Robert Jones co-founder of Property.xyz, is ‘Building the world’s most intelligent property platform.” Realising that investment property buyers and those with valuable property stock to sell were poorly served by existing portals, his platform offers agents, new home builders and investment companies a free way to attract quality investor sales leads.
Which means property listed and offered by new homes builders, auction companies, investment agents, and estate agents will be simple and fast to find; and the research data and unique search filters will immediately drive buyers to the best target properties, which they will be ready to buy.
Speeding transactions and cutting through the usual fog like experience that investment buyers experience on normal portals through lack of detailed insight. Heightening the opportunities for sellers of property stock suitable for these buyers. Fascinated by the buyer-centric nature of the new site, we asked Robert how it all began.
Beginnings & Early Seeds
Rob tells us that at school he was ‘kind of vanilla, I didn’t really have a plan of what I wanted to achieve. But I grew up in an entrepreneurial family, both my parents ran their own businesses from a young age. I grew up and lived in hotels and worked within the businesses, and both my mum and dad were into property investment and development.’
Rob’s mum and stepdad started in the B&B sector, then had hotels, his dad, built property in and around Chester. Rob saw, ‘early seeds of what property could achieve but nothing that really I would have pinned my thoughts on back then, but it was an influence.’
In 2005, he bought his first investment property, then at the age of 23 he became an estate agent, joining Beresford Adams, Countrywide plc, in Mold (North Wales) and then Didsbury (Manchester).
‘That was a steep learning curve, working out all the moving parts of estate agency. Going from no direct sales or property marketing experience, to learning quickly as a branch sales negotiator in a North wales town which had lots of local rural and hard to value properties. Which meant thinking on your feet and working with sellers and buyers because you don’t have access to lots of useful historic property data.’
Then in 2007, he went self-employed and set up his own property sourcing business to work with investors and find them properties, as well as build his own property portfolio, just as the economy was about to crash. Rob, though, just moved forward regardless.
‘I just carried on and bought properties for myself and my own portfolio and sourced properties for yield focused investors’.
Between 2007 and 2012, he did many different business models, partnering with some companies and investors to do joint ventures where we would manage the sourcing and refurbishment and they would fund it. This gave him some insight into different types of property strategies, differing investor buyer goals and ultimately the wide range of criteria that buy to let investors and developers look for.
When a niche becomes a mainstream business
In 2012 Rob set up Property Investments UK which has grown to 65,000 plus monthly website visitors and is still thriving; we asked him how it started.
‘We were playing around with different models for the website and trying to work out the best way to provide a service for clients across the World and the UK across multiple strategies, locations and property types.
This involved Rob making lots of contact with investors, ‘We saw a natural progression from investors wishing for help simply with property sourcing and then buying the property, through to them wanting to be more hands off, so I would manage the whole process from refurbishment to arranging letting agents.’
But though he was meeting investors locally, Rob was no extrovert, hating networking events. He did not want to be in the limelight standing up on a stage and getting noticed. This caused a problem as, finding new investors was always a challenge.
He solved the problem by partnering with companies that had investors, sourcing housing stock for them, now, ‘finding new properties at scale then became the challenge.’
It was a drain on time, going out doing viewings, and scouring different websites and having multiple conversations about what properties are available, with multiple agents. It was a case of plate spinning continuously, having to cater for both new continuous inquiries from investors whilst finding the right properties, or finding a great property but then needing an investor match for it’s specific strategy. He needed to find a way to, ‘ flip that model and always have a match?’.
Rob flipped the model by going online, learning the basics of setting up a website, creating content, blogs and videos as a resource for the investor buyer, he would rather, ‘ spend time writing an article than going to the networking events’. The site became a steady magnet for investor buyers and investment property inventory.
This approach paid off and by 2015 when Rob gained a business partner for growth of their own property investment and development, the site was generating steady income and good engagement and feedback.
2018 Start all over again
In a move that we have seen many times with Founders, who have got a lot of experience and knowledge under their belt Rob started to question everything, equipped with knowledge he asked the question,
‘Well, what happens if we did everything differently? and that then sparked off the thoughts around property.xyz.’
He utilised the great relationships that his 2012 site had created and went to the grassroots emailing the database asking what it was that he should engineer? He also connected with those in the know in the field of technology teaming up with Dr Simone Di Cola who was to become co-founder.
Which was useful as Rob is more an ideas man, and, ‘Simone, is excellent, when I am speaking with him with technology, he breaks it down in a very simple format, and that works really well to understand the art of the possible.’
