Launched in 2012, property portal House.com.mm is the largest online real estate marketplace in Burma. The website, part of the globally branded Lamudi real estate platform, offers sellers, buyers, landlords and renters a platform to find homes, land and commercial properties online. Michiel Bakker, the Burma country manager for House.com.mm, spoke with The Irrawaddy on Thursday about the state of the property market and the potential for further growth.
Question: Why were you confident about creating an online property portal for Burma?
Answer: Seeing the results and successes of property portals in more developed markets builds this confidence. In the end, real estate classifieds work better online. You see more information of properties, you can filter properties to only see the ones you are interested in, and it’s accessible for free, anytime on any device with Internet connection.
Q: Are most of your clients local or foreigners?
A: Most clients are local. Hence, we have our homepage in Burmese, and English speakers need to switch. Despite that, we see around 30 percent of the visitors visiting the website from abroad. The most popular country after Myanmar [Burma] is Singapore, which is best explained by the numerous Burmese moving back to Myanmar and looking for property already in advance.
Q: Where are prime locations for foreigners to rent in Rangoon?
A: Most of the traffic from our English platform is looking for rental condos and apartments in Bahan, Kamaryut, Sanchaung, Dagon and the downtown townships. Especially Kamaryut and Sanchaung have seen a further increase in traffic.
Q: What tips do you give to foreigners looking to rent in Rangoon?
A: First of all, I would like to invite them to have a look on our website. By asking a broker, you limit yourself to one source of information, while we gather properties from over 50 agents and brokers simultaneously. We have a great overview of the actual prices and properties on offer.
Q: Your research shows that 75 percent of Burmese want to buy properties, rather than renting. Is this because property prices are skyrocketing?
A: Prices are skyrocketing, but at the same time, other secure investment opportunities are not that numerous, so people continue to look for investment opportunities in real estate.
Q: With the approval of the new condominium law, allowing foreigners to buy apartments above the sixth floor, do you expect the property market to become more active?
A: The condominium law is a step in the right direction, but I don’t expect huge noticeable effects yet, especially since prices are currently high and foreigners might revert to investment opportunities abroad.
Q: Burma’s Internet communications are poor. Do you think an online portal will be more popular in the future?
A: The Internet is continuously improving. When we launched the website in Myanmar two years ago, we did not expect the amount of visitors we are having today. So far, the Internet is improving and we are not even halfway there. With the opening of the telecoms sector with Telenor and Ooredoo, the Internet further improving and the launch of our [phone] application today, we expect the results to get even better. Since looking for properties on a phone or computer are so convenient, I am confident that within years most of the real estate sales and rentals will be mediated through our platform.