Sydney startup brings social media approach to real estate

A Sydney startup has launched a new social network for real estate which the founder says is the “most significant change” in the industry in the last decade.


Followit is a communications platform that takes a social media approach to real estate and allows people interested in buying or renting property to follow specific segments of the market.


“This is probably the most significant change in how consumers connect with the market in the last decade,” Followit executive director Michael Sheargold tells StartupSmart.


In some ways, Followit works like Facebook with a real-time feed of updates that are customised to your preferences.


“I can choose what I follow whether it’s a house, street, agent or building,” Sheargold says.


The platform allows consumers to select preferences for what they want, including price range, and then delivers relevant listings directly to them.


“You can be notified just like on social media,” he says.


Sheargold, who is also a business coach that specialises in real estate, says this creates a completely different way for agents and consumers in the property market to connect.


An additional feature of the site is it lets people browse the market anonymously and contact agents through the messaging system when they choose.


“It’s fantastic to stop searching and start following,” he says.


“And you can keep an eye on the market without being hassled by agents.”



How it works for agents


One of the tricky things about marketing property listings is reaching an “aggregated audience”, Sheargold says.


The aggregated audience comprises a target pool of people who are looking for assets with attributes that match an agent’s listing.


Traditional property marketing – which Sheargold says is still important for building profile – broadcasts a listing to thousands of people with the hope of reaching a handful that will actually find it relevant.


Though the platform is free for followers, it generates revenue through agency fees that allow real estate agents to use its communication services and push notifications.


Agents do not have to make an additional listing on the site; they can click the followit button on existing REA Group and Domain portals.


The plan for launch


Followit’s beta testing in Sydney’s Northern Beaches now has 85% of all agents in the area using it.


Sheargold says they are using this time to make tweaks and enhance the platform before launching in new markets across Australia.


“We’re not rushing it,” he says.


In the same way Facebook started one campus at a time, Sheargold says his team is planning a staggered approach to hit Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and other major regional centres.


Considering that one of the key challenges will be gaining sufficient content to meet consumer demand, this will enable them to build a good product that grows as more people start using it, he says.


“The staged roll-out allows us to build traction, momentum and word of mouth,” Sheargold says.


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