With property prices on the rise, the expense of renting or selling through an agent is increasing at an astronomical rate. The seller of a €200,000 property can easily be required to cough up an excess of €11,700. When renting a home, the tenant and the lessor each need to pay the first month’s rent up front to the agent in commissions.

Traditionally, in markets where property prices increase, cheaper alternatives to sell, buy or rent are often quick to appear. However, this hasn’t been the case so far in Malta. Taking the UK as an example of a country with a booming property market, agents are likely to charge in the region of 1.5 per cent of the value of the property.

In Malta, those agents charging one per cent (sensara/intermediary) are not as organised as real estate agencies and, as a result, have little chance of competing for customers against agents backed up by well-oiled marketing departments and sizeable budgets. The barriers to break into the property market for any startup are high and, as a matter of fact, the local market is dominated by a handful of large players.

Free websites such as Maltapark or Facebook have a very healthy flow of new property listings running in the hundreds per day. However, these are mostly populated by estate agents, making it all the more challenging to find any listings which are directly from owners. Both Maltapark and Facebook have software that enables the automatic uploading of properties without the agent actually doing it. This is precisely why such websites are full of duplicate listings.

The idea to come up with noagentfees.com stems purely from a need to fill the gap between the agents, who charge five per cent and the use of free listings on social media platforms.

We aim to provide an affordable alternative in a booming real estate market

Getting buyers and sellers directly in touch with each other is not a new idea. Airbnb puts holidaymakers directly in touch with property owners. Nor is the idea of self-service; let us think about banks sector or airlines; both sectors promote the idea of doing it yourself.

As noagentfees.com, we aim to provide an affordable alternative in a booming real estate market. For starters, the real estate market is fast. This is even more true for rentals. Using our platform, one can go live with their listing in no time at all.

One small caveat. Anyone deciding to go solo with selling or renting their own property needs to be ready to do some work that is traditionally done by the real estate agent. Firstly, taking very good quality photos of the place. This ensures that you attract the right audience and do not waste time.

Our research shows that properties with good pictures attract three times the engagement than properties with average or poorly taken photos. Investing in photography is certainly worth it. Sellers and landlords must also be prepared to ask the difficult questions and engage better with buyers and tenants. The estate agent often does a brilliant job at oiling this part of the transaction.

No official statistics exist on the number of properties sold, the localities they are sold in, or of prices they are sold at. We aim to share as many statistics as we can garner from our customers’ behaviour, to ensure that everyone has the maximum amount of information to make the right decision. The current opacity of information shared on the market, sales talk and the general hype does not help people make the right decisions.

Any serious proptech company needs to have solid algorithms in place that facilitate the matching. We are set to improve our understanding and behaviour of the customer, making sure that we get buyers and sellers, as well as landlords and tenants in touch faster, making more meaningful matches.

In a booming real estate market, noagentfees.com might have a few ladders to climb. However, as the market tightens and developers, as well as sellers, make it their priority to save money or lower prices to sell quicker, we are sure that we will be able to leave our mark.

As a local startup, we have a long way to go, primarily as ours is a very different service and we are operating in relatively unchartered territory. However, we are committed to delivering a consistently robust service which is set towards improving the current customer experience in the market. We want to make selling or renting of property more fun and much easier but, most importantly, cheaper.

Tristan Sciberras is business manager at noagentfees.com .

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