Selling a house is a big deal – so would you approach it in the same way you’d stick something on eBay?
For most people the answer is “no”, with many choosing to enlist an estate agent when preparing for what is invariably the biggest monetary transaction of their lives.
But for one 25-year-old British entrepreneur who grew up in Abu Dhabi, resorting to a realtor is an “archaic” solution.
Haashim Rifai, whose father is Emirati, is the co-founder of Emoh – “home” spelt backwards – an online marketplace for Brits wanting to “say goodbye to estate agents”. The website promises to help people sell their homes themselves – and potentially save thousands in the process.
Emoh launched in the UK in October, and Mr Rifai says he plans to bring it to Abu Dhabi by early 2017.
Cutting out the middlemen can help UK home sellers save big bucks, Mr Rifai says. With UK estate agents’ fees typically between 1.5 and 2.5 per cent of the property value, that amounts to between £7,500 (Dh40,000) and £12,500 – plus 20 per cent sales tax – on a £500,000 home.
Emoh, which was inspired by the likes of eBay and Airbnb, allows a user to list their property for sale in 10 steps, and offers guidance on the sales process. Interested buyers can arrange viewings directly with the seller; if an offer is accepted, the transaction goes through the normal legal channels.
There are existing online estate agencies in the UK such as Emoov and Tepilo, both of which charge £595 to list a property. But unlike those websites, Emoh does not charge to list. Instead, it hopes to make money by charging users for optional extras such as professionally prepared photos, floor plans and environmental reports – with maximum fees of £249.
Estate agents contacted by The National defended the role they play.
Ben Crompton, managing partner of Crompton Partners estate agents in Abu Dhabi, says expert advice is vital when selling your home, as even a small improvement in service could make a massive difference in the transaction price.
“People can perform all sorts of services themselves; people can do their own accounts, clean their own house, even fix their own car – but they turn to experts in those fields to save time and to have the job done properly,” he says.
“It is the same with selling your house: yes it can be done yourself, but if you want it done expertly then use a professional.”
But Mr Rifai was dismissive of the profession – and he believes it will eventually disappear.
“A lot of people don’t like dealing with estate agents – they’re one of the most hated professions,” says Mr Rifai, who moved to London from the UAE to attend university, where he met his business partner. “We thought, how can we remove that element? We looked at the Airbnb model, and how they’ve disrupted the hotel industry.”
Homeowners are better placed than estate agents in selling their own homes, Mr Rifai argues, as they can answer potential buyers’ questions with more authority.
“In many of the cases, it’s actually the estate that complicates the whole transaction. Because you don’t know what they’re telling the other side … All the legal stuff is done by a conveyancer anyway, not by the estate agent. They’re purely marketing people,” he says, adding that the company can also arrange a professional valuation of a user’s home, at a cost of £19.95 including sales taxes.
Aside from eBay and Airbnb, another inspiration for Emoh was a negative experience faced by Mr Rifai’s father when renting out a property in London.
“The tenancy came to an end but the estate agent didn’t tell us. And throughout a period of three months he was actually subletting the property to someone else and keeping the rent,” Mr Rifai says.
But it is early days for Emoh. The site – pronounced “em-oh” – currently has just seven listings, all properties in London, and has yet to see a sale through to completion.
Mr Rifai says he expects listings and sales to start picking up in spring.
After that, his next move will be launching Emoh in Abu Dhabi, then elsewhere in the UAE.
“I’ve heard so many cases, especially in Dubai, of people getting fleeced for their money,” he says. “When we’ve proved [Emoh] has worked in the UK, we’re bringing it to the UAE. People can come to the platform and they know they’re dealing directly with the homeowner, instead of dealing with someone they don’t know – and who could potentially cheat them out of their money.”
Follow The National’s Business section on Twitter