This article is a case study of the business Seniors Housing Online – a website that aims to help over the 50s find retirement, aged care and other services.
The founders are two sisters in law who were looking for accommodation for their father-in-law and not having very much luck. Given that one of them was at the time a lawyer working for the NSW Minister for Ageing this was a frustrating and disheartening experience, and they thought there was a place for a real estate and other services website to service this market.
The founders essentially adapted the functionality of a real estate website to their needs. The website started off offering property only – retirement villages and aged care facilities. It has since expanded to include home care services and aged care consultants. Users can sign up to receive newsletters and alerts for new listings. The users pay nothing like the site’s revenue comes from fixed fees charged to advertisers. The site does not charge commissions on sales.
The women who started this business have self-funded it and have been named Top 50 Women in Tech 2016 for Australia and New Zealand by StartUp Daily. It may be that with the external or additional funding they could have grown the business faster but after only a few years in business, they are currently listing properties in New Zealand, the USA, India, China, Malaysia and Thailand on the site, as well as Australia, and are expanding that list.
They say that they always have and continue to battle the perception that older people are not online. Not only are they online, but also the founders say that key to their success has been keeping both the look and feel of the website and its functionality right up to date, with several careful and strategic refreshes and rebuilds of the site since the business started. Keeping an eye on upcoming trends in the sector is also key.
Where there are changes coming in regulation and funding, these play out in certain ways for consumers but also drive change amongst the competitors in the sector, who are the customers of the business.
An example of one of the new features of the site which have resulted from current trends is the Senior Flatmates listings. This is a “marketplace” style service that puts together seniors seeking affordable rentals with those “empty nesters” who still want to occupy the family home but can see the advantage in renting out a spare room or two to people who are of their own generation. This offering has come about due to the rise of the sharing economy and the lack of affordable rental housing in some areas, including for seniors.
Refreshes have also extended to the branding – the new “downsizing.com.au” branding removes the out of date references in the original name. As the founders put it “online” is old hat in a world where everyone is online, and nobody wants to be called a “senior”!
The next five years looks bright for this business, with plans to scale up the business considerably in Australia, expand the services categories, consolidate the current New Zealand, USA and Asian listings and grow into more countries worldwide, with the aim of having a “strong global presence” within the next five years.
Comments and facts for this piece were taken from an interview with one of the founders published in the Newcastle Herald on 13 April 2016.