“There are 2 million brokers in the market out of which only 0.36% have an online presence,” Monest’s founder Mohit Sancheti quotes from his research. “Now, consumers prefer to go online even while looking for homes to buy or rent. On the other hand, for brokers or agents, a majority of their business has come through references from existing customers, so they never felt the need to get online.” This start-up wants to be the platform where the twain meet, sort of like the 'Zomato for real-estate'.
Finding a place to stay when moving to a new city can be painful. You either have to go through multiple agents or check for homes online wading through a lot of useless information before finding the right place. You also run the risk of being overcharged for the property since you are new to the city. Not just renting houses, even finding good developers to buy homes from are done largely through agent networks. While the real-estate broking industry is pegged at around Rs.180 billion by Knight Frank, most of the brokers are not certified or verified by authorities.
Addressing these pain points, Sancheti and his wife Nidhi started Monest, a platform which aims to build the largest network of accredited real-estate agents and developers who will be rated and reviewed by customers. By creating their digital profiles and rating the agents based on feedback from customers, deals available, credentials and RERA certificates, the platform looks to position itself as a trusted realty-discovery platform. The agents also have to disclose their brokerage and commission rates online.
“In many cases, since brokers end up specialising in one segment, they have to check with their peer networks over platforms such as Whatsapp and Gmail to meet some client requirements outside their area of specialisation,” says Sancheti pointing out that a large part of the broking industry still remains unorganised.
So Monest is looking to build a trusted network among fellow agents across the country. Monest's search algorithm could also bring order to the chaos of property listing portals — with their numerous listings with a whole bunch of them being unverified, misleading property pictures and ambiguous ownership status. The algorithm assigns a weightage both to the ranking of the agent and to the matching properties. Based on this, the platform connects the customer and agent, and pulls out properties that match their requirements. Deals between customers and agents can be done offline once connected over the platform.
Monest's online services also include live chatting, through which documents and images could be shared, ensuring faster closure of the deals. The customer then rates and reviews the agent to help him strengthen his profile. The agents can choose from the various packages on offer which can start from one month and go up to nine months. Charges payable range from Rs.5,000 to 20% of the total commission received.
The Kolkata-based start-up is currently operating in Pune apart from its hometown and has recently expanded into seven more cities including Guwahati, Siliguri, Bhubaneshwar and Ranchi. Sancheti explains his choice, “We started from Pune first, since it has one of the most active CREDAI bodies. It is the only city where demand is 3x the supply especially in the secondary market. So, the transaction volumes are very high.”
The start-up charges consumers a fee of Rs.999 for every requirement fulfilled. The site takes care of the entire consumer experience involving 24-hour support, networking and closure of the deals with the best agents. The firm also helps developers find the best agents. The developers are charged a fee of Rs.55,000 for three months and Rs.95,000 for six months. “We are also a party in some of the deals, which also helps us identify the best agents,” Sancheti adds. Till date, the start-up has serviced over 10,000 customers with its network of over 2,000 verified agents and at least 20 developers. By FY20, the start-up plans to expand to 22 other locations including Maharashtra, Delhi and Karnataka, targetting a revenue of Rs.210 million.