Family Office Real Estate

Family money attracted to real estate platforms as latest deal proves

Some of the UK’s wealthiest family offices have invested £5 million in OneDome, a portal which offers a one-stop service to residential property vendors.

The investors include Lord Jacob Rothschild’s family; Joshua Alliance, the son of textile businessman Lord David Alliance and David and Simon Reuben, the real estate billionaires.

Other investors include Clark Winslow, founder of asset manager Winslow Capital and OneDome chairman Sir Nigel Knowles, former co-CEO of legal firm DLA Piper. 

Investors in this funding round, as well as seeding, include Daintree VC led by former investment banker Vitaliy Gubskyy, angel investor David Giampaolo and Martin Bolland, backer to UK online estate agent Purple Bricks, chairman of Capita and co-founder of private equity firm Alchemy Partners with Jon Moulton. 

OneDome’s online UK rivals, led by Rightmove and Zoopla, have generated impressive returns by persuading estate agents to sell, and advertise, houses through their sites.  

Zoopla was bought by Silver Lake in 2018 for £2.2 billion: it listed in 2014 with a value of £920 million.

Rightmove has risen in value twenty-fold to £5.3 billion since the company listed in 2006.  

Its operating margin is 70%, fairly typical for a decent tech business. Rightmove has offered a good show window to vendors, plus a level price efficiency which can achieve more rapid sales. OneDome’s backers will be hoping for equal success for their next-generation site, as the UK housing market rebounds.

OneDome was founded by Babek Ismayil, a former distressed debt trader at JP Morgan, who once spent four months negotiating on a dream home, only to find someone else had snapped it up on the day he was due to exchange. He was so irritated he could not face dealing with the housing market for another four years.

Surveys by UK consumer magazine Which? suggest that home buying is one of the most stressful experiences in life, due to the disjointed nature of the process.

Ismayil wants to take his service beyond online house search, adding conveyancing and mortgage services to the mix, so transaction participants know how their deal is progressing.

Ismayil argues that the current system has too many badly moving parts producing uncertainty for intermediaries whose cash flow depends on sale completions as well as pain for buyers and sellers.

He points out sellers have need to transcribe data relating to their houses several times, when they contact new intermediaries. This can lead to errors and fraud.  

OneDome puts together an online transaction service, where interested parties understand their responsibilities at every stage. 

The service seeks to achieve cost transparency likely to lead to savings. Its service has proved popular with clients in the Covid-19 era which reduces the need to interface with different advisers.

Even HM Land Registry has recognised that conveyancing takes too long. It has investigated using blockchain to speed up the process of registering a property.

To encourage agents to list properties on its platform, OneDome is offering agents the chance to promote them for free. It says agents currently spend 15% to 20% of their operating expenses on platform advertising. 

In 2019, it bought one of the UK’s first online platforms, called Nethouseprices.com for an undisclosed sum to host the properties on estate agent books.

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