For a supposedly shy guy, Rob met with, spoke with and engaged with 100’s of investors to understand the pain points and what investor buyers really wanted. Utilising all the feedback he saw a wider need and a solution more than just sourcing.
‘The vision statement became ‘building the world’s most intelligent property platform’ which could, cater for all buyers, all sellers, all tenants, all agents, and all prop tech companies and suppliers, everything interacting seamlessly with a cornerstone piece of infrastructure that allows that to happen.’
Rob is the first to admit that this will not evolve overnight, but he has a clear vision on how it will be achieved.
Ask before you build
Many founders have an idea, see a revenue model, and build it out. Rob and his team went another route. Having actually asked all the stakeholders what they needed; they began building it.
‘It is not something that you can just build in isolation, it is something that is developed in line with the needs of people’s will, what they need from both sides, so from a suppliers point of view in terms of agents and proptech companies, then also from the property buyers point of view.’
Rob was acutely aware that technology and having all the tools to do things is good, but he wanted to build an ecosystem where, ‘We can help all agents, new home builders and investment companies to find the right buyers and to help them sell houses, we can help them grow as a business and can help them support their communities, suppliers, and team members by collaborating with all parties.’
A user centric platform
Twenty-years ago the largest property portal in the UK launched, it diced and spliced property into price, location, and house type lists. Buyers and renters jump on, find a target property, and jump off the portal into the arms of the selling or letting agent.
Rob has started from a different position; he explains that there is a huge community; of investment buyers who transact in a different way. These buyers, from corporate investment concerns to landlords, Rob tells us hang around in many clusters in and around the internet, there are sites where they glean information on what to buy, but it is all piecemeal. Many may be registered with agents, but agents do not always have the right tools to service their very specific needs.
‘property.xyz is about investor focus. There are lots of companies within the industry that sell specifically to that market or could sell to that market, it’s a buyers’ market that operates slightly differently than your high street agent may have traditionally had access to.’
Investor buyers are great buyers, but the number one portal is not their friend, it is too thin on detail for these types of buyers and hard to search on. Imagine you have a fantastic 3-bedroom semi detached house in a great area, with solid rental demand, good yield, and stable historic growth. All good attributes.
But your perfect buyer may not be aware of your area. On portals traditionally, a location search only approach, means you only capture local buyers. Imagine if you could open up your properties to a wider, national, and international market that loves the attributes of your area and properties and now actually gets to see them.
Or imagine you have five specialist properties you want to launch, and the investor buyer is your target, then these properties will disappear in the noise and volume of a behemoth portal. Limiting the sale potential, price and exposure and extending the time to find a buyer.
Robert realised that these property developers, investment companies, estate agents and new home companies have unique problems, they have huge amounts of great property stock or inventory, but ’ The challenge for them is getting consistent buyers and buyers that are going to be of a high enough quality, and that is where our focus is.’
So, property.xyz has been developed to help the discerning investor buyer find the most suitable properties across the UK. Time after time after time.
No longer a needle in a haystack
The classic Property portal revenue model is an agent lists stock and pays the portal for the privilege, normal buyers see the property and contact the agent. Rob, changed this dynamic on his platform, again using logic,
‘It is not for us or for an agent to need to decide what is going to be the perfect property investment. Everybody has a different need, as an investor you might want to buy a property that is very local to you because it is on your doorstep and you understand it and you know it.
Or you might be agnostic on location and want something that’s got great potential for high growth or high yield, in which case could be looking outside of your area. But to go on the many property search portals or the platforms and find those, it is a needle in a haystack stuff. So our aim is to make that simple.’
Property.xyz he tells us is a seamless, data charged experience where buyers get to their destination quickly with the security and the knowledge that have arrived at the right property. Supported by a range of data sets property buyers can even research any property in the UK to learn more about any property they are interested in buying.
We ask in simple terms what the platform is to him? ‘Your home of property investment. A central place where you can carry out research due diligence and find the right properties across the UK.’
Property.xyz data sources
You don’t have to go to multiple sites or go to multiple pages
Functionality of platforms is a big thing, property.xyz has this covered, when you search you get a deep dive of property information, even better it is quick to access, again we are back to the ‘user centric’ experience. As Rob explains, ‘You don’t have to go to even multiple pages on a site. You can see all the information for a property on one page.’
The platform is where the information hungry and analytically minded buyer can transact property business, find quality intel, and make informed decisions. Property.xyz to an extent is the investor buyer’s trusted one stop shop. This is also a great experience for sellers too. The beauty for example for the new home developer that is looking to sell purpose-built properties to investors is that, as Rob explains,
‘the lead quality is higher, their experience and understanding of the area and the location, in terms of the specific nature of what that location has as well as the wider picture of what the growth and the yields are all the way through to the specifics of that potential property. The buyer is inquiring on a property with much more confidence and they have that information at hand, and they are able to then make a better decision with a greater intent.’
