By Aitor Elua, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Anyone trying to search online for real estate across Brazil prior to 2008 may have found it a frustrating process, especially in English. It was this experience that led Swedish native Johan Jonsson to launch Agente Imóvel, an internet based Real Estate portal, focused on prime residential Real Estate for sale and rent in Brazilian major cities.
Jonsson’s background in Sweden was primarily in the internet industry for 15 years, time in which he founded three ventures in various sectors, and participated in twice as many dot com start-ups.
As for his Real Estate market experience, he had worked a short time as a broker in his home country, Sweden, which is according to him “among the superior in terms of market transparency and efficiency in the Real Estate sector.”
The two main sparks that triggered the creation of Agente Imóvel were; the Brazilian real estate market is expected to grow immensely in the next decade. Brazil managed to leave behind its past mortgage financing system, and along with a growing middle class, favorable macroeconomic conditions and a housing deficit of about six million homes, heavy growth is in the foreseeable future.
The second driving motivation for Jonsson creating Agente Imóvel was an unsatisfied demand from potential consumers. Brazil was lacking an efficient, consolidated Property Portal, so those property hunters relying on the internet for their search, were left frustrated and under-informed.
Now, a few years after its launch, several competitors have entered the Property Portal industry in Brazil. The major newspaper O Globo’s zap.com.br, and imovelweb.com.br are the other two important internet based pages search engines.
They are market leaders in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, so in order to compete, Agente Imóvel has fine-tuned their strategy. “We try to make home hunting easy, relevant and fun” says Johan Jonsson, through a “super simple search based interface and an easy way to save searches and alerts based on the user’s preferences” which is done “with one click after a search”.
Apart from that, Agente Imóvel also offers comparative tools and price statistics to verify pricing and find bargains. Mr. Jonsson feels especially proud of this last fact, stating that “we’re the only site where you can subscribe to price reductions based on types and areas”. Finally, a major competitive differentiator is that, besides Portuguese, the complete site is also available in English.
In the near future, Jonsson sees some major changes in the industry, mainly driven by improvement in infrastructure, due to investment for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games. He also points out the importance of “local (i.e. physical) presence” since “a large base of the clients (agents and brokers) to the leading property portals in Brazil, come from the old newspaper client base in the local newspapers”.
For an expatriate who started a high-tech business in a notoriously low-tech industry in Brazil, Jonsson is well positioned to provide services to an exploding market. Along with the pre-salt oil discoveries and investment, real estate seems to continue to spell big opportunities inBrazil.