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Airtasker and Soho founder Jonathan Lui reveals major real estate website acquisition

Soho, an AI-powered personalised real estate platform, recently announced it has officially acquired Home Sales.

The acquisition will see Soho add an extra 200,000 properties to its platform and grow their audience to half a million visitors per month.

Founded in 2018 by Airtasker creator and current shareholder Jonathan Lui, Soho is a personalised real estate matching service powered by artificial intelligence that aims to help users find their dream home faster.

How Soho benefits the real estate industry

The newly acquired Home Sales website was previously used by half of Australia’s real estate agents, having developed consistent support and agent retention over the past decade.

Mr Lui believed the acquisition would benefit both new and existing users, greatly improving workflow for agencies migrating from Home Sales into the Soho ecosystem.

“With the same level of support from the agency’s side, we can drive a lot more adoption,” Mr Lui said.

While Mr Lui noted the focus of Soho was to improve the “consumer experience” for buyers and sellers, he said there are several advantages for real estate agents too.

In simple terms, it’s a free, effective platform, which offers a publishing portal focusing on real estate.

“99.9 per cent of our listings come from agents and agencies,” Mr Lui explained.

Soho can also be used as an extra service for real estate agents. Mr Lui previously told Elite Agent that email databases are eroding assets, as many emails may not reach users due to spam filters or users may no longer be in an agent’s region.

In comparison, Soho’s online client base are live and can be updated at any time, with the platform helping match the best buyers for properties and also sending property alerts to thousands of buyers every day.

“Agents can integrate Soho into their existing CRM,” Mr Lui said.

“We’re really keen to work with the real estate industry. We’d love to work with more and more agencies to bring them bigger audiences.”

Tinder for real estate

When Mr Lui first launched Soho, he described the company as ‘LinkedIn for real estate’. Recently, however, it appears the marketing tone of the brand has shifted to be the ‘Tinder of real estate’.

Ultimately, Mr Lui sees Soho as a combination of both within a real estate industry setting. As a whole, Soho is like LinkedIn as it creates a digital ecosystem which thrives on interactivity.

Their recent use of the Tinder analogy comes from the artificial intelligence programming that allows the app to personalise the experience for each user.

Users are able to rank the properties, just like swiping left and right on Tinder.

“The search results will adjust and customise based on rankings and previous searches,” Mr Lui said.

The AI-powered tool also helps customers expand their search horizons to find the perfect property.

“Its an interactive way to discover your dream property, which could be in the suburb next to the one you’ve been searching. You may never have found it any other way.”

The making of an entrepreneur

With a background in business and engineering, Mr Lui explained his ideas often come from personal experience.

The concept for Airtasker came when Mr Lui thought how good it would be to pay somebody to line up at the Apple store so he could get the latest iPhone on launch day.

For Soho, the concept came about as he and his wife moved to Singapore. When listing his home, Mr Lui said he had to pay $3500 of fees “before anybody ever walked through the door”.

“Why is the industry still like that?” Mr Lui asked himself at the time.

Mr Lui holds the fundamental belief that technological advancements should be making things more affordable for consumers.

“Philosophically, technology should be making things cheaper. But at the time, that wasn’t the direction it was going,” Mr Lui said.

He went on to explain that, in previous years, newspapers had to charge a fee for printing the classifieds, but there shouldn’t be a fee when a classified is listed online.

While Soho has been implemented in both Singapore and Australia, Mr Lui explained the latter was still the company’s primary market.

“Australia is a more mature market. The total market value in Australia is around $8 trillion. In Singapore, it is only $900 billion,” he said.

Because Australia has been in the market for longer, we’re more receptive to finding new tools, he explained.

From a hobby to real business

Of course, Mr Lui didn’t just roll out of bed one day and think up five different successful business ventures.

He’s had an entrepreneurial spirit since he was a child.

“I did have a lot of inspiration as a kid and especially in my early teens. I liked solving programs,” Mr Lui said.

It was that drive that inspired him to go into engineering and business, studying a Bachelor of Telecommunications at the University of New South Wales.

Even while completing his studies, Mr Lui “dabbled” in smaller business ventures.

But it wasn’t until he joined the startup team at Amaysim that he truly learned how to be an entrepreneur.

“I learned how you progress a hobby to a business venture. That was really pivotal for me. That graduated me from a hobby business to a real business,” Mr Lui said.

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Jessamy Tredinnick

Jessamy Tredinnick was the news journalist for Elite Agent Magazine from June 2021 - October 2021. For current stories, news alerts or pitches, please email [email protected]