By Pierre Cordelle, Senior Associate at Aster
Aster recently led the €6m Series B round of Habiteo, alongside Habiteo’s historical investor Serena Capital, with whom we are pleased to finalize our second deal in the construction and real-estate sector after FinalCAD.
Habiteo is a sales and marketing solution for real-estate developers. It helps them sell their properties faster by generating sales content (3D models, video clips…), and manage their workflow and sales process on different channels, to ensure a high-quality customer experience.
The company was created in 2014 by Jeanne Massa, after a very successful experience at TheFork (acquired by TripAdvisor) as COO. Denis Fayolle (CEO of TheFork) and Jean-Claude Szaleniec (ex-head of BNP Paribas Real Estate, ex-DG of BPD Marignan) also participated to the creation of the company and are still actively supporting the company.
While the old property market already started to embrace digitalization with websites such as SeLoger or ImmobilienScout24, the real estate development companies still use outdated commercial solutions, paper-based sales collaterals as well as paper contracts. Habiteo provides an innovative and unified solution that enhances the property development company productivity and eases the customer journey through the housing acquisition process.
The company has continously improved its solution and now supports more than 150 real estate-developers in their digital transformation.
Why do we believe in Habiteo’s capacity to become a key player in the transformation of the real-estate sector?
A two-tier transformation of the real-estate sector
Digital trends affect homes. It may have started slowly with the first bulky and complex domotic systems, but the pace is clearly accelerating: a spate of connected products such as cameras or thermostats appeared on the shelves of all the DIY and consumer electronics shops. The US giants Amazon and Google have clearly stated their ambitions while launching their Home AI assistant: they want to become the brain of home.
The way people design their homes also changed. Social platforms such as Houzz or Pinterest have raised hundreds of millions with the promise of helping homeowners design their home by inspiring them with peers’ projects.
By contrast, real estate developers remained rather conventionnal in their approach in this rapidly changing environment. Most of them still propose more or less the same products than 20 years ago (with better energy-efficiency performances), at the same price if we put apart the variation in the real estate market, with the same customer experience.
First, the « one size fits all » strategy doesn’t work anymore. Acquirers wants to personalise their home design, and want to buy a property in a program that corresponds to their way of living.
Second, the battle for customer acquistion shifted online. While most of the sales process was done in pop-up stores (or agencies) located close to the future real-estate programs, customers are now looking for their homes online.
Nascent real-estate developers such as Habx or Buildrz in France started with a clean sheet, and the ambition to build a real-estate developer 2.0: online targeting of customers and online sales, connected homes, home personalization, etc. The growth challenges remain important for new entrants, such as cash constraints and the complexity to source new projects and to develop them quickly.
At Aster, we do think that Habiteo has a key role to play to transform the way real-estate developers sell homes, by mastering the digital experience they offer and eventually drive a transformation in the industry.
The promoters will have to adapt their customer experience to the digital natives
As for the car-retail market, most future buyers start their quest for the perfect home online. After a long screening on the internet, most of them have a clear idea of what they would like to buy before going to the local shop dedicated to a specific program. In other words, quite a big chunk of the sales process is now online. In other words again, targeting the right customers at the best cost online, and bringing them the best quality content to attract them becomes key in the sales process.
That’s where Habiteo started 3 years ago. Since then, the company never stopped to increae the visual quality of the 2D views generated for 2D plans, and innovate continuously with virtual vists, flat-configurators, etc.
A home purchase is not like any other purchase. There is no doubt that part of the process will stay offline. But the role of the real estate pop-up stores or agencies changes. These spaces, initially dedicated to the information of potential acquirers and to the signature of paper-based documentation, are turning into experience spaces, where the end-game is first, to confirm the impression of the potential acquirers about the reliability and the quality of the real estate developers, and second, to help the potential acquirers feel the atmosphere of their future neighboorhood. Digital technologies such as Augmented Reality might help, but the main challenge will be to create a true omnichannel experience for the future buyers. Know your customer before he gets in, know his doubts, where he is in his buying process, in order to provide him with a best-in-class customer experience.
Habiteo has helped more than 150 developers in this journey. It is by far the clear leader in France and the company succesfully started an expansion in Europe with first projects in Spain and UK.
Such a company, participating to the digital transformation of a traditionnal sector with internationnal ambitions, fits perfectly our model. Our goal and mission is now to act as a catalyst thanks to our ecosystem of industrial partners providing access to preferred markets, and to facilitate Habiteo’s geographic expansion with support from Aster’s various branches around the world (San Francisco, Beijing, Tel Aviv, Nairobi and Paris).
Jeanne, Julien, Sébastien and Denis, Aster is glad to be on-board and we look forward to write the future of real-estate with you!