Study and Develop of an online property management system for City 2 Property
Chapter 1: Literature Review
In this chapter, the author conducts literature review mainly on the studies of online property management system to find out how property management works on the internet. The author also focuses on the technologies and tools involved in making online property management system more efficient.
1.2 Online Property Management
Online property management basically contains most of the business method that renovate to the internet. It is the management of property management using online tools. When online property management implemented, it make many things like booking keeping, collecting rental fees, managing properties and contact with clients more easy and efficient.
Online property management is simple and usually do not require any high performance or complicated application to work on. Usually, many real estate company in Malaysia still prefer paperwork instead of using property management system to enhance their operation. One of the reason is the preference of paperwork and not use to working on system when think about working using a system. Therefore, less complicated interface and process in online property management system give advantages to those who considering on implementing system work into their business. And for this reason, it encourages online property management system to a higher demand level in online business nowadays.
1.3 Supporting Technologies
One of the advantages of online property management system is the usage of available technologies that are provided to all users that enhance their online business operation. Other than some common technologies that are usable in all business that provide different usage and advantage to the business, there are also some technologies that provide great advantage on online property management business.
1.3.1 Google Map
Google map is a web mapping service application powered by Google. It provide mapping service that show a geographical mapping just like a dynamic country map, it provide the street name and route in many different view and also paths travel by own vehicle, foots or public transport. One of its supports towards property management is to show the direction from one location towards another, as well as showing the shortest route among few paths. All these benefits support users to find out the exact location of a place, and also make users know more about the places surrounding the targeted location in case they want to know more or when they are lost.
1.3.2 Visual Tour
Visual tour is a new snapshot technology that able to capture numerous of pictures in a room or environment, using visual tour software and photo stitching software to stitch all the pictures together and produce a 360 degree virtual home view. This technology tend to provide a visual home tour to the property buyers by showing how is the inside of a property looks like when buyers does not need to travel all the way to the property location but using the internet to enjoy a tour just like when they are exactly in the building.
To produce a visual tour video, a RTV tour builder kit contains of a camera and custom rotator mount on the side of the camera is needed. To start capturing, place the tripod on a best capturing spot, usually on the middle of a room, then manually rotate the camera one side to another from left to right, and then from top and bottom until every view of that room is being taken. Upon completing the capturing process, a visual tour software by overlapping the sides of all images together to utilize a 360 degree panaromic images. Lastly, the completed visual tour video need to upload to the RTV tour server through the internet to allow tour video automatically customize with owner’s banner, logo or photos, and then features like hyperlink to post into their websites, google map, and others will be added and send back to the owner.
1.3.3 Other Supporting Tools
There are other technologies or tools supporting online property management as well. These tools are not mainly for online property management but also benefit the system operation like other businesses do.
* Search function
Search function is a common tool that filter information according by using a keyword enter by user and match data available in the current system, and display or show to the users Usually property buyers tend to have a property expectation in their mind before looking for agents to locate the property they want, search function in a system allow buyers to go through some simple steps to find out if there’s any property that match their expectations or requirements, instead of searching all the properties one after another.
* Mortgage loan calculator
A mortgage loan calculator is to calculate the loan needed to pay by a property buyers per months. It usually require user to input some basic information like property value, interest rate, years and down payment to obtain the loan result. This is a simple tool that requires very little effort in developing but requires a correct formula to obtain the accurate result.
* Reminding tools
A reminding tool usually require user to enter a task name and an expired date. Upon reaching the expired date, user will receive a notification regarding the task. Property agents benefits from reminding tool in various ways. Collecting rental fees is an important process when properties are rented. Sometimes delay rental fees can be quite troublesome and if does not handle carefully, a delay rental fees could be forget or paid rental fees may not recorded properly. Therefore, the task of a reminding tool not only notify user regarding incomplete task but also ensure user about completed task.
* Looking for agent
Usually it is a good idea to record agents’ information in a system to allow buyers to look for a particular agent. In a system, not only agent’s brief personal and contact information could be found, buyers can also found the agent’s available listing. In case there are buyers who prefer a particular agent service and listing in that area, they can contact the agent directly without contacting the company or other agent.
