoBroker app and he can reach the seeker at his own convenience.

No matter how good the flat and the amenities of an apartment look in a photograph, the deal cannot be sealed without a personal visit to the flat. In order to track the deal closure, NoBroker uses Geo-Fencing that would notify the owner when the customer is in the vicinity of the property. Once the deal is finalized, the owner can notify NoBroker team about the status via a missed call or by submitting the overall feedback about the property.

Founding team of NoBroker with the bloggers present at the event

NoBroker: Premium Plans, Rental Agreement & other services

NoBroker follows freemium as well as paid-subscription pricing model and the customer has multiple plans he can choose from. For a tenant, the plan starts from Rs. 999/year and for Owners, the plan starts from Rs. 2999/year. As per Akhil, the money being spent on the plan is way lesser than what an owner/seeker would spend if he goes via the broker and that is the primary reason why many of NoBroker customers opt for the paid plans.

For NRI’s, they have a subscription plan that starts at Rs. 3000/month where there will one NoBroker sales associate who would play an active part in the entire sales process. NoBroker also helps its customers with creation of customized Rental Agreements and the same is delivered to their doorstep. NoBroker also assists its customers with moving-in to the house and it is first in the market to introduce instant quotation seeking Packers & Movers. They also have tie-ups with well-known furniture rental startups where you get the best quality furniture and appliances for rent.

There is a case-study on Progressive Web App [PWA] implementation for NoBroker’s mobile website resulted in 25% increase in new-user registration and 18% reduction in the Bounce rate. We, i.e. all the bloggers invited for the Tech Bloggers’ Confab – UNBROKE meetup got a chance to deep dive into how disruptive technologies like Machine Learning & Artificial Intelligence are changing the online real-estate sector.

If you have used NoBroker, do leave your experience in the comments section or email them to himanshu.sheth@gmail.com