Constructing a Niche Service

A friend of mine recently has purchased an apartment in a new real estate project. For some time he has been complaining to me about the low level of service he has been receiving from the company: to find out trivial details about the progress of the construction, numerous phone calls are needed; no one tracks his requirements regarding the finish details of kitchen and bath; he has to coordinate and schedule different sub-contractors (installing bath, kitchen…) by himself, etc.
As it sometimes happens, his complaints have given me an idea for a service that would combine two fundamental needs of apartment buyers in new projects: the need to get updates and track progress of the construction, and the need to get and share information with other buyers in the same project.

Such service would have the following core aspects:

  1. Channel for communicating updates, hosting relevant documents and tracking construction progress from contractor to buyers (which parts of apartment are already completed, what is the expected finish date of the remaining parts, etc)
  2. Community through which buyers in the same projects can meet each other, share relevant information, and become a strong buying force in negotiations with sub-contractors

What’s in it for the contractor?

  1. Decrease the load of nagging phone-calls, and improve the level of perceived service
  2. Such service can easily be extended to prospective buyers as well: portal with information about the building, including, most importantly, which people already bought apartments in that project. Finding out that doctor and software engineer will be the future neighbors, can be a convincing argument for people considering a purchase in that project

What’s in it for the buyers?

  1. Receive relevant and up-to-date information about the progress of the construction
  2. View relevant documents, plans, etc.
  3. Socialize with neighbors, share relevant information, decide to go shopping together.
  4. Resulting social network can seamlessly grow into neighborhood community, where people can look for babysitters, offer guitar lessons, car pooling, etc.

And what about the service itself?

  1. Business model – a combination of ads and members club program
    • Ads – kitchens, parquet flooring and jacuzzi ads can be obviously relevant to people looking to decorate their new, but still empty apartment
    • Members club – buyers joining the members club for modest monthly fee, can enjoy discount prices on relevant services and products. Interested companies and sub-contractors can get an easy access to potential clients buy partnering with service’s members club, and offering it’s clients exclusive deals
  2. Distribution model
    • Through contractors -when buyers come to company’s office to sign the papers, they receive an invitation to join the community
    • Portal partnership – partnering with large classified portal, such as Yad2 can give the service the needed credibility and exposure while offering the visitors of the portal extensive information about the project and its future residents
  3. Market size – every year tens of thousands of people in Israel purchase new apartments. These people spend in addition tens of thousands of shekels on sub-contractor jobs such as kitchen and bath installations, laminate flooring, etc. Becoming the leading members club for new apartment owners can give the service a significant foothold in a multi-million market

Any expected difficulties?

  1. Cooperation with contractors may be difficult to achieve – not only these companies are usually far behind in their interest in Internet services, the perceived advantage from their participation in such project may be too small. Possibly they will need additional incentives to come on board
  2. Steep learning curve – persuading contractor’s secretary that till today has worked mainly with phone and fax to update project progress and info on the web site may prove timely and difficult. The service would have to be extremely friendly to non-tech people.

10 Replies

  • Hi Mike, I like the idea, on the technological side, and on the community/open approach side.In regards to your predicted difficulties, you are a bit off I believe, here is my POV:The secretary isn't the issue, she had no problem with excel, email, web or any other database they use to calculate cost of building etc.The issue is the value of information in this industry.The contractor (especially in our country) fear the sharing of knowledge of the end customers, that is mainly because competition is around cost, which takes the value down.The contractor is fearful of defects being reported, because defects costs him money.If one customer's idea for change of the plan is shared with another – that costs the contractor.So the only contractor that would take on such a system, is one that has confidence in the quality of their building, and has no problem of accommodating to changes suggested by the end-customer.The system is technically possible, and quite simple to achieve – there are such systems for architects/contractor/customer of the enterprise size.But to problem is in the psychology of the business, and 1st that needs to change.Nice article, I always enjoy reading and discussing such ideas with you – keep it up.

  • Hi Mike,

    I like the idea, on the technological side, and on the community/open approach side.

    In regards to your predicted difficulties, you are a bit off I believe, here is my POV:

    The secretary isn't the issue, she had no problem with excel, email, web or any other database they use to calculate cost of building etc.

    The issue is the value of information in this industry.
    The contractor (especially in our country) fear the sharing of knowledge of the end customers, that is mainly because competition is around cost, which takes the value down.

    The contractor is fearful of defects being reported, because defects costs him money.
    If one customer's idea for change of the plan is shared with another – that costs the contractor.

    So the only contractor that would take on such a system, is one that has confidence in the quality of their building, and has no problem of accommodating to changes suggested by the end-customer.

    The system is technically possible, and quite simple to achieve – there are such systems for architects/contractor/customer of the enterprise size.

    But to problem is in the psychology of the business, and 1st that needs to change.

    Nice article, I always enjoy reading and discussing such ideas with you – keep it up.

  • Hey man,you are absolutely right regarding the fact that contractor's interest in such service may be highly questionable. It almost serves the opposite purpose for him. As you said, most contractors would much prefer neighbours that don't know each other, and don't share information, which might serve to compromise him, or cost money. This brings me to the conclusion that the contractors must be excluded from the process. But how buyers can be accessed then, without active help from the contractor? Is there any other reliable distribution channel?

  • Hey man,
    you are absolutely right regarding the fact that contractor's interest in such service may be highly questionable. It almost serves the opposite purpose for him. As you said, most contractors would much prefer neighbours that don't know each other, and don't share information, which might serve to compromise him, or cost money.
    This brings me to the conclusion that the contractors must be excluded from the process. But how buyers can be accessed then, without active help from the contractor? Is there any other reliable distribution channel?

  • It seems to me that a 3rd party – like a Real-Estate agency can use such a service or a post-buying service that tracks the building progress (for pay or other business model – maybe even take commission like a real-estate agency).

  • It seems to me that a 3rd party – like a Real-Estate agency can use such a service or a post-buying service that tracks the building progress (for pay or other business model – maybe even take commission like a real-estate agency).

  • Maybe we're on to something – let's move the discussion to Google Wave (it's a chance to try the bloggy bot there ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Maybe we're on to something – let's move the discussion to Google Wave (it's a chance to try the bloggy bot there ๐Ÿ™‚

  • I got a wave account just recently, didn't have a chance to test drive it yet. I will look for ya there ๐Ÿ™‚

  • I got a wave account just recently, didn't have a chance to test drive it yet. I will look for ya there ๐Ÿ™‚

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