A simple Question and Answer (Q&A) in a system that contain questions ask by the user regarding property issues, and can be answered by other users and working agents. It work like a forum but much more simple than it, it only require user to enter a question if he or she has one, or choose to view all available questions and answer any question if they know.
As a summary of this chapter, the author has understood how online property management system work compares to real time business. More importantly, the author had conduct studies on the technologies that support online property management system which offer great advantages to the user when using the system.
Chapter 2: Analyze Existing Websites
In this chapter, the author visit and investigate several existing real estate websites to gain understanding in common features and also how other real estate websites manage their information. The author focuses more on some feature that is unique for real estate websites. The author also tend to list out some of their strengths and weaknesses to gain knowledge about pros and cons when manage a real estate business online.
ThinkProperty is a free property service website that allows all real estate agents in Malaysia to post their property listing for free. It is owned by Think Media Sdn Bhd and was launched at October 2007. Powerful tools in ThinkProperty make properties more manageable and easier to search. It tends to provide great advantage to the sellers and buyers.
2.1.1 ThinkProperty’s Features
188.8.131.52 Member features
i) Managing properties
Users are requiring registering as a member in order to use the features offer to all members. Register link can be found under login or the side navigation regarding all the features on the right.
By clicking on registering, user will navigate to a page listing eight benefits to become a member. On the bottom on the page, user can click on “Register now” button to register as member by filling up the registration form and upon completing the form, user need to validate their account through e-mail. Then user will be successfully registered as a ThinkProperty’s member and allow to login using the registered username and password.
Once login, user can see their registered name and a dropdown list contain all available member’s features on the login interface. The dropdown list contains auto post back function, which means when user selects any option within the drop down list, user will automatically navigate to the page according to the selected option.
For features under “Create new listing”, users will be direct to a form to submit the property they want to add. When they have done submitting it, the added property can be found in features under “Manage my listing”. User can check back their added listing anytime they want, and can choose to modify the information or delete the added listing. In ‘My properties’ and ‘My Auctions’ page, user can choose to filter the order of the listings by selecting property type, posted duration and other option. In property wanted, user can submit a wanted property to the moderator and wait until further notification. Usually agent will notify user by e-mail or contact number regarding the property they want.
ii) Personal Profile
Some of the information in a member personal profile is filled up during registration, while most of the information is blank. The information in personal profile included user type, company information, contact information, and websites. All this information will be useful if some other user need to find out more about a particular user for some business issues. This will be needed especially in the forum. User will be allowed to use the forum to post new thread or answer to any existing thread when they had become member. Providing all this information will be convenient to other member as well as the agents in case they need to contact the member.
Other than entering their personal information, user can upload picture and video of themselves. Added picture will be shown in the profile page when it is viewed. As for video, user need to click on the video button located on the left side to view video in a new pop out. Brief information of the properties owned will also show in this page, as well as latest 10 posted threads in the forum can also be view by clicking on the “Forum” button. All this function is to ease other member in finding out more about a particular member.
iii) Think Mail
Think mail serve as a mailing service for members to receive messages sent by other member or agent. This is a simple service to read and delete mails; however it does not support sending message here. User need to go to another member page and click on the ‘Message’ button to send him or her Think Mail message or e-mail message.
Other than this, user can set his or her e-mail alert option. This service is to receive property alert message in case user got use any service like property wanted and awaits agent finding.
Just like other forum, ThinkProperty forum contain all types of topic discuss about buying properties, selling properties, property investment, finance issues and much more. Only registered member are allowed to post any question on the suitable thread and await other member to reply or reply to any existed thread. With the support of a forum, all members can get more help and information regarding property issues and problems, and also get to know more about agents and people from other place. A forum also serve as another way to obtain information and solving problem, otherwise user can only communicate to the moderator by using customer support and sending messages.
184.108.40.206 Customer Support
In ThinkProperty, there are three ways to obtain supports. First is to use the most common method like many websites do, using the feedback form to send question and awaits reply from the moderator. Second is to use the forum to post new question and awaits replies from other member and moderators. Third is to use the live help desk located on almost every pages on the top right, right below of the main menu navigation.
