Entrepreneur

How A Malaysian Startup Intends To Win The War With Property Agents

For years, the property ecosystem has relied on the rhetoric of real estate agents and their ability to bridge the needs of sellers with those of buyers and tenants. If you needed to rent a house, you’d probably look for an agent who would take you through a collection of available listings and find you a place that would suit you best.

The property agent would usually charge the property owner a commission for the sale, or the equivalent of a half to one month’s rent for finding them a tenant. That’s been the de facto standard for years—a standard that Wong Whei Meng, the founder of Speedrent, feels no longer applies in today’s world.

Image Credit: Media.ibisworld.com
Image Credit: Media.ibisworld.com

Based on his personal experience as a landlord, Wong felt that property agents were behaving just like messengers, and that they weren’t providing him with any real value. “Dealing with 3 agents would require me to repeat the same thing 3 times. In an app, you just need to state it one time, and it can be replicated many, many times,” Wong said.

In order to address the issue at hand and to disrupt the current property ecosystem, he came up with Speedrent, an app that he feels will one day become the de facto property agent.

Rebirth of Saywa

The app was initially called Saywa—a play on the word ‘sewa’ (rent)—but unfortunately, many people couldn’t figure that out. And the ones that did often mistook ‘sewa’ as the brand. To avoid confusion, they decided to get a better name.

Wong said, “Getting a name that’s easily remembered and says what we do is crucial.” And thus Speedrent was born.

Image Credit: Play Store
Image Credit: Play Store

“The new app has significantly improved user experience by doubling the chat and meet, but it is worth noting that Speedrent has less users compared to Saywa because we have just launched for a month under this brand name,” he added.

Speedrent caters primarily to landlords who prefer to take matters into their own hands because they feel that property agents offer poor service at a high expense.

“We are truly focused in helping people to rent, instead of letting them figure it out themselves,” said Wong. In fact, he is boldly determined to dominate the entire property rental vertical with Speedrent within the next two years, as he truly believes he’s helping both landlords and tenants.

Death of Property Agents?

The common view is that most agents focus on transactions that deal with the purchase and sale of property because commissions are usually higher in such cases. In comparison, rental transactions aren’t that lucrative.

Image Credit: Speedrent
Image Credit: Speedrent

Given that Speedrent is looking to dominate the entire property rental vertical, it’s important that property agents who provide value added services, have strong networks and excel in providing after-sale services, won’t be affected or fazed by the app. This will ensure that landlords won’t be reluctant to pay such agents the money that they are owed.

He added, however, that “great agents do not represent the majority of the agent population; we think that landlords that do not mind DIY leasing property will start using us because they are empowered to perform such transactions easily with our app guiding every step”.

This, of course, raises the question of why we’d need messengers in today’s hyper-connected economy in the first place. While it might seem that property agents have become expendable today, there are still a few cases in which property agents are of use. For example, if you’re an extremely busy landlord, it’s more sensible to find a good and responsible agent who can show your property to tenants on your behalf.

The Path Ahead

The team at Speedrent is busy marching towards its goal of becoming the industry leader by constantly finding ways to add value for both landlords and tenants. In fact, they are currently building an app to ease the process of signing up for broadband/payTV—they hope to remove the need for users to visit physical shops at all.

In the next couple of years, Wong believes that Speedrent will be present in all major cities in ASEAN, providing their users with a simple, hassle-free rental experience.

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 3.54.58 pm

“There is nothing stopping us from helping landlords collect their rent through our platform, to help them deal with property issues that arise during tenancy period; and at the same time providing a safe guarantee to tenants from bad landlords,” he remarked confidently.

Speedrent in the future will become the protectors for both parties. They will help landlords collect rent on time, and assist them with evicting tenants should the need arise. At the same time, they will ensure that landlords abide by a standard code of conduct when dealing with tenants who do pay their rents on time. They are looking to emulate eBay by overseeing the entire transaction, by ensuring that everyone is on their best behaviour.

A property agent confided in me recently that times are indeed tough. That said, I feel that there’s a long way to go before Speedrent or any platform will be able to truly ‘disrupt’ the industry. Still, given the strong ideals of its founder, we might just see it happen much sooner than we anticipate.

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