Here’s a smartphone app that shows Chinese millennials how to shop for international real estate
Mainland Chinese real estate listing site Uoolu (有路) is seeking to create a safer way for middle and upper class Chinese to invest in overseas real estate, according to its founder and chief executive.
The key to winning customers, according to 34-year-old Huang Xiaodan, who founded the start-up two years ago, is to provide a higher value service where users can be assured of the quality of the real estate listings on the platform.
“We don’t care much of the quantity, but quality,” said Huang. “Being small doesn’t matter. What customers terribly lack is a sense of security.”
Every month the app attracts between 800,000 to 1 million active users and transacts roughly 200 million yuan (US$29.24 million) worth of overseas property on its platform.
A JLL report showed that Chinese outbound real estate transactions rose to US$7.5 billion in the first quarter, up 84 per cent from a year earlier.
And as an increasing number of middle-class mainlanders scout for properties around the world, unscrupulous websites have been taking advantage of inexperienced buyers, often by exploiting the information gap.
For example, according to Huang, some Chinese agents peddle houses in Europe with prices far exceeding the sellers’ asking price, pocketing the difference. In other instances, agents have been known to market homes that are built by inexperience or unqualified developers.
Huang says Uoolu sets itself apart from other real estate listing sites in a number of key ways that help to ensure high ethical standards.
Upon completion of a deal, it is the seller who pays a fee, while no charges are levied on buyers.
In addition, the inventory of homes listed on the site are carefully vetted by Uoolu’s staff, based on a developer’s profile, reputation and local market certification
Buyers can also check on a project’s location and nearby amenities, as well as the price and rental changes in the past year.
The company said it has rejected many listing requests from overseas developers and agents, either because they can’t provide complete certificates or the projects are deemed low quality. Huang says this vetting process often turns away unsuitable listing candidates, something which other mainstream listing websites won’t do.
Huang said it is not unusual to reject real estate projects for failing to meet standards, noting that Uoolu once rejected 40 projects in a single day.
The site currently has listings from 20 nations, with the most popular destination by region being Southeast Asia, especially Thailand.
No Hong Kong listings are on the platform owing to the lack of affordability.
This month, Uoolu finished its series A+ round 50 million yuan (US$7.32 million) fundraising, led by Meridian Capital China.
The company said it is already making a profit, and it will use the proceeds to upgrade its services, including a new app, named Uoolu+, for overseas developers and agents, which will help them to gain access to Chinese market.