Live help desk is an instant messaging service. When click on it, a new window will pop up and there will be someone there to answer any question asks by the user. This is one effective way to obtain answers instantly without waiting like other two customer support. However, live help desk is not always available to be use. There is no specific time when it is available, but user can found it available many times in a day.
220.127.116.11 Viewing Properties
To view the available properties, user has to enter a desire location in the search box on the top of the website. This is a more direct way to find property around an area, instead of viewing all properties from other places at one page.
While entering data into the searching box, a drop down that contain some location that match the entered data will show to let user navigate quickly if the target location is within the drop down. When random data being entered, especially when input character is less than 3, location that is not related to the entered data will show. Otherwise, it will show no result match in the drop down.
A ‘Display map’ check box under the search box is to indicate navigate user to view all properties page with its detail or navigate to Google map that shows the entered location and properties contain on that area. 2.10 shows an example of Google map result when display map is checked. The red house symbol below shows the properties that are available around the area. When mouse hover on one of the red symbol, a small dialog box pop out and show brief information about the property. User can click on the click on the bottom of the box to see more information about that property.
Without checking the “Display Map”, when a location is selected, it will navigate to a page that shows all properties with some information located in that searched place. For example, 2.11 shows all properties available in Damansara when user enters Damansara in the search box.
On the left side of the page, there is one filtering function to sort the wanted property details. By clicking on any of the filtering option, the function of it will show and allow user to choose or enter related information
2.15 shows the bottom of the property page. Google map of a particular property will be show if the property has information about it. At another side will be the seller information. In case user interested to find out more, they contact using the provided information or use the form below to e-mail the seller.
In case user found that a particular property is not available anymore but it is still tag as available, user can simply click on the link beside the red icon below to notify the unavailability of this property to any user that view this property later. When user had done with one property, user can always choose to go back to all the property listing or simply click on the next button to view another property, or click on the previous button to view visited property before this, this two buttons located on top of the view all listings page.
18.104.22.168 Find Agent
ThinkProperty does not offer a direct page to view all agents’ features. To find an agent, user needs to click the “Find Agent” link above the search box and then choose either find agent by area or by name.
In case user knows any particular agent name and hoping for their service, they can try this search box to locate the agent to see all their posted listing. This also eases users when they know the agent name and where they work, but did not have any contact information about the agent. This may not work only if the target agent is not a member of ThinkProperty website.
2.1.2 Strengths and Weaknesses
* Simple, user-friendly interface. Overall web pages do not contain much unnecessary things. Simple looking and direct way to navigate to pages provide good browsing experience to users
* Less complex function and process. Most of the process like job application form, submitting properties, searching functions are step by step methods and does not consist of much complicated process, this helps in reducing user confusion when using ThinkProperty’s website
* Good functionality and features. Sufficient features to provide good properties searching and managing experience
* Good customer support service. Contain of more than one types of customer support feature for the purpose of increase efficiency in providing helps to the users when browsing ThinkProperty
* Risk might be unavoidable. ThinkProperty may not responsible for any information risk like fake agent or property’s information as they have no control over agents or members information
* Searching function is the only way to view all properties and agents. As searching for properties and agents only depends on the searching box provided, first time user may not know how to find property and agent information.
During Jan 2009, iProperty was declared as the top property portal in Malaysia by Google Ads Planner. Operating their business in Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, India and Philippines allow clients from different states to use their service. For further development, they are working towards capitalize the property market and maintain their top leading position and continue working on online property advertising.
2.2.1 iProperty’s Features
22.214.171.124 Member’s Features
Like other websites to use all the features offer to members only, user has to proceed to registration and approved as a member first. Before login, there will be several links under login like My shortlist, My Property Ads and others, but when user click on those link without login, they will be directed to the login page, which contain registering and forgotten password feature. To register, user just has to click on “Register Now” link located on the top left side of every page or under the login field on login page and navigate to the registering page. Upon submitting the form, user will receive a random generated password in their registered e-mail, user has to use that password and registered username to login, and then they can choose to change the password later on.
i) Create Personal Profile
Upon registering as member, user can choose to create their personal profile. This feature is optional, other than letting the agents to know more about them when using iProperty’s service like property wanted and property ads, it also allow other member to find out more about a particular agent through iExpert.
ii) My iExpert
iExpert is a service designed to ease the sharing of property information sharing among members. All users are allow to use iExpert to search and view questions and answers provided by the members, however, only members are allow to post new questions and answer existing questions. It serves like a partial forum but does not contain much feature like forums do.
iii) My Property Wanted
Like other property website, iProperty offer a property wanted feature to all members only that allow them to submit a form consist of the property requirement a buyer want, and let the agents to perform a property search to find available property match the buyer requirement and notify buyers about it. Members who use this feature will keep property wanted information in their profile.
