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Updated: Housing acquires online real estate forum IREF; to launch IREF mobile app

IREF

Update: Housing.com has informed MediaNama that an IREF mobile app will be launched shortly, though the company didn’t reveal a specific date. The app will offer improved functionality and user interface. The company also confirmed that IREF will remain a separate, neutral entity. Home buyers are expected to be provided with a lot of additional data on the platform, and a number of functionalities will be added to make it easy for members and users to check facts and learn more about available properties.

Earlier: After a turbulent month, finally some good news for Housing.com: The real estate portal has acquired realty-focused online community Indian Real Estate Forum (IREF) for Rs 8 crore, reports The Economic Times. The forum has about 1.5 lakh members, though it’s not clear how many of them are active users. Interestingly, some of these members don’t seem too happy with the acquisition.

Apparently, Housing is also engaged in late stage talks to acquire real estate market research, analytics and investors intelligence provider PropEquity for Rs 80 crore. We’ve written to Housing.com regarding both these developments, and will update once we hear back.

IREF is expected to function as an independent entity, with Housing co-founder Ravish Naresh heading it, and the company plans to introduce an “Ask Me Anything” section in the forum that would allow prospective home buyers to post questions regarding projects, brokers and builders and seek answers from IREF members.

In December last year, Housing had raised $90 million from Softbank Group, with participation from Falcon Edge and other unnamed investors. At the time, the company had said that it planned to use the funds to map over 40 million houses across 300 cities in India. It seems acquisitions were also part of the plan.

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Housing saga

Over the last one month, Housing has been in the news for all the wrong reasons:

– Firstly in February, Housing’s senior manager for business strategy and web engagement Siddharth Bhandari and another employee Nilesh Wani died after a late night car crash. Housing co-founders Advitya Sharma (who was driving) and Kamlesh Mohpal, who were sitting in the front seats, escaped unhurt. Sharma was arrested by the Mulund police on charges of rash driving and causing death due to negligence, and later released on bail.

– Earlier this month, Housing CEO Rahul Yadav sent a nasty email to Sequoia Capital managing director Shailendra Singh, accusing him of poaching Housing employees. Singh responded to this through the online discussion platform Quora. Following this, it was reported that Housing investors were considering removing Yadav, which was later refuted. The entire episode left a bitter aftertaste.

– Things got worse when the Times Group sent a legal notice to Housing for alleged defamation, asking them to issue an unconditional apology and seeking $16 million in damages. This move was triggered by an internal mail sent by Yadav that claimed Times Internet owned online real estate portal Magicbricks.com is currently trying to “malign Housing’s position in India” while it closes a round of funding in the US.

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