SOUTH AFRICA – Matchbox, an online startup, has launched its app which helps people make smarter decisions when buying property by applying machine learning to the valuation process, reports Disrupt Africa.

The Matchbox mobile app provides a list of all the available properties in an area and an option to request detailed reports on individual listings.

“Our data on an extensive list of properties within the Atlantic Seaboard area allows us to predict market trends and shows buyers how individual listings compare to the market,” said co-founder Kara Meiring

“As we build up our database we will expand to the rest of Cape Town and the broader South African market.”

“For every report we create, one of our analysts personally visits the property, collecting over 50 specific data points. We aim to make our reports easy to use and understand, with expert UX and UI design – so you don’t need to be a property expert to understand any of it.”

Traditionally, valuations and price predictions are elementary, and rely a lot on gut feel, rather than actual data.

Matchbox aims to change this, with the startup training machine learning algorithms to produce valuations based on a large number of specific inputs, and calculate ROI for different investment opportunities, including Airbnb and buy-to-let.

“The combination of extensive market data and AI analysis ensures that users have everything they need to make the correct decision,” Meiring said.

The problem with buying property, she said, is that there is a mismatch of information in the market.

“Sellers and estate agents tend to be the custodians of information. Buyers then have to rely on the information they choose to divulge or spend a disproportionate amount of time trying to find the relevant information for themselves.

“By making data available to buyers, we correct this asymmetry of information in the market,” said Meiring.

“Estate agents can do an inspection and provide a comparative market analysis to determine property value, but there are a number of problems with this. The agent wants to sell the property; therefore their incentives aren’t necessarily aligned with those of the buyer.”

The self-funded Matchbox is now focused on marketing and customer acquisition, having gathered a small group of early adopters.

For now, it is focusing on the Atlantic Seaboard and Cape Town City Bowl areas, but Meiring said it plans to expand and build up its database in order to reach the whole of the Western Cape.

Matchbox users pay a monthly subscription fee that gives them access to a certain amount of property reports based on the package they choose.