The online property website bezrealitky.cz has come top of this year’s Czech internet awards, the Křišt´álové Lupy (‘Crystal Magnifying Glasses’). The website, which provides a forum for those buying and selling flats, cutting out the middle-man, was voted for by thousands of internet users, as well as a panel of experts. On Friday, I met two of the minds behind this new venture, Božena Zbranková and Jakub Havrlant. I first asked its creator, Jakub, whether it was a frustration with the property market in this country that made him set up the service:
JL: “You are right that one of the points was that we were frustrated with the Czech real-estate market, where this model was missing. We found it very important to be here and to create this alternative solution for people who don’t want to use only one way of buying a house – doing it through an estate agent.”
In your sort of mission statement on your website, you say that you are trying to counter a ‘deformed’ property market here in the Czech Republic. What do you mean by that? What do you think is the problem?
JL: “The problem at the start was as I said, a kind of monopoly maintained by real estate agencies, who presented themselves as the only way of completing transactions on the real-estate market. This brought problems like asymmetry of information – real estate agents could create myths, telling their customers ‘this is not a good price for your property, you should sell it for more money or for less money’ depending on the situation. And also, we wanted to shorten the distance between the owner who is selling or renting out the flat and the client.”
Where you don’t have something like a real estate agent, are people not more open to being scammed or done over? Is there not a bigger problem of regulation on your website?
JL: “Of course that is true, but that is why we offer supporting services such as legal services. And we strongly believe that having a lawyer during the transaction, which is cheaper than paying commission to a real estate broker, is safer and in the end cheaper. So, the answer is that in the end, this solution is probably more safe than selling your house with an unchecked real estate broker.”
You’ve just won this Křišt´álová Lupa award. What does this mean to you?
BZ: “We are definitely happy with this award, because the first part of the competition was voted for by the public, and the second part was voted for by professionals from the internet industry. And so for us this means that the solution is appreciated and liked by people, and also professional people, which we appreciate a lot. But it means also that we have to keep going, because next year we will have to look back and see what happened in the year after we won the award, and we want to see that the project moved forward a lot.”