Lokalhouse is a metasearch engine that should be used by anyone searching for an apartment or a flat to rent or buy. It allows people to search available listings from multiple sites at once. It is similar to using Google search engine but since it is focussed on the real estate sector alone, it is clutter free, and the results are beyond one’s expectations.
It is the brain child of Aniekan Okono, who is from Nigeria and served as a freelance real estate agent for a while in Nigeria before moving to Finland to study business development. After graduation he decided to become an entrepreneur and started LokalHouse with his colleagues in Finland.
Some things require time
But that turned out to be a mistake, as it resulted in wastage of time and money. Aniekan wanted to try to be reasonable with the plans. Having learned that it is better not to try to please others but rather stick to his guts and wait it out with patience, he pulled up his socks and did not let this initial setback deter his dream. Every hurdle that the team has faced be it in getting human resources, or as of now the financial resources, are taken up as a challenge.
When asked about the one thing that keeps him motivated, Aniekan replied, “When I look back, I discover that this has been my dream for ages. I recall spending time in my father’s library and going through all his business files out of curiosity sake. I keep motivating myself to pursue the dream that I had which started long ago”.
The result as we see, is the metamorphosis of Lokalhouse from a dream into a reality.
Build to search
As a metasearch engine, Lokalhouse is different by structure and form from other real estate sites. If one takes a closer look, when a search is made, results with links to other sites come up. This implies that Lokalhouse does not provide any means for people to contact agents through it. It does not serve as an intermediary, and does not take percentages from anyone. It’s a search engine that is build to search deeper.
LokalHouse Predictive analysis
LokalHouse is also working behind the scenes on an algorithm which can be used to calculate the housing price index, property value forecast and land rate estimates. There will be a healthy dose of human input to make sure the results correspond with the local real estate market. It will be in public beta by October 2013.
Overcoming the milestones
When questioned about the hardest part of his job Aniekan replied as follows, “The hardest part about my job is to set goals for the month and realize that at the end of the month due to certain unforeseen circumstances, those goals aren’t met or cannot be met. I cringe in pain. Startups aren’t easy but I love it still”.
There are many other real estate websites out there but since Lokalhouse is different in form and structure, the team doesn’t really consider them as competitors. Instead the team views the possibility of these competitors to place their adverts on their site through a CPC partnership or featured listings etc.
For the predictive analysis part, their biggest competitior is a company called Prop Equity.
Funding, Marketing and Team building strategy
Lokalhouse had a pilot grant from Aalto Centre of Entrepreneurship which it is using. The team is on their traction so that they can raise seed capital. At this moment their marketing plan is to keep it simple, but later on they might start doing other complicated things. Most of these things need money.
For the team building strategy, Lokalhouse already has an efficient team of 8 people and they are Santosh Tirunagari, Aniekan Okono, Babatunde Oyekunle Asifat, Henry Joe, Ankur Jain, Venkat Reddy and two others.
Preferred Method of reaching out to users
The team believes that advertising is the most effective way of getting users. Google AdWords or Facebook ads can work magic on increasing the user rate.
Feedback and Growth
When LokalHouse first put up a demo in India, it saw a reduction in bounce rate compared to the Finnish version which they had. In Finland, the product had a bounce rate of 80% even while there were more than 4000 visitors. In India, it had the bounce rate of 36%.
The search engine has also got tons of feedback which the team used and is still making upgrades based on the earlier feedbacks
New features… New levels
Lokalhouse is planning to allow real estate agents to take their listings from other sites and feature them on its search results to get the leads to follow them to the existing sites that they are using. Also the team is planning to offer people the ability to post listings and introduce a provision where the agents get notified instantly.
The team also plans to roll out this product in Africa.
Golden words from the Founder
The one advice that Aniekan would like to give is, “Try to have a good plan and then put in the hard work”