By Mary Carroll, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – In 2008 Swedish native Johan Jonsson launched Agente Imóvel here in Brazil, an internet-based real estate portal integrating listings and data in Portuguese – as well as English. Now the company has recently expanded into vacation rentals, tapping into Brazil’s tourism industry on an even broader scale.
“We’re in this for the long haul and are far more inspired by the potential to come as internet and alternative vacation housing takes off in the world’s sixth largest economy,” says Jonsson.
One of the major complications foreigners often face when buying or renting property in Brazil is the language barrier and a lack of knowledge about the Brazilian property market. Agente Imóvel offers a solution by transcending Brazil’s previously integration-challenged property portals.
Jonsson simplified the presentation of information on the website and includes interactive graphs and statistics of the price movements and averages for properties within each bairro (neighborhood), which has helped buyers make more informed decisions.
With a customer base that is more than ninety percent Brazilian, they offer credit card payments in installments, a very popular mode of payment in Brazil. As a Brazilian company, Agente Imóvel is also leveraging the benefits of Brazilian protectionism; foreign competitors have to deal with a tax of 6.38 percent on all foreign credit card transactions.
Jonsson adds that because the business is “multi-lingual and supports world-wide credit payments,” Agente Imóvel has a distinct advantage over other websites. Another major goal is to “increase market transparency and to mitigate fraud, something that still is a problem in short term apartment rentals,” said Jonsson.
The idea is to make the experience as stress-free as possible for customers as well as property owners. Jonsson believes that it would be difficult to compete with their “flexible model, which is tailor-made to suit not only property owners but also vacation rental agencies and brokerages.”
“We offer a platform for the proprietary where we handle all online marketing as well as transaction processing. Listing with us is free.”
Last December, Forbes encouraged investors who were worried about “an overheated Chinese housing market” to look toward Brazil, as the Brazilian “real estate market has legs.”
Though there is a positive long-term outlook for Brazilian real estate, it has not completely escaped the effects of the European financial crisis, which has managed to clip the heels of the Brazilian property market, according to Forbes.
According to Agente Imóvel’s figures, in the last two months “the aggregated real estate prices have started to slope downwards in the city of Rio de Janeiro … with reference to our brokerage customers, the market overall has cooled down substantially,” says Jonsson.
So with real estate sales slowing down the timing is right to make more progress into the short-term rental market. “The addition of vacation rentals to Agente Imóvel is what we consider to be the last building block in what now is a complete real estate portal for Brazil” said Jonsson.