Ramon Ballesca Jr. spent over 10 years designing and implementing software in Silicon Valley when in 2011 he decided to venture into real estate and along with his partner set up a shop in Vietnam.
After three years, however, Ballesca went back home, not to the States where he grew up in, but to the Philippines where he spent considerable amount of time growing up.
Ballesca and his then partner found a way of “supercharging” the latter’s traditional real estate brokerage business using technology.
Thus was born, Hoppler, an online brokerage platform that pools together properties with licensed brokers as account managers.
Unlike other similar businesses which simply list properties for lease or for sale, Hoppler does not leave to other websites the job of promoting its listings. It is also unlike straight-out property listings which are simply classified ads online.
“We created our own portal and our own mobile app. It was not enough that we have our own brokerage because that it is very limiting. We then invited partner brokers to list and promote their properties on Hoppler and we collaborate and do the deal together,” said Ballesca.
The partner-broker splits the commission with Hoppler which in turn handles all of the marketing expenses and assists in all services along the way.
“When the deal is done, that’s the only time we get paid. That’s the main difference of property listings where other brokers or even property owners and developers list their properties on. (There) they have to pay a monthly fee, but there is no guarantee. Here you do not pay anything until a deal is done. A lot prefer that because there is less risk, Ballesca said.
What Hoppler does, according to Ballesca, is it uses technology to build a community and a network of brokers.
“We noticed that brokers don’t spend as much time and resources on marketing. What they do is network with fellow brokers and share information. That is how they get more clients. With Hoppler, they become more efficient,” Ballesca said.
He added: “A lot of brokers spend so much time doing administrative work. When they should be closing deals, brokers spend a lot of time on paper work. Hoppler takes care of that. The software helps them (on the administrative work) so can they can spend more time with clients and brief them on the properties.”
Ballesca said “there is more thoroughness that needs to happen” in the real estate brokerage business in the Philippines.
“Brokers are not getting enough help,” said Ballesca when asked about complaints of bad service of some brokers.
“Hoppler is trying to minimize the stress levels of brokers so they can focus on their service,” he added.
Today, Hoppler has almost 700 brokers in its network with 150 of them active.
Majority of the properties of Hoppler are residential , located in Metro Manila and cater to the high-end and luxury market, both local and expatriates. Of late, Hoppler also ventured into the mid-market segment
“We have a very methodological approach to growing our business. When we started in 2014 the brokers that started to join us were in high end rentals in Metro Manila so that became our bread and butter. Last year we moved in to mid-market sales and rentals because we did not want to be labelled as only for high end rentals. We want to help in other segments,” Ballesca added.
But it is not all rosy for Hoppler.
“Two years ago we were looking at expanding our portfolio to those located south of Metro Manila.
We realized we were growing too fast we were not making sure we took care of the community as best as we could.
So now we are focused in Makati, Bonifacio Global City, Pasig, Muntinlupa area.
Once we feel we are really a part of the community for each of the properties on a buyer standpoint or a partner-broker standpoint, then we will start going to other cities,” said Ballesca.
Hoppler also tried preselling on a minimal scale two years ago and Ballesca learned the company “needed more expertise on it. It’s a different (business). You have to be faster and more aggressive.”
Hoppler started preselling again this time a property located in Makati. “It is selling well,” Ballesca said.
About 80 percent of Hoppler’s business comes from high-end rent but that proportion is slowly going down.
“That’s a function of both the market and the brokers we started with.
The market is growing especially in mid-market. The high-end market is very selective and limited but has high margins,” Ballesca said.
Some of the most expensive yet fast-moving properties for rent at Hoppler are in the 9-digit levels and he has something to say about the misconception on prices.
“Often people think Southeast Asia properties are not expensive, but money is indiscriminate. A $3-million property in the US is the same $3-million property here. Good quality attracts the same buyers,” Ballesca said.
According Ballesca, there has been a number of copycats in the business, which only indicates the huge potential of the market.
Since Hoppler works within a community of brokers, it is first to admit there are certain points of cannibalization.
“The market is so big. There is such room for more business for all. There is a lot to share,” Ballesca said.
Quoting a study, Ballesca said the total amount of commissions paid two years ago only in resale and rental stood at P36 billion in Metro Manila and surrounding areas.
Hoppler is barely scratching the surface. There are 30,000 licensed brokers each with a network of 20 agents.
A broker who wants to join Hoppler has access not only to the software but to trainings as well. Hoppler also holds events and is active on social media.
Buyers/renters of Hoppler listings are Gen Xers, mostly business people.
The journey of renting or buying a property starts when a buyer or renter goes into the Hoppler app or website.
“The moment a potential client arrives to our site, he is asked 20 basic but not intrusive questions. Hoppler then matches him with the broker who then takes over to give the human and personal touch of the transaction,” Ballesca said.
That entire process solves the problem of people who do not know what type of properties they should be buying.
Transactions on rental are done in 30 days, and on sale, 60 days.
There is also a big secondary market especially from the baby boomers who sell their big homes and move into smaller spaces such as condominiums.
Hoppler also sees strong demand for bigger units, three-bedroom above 200 square meters.
Ballesca said Hoppers’ network of active brokers would grow to 400 this year.
At present, there are 20,000 properties on its listing of which 5,000 are actively promoted.
Hoppler’s official website (http://www.hoppler.com.ph) and the mobile app give access to the main ecosystem where brokers, buyers, and sellers initially connect, interact, and ultimately close deals.
Hoppler raised $1.3 million (Php66 million) from Frontier Digital Ventures purely for marketing listings for partner brokers in the Central Business Districts (CBDs) of Metro Manila.
Hoppler has a “Partner Broker Program” that aims to support the company’s mission of connecting buyers and sellers with an online network of trustworthy real estate professionals. The program not only further expands Hoppler’s broker and property network, it helps partner brokers get more leads and close more deals.
Partner brokers can list properties with exclusivity on Hoppler’s system on a “first come, first served” basis. They can upload all the properties they manage whether residential or commercial without any upfront fees.
The Hoppler website makes listing and managing properties online a breeze through a listings dashboard where brokers can manage a database of uploaded and listed properties. Brokers can even manage their lists on-the-go through the app on their smartphone. Brokers can even be notified when someone inquiries about their listed property.
“Since the Hoppler website may be accessed globally, listed properties receive inquiries not only from the Philippines but from all over the world,” stresses Ballesca.
Hoppler only assigns a qualified lead to a broker after it goes through a screening process to provide an efficient, streamlined experience for the client. This ensures that brokers can maximize their time, get more leads, and be able to close more deals. – Malaya Business Insight