From boom to bust and back again, real estate can be a tricky investment proposition. Also, unlike other asset classes, it is traditionally considered a non-liquid asset, which means selling a property takes time and, perhaps, an army of agents looking for buyers on your behalf.
How long a listed property stays on the market depends on several factors, but Omar Chihane said real estate sales cycle in the UAE could last several weeks - even months. So property investors looking to liquidate their asset would have to brace themselves for a possibly long waiting game.
This is the pain point that Chihane sought to address, when he co-founded SellAnyHome.com in 2017. The start-up claims to be the Middle East's first home-buying service, which provides free home evaluations and an offer in as little as 30 minutes.
The entrepreneur said despite the recent economic highs and lows, the UAE property market remains attractive for many investors. And he sees immense opportunities particularly in Dubai, where real estate investors continue to flock.
Chihane said SellAnyHome is carving its own niche in a real estate market, where many technology start-ups focus only on providing search engines for buy-and-sell deals.
"Our proposition is quite unique. We are a tech company getting into real estate and that niche is ours," he said.
An MBA degree holder from the London Business School, Chihane has had a successful career in management and sales with multinational companies such as Siemens, Nokia and Microsoft, where he led both regional and global business units, achieving sales targets that exceeded USD 100 million.
But after years in the corporate world, he heeded the call of entrepreneurship.
"It was time for me to get full control of what I was doing and getting technology into realty seemed very exciting," he added.
Speed is of the essence
With the promise to sell any house in just 30 minutes, Chihane believes speed is everything in business.
"You can be No. 1 if you are fast. The best way is to execute your product and service [first, then] fix it along the way. In a world where everything is moving so rapidly, you must be faster than everyone else," he said, adding that a property sales cycle that lasts several weeks or months is the old way of doing business. "With technology becoming a part of our lives, there is no reason why you can't sell a home fast."
SellAnyHome.com recently completed its seed funding and Chihane is now planning a Series A funding round with the participation of business angels and venture capitalists.
Besides speed in business, Chihane believes it's the mindset that will decide whether an entrepreneur will become successful or not.
"There are no obstacles but many challenges, and you have to find ways to work with them every single day. There will always be reasons to stop, but you need to have the mindset not to," he advised. "As an entrepreneur, [you realize that] work never stops. Nothing is done for you and you just have to prioritize. It's all about 50 holes and 10 plugs and you should know how to do that well."
He also does not consider other popular real estate portals as his company's competitor. "We are different," he said. "We are here to create real-time coordination between the buyer and the sellers, and on occasions we participate in the buying process, too. We are the first home-buying service that does a 100-point evaluation of the property and provide an offer in just 30 minutes."
Going, going, gone... in 30 minutes
The business promises to offer a quick sell by leveraging its proprietary technology and a growing network of professional real estate investors. After gathering all the information on the property, an estimated value is given, based on the site's proprietary technology and algorithm, as well as real-time market data.
Afterwards, a free home evaluation is provided by the company and the information is then uploaded onto an app where a formal binding offer is generated for the seller within 30 minutes. Once the offer is accepted, the team works alongside the seller to ensure the transfer is smooth.
The company also offers customers a cost-effective way to sell their properties, charging just 1% sales commission compared to the 2% asked by traditional real estate agencies.
Although SellAnyHome.com was launched just this year, Chihane is already setting his sights on scaling up the operations to cover new markets in the region.
"We have seen an incredible number of sellers on our platform and the numbers are growing by the minute. In one year, we see ourselves in more markets. We are very focused and constantly looking forward," he said.
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