Houfy is very much a project in the making (Development stage)
01 What is Houfy?
Currently, Houfy provides an easy to use, unique and enhanced experience to list or find vacation rental properties with no booking fees or communication restrictions.
Our mission is to connect people with places directly.
HOUFY is the next step in the evolution of online vacation rental marketing. We’ve created a platform where people can connect with property owners/managers and agents without the control of a middleman (like VRBO/HomeAway, AirBnB, etc)
What makes HOUFY different?
Houfy is a market network: combining thebestelements of marketplaces with social networks. Houfy will be unique for the Real Estate and Lodging industries. With Houfy, members can easily share local information around their place attached to their listing(s) in the form of "guidebooks".
P2P (Person to Person)…we connect guests with owners … no middleman!
HOUFY is built and running on industry-leading technology
HOUFY grows and evolves organically as users add listings and destination information.
With HOUFY you can sync’ your calendars and communications across multiple rental sites.
Dynamic SEO ( search engine optimization) means that user created pages, images, video and text will be easily catalogued by Google, BING, Yahoo, etc.
Security … employing next-gen’ technology to identify potential fraud and spam and promote a safe and trusted marketplace.
Social … travel is all about experiences with friends and family! On HOUFY, members can share their experiences and travel tips!
HOUFY derived its name from “HOUse For You”
How do I pronounce Houfy? "Howfee", "whofee", it depends which country you are in..
02 Where are Houfy's Headquarters?
Houfy is a Colorado c-corporation, incorporated in Breckenridge, CO.
Mailing Address: PO Box 8392 - Breckenridge - Colorado, 80424 - USA
Other "Office" Locations:
Pune, India (Swapnil)
India (Companies - contracts for building apps/other)
Thijs H. Aaftink (Creator and Owner), originally from the Netherlands, born in the US, known as T or Tice; started the Houfy project in 2014 with the idea to share local information close to home connected to marketplaces for the real estate and travel industry.
Thijs has worked on Wall Street as an investment advisor and institutional trader for European banks. In 2004 and 2005 Thijs and his wife Cristina created a small property management company in Breckenridge, Colorado and in 2008 they built 2 properties in Marrakech, Morocco.
Currently Thijs and Cristina mostly reside with their 2 younger kids in Luxembourg.
Swapnil Chavan (Lead Programmer), from Pune India. Studied computer science and has been working for Houfy since 2015. Swapnil lives with his wife and child in Pune.
Who owns Houfy?
All shares are owned by Thijs H. Aaftink
04 How and when did Houfy start?
Early 2014, very exited, I started a project, called ROOFFY (Roof for You). Bought domain names, created a company in Colorado and started with a 50.000 Euro budget. Site should cost around 30.000 + extra’s seemed OK. It ended up a disaster. Budget gone in 9 months after hiring 6 different programmers. Late 2014, I found Swapnil Chavan through “freelancer.com", The idea very much seemed alive and we continued. (Just go for it!)
In 2015 Swapnil, Yassine and I continued working on the project, a Social site/Real Estate and Vacation Rental Marketplace. Mid 2015, Yassine also dropped out and I was left with just Swapnil. (New budget: Secured USD 50.000 per year) Product first, the rest will come. (Just go for it!)
2016: Say No to VRBO Service fees: Facebook Group: Lots of complaining. It was clear: a Global Vacation Rental marketplace would be impossible to market without 10s or 100s of Millions of $) We will need help from our community.
Swapnil and I continued working on our project and changed our system/framework to REACT (Similar as to Airbnb). Late 2016, we tested with a few members. Dawn King, Pat Lenior and others. In 2016, we very mostly focussed on the vacation rental part of the site. (Quite complicated, with pricing/calendar and reservations structure) and we changed the “awful" name Rooffy to Houfy (HOUse For You). I was not aware this was a horror drug in the USA. “Regional/State” sites started to pop up, and again in my opinion an easy quick fix for a much larger problem (Chances of success: minimal to 0) The only way a site can succeed will be by focussing on a very small area first (Destinations) or by going viral (great product with social options & an active community)
2017: Swapnil and I fixed many small issues during the year. We needed to test.
