Investment in US Real Estate Had Better Go through Ramallah

Alexis Baghdadi, Mar 21 2016

Despite the subprime mortgage crisis and other issues that affect the sector, real estate still constitutes an attractive opportunity for many investors who see in it low risks and attractive returns.

The reasons behind this popularity include the stable development of supply and demand. First, land cannot be produced at will. Second, living and working spaces demanded by individuals and organizations only marginally adjust to changes in price. Most independent financial advisors suggest to risk-averse investors that they place 15%-30% of their overall portfolio in real estate.

“Real estate is one of the greatest investments that you can make, and if approached correctly, it can be a secure way of having a steady cash flow with minimal effort,” said Peter Abualzolof, cofounder and CEO of Mashvisor, a Ramallah-based platform that provides comprehensive data on real estate and properties in the US.

Can Anyone Invest in Real Estate?

Real estate investment carries low risks “if approached correctly” is right. The key to mitigating risk in this sector (as in every other sector) is maximum data collection.

Some of the risks associated with real estate include cash shortfalls, economic downturns, environmental contamination, market decline, fraudulent sales, taxes, etc.

Mashvisor’s value proposition is primarily the instant availability of property and neighborhood investment analysis reports, and their presentation in easy-to-read visualizations. It helps up-and-coming real estate investors maximize their investment by collecting, analyzing, and providing a good deal of real estate-relevant data such as occupancy rates, property taxes, seasonality trends, neighborhood revenue, etc. across the US.

The site helps users evaluate multiple real estate markets and maximize investment property returns by spotting the highest performing neighborhoods. The company also provides users with property listings with key data points to determine whether an Airbnb or traditional rental strategy makes more sense.

Finally, Mashvisor offers shareable industry-related content in the form of general advice and/or insights through its Knowledge Center.

 All the site’s analytics are subscription-based at $29.99 a month. Expert investors can also customize packages with more options. A free 15-day trial period is also available to all users prior to subscribing.

This Is Ramallah!

Since anyone from around the world can buy real estate in the US, the choice of Ramallah as headquarters for Mashvisor made sense. The low startup and operational costs in Palestine also make it much easier for the company to compete with other players.

“At this time, we are only focused on the US market and don’t plan on expanding outside of that. People from around the world look to invest in the US real estate market; we believe that it would be more valuable to attract internationals to use our service instead of going into different markets,” said Abualzolof.

Abualzolof and co-founder Mohammed Jebrini launched the site in July 2015. It currently has over 1,500 users, of which nearly two thirds were acquired organically. According to Abualzolof, the user base is growing by 30% month-on-month, and the team expects to hit over 25,000 users by the end of the year.  “We just started paid marketing and we’re starting to generate recurring revenue,” he said.

Mashvisor now includes four additional members: Ahmad Yaqob, Ahmad Hashlamoun, Diala Taneeb, and Qais AbuHassan. On the local level, Abualzolof hopes that Mashavisor will help create opportunities for Palestinians to invest in real estate with confidence and find alternative sources of income to make up for the limited prospects inside the country.

The startup has made it to the final round of the 9th edition of the MIT Enterprise Forum Arab Startup Competition, with results yet to be announced. In November 2015, it earned first place in the Seedstars Ramallah competition and went on to compete against other startups from around the world in the Seedstars international finals in Switzerland in February 2016.

The founders need further support to complete their mission and are looking to raise around $400,000 for that purpose. They are currently focused on the US, but do not rule out expanding in the future if the resources become available.

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