Written by Stephanie Pearl Li, originally published on KrASIA.
From apartment hunting to securing a home loan, buying property can be an arduous process in the Philippines.
Pre-selling is the dominant practice in the country's housing market. Most residential properties are sold prior to completion and they usually take up to five years to build, according to Christopher Velasquez, the founder of Manila-based real estate brokerage platform HomeAssist.ph.
Purchasing homes that are up for presale means that buyers do not need to make full payment until the property is completed, but they are required to make a down payment. There is the possibility of buyers not being able to secure home loans, according to Velasquez, who is also a licensed real estate broker.
"Sometimes, homebuyers pay the initial fees. Later, when they deal with the banks, their loan applications are rejected. Eventually, the buyers have to forfeit the initial payment," he added. "They lose money and waste time."
Another issue that some buyers face in the home purchase process is the lack of expertise or market knowledge in realtors.
To help homebuyers tackle these challenges, in 2018, Velasquez launched HomeAssist.ph, a residential property website that allows prospective buyers to view over 400 off-plan homes from the comfort of their couch.
In 2021, Velasquez decided to expand his property portal from real estate listings to an integrated online platform where buyers can search for residential properties, assess their mortgage tenor, or look into their home renovation needs.
Currently, there is already an array of online property marketplaces in the Philippines, including foreign players like Lamudi, which was acquired by Dubai-based digital classifieds group EMPG in May 2020, and Thailand-based Dot Property. Local players include ZipMatch and Housal.
These platforms typically charge sellers a subscription fee, but do not provide after-sales service. Through these websites, buyers would still have to fill out and submit the legal documents pertaining to their home purchase, Velasquez said. By contrast, HomeAssist.ph allows homebuyers to file these documents through its portal, including the Letter of Intent and reservation agreement.
"Our priority for the portal development is the property search feature that allows users to search, sort, and compare different properties. Aside from that, there will be a home loan qualifying feature that offers instant feedback on passing the home loan application," Velasquez said. The website is still under development and is expected to be ready in the second quarter this year.
Last May, the firm received an undisclosed amount as an angel investment from local IT firm Advanced Computer Solutions. HomeAssist.ph is currently looking to raise USD 100,000 in a pre-seed round. The firm aims to close the investment by the end of 2022.
HomeAssist.ph was among the nine finalists of the Alibaba Cloud x KrASIA Global Startup Accelerator Philippines Demo Day that was held on February 8.
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