Crowdbuilding: imagining a demand-driven real estate industry thanks to digital tools

A home, for the people who live inside it, is far more than a surface that they own or rent, or the address where they are domiciled. It is a place that is part of their identity, the place where they must feel at home. Yet, in 2018, although we can personalize almost everything, shoes, smartphones, even cars, the offer in the primary housing market remains standardized in our cities: the surfaces, number and configuration of rooms are very similar from one project to another. This situation causes frustration and unhappiness: in France, for instance, 72% of the people willing to buy a property fear not to find a home matching their wishes.

There is one way to change things up: asking people their wants and needs. The solution derived from this principle is crowdbuilding: allowing future owners of a new building to be deeply involved in the design of their home, so that tailored, affordable, sustainable housing is produced. It is an application of concepts coming from the sharing economy to the real estate industry: it implies to regard the needs, wishes and creativity of “common people” as essential success factors, i.e. to crowdsource projects so that they are as close as possible to people’s lifestyles. Crowdbuilding is thus a way to inverse the relationship between supply and demand in the real estate, from a top-down supply-driven logic to a bottom-up demand-driven one.


Using digital technologies to put future owners at the heart of building design

Digital tools are the key enabling to implement crowdbuilding: they help reach people and assist them in the expression of their wishes in an intuitive and scalable way. Thanks to recommendation algorithms, future owners can indeed be advised on the city and the neighborhood suiting their lifestyle, their daily commute and their budget. Through marketplaces matching their location wishes with the production capacities of developers, they can join the project located at the right place. Thanks to interactive platforms using pricing algorithms, they can express their wishes about the design of their ideal home and instantly see the impact of their choices on the price of their future apartment: number and size of the rooms, interior design, floor, sun exposure, outdoor areas, they have access to numerous parameters. Finally, other algorithms are currently been developed to help architects realize blueprints taking the wishes of the future owners into account.


Shaping sustainable buildings and cities 

The crowdbuilding process necessarily involves future owners at an early stage of the real estate project – just after the first sketches are drawn and the first volumes defined by the architect – so that communities are created, which are having an emotional attachment to the buildings where they are living. Consequently, crowdbuilding promotes the purchase of the apartments by owners-occupiers rather than by investors, which implies that the building is going to be well maintained. It makes also the creation of shared spaces (vegetable garden, gym, coworking spaces, etc.) easier thanks to interactions with and between the future owners, who can vote for the type of space they prefer. It is a great way to enhance interactions between them and to guarantee the best adaptation of the building to new uses.

Moreover, building homes suiting people’s needs and wants, in neighborhoods suiting their lifestyle implies more human and more friendly places, but also less commuting, and thus more time for your family, your friends or your hobbies.


Making homeownership easier

For a developer, using the crowdbuilding method means less marketing risk, less marketing costs and an optimized timing of the project thanks to the digital coproduction it allows. The savings made allow to lower the price of the apartments, so that future owner’s purchasing power is increased and people with lower borrowing capacities can afford to invest in a home. Crowdbuilding may thus be used as an efficient solution to tackle the social issues created by the rising real estate prices in our metropolises.

Crowdbuilding may have an even deeper impact on the way cities are shaped. It may be the first step of larger urban crowdsourcing initiatives, thanks to the application of its principles on a larger scale and thanks to the data gathered about the future inhabitants of a neighborhood or a city, which may help local authorities identify the public facilities that should be built.

Thanks to crowdbuilding, all parties involved in city design can invent the 21st century real estate industry, a more customer-centric and a demand-driven industry. Let’s imagine it together!



Top photo © Korisbo/GettyImages 

About Author

Benjamin Delaux founded Habx in 2016 for one purpose: putting city dwellers at the heart of the design of their homes. To achieve this goal, the Habx team, creating a bridge between the real estate industry and the digital technologies, developed the first ever online crowdbuilding platform. Habx raised €10 million in February 2018 to accelerate its growth.

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