The process of buying a home has never been straightforward. Firstly, there is the house-hunting process, then the cost associated, and finally, the broker charges with their demands and security deposits of the house itself. However, most of the time, brokers tend to charge a premium, and people are always on the hunt to avoid brokers and directly establish communication with the seller.
FWBB or Flats Without Brokers in Bangalore, managed by the three admins – Arlette, Karrthik and Ankush, are a team that does precisely the same. They provide a unique platform where users can interact with buyers, sellers, vendors, and others to choose their house/apartments, and the notion of a broker is eliminated. It caters like a community where buyers and sellers can interact directly.
Today, at Bangalore Insider we spoke to Karrthik, one of the admins of FWBB. Below are the excerpts from our conversation.
Why did you start Flats Without Brokers? Did something personal happen to you while you were choosing a place to stay for yourself or maybe a friend?
In 2012, Flats Without Brokers in Bangalore (FWBB) germinated from the idea of making it easy for homeowners and renters, buyers and sellers, to interact and transact. Back then, one of the core team members, saw this as a first-hand problem while trying to let-out a flat. There weren’t enough takers, and worse yet, the market was plagued with brokers, who were not very helpful. This gave birth to FWBB. What started off as a humble group to support a close-knit community is now home to close to 3 Lakh VERIFIED members with an active userbase of 59%. We are happy about where we have come and are grateful to our members for their support. Today, we are the LARGEST group in this segment, pan India, not just in Bangalore.
What made you start this Facebook group and what problem does it solve?
As I mentioned in the earlier answer, the group came as a necessity to provide FREE alternatives to homeowners and renters. Over time, it has evolved to address some of the additional problems that exists in the market today – overcharging security deposits, fraudulent transactions, highlighting willful defaulters, broker menace, and many more. It’s now become a community to highlight such practices and seek resolutions. However, our core founding philosophy still remains the same – make it a welcoming, easy and a happy user experience for all our members.
What do you mean when you say you’re “overcoming problems related to ‘property mismanagement’ and ‘unfair practices'”? What is property mismanagement and what’re these unfair practices? Please give examples/incidents that may have happened to you or members, since this is relevant to every person who arrives newly to the city. You also use the word ‘menace’ which is saying something.
There are plenty of problems. If you go through the multitudes of threads and posts in the group, you will realize that there is a mindset problem that first needs to be fixed. Not all, but there are some brokers who manipulate prices, take the token money and do not offer the required level of service for the commissions they charge. Then, there’s the constant ask that security deposit needs to be 10 months. Yes, this is a prevalent problem that’s unique to Bangalore. With a lack of clarity and clear subjectivity, this is a matter of great concern, especially when the fraudulent landlords do not return the deposit. On the other end of the spectrum, there are tenants who don’t pay up the rent or damage the properties. Additionally, there are scams and bad reviews for larger firms that are rampant in the market today. This is a social platform that has stayed neutral and tried its best to address grass-root level problems. There have been multiple settlements that have been made, just by a healthy discussion. Again, all in the larger interest of addressing the root-cause of the problem.
What are the social issues you’re passionate about and are trying your best to solve, if not already in the midst of solving?
Already covered in the previous answer, additionally, we have established a strong legally driven policy framework that allows transparency and maintains integrity. We are very strict about trolling/bullying/harassment and have a zero tolerance towards such members. In an attempt to create a welcoming community, we ensure that anyone not adhering by the group rules are immediately banned. This is why we are proud to serve a very strong and loyal userbase.
Who are your competitors and how are you better than them?
We do not really see anyone as competition simply because we are more focused on delivering value to our community and its members. We were the first to launch a group of this nature which eventually became an inspiration to many funded companies today. We are also brand partners to some of them and are proud to be a part of their growth story in some way or another. There are many groups out there who emulate our model. We have a cordial relationship with all of them, and we work with them to make this a wonderful experience for the overall community. So, to answer your question – no real competition per se.
What’re the terms of agreement that you have with companies like NestAway, NoBroker and other co-living companies; if any?
We are branding partners to some of these. Over the years, we have worked with almost all the big names in this segment. Not just that, we have been offering pro-bono consulting and start-up support for many of the companies that now operate in this space. Very happy about that.
Where do you see FWBB progressing in the next 5-10 years?
Well, our dream is to be more user-centric, grow organically and offer a suite of products, solutions and services that can help our members. Beyond that, we aim to establish a framework for fair practices and benchmarks that can truly make a social impact. I am sure our patrons will continue to support us in this journey.
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