December 15, 2021
Platform House.nl: the Uber of the Dutch housing market?
Rotterdam - Ethics is a fairly recent part of the curriculum in brokers' training, NOS reported this week. Ethics and morality are more relevant than ever in the sector. The demand for houses is high and the supply is limited. This creates situations that are not fair and sometimes even resemble mafia practices. Since 2001, real estate agents have been a free profession, so anyone can basically call themselves a real estate agent. This increases the innovative power of the industry, which should benefit it. But reports regularly appear in the media of mafia-like practices. Both registered NVM brokers and free agents make prohibited price agreements and engage in nepotism. Trust in the sector is low and the estate agent's image is worse than ever. Vereniging Eigen Huis opened the hotline unfair bidding practices in March where 1,000 complaints have now been received. The sector is steeped in an aggressive Trumperian way of doing business. Transparency before, during and after the bidding process is, according to Maurits Grosfeld (29) founder of startup and housing platform House.co.uk a basic condition for making the industry fairer.
The platform - in existence since the end of 2019 - won the "Best Startup" title at the National Realtor Awards ceremony in September. Last week, the company was named "Startup of the Week" by entrepreneurial magazine Sprout. It is currently running a crowdfunding campaign and has already invested almost half of its target amount of €500,000. By the way, the company is going a lot further than the proposal of the outgoing cabinet. The cabinet wants to introduce a bid log to make bidding on houses more transparent and fair. This way, prospective buyers can only see in retrospect how much and when others have bid. Bids via House.nl are fully transparent before, during and after the bidding process.
Role of the broker is changing
Clearly, the company is solving a relevant and current social problem. But this is also accompanied by opposition from most of the industry. In the current market, both buyers and sellers are disadvantaged because the (selling) process is not transparent. The platform ensures that buyers have a fair shot at their dream home and sellers receive the best price, a win-win situation because today's seller is tomorrow's buyer. For his part, Grosfeld does understand that the majority of real estate agents are not enthusiastic. "The role of the real estate agent is changing due to digitalization and standardization. As a result, there is no information advantage, because buyer and seller have the same information step by step. A purchase broker is then basically no longer needed." Grosfeld calls for working with industry associations and politicians to make the sector fairer and more transparent. "As a sector, you don't want to miss the innovation boat by stubbornly sticking to outdated concepts, unclear prices and vague earning models. That's not good for customers and trust in the sector." Aldus Grosfeld.
Fair market forces
The fact that an open auction increases house prices is one-sidedly highlighted by the industry. Through an open auction, a higher sales price can indeed be achieved, but the price is also arrived at fairly. This is because buyers can follow the bidding process and (over)bid several times in small increments. Moreover, it appears that the moderation between the highest and second-highest bidder is more important than the actual level of the sales price. With a closed bidding system, this is not the case. The buyer can make a bid only once, during which they are otherwise left to their own devices and remain in limbo until the end of the bidding process as to whether their bid was high enough and accepted. "A transaction should not be one-sided as in the current system. Through fair market forces, everyone should have a chance to benefit." said Grosfeld.
Sander Zwiers sold his house va the platform, "I'm glad we sold our house through House.nl. Through the auction, anyone who has made a bid can see what the other bids are and then make several more bids. So you know exactly where you stand and also what you might have left to go for the house. No more blind bidding. That gave us a good feeling with the sale of the house."