Sarah Beeny launches new property venture
The entrepreneur and TV star hopes her new business will shake up the property market
Serial entrepreneur and presenter of Property Ladder Sarah Beeny has launched a new business that enables people to buy and sell properties directly.
Beeny, who also runs a property development company with her husband and co-founded dating site MySingleFriend.com, said her new business tepilo.com allows homeowners to advertise their properties free of charge and by-passes the need for estate agents.
Vendors can upload photographs of their property, create floor plans and describe their home in their own words, while information on the local area and amenities will also be provided to buyers. Tepilo.com also hosts the negotiation process, offers users advice on how to maximise profit through design and the chance to ask property expert Beeny direct questions.
“One of the things the internet has done is it has meant that we don’t need middlemen as much. I knew there was a market for tepilo.com because I wanted the site and it didn’t exist,” she told Growing Business.
Although three quarters of home buyers now search for properties online, Beeny noticed that the big portals did not allow homeowners to advertise their own homes. Around 90% of people still use an estate agent to sell their property, which is down to a false perception that selling a home is a daunting and complicated process, she said.
“It occurred to me that if people are finding the houses they want to buy online, it seems a bit mad that the big sites where you look for properties don’t allow you to upload your own house. Find A Property and Rightmove are for estate agents only, they’re not for the consumer,” she added.
Beeny said the site would save the average vendor around £5,000-£10,000 on estate agents’ commission, typically 2-3% of the value of the property.
Tepilo.com is completely free for both the buyer and the seller, and offers step-by-step advice on selling your home. Beeny is looking at affiliate schemes to generate revenue in the future, but the focus for now is achieving a critical mass of users.
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She added: “We wanted to keep it free for the consumer because ultimately people are doing a lot of buying into the site. It’s a tool, and we don’t have overheads like a shop front, branded cars and minibars. We don’t need to charge £10,000 to sell your house because we don’t need to pay for all of that.”
“We may look at sponsorship on it, but that would probably be an affiliate deal. But the business model is set up so that we don’t need to monetise it. The shareholders in the business are the people who are running it.”
Beeny is also adamant that there is still an active market for buying and selling property, despite falling house prices.
“There is a massive demand for property, which is really exciting, but there are quite a lot selling as well,” she said. “I think some people have decided that they’re not going to sell, they’re going to wait for the market to go up. I think they’re going to be waiting for an awfully long time and they’re going to be awfully disappointed.
“As soon as interest rates start going up we’re going to see a very different market. One of the things that worries me about the market is that people are under the impression that house prices will go up before interest rates go up, and I truly don’t believe they will.”
She added that she does not expect house prices to fall much further.
“I think we’re bumping around at the bottom. I don’t think we’re going to see much value coming off, but I don’t think we’re going to be going up.”
While she admits that there is no security on the site – anyone can use it and users will not be vetted – those doing anything more than browsing must register on the site and users are still required to seek the advice of a solicitor.
“The biggest challenge is reaching a point where there’s enough properties on there to make it worthwhile searching for the person who’s trying to buy. There’s certainly plenty of buyers. It’s just getting the message out there so that everyone who’s selling a house sticks their house on there so that the buyers can find them.”
Less than a month after launch, tepilo.com has already had thousands of registrations and more than 2,100 uploaded properties.
© Crimson Business Ltd. 2009