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Be it real estate search, mutual fund purchase or bill settlement, the Internet is helping save time, hassle and money.

By Rakesh Rai | Print Edition: May 17, 2007

After matrimony and jobs, online property market is getting the maximum attention on the Net. Altogether, the top three property portals— 99acres, Magicbricks, Indiaproperty—which showcase around 3.5 lakh properties, entertain six million-plus hits per month.

The majority of the traffic is due to home hunters (in the Rs 35-55 lakh segment) logging on to search for property. “The Net is basically becoming the first step towards buying a house.

Earlier home hunters were limited to newspapers. They would also visit the offices of their local estate agents. This tedious and time-intensive process is exactly what home hunters hope to avoid by using the Internet,” says Sandeep Sadh, CEO, mumbaipropertyexchange.com.

According to industry estimates, an individual takes about three months to more than a year to freeze on a house for buying. For rental accommodation an individual visits anywhere between five and 25 houses after research.

 This is where online real estate players step in and offer ready information at the click of a button, cutting down on time. “If people make preliminary enquiries on the Net, the chances of conversion are more because they know what to expect when they visit a property,” says Deepali Singh, business head, 99acres.com.

These sites not only enable buyers to find a property online but users can also compare mortgages for the best deals, arrange surveys and valuations and contact interior decoration companies.

On most of these sites you can list or search for properties to buy or rent or even for a payingguest accommodation.

You can search by location, your requirement, builders in an area and even properties attached by banks. Many such sites have separate listings and buying information for non-resident Indians (NRIs).

 Some also give you a facility to search for roommates or even jobs in the real estate industry and have started offline linkages like property management services if your property is lying vacant in a city.

Some other value-added services include interaction with experts, online chats with real estate experts or builders, e-mail alerts or SMSes to property sellers, agents, builders, developers and buyers for inquiries on properties that are listed on the portal.

That is how Delhi-based A K Singh bought his property. “I searched a number of websites but could not get a house matching my requirements.

That is when I put my profile and requirements on one of the sites and started getting e-mail alerts which eventually led me to the house I currently stay in,” he says.

 Take the case of 35-year-old Gireesh Chaddha, a manager with a Gurgaon-based retail company. Chaddha was fed up with property dealers, who on knowing that he was planning to sell his three-bedroom apartment in Patparganj, Delhi, paid him regular visits.

“It was getting on my nerves. Every day the brokers would come with prospective buyers whose requirements were totally different,” he says. He decided to list his property on a real estate site and now he gets calls from prospective buyers who know what the property is and how much he is planning to sell it for.

Website

No. of listed properties

Listing charges

Unique visitors

99acres.com2 lakhRs 50070,000 a day
magicbricks.com5 lakhFree80,000 a day
indiaproperty.com2 lakhFree50,000 a day
“I have received enquiries from Jaipur, Chandigarh and even Dubai. Most likely I’ll seal a deal in a month’s time,” Chaddha says. Many sites give direct phone numbers of individual sellers, so the broker commission is eliminated.

Even the listing of properties is undergoing a change with features like property videos and arranging site visits. Most sites are pay-tolist.

Charges vary from Rs 500 per listing (for two months) with a 15-day free trial period for individuals to Rs 15,000-5,00,000 a month for developers and brokers depending on the kind of display they want.

“Online property market is growing exponentially in India and it is expected that Internet would take up about 10-15% of the total real estate advertisement expenditure soon,” says Indiaproperty.com CEO Murugavel Janakiram.

Individually, even the largest property portals only cover a fraction of the total number of properties currently for sale, and regional coverage can be rather a hit or miss. There are varying degrees of duplication across the major portals also, which could make search for property rather frustrating. Also, not all sites are experts in all locations.

 There are about 40 million Internet users in the country today and according to industry estimates, the figure is likely to go up to 100 million by 2008. This huge boom in Net users, many of who will also be mobile, high income consumer of real estate who will search for and demand high-quality properties at competitive prices. Online search will be their first hunting space.

“The market generated $2 million two years ago and the figure for last year was $8 million—a 400% jump,” says Janakiram. It is likely to grow as even if the real estate market slows down, developers and buyers will explore newer options like the Internet to generate leads. “We see 30-40% of buyers using the Net as a preliminary source of information in the next five years,” he says confidently.

BANKING

A growing army of virtual customers are changing the way in which banks do business.

SERVICES

HOW IT HELPS

Transfer funds in India to same bank and others 

Does away with physical cheque 

Transaction historyBank statement history available anytime 
Paying utility billsConvenience of not having to queue up 
Sending money ordersHome delivery

The Net is fast reshaping the banking industry, with some banks reporting that up to 25% of their customers are banking online.

Among the many features of Net banking are operating your account using the bank’s website. There are also value-added services such as charging your pre-paid mobile phone and paying utility bills. All these features come to you at no additional cost and bring you the convenience of doing your personal banking from home.

The flip side is security issues. Theoretically, it is possible for someone to empty your accounts and vanish. However, most major banks have fairly secure Net banking modules.

Facilities, such as getting accounts statement, opening a new fixed deposit and requesting a new cheque book are what you can definitely use the Internet for without any fear.

MUTUAL FUNDS

Internet may soon replace distributors as customers become aware of the turnaround time.

Mutual funds cannot be bought directly from the asset management company.

However, the biggest distribution channels—banks and online broking houses have been doing a good job of selling mutual funds on the Net over the past two years. Says Prasunjit Mukherjee, director, Plexus Management Services: “Mutual fund agents are known to be more than willing to share their commission on sale.”

In fact one need not open a demat account if one is trading purely in MFs as all one needs is a trading account that can be got from banks. If you are using your trading account the turnaround to buy a mutual fund is less than 48 hours compared to an agent who may delay it and you may lose out on the NAV that seemed attractive to you.

But you miss out on the commissions doled out by the MF distributors.

INSURANCE

Likely changes to the insurance act may sound the death knell of the not-so-friendly insurance agents.

The first step towards engaging customers on the website is substantial information on products and value-added services like the premium calculator,” says Akshay Mehrotra, manager marketing, Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance.

However, features on the Net are one thing and the actual selling of policies is another, the underwriting procedures forbid life insurers to issue policies online. But existing policyholders can renew policies online; in case of Ulips, switch and encash funds online. Since life insurance as a business is defined as a subject matter of solicitation an agent has to come in between for the sale to take effect. General insurance on the other is not bound by the solicitation criteria and is fast finding many takers on the Net, especially travel and motor insurance.

UTILITY PAYMENT

SERVICES PROVIDERS

ANNUAL COSTS
www.Billjunction.comOne time registration Rs 50, Rs 225 a year for 20 bills to Rs 1,149 for unlimited bills over 2 years 
www.BillDesk.comNo charges 
www.visabillpay.inNo charges. Payment through any Visa credit cards 

Tech-savvy consumers are using the net to pay a host of bills,and thus saving time and money.

Gone are the days when you had to spend hours standing in a queue to pay your bills—phone (both landline and mobile), electricity, water and even insurance premiums. Banks and utility companies have joined hands to take the pain out of payments.

And that’s not all, travel booking has caught the fancy of many, with incentives for those booking in early making air travel comparable to rail travel in many cases.

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