UrbanZoom — “The Google of Singapore Property”

UrbanZoom.com landing page (Jan 2018)
“Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it.”
- Samuel Johnson, English Author (1709–1784)

A Stressful User Experience

Say you’d like to upgrade from your old “dumbphone” to a new top-of-line smartphone.

You’ll probably end up spending a lot of time looking up online reviews, YouTube unboxing videos, relevant subreddits/forums, while also pouring through all the p2p marketplaces to get an idea how much your old phone may sell for today.

Now imagine you’re about to buy/sell something that’s easily 1,000x in financial value. Think of the level of research that you’d want to do prior to committing to such a big decision.

Indeed, this is what buying/selling a home is all about. And how is this working out for most folks?

A few quick Google searches reveal the following:

The last Google result probably raised some eyebrows or sarcastic nods 😅

While it’s easy to jump on this “real estate agents are &^#@!” bandwagon, I must say that since becoming a licensed agent myself last year, I’ve come to see that a great agent can make a real difference in ensuring a smooth transaction and certainly justify his/her commissions.

Having said that, there’s no denying that buying or selling a home remains one of the most stressful financial transactions that a person/household will go through, due in no small part to the sheer sum of money involved.

Unanswered Questions

In fact, most home buyers/sellers will have problems answering these questions easily today:

“How long did my neighbor take to sell his unit?”

“How many potential buyers have expressed interest in my condo project recently?”

“What’s the best month in a year to put my home on the market?”

“Has someone been killed in this home before?”

“Who are the neighbors?”

“Is the main door facing south (say for fengshui purposes)?”

“How’s the typical traffic conditions around the project?”

Etc, etc…You get the idea.

UrbanZoom — The Best Market Intelligence Tool for Singapore Property

So how can we transform the home buyer/seller’s user journey from a highly stressful one to a more pleasant one where the parties involved feel confident they’ve made the right decisions?

Data. Lots of data, but curated for quick, actionable insights.

Our goal is to build a market intelligence tool — a kind of search engine that gives you smart answers to all your property-related queries.

In that light, our project (called UrbanZoom) is decidedly NOT a listing portal (instead, we think of ourselves being complementary to listing portals).

And since we have nothing to “sell” (unlike say PropertyGuru, 99.co, SRX, EdgeProp, Carousell, Facebook Marketplace, etc), we can design 100% of UrbanZoom to be a truly useful tool that home buyers/sellers want to use in their real estate journey, alongside these other popular listing sites.

What is Zoom Prediction?

As a start to that goal, we have built an AI engine that automagically spins up a price prediction (if sold today) for a specific home based on its address.

Zoom Prediction for a unit in The Miltonia Residences that was sold for $830k in Dec 2017

By relying on more than 2 decades worth of transactional data as well as other macro/micro input variables, Zoom Prediction is able to achieve best-in-class accuracy for HDB and Condo homes.

Each Zoom Prediction also comes with its own “confidence level”, meaning our algorithm is able to estimate how confident we are regarding a particular prediction. In fact, our overall accuracy becomes significantly better if we consider those with a high confidence level.

Zoom Prediction is able to achieve best-in-class accuracy, with a median error of 2.4% for HDB and Condo homes.
Error rates distribution for high-confidence Zoom Predictions for HDB & Condo transactions in 2017
Examples of Zoom Predictions (in Nov 17) for actual sales transactions (in Dec 17)

Nerdy note: To ensure an unbiased testing of Zoom Prediction results, we first create a prediction model based on data prior to a certain month (say March 2017). Then, we’ll use it to make predictions for all transactions that occurred in the following month (April 2017).

Why we do what we do?

Home price prediction is just a small part of the puzzle and it seems to us that there’s still a lot more that can be done to bring more transparency to every real estate transaction.

Indeed, we really believe that everyone, regardless of economic status, should be able to buy or sell their homes without any fear of misinformation.

Our mission is to give full power to the common man through the democratisation of housing market intelligence.
Home buying and selling should be completely free from misinformation and fear.

Who are we (& how we intend to make $)?

We are an idealistic bunch of real estate professionals, data geeks & makers who want to build cool products that people want. We are based in different locales but most of the team call Singapore home 🇸🇬🇸🇬🇸🇬

As for making money, it’s still something we are exploring at the moment. We do believe, however, that if we build a product that truly helps home buyers & sellers in their real estate journey, we’ll figure out a way to build a sustainable business model down the road.

So our sole priority today is to build UrbanZoom into a truly world-class search engine for property-related queries. Nothing else matters.

If you have any queries or suggestions on UrbanZoom, feel free to reach out to me here: michael.cho (at) urbanzoom (dot) com