When rolling out a given technology, even the most scalable platforms, every different market requires a large amount of resources and attention – for international settings even more so than domestic ones. For this reason, most tech startups cherry-pick the most valuable regions as their first areas of expansion. This is especially true in real estate technology, which requires a lot of regional personalization and is at the mercy of long lead nurturing timeframes. Many of the big PropTech companies including VTS, CompStak and Reonomy focused on large markets (usually starting with NYC) before looking to take their service to smaller towns or other cities internationally. Even big residential property companies like Zillow have only just begun to look outside the US for growth.
There is no fault in this strategy. Why not spend your time getting into the most valuable markets first? Why risk rolling out a product that isn’t ready for a specific market? However, the limited ability to onboard lesser known, often international markets has created an opportunity for region-specific solutions to take hold. Evidence of this comes in the form of a new round of funding for Egypt and Saudi Arabia-centric online real estate marketplace Aqarmap. While many PropTech companies are just now expanding to major European markets, other regions such as the Middle East and Latin America are finding their own solutions. For example, MarcoLibre, Latin America’s eBay and most popular e-commerce site, is now listing properties itself in a bid to fill a market need. In Asia, Xiaozhu, China-based short-term rental site and Airbnb rival Xiaozhu recently secured a large investment from Alibaba founder Jack Ma’s fund.
So many fragmented regional sites exist that there is even an aggregator, List Globally. Propmodo published an article by them about the importance of marketing a property to a global audience. Finding foreign buyers for U.S. properties is only a small part of the equation, of course. There is also a huge need for efficiencies in smaller countries all over the world. There are language barriers to overcome and often each country has vastly different laws (Mexico, for example, doesn’t require a license to sell real estate) but these can often be overcome by finding a local partner.
Bringing a technology to a new market can be expensive and time-consuming. Finding local partners can be difficult and risky. But all of these negative aspects pale in comparison to the alternate option – waiting for a competitor to take hold and then have to fight or buy them out. The ideas and technologies that can fundamentally alter a given market’s real estate ecosystem are already out there. Now the race is on to see who can capture the biggest global market share before the late-stage consolidation period sets in.