Late 2017 we added an import “scanning” tool to speed up the process of adding listings. (Is this legal? Houfy is not a member of any OTA sites: Meaning: Houfy doesn't need to agree to their terms. Houfy with the approval of its members “copies, scraps, scans” the listing information of the owner and adds this to the correct places within Houfy. (Which otherwise would have been done by the owner of the listing manually) It seems other sites are now copying our idea.. Google "scans/indexes/scraps" pages every day for their SEO purposes.. a very similar concept.
Our small facebook group started to grow, e-mail suggestions of changes started to pick up tremendously. We saw new sites/competition popping up: clones & scripts, but kept believing our product could work. (Product first)
2018: The first 3 months, Swapnil and I were overwhelmed by all the suggestions for the site, which needed attention. (With 2, you can see quite a bit, with 10 members: more and with 500: much more) We added many of the suggestions and corrected most larger problems the first half of 2018.
The second half of 2018, we focussed on smaller details, added direct payment methods for Stripe and Square and noticed an uptick in inquiries and some of our members received their first bookings. It looks like Houfy is starting to work.
2019: Great start: Noticing a 50+% increase in traffic. Many listings/guides and stories are being found on Google and shared on Facebook by our members. Vacation Rental listings are being added to Houfy non-stop. We fixed our back-office to verify ownership properly and check on IPs. Bookings done through Houfy 200K
2020: Continued development of Houfy. Rapid growth due to "coronavirus". Daily bookings.
Swapnil and I LOVE working on this project and believe we are making a product with the highest standards in the industry with the latest technologies available. We believe our product will be very helpful to owners/agents and managers as well as to guests and buyers in choosing their next place to stay or live in without paying "service fees/commissions etc".
05 Why Houfy
To create a website for the Real Estate and Travel industries where members can easily add properties for sale or for rent free from service fees & commissions.
Vision: Imagine a worldwide AIRBNB looking site for anything what has to do with property. This can be from marketplaces (Real Estate and Lodging) to local activities and information provided by its members. (A true local information sharing platform with clear and transparent pricing and communication)
How should the site look like:
The success of Airbnb is tremendous. Use a similar system. Simple, 21st century. (Real Estate sites are “old fashioned” and only Airbnb seems to work well for the next generation - you will most probably see Airbnb enter the Hotel scene very soon)
Why Real Estate?
Try finding Real Estate for sale in Marrakech (Morocco)? or Playa del Carmen (Mexico)? You will end up at many, many different websites and see different listing prices for the same property? You will see 100s of different agents with different websites and all with different opinions about their market.
Some of these issues we see worldwide. (Imagine just 1 site, where all listings are listed) Do you really need a real estate agent in the future? Should it not be a “showing” agent?
What is the price for the agents showing services? 3%, 2%, 1.5%? Will real estate offices exist in the future? Like travel agencies did in the past?
Why the Travel industry?
Try finding a place to stay for your next holiday in Breckenridge, Colorado. You will most likely end up on: booking.com, airbnb.com, vrbo.com or tripadvsior.com - you might look on google and search a few property management companies on the first page. Most likely, you will choose one of the larger four OTA’s (Online Travel Agencies) and book “instant”. You are paying 12-20% fees for this service. I believe the future might look very different. People will be able to pay direct much easier than in the past. (Bitcoin, Paypal, Apple Pay, Square, etc.)
Is 10%, 15%, 20% a fair price to pay for the OTA’s services?
Why a social site?
Late in 2013, I started managing the inquiries we received from Airbnb and VRBO for our properties in Breckenridge, CO. and responded by e-mail, (lengthy informative ones). It became clear, we needed a website for each property. (Imagine a marketplace, like Airbnb or Zillow where I update information “linked” to my website). The social site was needed to easily update local information as well as invite friends/clients. Each post on social sites is a webpage and “indexed” by google. This will help Houfy be found in the future, when prospective users search for local information.
Houfy & Just Cause
What is Houfy's "Just Cause"?
Houfy' just cause is to create one platform for property Owners, Managers & Real Estate Agents to share properties online and connect directly with their clients, guests & buyers. Houfy aims to eliminate online middlemen service fees & reduce agent commissions.
Houfy is in the process of creating a movement of likeminded individuals who believe online commissions are too high. A movement only exists when people are inspired to move, to do something, to take up the cause as their own.