A 19 year-old entrepreneur has managed to create an online estate agent valued at £12 million in the space of just 12 months.
Akshay Ruparelia, from Harrow in North East London, launched Doorsteps.co.uk with the aim of providing good customer service at a fair price to people who are selling their homes.
The company charges commission of just £99, considerably lower than traditional estate agents.
The site went live just over a year ago and in a recent funding round it was valued at £12 million.
Ruparelia sold his first house — a five-bedroom detached house with a swimming pool — while he was taking his A Levels.
“It was an unexpected customer from East Sussex who had stumbled across our site. I went and took photos, and sold it for half a million pounds within three weeks, and he paid me £99. It proved our model works,” he told Business Insider.
Ruparelia got an email saying his seller had accepted the offer while on break in the playground at school.
“He was a great, down-to-earth vendor and took a leap of faith when I explained it,” he said. “I saw the email and was overjoyed by the fact I had proved our concept and mission. He spread the word and it started growing slowly from there.”
The owner also sold land next to the house through Doorsteps, which resulted in the company selling £650,000 worth of property for him in total.
So far, Doorsteps has taken on 1,500 homes and sold £120 million worth of property.
Ruparelia claimed it has saved customers over £1 million in fees in just over a year.
He said he found the inspiration for Doorsteps after reading Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary’s autobiography.
Spending much of his life as a young carer to his parents, who are both deaf but who handle two jobs each, also motivated him.
“I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit and ambition, whether it was selling sweets at school when I was 12 or 13, or something else,” he said.
Doorsteps’ average sale time is 20 days, versus the nation’s 57, according to Ruparelia.
This shorter time scale is partly down to the areas in which he sells most homes. So far the company has concentrated on clusters of properties outside London, in cities like Liverpool, Manchester, Cardiff and Edinburgh.
It also has some homes worth millions of pounds on its books, including £2 million pound flats in Notting Hill.
The most expensive property Ruparelia has sold to date was for £1.5 million.
He works between nine and 11 hours in the office a day, and about three from home each day, seven days a week.
He pays himself a flat rate of just £1,000 per month and reinvests the rest.
In addition to his Harrow-based office of seven employees, Ruparelia employs 15 to 20 local agents – who are all mums – on a freelance basis to show around prospective buyers.
Doorsteps claims to be the 18th largest estate agent in Britain.
DealMakerz isn’t surprised Doorsteps is proving to be a hit. Traditional estate agents charge commission of between 1% and 3%, resulting in eye-wateringly high bills.
If you want professional photos, a 2D floorplan and a full property description on the site, Doorsteps costs just £199.
And it’s not just cheap. On Trustpilot, it has over 200 reviews and a rating of 9.4, with customers applauding its great customer service, transparent pricing and efficiency.
It will be interesting to see if Doorsteps can continue charging such low prices going forward.