The United Arab Emirates (UAE)’s real estate industry is witnessing a major digital shift, fueled by so-called proptech innovation that are using digital platforms and applying artificial intelligence (AI), big data analytics, cloud computing and other technologies to optimize operations and improve customer experience.
In this nascent yet burgeoning ecosystem, we’ve selected a list of six proptech startups from the UAE to watch closely. These ventures have witnessed strong traction over the past year, have attracted global investors’ interest and are poised for further growth this year.
Founded in 2007 and headquartered in Dubai, Property Finder owns and runs several real estate portals across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and Turkey, including PropertyFinder.ae, one of the UAE’s leading real estate and rental marketplaces.
Since its launch, Property Finder has evolved into the go-to platform for developers, real estate brokerages, and house hunters to make informed decisions on all things real estate, operating across markets including Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
Since at least 2013, Property Finder has been on an acquisition spree, acquiring realestate.com.lb, a leading property portal in Lebanon, eSimsar.com, a property portal in Saudi Arabia, Selektimmo, a Moroccan portal, JRD Group, which owns property portal Justproperty.com and Propspace, a broker customer relationship management (CRM) solution, and most recently, Homevalue, a technology company that offers real estate valuations and analytics.
Property Finder claims over 6 million monthly visitors, 800,000 monthly customer inquiries, and more than 18,000 real estate agents. Property Finder raised its latest round of funding in November 2018, a US$120 million round at a valuation close to US$500 million.
Emerging Markets Property Group
Emerging Markets Property Group (EMPG), formerly known as Zamzama Property Group, owns and operates classifieds portals in emerging markets, primarily in the MENA, South Asia and Southeast Asia regions.
The group’s flagship ventures include leading brands Bayut-Dubizzle in the UAE, Zameen in Pakistan, OLX in Pakistan and Egypt, Lamudi in Indonesia, Philippines and Mexico, Mubawab in North Africa, and Kaidee in Thailand. These platforms aim to disrupt traditional processes by making the classifieds experience faster, easier and simpler, enabling clients to invest, buy, sell, or rent after viewing the complete details of properties.
EMPG claims a total of 217 million monthly visits across all its portals. According to CB Insights data, EMPG is one of the UAE’s three startup unicorns, valued at US$1 billion. The company has raised US$279 million in funding.
Founded in 2020, Huspy is an online home financing broker, allowing users to search and choose a mortgage. The company aims to reimagine the entire home financing journey, simplifying the process and providing users with a wider range of offers.
Huspy, which claims to see roughly a 30% month-over-month (MoM) growth, acquired Home Matters, a mortgage consultancy for the UAE and UK markets, in January 2022. Prior to its acquisition, Home Matters was the second largest home mortgage broker in the UAE, having launched operations over 15 years ago.
The acquisition is intended to bolster Huspy’s growth, offering the company’s customers access to a large network of home financiers and lenders in the UAE. The combined entity now manages over US$1 billion in gross merchandise value (GMV) annually.
Nomad Homes is a managed marketplace for users to search, transact, and finance residential real estate under one roof across Europe and the Middle East. Nomad Homes helps buyers through the entire process in one seamless process, handling the search, viewings scheduling, contract negotiations, and mortgage financing in one place.
Users browse through a list of curated properties across top brokerages and then select which properties they would like to see either through a virtual or in-person meeting. Once they settle for a property, Nomad Homes takes care of the negotiation, financing, registration, and ownership transfer. Once a sale goes through, it takes a commission from the deal.
Nomad Homes, which launched in June 2020, has already registered “tens of thousands of users” and has grown 16 times in the first half of 2021 alone, Helen Chen, CEO and co-founder of Nomad Homes said in October 2021.
The company raised a US$20 million Series A funding round last year, which it said it will use to accelerate its expansion across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA). Nomad Homes is live in Paris and Dubai.
Based in the Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC), Stake is a real estate crowdfunding platform that allows users to invest in real estate in a simple, transparent and hassle free manner. The company strives to break down the barrier to entry, allowing users to start investing in a rental property from as little as AED 500 (US$136).
Stake identifies the most attractive assets in the market. Users browse through this curated list and can invest in the ones that make sense for them. Stake takes care of all the sales process and documentation, screens tenants, manages all property maintenance, manages payments, and executes the sale of each asset at the time of exit.
In its first five months of operation, Stake claims it had amassed 4,000 registered users with over 300 of them investing a total of US$1.5 million in the properties on the platform, the startup told MENAbytes last year, adding that its sales grew 30% MoM.
Stake raised US$4 million in a seed round in June 2021, which it said it will use to scale and enhance its platform, invest in sales and marketing, and grow its team.
Launched in September 2020, Houza is a property portal that offers property seekers a simple search solution comprising all the latest listings as well as community exposés and unique, personalized content.
With over 200 agencies in its network listing more than 55,000 properties in the UAE, Houza is rapidly becoming a strong contender. Recently, the company launched a new feature called The Price Widget. The tool sits on the Houza platform when property seekers are browsing for properties, providing them with key metrics including average price per square foot, building and bedroom level, as well as the percentage changes MoM for the area.
The feature is powered by transactional sales data and listing rental data provided from Reidin Data Analytics, and Houza claims it is the first property portal in the UAE to provide customers with such data.
Houza started in Dubai but started expanding to Abu Dhabi last year, appointing three new agencies based in the UAE capital, namely Gravity Real Estate, Nationwide Middle East Properties, PSI and Metropolitan Capital Real Estate.