In a way property.xyz is taking out the guesswork, and the legwork, and driving quality buyers to key target opportunities.
The more we interview Rob, the clearer it is that he is up for collaboration in several verticals. He clearly is building the ‘world’s most intelligent property platform,’ but he is doing it in a very inclusive way.
‘Our aim here is not to rebuild the internet, or rebuild anything when a best in class solution already exists, others we know have … created little pockets of best in class software as a service and data as a service and proptech solutions and working with those rather than reinventing the wheel just makes complete sense if those companies are also open for a collaboration, specifically within a property platform.
We’ve looked at the whole user journey from buyers ideation and them being ready to search to the research phase, the offer phase, mortgages, conveyancing insurance etc. Unless you had extensive resources, no-one is going to build this in house, it would need extensive engineers and team members to do it. Whereas with a more considered approach and a more collaborative approach, you can work with companies that are already excellent at those different phases, that is our plan.’
Then you realise that Rob is on to something when he says that the platform already does two key unique things, ‘One is search where you would search for properties to buy and the other is research where you would research any property across the UK to understand if that is going to be a potential property for you.’
Search and research
For anyone that uses a traditional property portal from the start of the century the buyer guidance system is pretty basic, which is going to be increasingly a source of irritation for Gen-Z, and the millennial tech-savvy buyer. Listening to this pain point property.xyz however has upgraded the buyer/investor journey to luxury class.
Instead of only being able to search properties on price or postcode or a narrow generic vertical of house-types, on property.xyz things are very different.
‘Data, filters and sort allow you to really enrich that user/buyer experience. We will be adding to these over the period of time. But as a basic level filter, you can search for refurbishment properties as an example. So you can just search for properties that need work doing to them.’
But it is not just the condition of the property that has filters you can utilise, it is hard analytical data, the gold that attracts investors to buy, ‘based upon information, we can pull out a description matched with extra data you can sort your listed properties based upon yield for example. So you can list properties with the highest local yields.’
And even more filters exist, ‘you can sort based upon house price growth or, and you can sort based upon buyer demand. So that will give you a starting point of opportunities that could be a better fit.’ No more roaming around in the dark, this site will be a honeypot for the thousands of investors looking to do property transactions, based on sound analytics.
Because, the site ‘does the thinking for you’ to an extent, saving time and confusion, Rob, Simone and the team have built in another nuanced feature,
‘that is both beneficial for the buyer and also for the agents which is called price match. So as a buyer, if you are searching for a property in a particular location, or even you are agnostic on location, you have just got a price and you are maybe seeing properties in Leeds as an example because you are searching there. There could be a great property for you in Birmingham, or Reading or Chester or Newcastle, but you would never see it.’ On property.xyz price matches help you spot new opportunities, front, and centre.
The research element is the other phase of the buyer journey, that old fashioned portals miss out. On Rob’s platform the research feature is where you can put in an address, and you land on a page with information about that location and about that property.
‘So you have one search, click one button, and you’ve got all the information you need about that property. That is where we are headed with the research feature, so it brings all of the data that is out there into one place for that property.’
Where does property.xyz get its properties from?
All of this sounds great on a site that enables specialist, quality buyers to get a Bird eye view of things, but what about getting the inventory or housing to sell? Rob is quick to answer.
‘So as of the moment, we have again, a collaboration, a data partnership with a provider that gives us access to over 110,000 properties across the UK. We also have data providers that are partnering with us for the supporting data. So the yield the house price, growth, the demand, and then also for the demographic data.’
Elephant in the room – Who pays for the service?
Rob tells us that it is a free to list site for estate agents, and it is free to use as a buyer, so all of the rich property data is absolutely free to the consumer.
‘The site will generate revenue from premium listings. Any agent can choose to use premium listings with most interest from new home builders, developers, investment companies and auction companies.
What we have seen is many of these companies have a good consistent supply of new properties and their pain point is finding a platform that can match their properties with consistent quality new buyers. Premium listings provide them with more exposure and awareness from this targeted buyer market. Property.xyz is the thinking person’s destination if they want to buy smartly, secure in the knowledge that they are making an informed choice with detailed data in one place.’
Clearly Rob’s personal journey and experience has allowed him to see the pitfalls and build a 2020 style platform fit for the buyer’s journey and fit for new home builders, developers, and agents to list stock that will be seen and bought.
Learn more at Property.xyz.