A listing does not make a marketplace.

The Brixel story.

Michael Wiedemann
Jan 18 · 5 min read

Read the German version here

The story of Brixel began when we worked as a design agency for one of the largest real estate portals in Switzerland. We were surprised at how little an online listing actually did. You filter a few properties, then call the contact or write a message. That’s it. But the purchase hasn’t even really started yet. The transaction is a long way off. This is what we call a real estate marketplace? On a marketplace, you can buy something, not just look at things.

The basic idea was born: what if you could really buy or sell property online? From valuation to contract closing. Why doesn’t such a transaction platform exist? It quickly became clear to us why. Just like on the stock exchange, a transaction needs a certain standard, a high degree of transparency, and clear rules. But this is where the problem starts.

The standard is that there is no standard.

Advertising portals are nothing more than digital notice boards and online newspaper advertisements. Their value is visibility. The quality of the ad, however, is in the hands of the creator. That’s not so bad with a “used sofa for $100 to pick up yourself”. But with a property for $1’000’000? Shouldn’t one expect a certain standard of quality? After all, it is the most expensive object you buy or sell in your life.

But quality is not the business model of the platforms. Because quality costs. They earn their money by placing listings, from advertising, clicks, and brokering mortgages. And so you find all kinds of real estate ads: Twenty blurred pictures here, three glossy photos there. Flowery text for a „flooded with light“ property or a brusque “please contact us for more information” request. You learn that the nearest motorway access is 1720 meters away, but you don’t get any information about the floor plan. There is no question of standard. And so, it was clear to us, as a marketplace, we must first guarantee a high standard of quality.

Who tells us what it takes? The buyers and the banks. After all, they are the ones who buy or finance the „flooded with light“ property. We soon realized that if we wanted to meet the various demands, we would have to prepare the properties ourselves or at least give the sellers the best possible support. We invested a lot of time and money in research, design, and development to create this standard efficiently and cost-effectively for every new Brixel property in Europe. So today, every Brixel property has a valuation, its own website with full information, a 3D tour for a virtual visit, accurate floor plans, access to key documents, and yes, of course: info on the nearest motorway access. An experienced partner gave us the feedback: “I have never experienced it before that none of the banks need further information or have any queries about the property during the sale”. In addition, we regularly hear from prospective buyers that our preparation is among the best they see on the market. Quality standard: Check!

Cut out the middleman

That’s what estate agents are for! In theory, they are responsible for the quality standard. That’s why you pay an expensive commission, among other things. Funnily enough, we wanted to work with the estate agents’ guild at the beginning and had various discussions. There was often agreement on quality, even if it is only partially visible in practice. But our intention of clear rules of play and a high degree of transparency was mostly no longer so “industry-standard”. This starts with the brokerage contract. We have seen dozens of versions of these contracts and it was clear to us that we do not want such contracts as the basis of our client relationship. The seller signs the contract at the very beginning — without knowing how and whether the sale will take place in the end. Exclusivity, minimum sales price, additional costs, and proof of success are only partially or wrongly understood.

The most important argument against this, however, was provided by the buyers: “We want to deal directly with the owners and not with middlemen. It makes buying unnecessarily complex, intransparent, and overpriced.” And then came the crucial addition: “I would even pay to deal directly with the private seller.”

It was clear that if our marketplace could do without traditional intermediaries, it would lower the cost of the transaction and increase the buyers’ willingness to pay.

Enabling instead of patronizing.

Initially, we plunged into digitalization. Together with a valuation institute, we developed the first free online valuation in Switzerland. We collected market data, calculated price developments, and built a trading function like a stock exchange. Here comes the future. We thought.

Our first image video showing our digital experience — how we imagined it.

People showed interest. Many were excited about the new possibilities and registered for Brixel. But as soon as it got serious, when it came to selling one’s house, they switched to the traditional broker. The risk of doing something wrong was too great for them. The brokers sat at the kitchen table in their homes, reinforced all their fears, and “redemption” was only a contract signature away. We, on the other hand, were a tool and far away. It was depressing for us.

This hardship quickly became a virtue. We set a goal to gain 100 delighted customers by providing the best customer service possible. We drove four hours to the farthest valley of Switzerland and took free 3D pictures. We added a trial period for all our services. This meant potential clients could test the full Brixel service for free — without small print and gagging contracts. Yes, we even convinced our investors that we were buying a property as a company so we could experience the process and client issues first hand.

Now we were very close with our customers. We won them over with empathy and convinced them of digital excellence. Our customers don’t want to sell completely on their own as the risk is too great for them. What they do want is to take charge of the sale and purchase themselves and are enabled to do so by Brixel.

Customer testimonial after pivoting Brixel to a more human-centered approach.

It has always been in our name. “Brixel”. A mix of real bricks and digital pixels. Now we had found the right combination of digital and human support. The result today: 100% customer satisfaction and many new customers through referrals. More and more partners are also joining us. Trustees, architects, and project developers are using Brixel as a new standard for their clients. Even an international portal would like to offer Brixel as an extension to their classic advertising platform in the future.

This is Brixel. An integrated real estate market from private to private. Founded in complex Switzerland, ready for all of Europe. As a basis, we ensure trust and transparency everywhere with a high-quality standard. Throughout the whole process supporting our clients with services and guiding them with technology, we create the most efficient path to the notary — without any extraneous noise. We don’t earn our money through advertising, referrals, or brokerage commissions but through clear services for both parties. We charge fair fees, which are only due in the event of a successful transaction. This is what our clients are willing to pay for. No more and no less.

**The end and just the beginning**

Brixel HQ

Simplifying real estate transaction.

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