Singapore’s DREA aims to radically improve the property buying process giving buyers access to market data analysis and insights previously limited to professionals, while giving agents highly targeted leads and a platform for digital marketing. A husband and wife team (seemingly the perfect combination with one an ex-banker, the other the CTO), we sat down with the later, Yuet Whey, to discover more:
What is the story behind DREA? Was it a lightbulb moment or a slow burn idea?
The idea for DREA started 3 years ago when I was looking to buy my first home in Singapore and was actively seeking information on the real estate market. I wanted a way to search for homes that would give me a minimum of 3% rental yield. However, it would require crunching through thousands of data points on Excel, a daunting task to many
Even as I shortlisted homes, I realized that there was an information gap in the market for real estate insights and more importantly, insights that could be accessed easily on-the-go. I then set about to create the first ever Digital Real Estate Assistant (hence the name DREA) that would offer any daily buyer, tenant, seller and landlord access to high quality, instant real estate information that is at the same time, easy to understand.
Tell me about the process of building the site (ie. first while working on it on the side, then to moving full time)?
When my partner and I first started designing and building DREA, we focused primarily on the consumer lens. Each time we had a house viewing or visited a show flat, we would think about what we would like to have as buyers and tenants. We then proceeded to create them. Being in the shoes of a consumer allowed us to identify gaps in the market and more importantly things that matter to the consumers. For example, the ability to search homes by drive time and the ability to get instant property insights such as supply risk and pricing around an area.
The product development process was exhilarating. We were essentially imagining possibilities, and then making them come to life. We took time to build up a truly differentiated and proprietary data set that went beyond common real estate data like prices. We also spent time talking to others and getting their inputs. More importantly, we took time to properly understand the industry to refine our business model. That is how we concluded on the need to shift away from the already commoditized market for posting online real estate classified listings.
I left Investment Banking when I knew we were ready to hit the market. Running a company is an entirely different experience from Banking. There was no one to tell me what to do. I had to learn new skills, set goals and be disciplined.
You are a husband and wife team – how does that work?
We complement each other by leveraging on each other’s strengths. It is not always easy and we recognize how critical it is to maintain clear boundaries between work and home. We constantly remind ourselves that the objective of working together is to build towards a common goal and (simple as it sounds) be happy. The focus on a long-term shared goal helps us look beyond individual moments of conflict which are unavoidable.
What are the key features your site offers in terms of market research?
- Location-based insights: anyone can flip out their phone anytime and instantly discover suitable units nearby, show flats nearby, prices in the area, supply risk and more.
- Natural Language Search: redesigning how one searches for information or homes by streamlining a wide range of search parameters into a simple and intuitive user experience. For example, try searching for price trends in District 9 or find me a 3 Bedroom for sale under $1.2m with a yield of >2.5%
- Price Trends and Supply Risk: ability to instantly retrieve detailed district-level price trends and triangulate it against upcoming supply in each district.
- Forward-looking SIBOR Rates: we offer consumers the ability to discover where SIBOR rates will be in 3 months time based on market expectations.
- Comparable Condos: DREA is designed to help consumers identify truly comparable condos (beyond area) in terms of tenure, age, price, drive time to your office or even walk time to MRT.
Where does your data come from?
We pull together data and content (housing, demographics, transport, interest rates) from multiple avenues including DREA’s proprietary dataset and from public sources like Urban Redevelopment Authority into a single source to enable new forms of instant analysis and insights on the property market.
What features do you offer to agents?
- For agents, we offer the ability to select, target and actively reach out to potential home buyers or tenants based on their housing preference. This is a 180-degree shift from the “post listings and wait for leads” business model adopted by most real estate portals.
- In addition to that, we offer agents a full suite of information and analysis so that they can address every client ask. In the past, an agent may need to spend hours pulling data from URA and then analysing them just to find out something as simple as future supply in a given area. Today, DREA processes all this and presents this to an agent in a matter of seconds. In a market where there are more than 20,000 agents, the ability to provide fact-based answers at the snap of a finger is a tremendous competitive advantage for agents.
How do you compare to property portals like property guru / iproperty?
We have a different business model and revenue model. For DREA, our content and information tools drive traffic. DREA is not about listings and we do not have to first build a large inventory of listings before we can attract users to our site. Users come to DREA mainly to assess whether a property is in a good location, has good amenities nearby or whether it is appropriately priced.
Similarly, DREA monetizes subscription to content services and for the purchase of detailed property insights reports. For us, listings are free and forever will be. We are currently testing other products which are unique to DREA and will be rolling them out to the market soon
What stage are you at in terms of funding / revenue / growth?
We are currently in the middle of discussions with several Series A investors and we are already revenue generating thus far.
What is the long term ambition (5-10 years)?
We envision a future where every consumer walking into a show flat or house viewing will look to DREA for information. And that they will use DREA to differentiate facts from sales-pitch, ask educated questions and use it to negotiate effectively.
On the commercial front, we see ourselves being a global player who has materially accelerated the shift in real estate advertising spend from traditional to digital. Our goal is to be a sustainable and profitable business.
What’s the hardest thing about being a startup in Singapore?
Competition for talent. We compete against MNCs, SMEs, larger tech companies and other startups for talent. With the lean business model most startups have, it has become increasingly difficult to attract the talent startups require to scale quickly and efficiently.