As a part of our #Outlook14 series, we asked heads of six online properties listing companies – 99Acres, Commonfloor, Housing.com, IndiaProperty, MagicBricks and Makaan.com about their focus areas for 2014, and the challenges that the online properties listing ecosystem needs to address.

MediaNama: Which according to you were the top developments and roadblocks with respect to the properties listing segment in 2013? Why?

Vineet Kumar Singh, 99Acres

– Real estate listing segment grew significantly in 2013 driven primarily by market expansion, increased consumer demand and increasing marketing needs of developers in current economic scenario.
– Increasingly we  are seeing more and more owners  using real estate classified sites to advertise their properties and the industry witnessed an increase of around 70% YOY in owner advertising

Sumit Jain, Commonfloor

– The property market saw fewer sale and purchase transactions in the second half of the year. This development however did not impact prices significantly.
– While investment driven and second home driven listings saw higher page views. Our industry survey however tells us that the transaction time in case of such properties has gone down
– As a property portal we have found that time spent by a user on property research has gone up by 60%

Advitiya Sharma, Housing.com

– The major issue plaguing real estate for decades now has been lack of authentic information. The biggest development in 2013 of the industry has been the unique data collection approach of providing users with 100% verified and authentic listings.
– More and more agents are coming in and uploading hundreds of apartments.

Ganesh Vasudevan, IndiaProperty

– We get about 15-20% of traffic from non desktop devices and expect it to grow significantly over the next 12 months.  This is particularly evident in tier 2 towns.
– The other big shift is the increasing realization among real estate advertisers that online media today presents an unbeatable value proposition both from a performance and brand building perspective, delivering much better ROI compared to traditional media.
– The biggest roadblock has been transparency in the industry, and this obfuscation exists at various levels, starting from the builder, to the agent who markets the property to other intermediaries involved in the transaction.
– From a listings perspective, getting agents and brokers to post authentic information has and will continue to be a challenge.

Sudhir Pai, MagicBricks

– Independently aggregated information on top 200 localities across India. Each of these localities now has information covering reviews, ratings, points of interest, distances, price trends, photos and videos.
– New service called “Verified Listings” in which we physically verify the concerned listing for accuracy of information & availability of photos.
– We launched a mobile-app that allows brokers to post properties and view responses directly from their mobile handsets.
– The main road block remains spam – cheap pricing of property listings, due to competitive pressures is probably the biggest contributor to spam.

Aditya Verma, Makaan.com

– Introduction of map based property search that allowed users to search for a property based on its geographic location.
– Most online property sites launched their mobile site during the past 12 months. Mobile traffic as a % of the overall traffic has been growing and there is a belief that it will catch up with the desktop traffic over the next 2-3 years.
– Some roadblocks for the segment relate with inaccuracy of listing data and their prices. There is a tendency among sellers to provide information that will evoke more response, although the information may not be 100% accurate.

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MediaNama: What has changed from 2012 to 2013? How?

Vineet Kumar Singh, 99Acres

– There is an inventory hangover faced by the builders, along with shoe string budgets of consumers.
– Government decision to introduce VAT and Service Tax has also affected the industry since these measures signal the era of consolidation with industry getting more recognized by the government.

Sumit Jain, Commonfloor

– Online awareness, traffic situations and a variety of options available across the city have resulted in more people scrutinizing properties online before visiting them in person.
– Real estate legislation changes in 2013 were far too many.

Advitiya Sharma, Housing.com

– People now understand the power of authentic information in making their home search process more fast and efficient.

Ganesh Vasudevan, IndiaProperty

– In 2012 advertisers were looking at the internet only as a lead generation medium. Online portals have joined the mainstream as far as new property marketing goes in 2013.
– On the technology side, the rising popularity of mobiles apps, browser extensions and social media and the increase in customer touchpoints thereof allows sharp targeting of consumers for online portals, enabling delivery of high ROI on spends.

Sudhir Pai, MagicBricks

– The awareness levels of the utility of property portals have gone up – driven by increased marketing activity from several players in our category.
– Depth of usage has increased with users consuming more services and spending more time on portals.
– Mobile has emerged as a growth driver with increasing share of traffic while social hasn’t made the expected impact yet, though there are interesting opportunities available there.
– The category has attracted lots of new property portals, many backed by VCs, leading to increased competitiveness, which bodes well for the end user.

Aditya Verma, Makaan.com

– Indian users are spending more time and are consuming more pages on the property sites than they did in the previous year.
– Consumption on mobile is increasing from under 5% of total traffic in 2012 to over 10% in 2013. With websites offering more and more features on mobile, this trend is likely to continue in 2014.

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MediaNama: Which are the consumption patterns (online & mobile) that you observed in 2013?

Vineet Kumar Singh, 99Acres

– The past year has seen mobile becoming the device of choice for most internet users in India, in fact we have seen steady growth in traffic on mobile.
– It is heartening to see that the growth in mobile segment is not cannibalizing the traffic on web and it is evident with traffic continuing to grow for both web and mobile medium.

Sumit Jain, Commonfloor

– Mobile traffic has grown by 200% when compared with normal online traffic.

Advitiya Sharma, Housing.com

– The consumption pattern in real estate is reflective of the peak seasons in house hunting. The months of June and July see heightened home search activity, as does the festive season from October to December.
– Online and mobile have witnessed this trend.

Ganesh Vasudevan, IndiaProperty

– Smartphones and reasonably fast internet have reached the common man at more affordable rates, and as a result, internet consumption through mobile and tablets has grown at triple digit rates,  dramatically increasing APP and WAP based consumption.
– Geographically, there is a clear swing in tier 2 towns towards mobile as primary internet access device.
– We saw preferences for bigger font sizes, intuitive navigation and minimal link clutter- a stark departure from cluttered “portal” interfaces that we are used to.

