This article was originally published in my newsletter Emergent.
Globally real estate has been a slow adopter of new technology compared to most other industries. However despite this slow adoption the proptech category has given birth to success stories such as Zillow, PropertyGuru, QuintoAndar, Redfin, Lianjia and many others. However, the proptech revolution has so far been heavily concentrated in a few geographies. The global proptech industry, which was worth $18.2 Billion in 2022, has remained dominated by the US (59% share), Europe (27.2% share) and Asia (3.5% share). In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, where real estate is one of the largest and fastest-growing non-oil industries, the impact and adoption of proptech has been relatively lower.
One company that has led the charge for proptech in the region is Dubai-based real estate listing platform Property Finder. The company operates a number of real estate listing platforms across the MENA region. It uses a one-stop shop model where brokers list properties on the platform and users can access all the residential and commercial property information they need from one place, along with real estate news, home advice and a range of buying and selling guides.
Since its founding PropertyFinder has:
- Raised $142 million in funding
- Launched in the UAE, Egypt, Turkey, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Morocco
- Achieved a valuation of $500 Million
- Receives 6+ million monthly visits on its platform
- Generates an estimated $50+ million in revenue annually
Property Finder was originally founded as Al Bab World after its founders identified a gap in the region’s property advertising space. The company started off as a property print magazine that generated leads for real estate agencies.
Today Property Finder operates real estate listing platforms across the MENA region, available in both English and Arabic. Its product suite has expanded and includes a rich and comprehensive set of products for use by all participants in the retail industry. Its products include:
- Real Estate Listings: A seamless digital platform connecting buyers, sellers, renters and landlords together in each of its markets
- Mortgage Finder: An end-to-end mortgage advisory service for residential and commercial real estate helping buyers navigate the complex process of securing a mortgage in the UAE
- Property Finder Hub: A suite of tools for real estate agents to grow their business including a CRM, advertising and data tools.
Property Finder monetizes its tremendous reach via a monthly flat subscription fee charged to real estate brokers, while remaining free for end-customers to browse. This monthly fee is charged to real estate agents in exchange for being able to list properties on the platform and access the suite of tools the platform offers.
In the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the wealthiest part of the MENA region the real estate industry is booming. There are currently over $1.36 trillion in real estate projects planned or underway in the GCC. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia accounted for 64.5% of this total with the UAE in second with 21.6% of the total. However, when it comes to innovation in the sector the UAE has established an early lead with over 55% of the 200 proptech startups in the MENA region located there. Dubai is the most active real estate market in the UAE and saw nearly 100,000 real estate transactions in 2022 with a total sales value of $72 billion.
Despite proptech’s slower adoption so far in the MENA region, Property Finder faces several notable competitors today including Bayut, Huspy, Aqarmap and Aqar.
Bayut is a Dubai-based real estate listings portal for buying, selling and renting residential and commercial properties. Bayut was founded in 2008 by Imran Khan and Zeeshan Khan. Users can browse through apartments, villas, offices, shops and all other kinds of real estate in UAE, and also make well-informed decisions through information and expert advice provided by Bayut. The portal also offers features such as real estate search trends, live market prices and archives of buildings with over 15,000 images and floorplans. Bayut’s parent organization is Dubizzle (formerly known as Emerging Markets Property Group). Dubizzle closed a $150 Million funding round in 2020 that valued the company at over $1 Billion. Impressively Dubizzle has a portfolio of 10 real estate brands in the region with a collective monthly userbase of 217 million.
Huspy is a Dubai-based proptech company founded in 2020 by Jad Antoun and Khalid Ashmawy and has raised over $47 million in funding to date. Unlike Property Finder, Huspy was founded with the explicit goal of streamlining the mortgage and closing process for buying a new home. While Huspy does have over 600 properties listed for sale on its platform, unlike Property Finder it isn’t as focused on solving the discovery problem in real estate. However with Property Finder’s entry into the mortgage category with its Mortgage Finder product the companies are now competing directly. However, Huspy is live in the UAE and Spain today and likely to continue to expand regionally and globally in the years to come.
qarmap is a real estate marketplace that allows users to buy, sell, and search for apartments and houses. The platform currently hosts over 240,000+ listings for sale & rent, which include properties, apartments, villas and compounds. It also provides useful insights into the housing market, through price and exhibit guides, market research, property valuations and expert advice on buying. It also enables purchase of ready-for-delivery homes through mortgage financing for up to 15 years. The company was founded by Amad Almasodi in 2011 and has raised $1.1 million to date. It generates more than 200,000 leads every month, and has more than 2.5 million users across Egypt, Saudi and UAE registered in its database. In 2020, it helped sell more than 12,000 properties worth more than $700 Million.
Aqar offers an online real estate listing services and a platform for agents and sellers to interact with tenants and purchasers. The company was founded in 2014 by Moosa Al-Rasheedi, Yousef Al Rasheedi and is headquartered in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The company’s platform enables users to search for listings in categories like lands, villas, buildings, apartments, farms and other real estate. It lets property owners create listings by providing necessary information such as location, pictures, area, and prices. The platform has over 1.5 million listings in 21 different categories, and has attracted over 50 million visitors to date.
Property Finder has pursued a diverse range of growth strategies over the years. Since its founding the company has steadily been expanding geographically by acquiring regional players such as eSimsar in Saudi Arabia, JRD Group and Home Value in UAE, Property World in Bahrain, and Selektimmo in Morocco. By 2020, Property Finder reached profitability in the UAE, Bahrain, and Qatar – which it considers its core markets – and has done significant brand building in newer markets of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco and Turkey.
Aside from further geographic expansion Property Finder has two possible growth paths ahead of it:
- Deepen its fintech offerings
- Enter the home services segment
Property Finder’s initial foray into the fintech segment via its Mortgage Finder product has been a timely expansion given the rapid rise of Huspy in the UAE. Finding a mortgage is deeply painful in the Middle East and Mortgage Finder can help ease the initial discovery process for securing a mortgage. There is a lot more whitespace in fintech for Property Finder to explore. It can potentially enter the home insurance segment and commercial mortgage industry for starters.
Aside from fintech a promising expansion for Property Finder is entering the home services category. The average home requires thousands of dollars of maintenance spending across its lifetime and finding providers to fix plumbing issues, paint rooms and fix leaks is a fragmented, slow and frustrating process. The region’s leading Super App Careem has been testing a somewhat similar expansion. In addition to ridesharing and food delivery the Careem app now offers home cleaning and laundry services direct to your doorstep. Property Finder can potentially partner with local providers and build a similar product suite for this segment to generate leads and drive sales as it has for real estate agents. A major advantage of entering the home services segment is that it enables Property Finder to build longer-term relationships with its clients and increase their lifetime value.
Overall Property Finder has established itself as one of the leading proptech brands in the Middle East. Its regional presence, millions of monthly visitors and deep pool of listings position it well for further growth in the years to come. As the property market heats up in the GCC in particular, Property Finder is positioned perfectly to grow in its core listings business. However, further expansion in fintech or into new segments like home services can help the company unlock even more growth. The company has helped pioneer proptech in the region and will continue leading the charge for years to come.
This article was originally published in my newsletter Emergent.