After 20 years of working in finance, Andrea Lacalamita decided he wanted a change. He founded Homepal.it to help customers make one of the most important transactions of their life - a home purchase. We caught up with him ahead of the PPW Lisbon Conference where he's a guest speaker.
How would you describe Homepal?
Homepal.it is an Italian peer-to-peer real estate site where clients can buy, sell and rent their home without paying a broker fee. We have 70,000 listings, 50 transactions per month, 100,000 registered users and 2500 monthly scheduled visits to the apartments listed.
For owners and landlords, we provide the opportunity to list the property and evaluate it, in addition to offering a professional photo service.We charge a fee of 29 euros for the basic service.
Buyers using Homepal can schedule their visit to a home in a shared calendar and, if they are interested, place the offer online, with our support. If their offer is accepted, they will pay a fixed fee of 90 euros to rent and 490 euros to purchase a home.
What is unique about Homepal?
Everything is online, from the listing to the transaction agreement, but we don’t forget the human touch because our experts continuously help clients through the process. The cost is a fraction of the traditional broker, but not necessarily the service.
Why are you passionate about real estate?
I love houses; I think they are a part of us. We say that a car represents the way in which we like to be perceived by others, while the home is the way you are. I have moved house 18 times in my life, so I immediately know how a house makes me feel and I love helping clients to find the perfect property.
What made you transition from the financial services industry to the real estate sector?
Financial services are really interesting and at the core of our economy, but they’re intangible, and often people tolerate them instead of buying them.
People love their house and love talking about it - they are passionate about the recent deal they made. Would they say the same about a credit card?
What inspires you most about your work at Homepal?
I want to help democratize the real estate industry and introduce a new way of buying and selling. I want to innovate the market and give customers an opportunity to make the best purchase of their life.
What would you say was a turning point in your career?
I experienced a turning point when I was responsible for the Global Product and Marketing divisions of the private banking sector. I felt the scope of this position was too big and I no longer had control of my life.
There was a point when I realized I had been in hotels for 150 days of the year and it felt the same, whether I was in Monaco, Berlin or London. At this point, I realized I needed to change something. I wanted to move into a position where I could innovate and connect more with clients.
Can you comment on the online real estate industry in Italy? What are some trends?
Italian real estate business has been weak for years, since 2011. But if we consider the whole market, including renting (long and short term) it represents a huge market in Europe, with more than 4 million transactions per year, similar to France and Germany. In the last two years, house purchase transactions have recovered, due to the long-lasting trend of Italian home buyers (80% of Italians are homeowners).
What are you most looking forward to at the PPW Lisbon conference?
To see and understand world trends in this sector and to share Homepal's experience while exploring new partnerships for Homepal.