Answering the challenge of market visibility

In Photo: Lamudi Philippines, established in 2013, has grown to be one of the leading online property portals in the country.

column-amor maclangA BASIC, yet important, tenet in marketing is that potential buyers need to be aware that a product exists before they can buy it. That seems simple enough. However, that’s actually easier said than done, because getting found by potential customers in a highly saturated market remains a challenge for many businesses across all industries, including real estate. This is where online property portals, like Lamudi Philippines, do a lot of help.

Online property portals provide organized ecosystems that benefit both buyers and sellers. They allow homebuyers to easily search for available properties in the market, know more about them, view their photos online, and sometimes even actually simulate being there through virtual-reality tours and 360 videos. They also help property marketers, since online portals increase product visibility and reach, since online portals have become the go-to search tool for potential homebuyers everywhere.

Lamudi Philippines is one of the leading property portals in the country today. It is part of the global Lamudi network that covers more than 30 countries across Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. Lamudi has been around for just over three years but it already has thousands of residential- and commercial-property listings.

Bhavna Suresh, Lamudi Philippines new managing director, believes the biggest challenge now for property sellers is getting their product in front of the right target buyer.
Bhavna Suresh, Lamudi Philippines new managing director, believes the biggest challenge now for property sellers is getting their product in front of the right target buyer.

When I learned recently that leading global property-search portal Lamudi Philippines has a new managing director, I grabbed the opportunity to throw a few basic questions her way. Bhavna Suresh took over the reins of Lamudi Philippines from Jackie van den Ende, who I featured a couple of years ago, when Lamudi Philippines was still relatively new.

I wanted to pick Bhavna’s mind, and find out what she plans for Lamudi and how she sees the local property market. Bhavna’s responses to my questions were at the same time interesting, hopeful, and exciting.

What are your plans for Lamudi in the short and long term?

“In the year 2017, we will focus on being more consumer-centric. We are venturing into a line-up of exciting consumer-focused events this year: an event exclusively focused on the affordable housing sector; a location-specific housing fair for Cebu; and a host of offline marketing campaigns intended toward the end-users.

Since 2015, Lamudi has been the most visited online real-estate portal in the Philippines, but, I think, the focus for both the short and long term will be to elevate the web site to being top of mind when it comes to finding real estate in the Philippines, truly establishing ourselves as the leader in the space.”

What do you think of the real-estate industry in the Philippines right now?

“Exciting as always. At least, looking at our data, more and more people are looking for properties online, not just houses and condos, but across the spectrum. Commercial real estate is one segment where we’ve seen massive growth in 2016, and not just offices but warehouses, as well. We are seeing mixed townships emerge in the fringe areas, and demand as a trend in these locations are picking up.”

What do you see are the challenges that property firms are currently facing here in the country?

“The biggest challenge now for property sellers is getting their product in front of the right target buyer. Property hunters now are in control of the house-hunting process, and real-estate portals like Lamudi enable consumers to check properties online in a leisurely fashion. I think, for any property seller to be successful in today’s digital market, adapting to this user trend is critical.”

How does the Philippine property market compare to those in the countries you have worked in?

“I have worked and lived across Western Europe, India and the Middle East. Real estate and the penetration of technology in these markets are very different. Essentially, Europe is a lot more of an organized market compared to India, and drawing a parallel is hard between the two. What is important to note across markets, though, is their willingness and success to go online.”

What trends do you see happening in the local property market in the coming months?

“We see developers taking to platforms like Lamudi to assist them with real-demand data. Matching trends backed by data helps them reach their targeted audience better, plan for future projects and overall be more strategic about their business. These are early signs of a maturing property market.

With the increase in spending power of the local millennials, we observe a surge in condo demand. The developers have taken note and are stepping in to fulfill this with the right-priced supply. This emphasizes the need to be online since this is where the target market is—we are working closely with developers to create exclusive digital strategies to reach this specific segment, too.

We see a lot of interest among developers in focused ground events. This may seem counter-intuitive, given that we’re an online company, but I think we have already built a strong online brand, and what Lamudi is doing is to enable property developers be in front of their target consumers. Real-estate selling is an important and big purchase and face-to-face interaction between the seller and the buyers facilitates the process.

In addition, we see a lot of interest in traditional house and lots among Filipino homebuyers, given that the most searched neighborhoods in the Philippines are known for houses (Fairview, Novaliches, Tandang Sora, BF Homes and others). We expect real-estate developers to incorporate more horizontal housing in their provincial mixed-use projects.”