In our latest Members Spotlight Interview, we spoke with Philip Farrell, Co-Founder and Chief Commercial Officer at Offr, a revolutionary new smart technology, changing the way property is bought and sold in Ireland and UK by injecting speed and transparency into the property transaction.
Philip shares insight into a world first, their first ever online property transaction, their recent €3m raise, and what separates them from competitors…
Q: Offr is the new way to buy and sell property, quickly and transparently. Can you share insights into the technology behind this?
A: Offr is a technology which allows agents to conduct property transactions remotely, on their website, using their mobile device. This includes commercial and residential property. It also includes all transaction types – traditional sales, auctions, new homes and lettings. It digitises over 85% of the communication and administration aspects of the individual property transaction. These are the areas which historically have created the biggest delays during a sale.
The Offr product is delivered in the form of a widget, which sits on the individual property page of the estate agent’s website. Through this widget, buyers can register to bid, upload proof of ID, arrange viewings, view legal documents, watch videos/virtual tours, make deposit payments & submit offers. Using the Offr panel, the agent’s website is transformed from being visual to being transactional. The widget can also sit simultaneously in other locations including property portals, new homes websites and the developers/builders own website. The agent onboarding process is seamless and takes only minutes. There is no initial outlay incurred by the estate agent. Many agents find technology as a rule challenging; therefore the product must be simple to use, and it is.
Q: Can you share any exciting stories from an online auction powered by Offr?
A: In a world first, Offr recently completed the first ever online property transaction, which simultaneously allowed interested parties to bid both through the agent’s website and through a leading property portal (myHome.ie). The online auction took place in Ireland on Friday 11th September 2020. The property was a residential family home and was sold for €605,000. There were 28 bids and 3 active bidders. All parties had provided a €5,000 pre-authorisation deposit payment in advance. Contracts were signed digitally by the agent on behalf of both the seller and the buyer immediately after the auction ended. This had never happened before. This facility allows buyers to engage from a variety of online locations. Most potential buyers start their property search for property using the portals. Now they can also transact on the property, while staying on the portal. This will only enhance the buyer’s experience.
Q: Congratulations on your recent €3m raise. Can you tell us the purpose of this round?
A: We were overwhelmed with the success of our recent fundraise. We initially raised €1 million, in late 2018. We launched in Ireland in October 2019. Our initial aim was to secure an additional €1.5 million, which would provide us with a runway for the next 18 months and assist our roll out in the UK & Australia. We ended up securing €3 million. This was really encouraging for us, considering the times we are in. Two of our leading investors in the round were Barclays Bank and Rob Pierre, CEO of Jellyfish, a London based international digital marketing company. During the fundraise journey, we also successfully completed the Barclays Techstars Accelerator Programme in London, which commenced in January of this year and was completed remotely, due the COVID-19 crisis. A very encouraging aspect for us was the fact that this was Barclays first follow on investment in an Irish company following the Accelerator Programme. Other investors in the round include key property industry players in the UK, Enterprise Ireland, Delta Partners & Frontline Ventures.
Q: What separates Offr from its competitors?
A: One of the key differences between Offr and its competitors is the fact that it is a white label product. It allows the agent to conduct their transactions on their own website in their own branding. Most other competitors, direct consumers to a third party website. In addition, the technology is very simple to use. Offr is a technology developed by agents for agents. This is key. A number of good technologies already exist in the marketplace, which address different parts of the property transaction. None however, address the entire transaction. We engage with the stakeholders prior to the offer stage and the ultimate aim is to deliver an end to end solution. We will be releasing additional products to our offering in 2021 including a lettings product in Q1, and a commercial lease product later in the year.
Q: Lastly, where do you see the industry headed in 2-5 years?
A: I think everyone agrees that the property sector is currently experiencing monumental change, and not before its time. Technology is finally being embraced by the sector. It is one of the last industries to embrace this change. We are still at an early stage of the journey however, real momentum now exists. The need for greater use of technology has been expedited directly because of the current unfortunate pandemic.
By and large, at this point, it is the early adopters who are leading the way however, I expect the sector will be unrecognisable in 5 years’ time. These industry changes will be driven by consumer demands, in addition to the need for agents to reduce their overheads and improve their margins. Agency fees in the UK are some of the lowest in the world. Estate agents will become far more self-sufficient. The need for a high street premises will be a thing of the past. A simple billboard or advertisement in the locality will suffice. Previously, the office was where most of the work was carried out. The individual property transaction will be conducted and managed remotely by the agent. I also see the numbers of people employed in the sector, reducing significantly. The average age of an estate agent in the UK currently is approx. 50 years. Some of the more traditional agents will choose to step away. The number of administration roles will also be reduced significantly as technology delivers greater efficiencies and therefore the property sale will be far less labour intensive.
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