126.96.36.199 Viewing Properties
The “New Property Review” button contain under the drop down of “New Properties” located on top of the main menu navigation direct users to the latest property listing in iProperty. User can choose to view different types of property by months by selecting from a list box on the right side of the main title. This is one of the ways to view property owned by iProperty. Another way of finding properties is to use the searching function located on top of the page under the main menu or view properties through related developers or agents.
Viewing a property consist of several parts. The first part is the property’s review that contain of long description of the particular property. It consists of some pictures regarding the property with describing the surrounding, environment and facility to attract the interest of people to know more about it.
The second part is the property’s specification. This page usually of one picture regarding the property and all details like address, property type, land title, tenure, land area, price range, posted date, and side information which are nearby transportation, schools, and amenities.
Next part is viewing the property gallery. This page usually consists of photo gallery taken by camera about the property environment. Visual tour will also available in this page if the particular property has any video about visual tour.
Map is available in most of the properties to show the location of a property and also direction to approach to it. For those properties that has Google Map details, a map will be provided as well.
Lastly, user who interested in a property can register to it using a provided form to let the agent to contact and brief user about further information.
Other than property specification, there are extra corner for sending enquiry to the agents or related person, sending enquiry to the developers and also a home loan calculator provided by Maybank with the information of preferred MPF, interest rate, loan years that is already provided according to the property and the monthly repayment result is provided automatically to the user.
188.8.131.52 Visual Tour
iProperty provide visual tour service for user to experience a virtual visiting property experience. Visual tour video can be found on the bottom of each property under gallery view. However, not all properties provide visual tour service. User can found properties that contain visual tour service on the “Visual Tour” link under new properties on the main menu navigation.
184.108.40.206 Find an Agent
Finding an agent in iProperty only require a click on “Find An Agent” button located on top of the page in main menu navigation. From this page, user can see their name, contact number, e-mail and self description. On top of it, there is a search agent function to find an agent by name, state and area, or user can filter all agents according to the first alphabet of their name. By clicking on their name, user will direct to their page that contain all of the listing they hold. User can also send a message to a particular agent in their page by submitting a form above the holding listing.
220.127.116.11 Search Function
There are basically three types of search function depend on each pages. Different types of search function shown in different page for different purpose.
2.29 show a search function located on the main page and new project page. There are sufficient data for user to specify the searching information to obtain better matching property. User can click on “Advance Search” to have more option to search. Alternately, user can choose to filter properties according to different state by clicking “By Area” or different country by clicking on “Overseas”.
The second searching function is searching agent function. This feature available only in “Find An Agent” page and the concept is the same with normal searching function. User just has to input the agent’s name, area or state, or choosing the first alphabet of their name to find a particular agent.
The third searching function located on “Home Service” page. This searching function use to search for available furniture or home products.
2.2.2 Strengths and Weaknesses
* Rich supporting technologies. iProperty consist of several tools like Google Map, Visual Tour, and some other function that make their service very efficient.
* Detail properties’ information. All properties information included location map, floor plan, transportation and amenities nearby, image gallery and other related information provide information more than what the clients want to know.
* Too much information in a page may be unnecessary. Most of the pages contain a lot of information even if it is not related to the page. Users may found it confusion on information that is related or none-related to what they need.
In this chapter, the author analyze some existing real estate company websites. As understanding features they use to enhance their operation is the main priority in this objective, the author has more knowledge on developing a real estate websites, as well as some of the strengths and weaknesses, to be learnt and avoid when developing an online property management system.
