House hunting has always been a difficult one for many Nigerians. First, they go about looking out for real estate agents, who in turn help them search for properties that they most times are not satisfied with. Even real estate listings on newspapers and magazines have done little in easing the difficulties Nigerians face in their search for houses.
This challenge was noticed by Owolabi Olatunji, who had always nursed a desire to start a technology company. According to him, “My parents and relatives had difficulties finding houses to rent at various times in Lagos”. The desire to start a technology company, fueled by the need to provide a solution to the challenges of Nigerians resulted in the birth of Hutbay, a real estate platform that differentiates itself by providing consumers with information and tools to help them make smart real estate decisions.
On how Hutbay started, Owolabi revealed, “I have always wanted and desired to start a technology company. The problem I had was the type of technology company to start. I have a B.Sc. in Electrical and Electronics Engineering, but from my first year on the university campus, I have been seriously involved in writing computer programs. However, it was not until my final year in the university that the idea to use technology to solve the issue of finding a property to buy or rent was conceived.
“I had enrolled in a special elective course in entrepreneurship (SEO 003 and SEO 004) at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, and it was in one of the classes that the problems, opportunity and the role technology could play in helping people make smart real estate decisions dawned on me.
However, I had to wait for many months due to the mandatory National Youth Service Corps before I could fully start. I spent my youth service honing my skills in software by designing websites and software for small businesses. I also had a schoolmate join me as a co-founder”.
Hutbay was officially launched in May 2013 with a very minimal viable product, after Owolabi secured seed funding of N2.5m from an aunt, and N2m from Idris Bello. “Traction was very hard to come by at the early days. We used to have about 3,800 unique visits per month and a few hundred listings we literally beg agents over the phone to send to us, ” said Owolabi.
Just like every startup, Hutbay has surmounted a lot of business challenges since launch. In an interview with the Hutbay founder, he revealed, “We burnt through the initial cash developing the product and gaining traction and then went ahead and raised new rounds of funding, which we haven’t exhausted.”
Revenue has started kicking in for the real estate platform, and they make money from subscriptions, advertisements and referrals. They are also on the journey of becoming the default and most preferred online real estate marketplace, constantly innovating to make property search a hassle-free experience for all.
Featured on the Hutbay website is an agent profile page that helps real estate agents leverage on technology to reach today’s real estate consumers. The company also works with moving companies and property lawyers to provide add-on services like relocation and title verification of properties.
The online real estate platform also features a range of properties and provides various search functions to enable buyers and renters find their desired home in Nigeria.
With Nigeria being one of the fastest growing real estate corridors on the African continent, and an increasing demand for housing, Hutbay sees an opportunity for continuous expansion.
Olatunji Owolabi revealed: “The demand for housing in Nigeria, especially in the urban cities, make real estate investments one of the most rewarding; new properties have to be built to cater for the housing deficits (over 16 million) and the ever growing population. Old building must be renovated to meet up to modern standards or demolished and rebuilt to modern taste. So, the demand for housing in Nigeria for the next decade will constantly be on the rise. More and more consumers will need an apartment to rent or buy and most of them will take to the internet to source for their ideal property.
All we see in the real estate industry are just incentives for Hutbay to keep innovating and helping consumers easily find their ideal property or connect with reputable real estate professionals. Coupled with the internet penetration and adoption rate in Nigeria, we also see it as an opportunity to help real estate professionals, a traditionally offline profession, come online and reach the new class of real estate consumers.”