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Househunting apps give agents a run for their money


Finding for a house or apartment to rent anywhere these days can be a daunting task, often both emotionally and financially. To make searches easier, tech companies such as Nairobi-based have come up with apps that connect tenants directly with landlords whose houses match the prospective tenant’s specifications.

“Our services are real time. There is nothing like ‘the house was paid for yesterday’. What you see on our platform is available,” says xPodd chief operating officer Nekoye Inzaule. She also notes that xPodd reduces the noise online, giving tenants a chance to be as detailed as possible on what they want and where they want to live.

“Our system can filter. For example, if you put all the details and say ‘it must be ground floor’, we are able to provide [something] on the ground floor,” Inzaule says. “Our job is to make sure we get you at least three units that fit your requirement. If there are fewer than three, we will call you and say we have two or at times just one.”

“It has to be understood that we are not here to replace real estate agents. They have their role and we have ours,” says Inzaule, whose company has had about 19,000 client engagements so far.

Sammy Mwirotsi, a software developer at rental property management system Nyumbani, says such platforms while being seen as competition by real estate agents have helped streamline the sector. Nyumbani provides real-time reconciliation of rent receipts. “There are tenants who pay less than the required amount on mobile money and then edit the message before forwarding it [to the agent or landlord], so we correct that issue by providing a real time reconciliation tool,” says Mwirotsi. The platform will also expand its scope to list all houses in its system for free to counter the prevalence of fraudsters out to swindle househunters.

Inzaule says xPodd advises clients not to pay when they make their order to ensure trust in the system. “When you make the order, you do not pay. At the point when you are ready to post, you will be told how much you pay once your requirements are matched with the available property,” she says. Users also have the option of paying before submitting their details or once they are matched; and the fee is refundable. Once matched, photos of the houses with their respective GPS locations are shared alongside the contact for the respective landlord and another number for an official from xPodd who is available to accompany the prospective tenant when they meet to view the property and sign the tenancy agreement.

“If somehow you are not able to get what we promised you, we do a 100 percent refund,” she adds.

Maurice Ochieng, owner of real estate firm Property & Discounts Ltd, says the online platforms are the future of the business, but insists people should do due diligence when transacting. “What this technology has done is shorten the time when you do due diligence,” he says. While the apps provide the information, verification is still needed.

PHOTO Nairobi, Kenya

It has to be understood that we are not here to replace real estate agents. They have their role and we have ours.

Nekoye Inzaule

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