Chapter 3: Conduct Interview and Survey
In this chapter, the author conducts interview and surveys to the head of City 2 Property and also some agents who are experience in real estate business. The author uses this two fact finding method to determine the user requirement of the proposed system and the agent’s expectation towards it. In the end, the author will record the fact finding result and present on this chapter.
The author decided to conduct an interview to the head of City 2 Property, Mr. Koo Kam Swee, because he is the most suitable person that understands the requirement or the needs of this proposed system. The interview question will be produce base on the purpose of understanding what will Mr. Koo expect the proposed system can do and how it benefits the business operation and the agents in the company. All the interview questions and answers show below contain main questions and some new questions that were asked during the interview.
3.2.1 Interview Questions and Answers
1. What give you an idea of using a website for your business?
(To understand the purpose of the proposed system towards the company)
Our company’s operation mostly depends on paper work as we have already used to it. We never thought about creating a website until I realize the advantage of a website that can help people from the outside to access to our service faster and anytime even after our operation hour. Therefore, creating a website like other real estate company helps the customers to reach us easier.
Author finding: The author uses this question to find out the interviewee main purpose of having this proposed system. The author now understand that the manager get the idea that online business provide fast and easy ways to interact with clients, therefore he decide to implement a website for the company.
2. Without a system, what types of problem your company and the agents faces?
(To understand how should the proposed system benefit the company)
As I mention, most of our works depend on paperwork. Upon completing a document work, if require sending to clients or others, we need to send through letters, awaits receiving, and finally reply back to us. The overall process takes up a great amount of time. If there is a website, we can shorten the time of this type of process so that we can complete a task much faster.
Author finding: From above statement, the author understands that the manager hope that the proposed system can benefit by completing a task faster using electronic mail instead of delivering letters which is very time consuming.
3. Other than that, what are other problems exist? For instant, what you think other real estate company with websites benefits compare to your company?
(To understand more on the benefits of the interviewee expect towards the proposed system)
Having a website for the company nowadays is a type of competitive advantage. I know some of the other real estate company having their own websites, this give them the advantage of allowing clients to reach them easier, meanwhile this become a disadvantage for us as we lack of this service to offer to the clients.
Author finding: Spontaneous question continue from the second question, the author try to find out more about the expectation of the manager that the proposed system can benefit the company. The author gives an example of other real estate competitive to make interviewee to think more critical on the benefits he expects. By the answer of the interviewee, the author know that the manager expect the proposed system can be a competitive advantage when compete with other real estate company.
4. For the website, what features you expects most? In another words, what feature you think is the most important in the entire website?
(To understand what feature the interviewee concern the most)
The most important part in the website would be allowing people to view our properties. We hope that people who view our properties using the website can know all the details of a property when they access the page.
Author finding: The author wanted to know what is considering as the most important feature in the proposed system. The answer given shows that the manager expect viewing properties as an important feature that should put effort on for the purpose of allowing the users to know the full details of a property.
5. Other than viewing property’s details, what other feature you hope to be implemented to make viewing properties a better experience for the users?
(To make the interviewee consider more on the functionality of the concerned feature)
To be able to view property’s picture with all the details, this would be good enough. Additionally, I hope the website can handle some clients’ services like sending enquiry about a property or provide information about our contact so that their can call us or send message to us whenever they need our service.
Author finding: A spontaneous question follows by question number 4. The author trying to make the interviewee think more on adding some functionality that can make viewing properties better for the users. But the manager does not have too high expectation on other function about it, and suggest other feature regarding serving clients by receiving enquiries and mail from them using the proposed system.
6. Will you expect people to be able to register as a member of City 2 Property website? If yes, what do you hope to benefit from this feature?
(To understand what the manager think about member system and how to benefit from it)
Possible. Having members in our website help us know more about them, in case we want to contact them using mobile phone, we may be able to locate their contact information through the website.
Author finding: The author finds out that the manager does not have high expectation on the member system as well. The manager hopes that this feature can be used to find out the member’s contact information so that the agent can contact them when necessary.
7. If a member system is implemented, what you think about allowing members to sell their properties using the website?
(To understand what the manager think about selling properties online)
I guess this should be no different than clients call up to offer their properties to us. If what I think is correct, th