A next generation company positioning itself at the nexus of sustainable living, urbanization, and the emerging opportunities of the international real-estate market is Propy , Inc. At the center of Propy’s value proposition is a goal to motivate sustainable building and living choices for consumers, particularly in the largest global cities.
Sustainability is complex, as Propy’s management team knows all too well. Two of Propy’s executive team, Ms. Natalia Karayaneva, CEO, and Ms. Eva Otanke, Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO), met while attending Oxford University’s Sustainable Urban Development Program.
Originally from Bulgaria, Natalia Karayaneva had a successful career as a real-estate developer in Europe, and is a recipient of the “Home Oversees Russian Awards.” From her experience, Ms. Karayaneva saw the opportunity to connect international investors with the evolving trend in rapid urbanization. Ms. Karayaneva sought out to study the complexity of sustainability in real-estate, and in 2015 she completed her Master of Science in Sustainable Urban Development from Oxford. Her focus, studying and assessing the nuance of sustainability rating systems as applied to residential real-estate.
Ms. Otanke, a Latvian Canadian, has been a successful entrepreneur in her own right, owning and operating a business planning, development and sustainability consulting and event planning company with international operations. In addition, Ms. Otanke is currently supporting the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) Latvia on their development and fundraising strategy.
While real-estate is always a local and site specific opportunity, the marketplace for real-estate has truly become global. Currently one-third of real-estate purchases are made by international customers. In 2015, home sales to foreign buyers represented a $104 billion market in the U.S. alone. Chinese buyers comprised more than a quarter of foreign purchased homes in the U.S. with a valuation of $28.6 billion.
One of Propy’s solutions for international real-estate buyers is that it aggregates property listing from prominent global cities and advertises them to foreign investors in their native language. The Propy App also links local real-estate brokerages and foreign buyers together so that potential deals can be brokered more efficiently and faster.
Propy’s value proposition does not end there however. Recognizing that 40% of CO2 emissions are correlated to residential homes and living, Propy has integrated into their App, a sustainability tool which actively assesses social, economic, and environmental indicators of the property and its location, culminating into a sustainability score for the home.
Propy’s embedded sustainability tool provides a platform to encourage buyers to proactively evaluate sustainability criteria of buildings and homes. At the core of Propy’s sustainability tool is dynamic and proprietary algorithm that takes into account the walkability, quality of education, air quality, energy efficiency, access to public transit, and a diversity of other parameters. The company is currently working to integrate a “Sustainability City Index” into the app.
While it seems complex, Propy’s App, like other successful tech-based companies, is simple and intuitive. They’ve done their homework and honed in on an enormous and underserved opportunity in the marketplace: connecting international buyers with opportunities for sustainable living. What I find interesting about Propy is that their platform has potential to driver consumer choice and builder behavior simultaneously, thereby motivating investors and owners to focus on sustainable building.
Green and sustainable building standards organizations, like the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) have established world-class voluntary standards for energy efficient and environmental design including commercial buildings, neighborhoods, and home. While such standards have begun to transform the quality, efficiency, and sustainability of the built environment, there remains a gap between builders, buyers, and sellers regarding the assessment, scoring, and disclosure of sustainability as an integrated metric for real-estate. Enter Propy whose app is working to provide a market-based opportunity to root sustainability into the everyday psyche of the international real-estate investor.
In the UK, for example, Propy’s app and approach have been well received by the Building Research Establishment (BRE), an independent research-based consultancy, testing, and training organization that provides impartial expertise on all facets of the built environment. BRE’s focus is to enable a “better, safer and more sustainable products, buildings, communities and businesses,” and they support innovation toward those objectives.
Propy is also practicing what it preaches. The company has dedicated 1% of its revenues to support energy efficiency projects in low-income areas. This past Martin Luther King Day the company announced that it was launching a program to install solar panels in low-income neighborhoods in partnership with Samantha DeBianchi. If Ms. DeBianchi’s name sounds familiar that’s because she is a famous real estate broker featured on Bravo TV’s reality show, Million Dollar Listing. The details of Propy’s low-income neighborhood solarization initiative are forthcoming and will be disclosed by Earth Day 2016 along with a pilot project in the U.S. according to company sources.
A few weeks after their launch Propy had more than 10,000 unique visitors and thousands of app downloads. Only time will tell how well Propy does as a company for Ms. Karayaneva and her team, but one thing is for certain, Propy is positioned to integrate science into sensible real-estate selection options that bridge an existing global need with the opportunity for creating a more sustainable world.