HomePriceHistory - One Place Online Property Research

In the ongoing coverage of exploring new startups coming out of Australia, Today we explore an exciting venture in the Real Estate Industry - HomePriceHistory.com.au. It was founded in 2008 by Robert Reith from Melbourne, Australia.

In a recent email-based interview with Robert, he gave insights into his venture and how he is progressing with it. This is what he has to say:

• Please tell us about yourself, your background and interests?
My name is Robert Reith, and I am the Managing Director of HomePriceHistory.com Pty Ltd. I studied for an Arts/Information Management degree at Monash University and am currently also a director of R&D Knowledge Services, which resells the Claromentis Knowledge Management solution.

• What is the name of your venture/company?
HomePriceHistory.com Pty Ltd (incorporating the three domains in three countries - www.homepricehistory.com.a, www.homepricehistory.com and www.homepricehistory.co.uk)

• Please tell us about your venture/company?
The idea began when the founder of HomePriceHistory.com Pty Ltd, Robert Reith, was looking to buy his first home. After identifying the suburb he wanted to buy in, he started to monitor the property market in that area. This was done by creating a list (a crude combination of property brochures, loose bits of paper and an Excel spreadsheet) of properties in which he had an interest. The list included asking prices, expected sale prices, comments on the area and everything in between. Armed with this information, he was able to determine what he could expect to buy with his budget. When he realised that three of his friends were creating similar lists in the same area, they all decided to share their research so they could all benefit. It was at this time that the concept of HomePriceHistory was born.

• Who are the people behind this and how it started?
Chairman – Peter Wilson. Peter brings extensive business experience to HomePriceHistory.com Pty Ltd. He is currently the President & Chairman of the Australian Human Resources Institute and has previous experience such as:
  • ANZ Bank Marketing Director
  • AMCOR HR Director
  • Melbourne Tigers Basketball Chairman. More information can be found here
Managing Director – Robert Reith. Robert worked for a political consultancy company in London before starting R&D Knowledge Services (RDKS) in 2003. RDKS are the exclusive distributor of the Claromentis Knowledge Management platform in Australia and count Mazda, the Australian National University and Pronto Software as just some of its client

Technical Director – Peter Skipworth. Peter owns and runs Argo Open Solutions which specialises in web applications and database development.

Director – Douglas Reith. Douglas is also a director of R&D Knowledge Services and has previously worked with IBM and PricewaterhouseCoopers in Australia and the United Kingdom.

• How long it took before it was up and running?
It has taken about 7 months to get the websites up to their current state.

• What is the main objective/mission behind your venture?
The main objective is to allow people to retain all their property research in one place, and to ensure that information is never lost.

• What services it provides for consumer or customers?
The free service allows users to collect all their research on property and real estate in general in one place. By leveraging existing technology such as SMS messages (which allow users to upload information directly to their profile when away from their computer) it ensures that users can be as prepared as possible before buying or renting a property.

• What type of customers you are targeting?
The site is mostly useful to those looking at buying a property but also can be used by people renting or just with a general interest in the real estate market.

• How many people are using your services?
We launched on the 22nd of August, and by the 30th of August had just over 20 signed-up users.

• What sort of marketing you are using to spread the word?
We are currently using Facebook and Google Adwords.

• How are you measuring the success of your venture? Are there any special mechanisms/tools in place to monitor the progress?
We are monitoring the number of signed-up users, and the number of properties entered into the system. We have developed a simple administrator screen that allows us to monitor both of these. We are also utilizing Google Analytics.

• What is the monetizing/revenue model? Is there any new model, which is being tried?
Initial revenue will be through advertising.

• Which are the main competitors or major players in this market segment?
The main real estate competitor in the Australian market is www.realestate.com.au although the site does not allow users to add their own content, and we won't be yet advertising properties that are for sale. Zillow.com allows users to add their content to properties, although this was a secondary function after the initial launch.

• What are the main technologies used behind this venture?
Runs on Home Price History is committed to the use of open-source software and related technologies and has built the website and associated administrative tools upon the well-proven LAMP stack (Linux/Apache/MySQL/Perl).

• What has been the easiest to use, out of the box and helpful technology?
Thanks to our experienced technical staff coupled with excellent online documentation and a wide community support base, we have found the mix of Linux/Apache/MySQL to be a perfect platform for this project.

• Are you using a lot of open-source tool sets for this?
Home Price History's servers run a popular Linux distribution, Debian GNU/Linux, as an operating system, and use the Apache webserver and the MySQL database platform. Our predominant development language is object-oriented PHP, and we have implemented the popular CakePHP MVC framework.

• What is your operating environment (operating system) and what type of database you are using?
Debian GNU/Linux, and MySQL.

• What's your thought on being an entrepreneur? How tough it is to start a venture in Australia?
Being an entrepreneur (or at least trying to be one) is all about trying to find that one idea that will cut through the noise of all your other ideas. I’m continually trying to think of new ways to do old things, and looking for ways to leverage the collective knowledge. Like many people, I think Wikipedia is one of the greatest things to be borne out of the internet age.

Starting a new venture is tough, although if you have the self-belief, then it becomes more of a challenge than an issue of toughness.

• What's your thought on the start-up culture and innovation coming out of Australia?
There are lots of good things coming out of Australia, although I think we need to develop more of a culture of innovation, and the government is in the best position to do this.

• How do you see the real estate industry and its evolution towards online & mobile platforms.
There is no doubt that mobile will become an increasingly important player. But I see the real advances being in online auctions and the creation of websites such as HomePriceHistory that help empower the customer with more information.

• What do you think the government (federal and state) should do to improve the culture of innovation and the telecom industry?
My opinion is that governments should be doing much more to create hubs of innovation centres. I envisage a programme where start-up businesses (anything from 1 -10 people) can get subsidised office space and have access to basic business professionals such as accountants. This will allow people with only seeds of ideas to mix with like people and develop their innovation.

• If you are allowed to change the nation, what 3 things you will do?
  • Reduce taxes on small business
  • Incentivise people to start small businesses through grants
  • Reduce taxes for one small business !!
• How often do you catch up with others trying similar things and where do you catch up? Do you have dedicated communities in your city?
I have just recently started a group of about 10 friends that meet once every few months to discuss their respective small businesses. There are a range of businesses from fashion to plumbing, to IT and production. It is great to hear what other people are trying.

• Do you have any advice for people who want to start their venture?
If you have a good idea, and you believe in it, partner with some friends and just do it!

Thanks, Robert for sharing your thoughts with us. All the best for the future.

For coverage on other Australian startups, innovation, and tech trends, check this out and our coverage on interviews can be found here