Sudhir Pai, MagicBricks

– From a basic WaP site and apps that offered only search features, there are today several features like rates & trends, vaastu, news updates, etc. which are being consumed on mobile.

On the web, the frequency of visits and consumption of new services has gone up, led by users who tend to use the platform more frequently across their property buying cycle.

Aditya Verma, Makaan.com

– One interesting aspect of property search on mobile is the higher % of smart phone users compared with featured phone.
– Launch of economical 4G services will accelerate this growth.

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MediaNama: What kind of transition have consumers made from offline to online in 2013? Why? What are your observations?

Vineet Kumar Singh, 99Acres

– Traffic to websites has grown in double digit figures indicating the trust and confidence of consumers on online medium, there is a very significant traction among advertisers in urban India.
– In fact we have seen more than 70% growth in owner listings over last year.
– Apart from top 10 cities in India, a lot of growth is coming from semi-urban areas clearly indicating the change of trends in times to come.

Sumit Jain, Commonfloor

– People are looking for gated communities more than before. Lack of physical and social infrastructure across the Metro cities is the main reason behind this change.
– A greater percentage of people access the internet over their mobile phone in India on account of convenience and lower investment.

Advitiya Sharma, Housing.com

– Studies show that about 75% people begin their home search online.
– People need a trustworthy source of information that will help them in making buying and selling decisions.

Ganesh Vasudevan, IndiaProperty

– Consumers’ expectations from property portals have changed from just identifying properties to looking at portals for information that can guide them through the entire process of property identification and purchase.

– The end user has found multiple uses for portals including looking at properties based on unique requirements, researching on localities, price trends etc  and to even applying for home loans.
– With constraints on time and limited knowledge about the property market, buyers today want customized services wherein they want to spend as little time as possible and get the best results.
– Consumers today are well connected with each other and have started creating social media groups and forums for discussions and advices on various properties.

Sudhir Pai, MagicBricks

– The growth of digital in India is quite evident seeing continued penetration not only in the form of growth in unique visitors but also in the form of higher consumption of services on our platform.
– Users are seeing a big benefit in migrating online as they get wider choice of listings, can understand price trends better and seek independent and unbiased advice.
– Traffic continued to grow in 2013, albeit by a marginally slower pace than in 2012 – probably reflecting the reduction in real estate transactions.

Aditya Verma, Makaan.com

– These people spend more time on Internet than they do reading newspaper or watching television. In a way, online segment is a blessing as it generates rich data that can be brought to the use of the first time home buyer in India.

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MediaNama: What are the likely trends that you expect to see in 2014? Why?

Vineet Kumar Singh, 99Acres

– Mobile medium is expected to dominate in terms of identifying newer ways to create value to property owners and property seekers.
– Since 2014 is the election year, it is very difficult to comment on inventory hangover and actual transactions however, the fundamentals of the industry appear solid with continued urbanization, increased internet and growth in mobile penetration.

Sumit Jain, Commonfloor

– Expect content consumption over mobiles to increase more
– Our RE research shows that there are there are certain price thresholds in all markets. Products priced around this threshold are the ones which sell well.
– Construction status will be a major game changer when it will come to property buying decision.
– Also our supply data shows that the projects launched are getting smaller and the micromarkets which are affordable are seeing larger volume of transactions.

Advitiya Sharma, Housing.com

– I believe that in 2014, there will be a bigger shift of people searching online. But will be very selective of the platforms they choose to use.

Ganesh Vasudevan, IndiaProperty

– Responsive sites, device agnostic user interfaces and customer experience will soon be the norm.
– Mobile as a marketing touchpoint today offers several interesting possibilities in customized marketing communication, segmentation and “strike when hot” opportunities.
– With the real estate bill coming into force one could expect the industry to be much more organized.

Sudhir Pai, MagicBricks

– Expect penetration levels to rise even further among both users as well as developers/agents.
– Additionally, from being a play in largely the top 6-8 metros, increasing user activity is expected to come from Tier 2/3 markets.
– Mobile and tablets are likely to become significant growth drivers.
– Larger number of developers are likely to invest in creating internal digital marketing teams – leading to better utilization and attention on property portals.

Aditya Verma, Makaan.com

– 2014 is likely to emerge as a year where end users of property will take center stage. Investors and speculators, who have traditionally driven the sector, will take a backseat.
– We also expect more people to opt for rental accommodation in 2014.
– The focus on map and mobile will also be a driving force for the business in 2014.

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MediaNama: What are the challenges in the properties listing segment that would need to be addressed in 2014?

Vineet Kumar Singh, 99Acres

– Localization of job listings and integration of mobile technology with the online portals.

Sumit Jain, Commonfloor

– There is need for more number of accredited sources offering real estate related, figures, insights and findings.

Advitiya Sharma, Housing.com

– New projects still remain a vague idea. Investors want a clear idea about their new house but all they get is fuzzy images of their dream home.

Ganesh Vasudevan, IndiaProperty

– Getting advertisers- be it for primary or for secondary sale to put up reliable information by themselves is the biggest challenge.

Sudhir Pai, MagicBricks

– There is a need to make further inroads in addressing spam and improving listing accuracy.
– While the base of listings is already quite large, increased penetration should see a further expansion in variety as well as quantity of listings that will move online.

Aditya Verma, Makaan.com

Quality of content is most important for the property seekers and the industry will be focusing on this aspect more than anything else.

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Note: Answers have been edited for brevity