Monica Dudău, Marketing Manager, Storia.ro & OLX Imobiliare spoke to Property Forum about the development plans of the two digital platforms dedicated to real estate professionals and the role of technology in streamlining sales in the local residential sector.
This interview was first published in Property Forum’s annual listing of "The 50 most influential people on Romania’s real estate market”.
How did Storia.ro & OLX Imobiliare’s operations evolve during 2022 and what are the prospects for this year?
Despite all the challenges, 2022 was a year with a high level of demand in the real estate market. Although we witnessed a number of challenging events, such as rapidly rising inflation, macroeconomic uncertainty, rising interest rates or the war in Ukraine, the impact on the real estate market was moderate - there were only 4% fewer individual transactions compared to 2021, which was considered a record year in the sector.
The good results in the real estate market were also reflected in the business results of Storia.ro and OLX Imobiliare, the platforms that form the largest real estate ecosystem in Romania, with by far the highest number of visitors.
Regarding 2023, we are optimistic and expect demand in the rental segment to remain at a high level, as it did in 2022, and demand in the sales segment to start growing again. We already have some positive signals from the economy: the inflation rate is starting to come down, the consumer credit benchmark IRCC is no longer growing at the same pace, and the key interest rate is holding steady.
What is your development strategy for the local market and what investments have you made in the last 12 months?
We want to continue to be there for agents and developers, as well as those who are in the process of looking for or selling a home. Last year we completely redefined our packages for professionals with the launch of SMART PACKS, a tool designed specifically for real estate agents and developers who want to make their job easier and deliver the results they want in 2023.
After years of experience, complemented by user research and feedback from business partners, we have focused on finding the optimal formula of included promotions, but also discounts on additional promotions, which, coupled with new user-friendly and even automated functionality, ensures that they not only shorten the time and effort they spend, but also deliver more value to their investment.
Also, for those who are looking for a home, we have launched, in beta version, the T.R.A.I index, a valuable tool that guides purchase or rental decisions, providing data on the main indicators of wellbeing in Romania’s neighbourhoods: TRAFFIC, LANDMARKS, AIR, but also REAL ESTATE (prices per sqm for housing in each selected area).
At the same time, we want to continue to democratize the real estate market and provide even more transparency. We, therefore, provide the press with relevant data on the evolution of supply and demand monthly as part of the Smart Road to Home initiative and will continue to organize informative webinars on the housing market.
How do you adapt digital platforms to the needs of real estate professionals?
We want to be the first choice of real estate professionals, so we are constantly thinking about how we can support developers and agents in optimizing their business and exceeding their goals.
According to our statistics, promoted ads generate, on average, three times more contacts than unpromoted ads. For this reason, all SMART PACKS launched include various promotion options, along with a diverse range of benefits, specifically designed to improve the performance of the ads published.
The estate agency packages also include the Storia.ro RADAR, a functionality that uses ML (Machine Learning) and AI (Artificial Intelligence) technologies to determine whether a property on the secondary market is listed by more than one estate agency, showing duplicate listings when identified with over 95% certainty. The PROMOTIONS PLANNER is another useful feature, which helps agents set up several types of promotions for listings in their calendar, based on the days they are most likely to generate leads.
Because branding is another important aspect, we have also included various options that give them visibility and the opportunity to differentiate themselves by promoting and amplifying the agency’s brand.
Developers place value on numbers and ad effectiveness, so packages for them come with functionality that makes their job easier and delivers the results they want. Here we mention the automatic scheduler for promotions, the day of the visit and the new overview page version. In addition to these functionalities, we want to give them access to data – both in platforms and through our communication initiatives.
What is the home buying experience for a user of Storia.ro and OLX Real Estate platforms?
Storia.ro and OLX Real Estate form the largest real estate ecosystem in Romania, with the largest audience for professionals and the most content for buyers and renters, so they do not miss opportunities. We also offer access to tools that help in decision-making, such as the T.R.A.I. index and webinars with specialists in the field.
What do real estate developers expect from a digital platform that streamlines the home selling process?
Real estate developers expect to have an increased number of contacts from genuinely interested buyers, as well as benefits related to visibility and brand image. Efficiency and automation are also important, and we cover this through the SMART PACKS. At the same time, market data is also of great interest to developers, which we are already doing both through direct communication with them and through the online webinars Real Estate. Real Talk.
What are your expectations from the local real estate market in 2023 in terms of demand and new project launches?
Based on the data we have so far, this year looks to be one of more caution in terms of home purchases, but the need and demand for housing will persist. In terms of projects for 2023, we plan to continue the broad process of democratizing access to the housing market. We will continue to provide clear information about the real estate sector, but also a varied portfolio, with properties of different types and in as many geographical areas as possible. Lastly, we will contribute to increasing the level of information with the help of the T.R.A.I. project. In the next period, we will focus all our efforts on obtaining feedback from the community and integrating it into the T.R.A.I. platform, so that we can provide as complete information as possible – on the one hand indexed information from specific platforms, and on the other hand impressions of those who already live in the featured projects.
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