House hunting? Forget the broker

Online portal Grabhouse.com helps buyers, especially singles and those from the LGBTQ community, find roommates and a home

Pankhuri Srivastava, 25, and Prateek Shukla, 25, know just how much singles in the city struggle to find a rented apartment in the city, having braved the barbs of too many hostile housing societies themselves.

broker
New online portals are trying to do away with brokers who charge a high brokerage on house deals. Representational picture

Last June, the duo set up a portal, Grabhouse.com, to help people like themselves find a roommate and then a house on rent, all without a broker. In fact, the portal goes a step further and helps people from the LGBTQ community find a roommate, too. Over the past year, Grabhouse has helped nearly 20,000 people find homes, many of them from the LGBTQ community.

Singles looking for a home in Mumbai, usually turned to Facebook groups such as Flats Without Brokers, which helps them skip dealing with real estate brokers. Brokers generally charge a month’s rent when they help a tenant find a rented home.

“Many of us would rather not deal with brokers. We use the Internet for everything these days — why should rental transactions be done traditionally?

Grabhouse.com brings in transparency which is usually lacking in the real estate world,” said Srivastav, who added that she had a tough time finding a home when she came to Mumbai from Lucknow, just because she was single.

Brokers, however, do not think their services are redundant yet. Prakash Rohera, who runs Kkarma Realtors, said, “Brokers existed 50 years ago and will exist for the next 50 years, too. Even those who deal with landlords or builders directly for a house often take the broker along because one needs somebody to inspect the home well. Online portals are yet to gain that kind of trust among people.”

A broker, on condition of anonymity, said, “Eventually, people will move from brokerage to online portals, but it will not happen overnight. And by the time that happens, we brokers, too, will learn the tricks of the online trade. Meanwhile, buyers and brokers will have work at the brokerage issue — how will we brokers survive without brokerage?”

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