When architect-turned-online-property business man Peaceful Chimbwanda left Zimbabwe for studies in the US many years ago, he didnt foresee that one day he would end up in a different profession that enjoys clients spanning across the pan-African continent or working from a completely different continent. He spoke with Zim Abroad Editor Martin Chemhere about his quest for greatness in the global village that is so full of technology driven opportunities.
Now resident in the UK city of Coventry (West Midlands), from where his online property business is taking the mainly African world by storm, he can now look back at the early days of his life in the Diaspora, as the happy CEO of Propertyend.com, a company he set up and established and is making headway.
He explains that Propertyend.com was formerly known as Africa Abroad Properties, and is an online African property portal linking sellers, buyers, landlords and tenants.
“Hosted and run from the UK, Propertyend.com is the ultimate go to place uniquely designed to bring all properties across the African continent onto a single platform, said the proud owner.
How he came to establish the company is interesting.
It was twelve years ago, when he set about buying a property back home from his then base of the USA. Being so far away from Zimbabwe and with very little to no direct contact or interaction with the network of estate agents in the country, what began as a simple desire from his living room to find a property in “my home country”, soon became a ‘nightmare’.
“Just finding a single property to consider buying became an impossible task as nothing was available online to look at. I must admit business use of the internet and websites has since improved in Zimbabwe since 12 years ago, but at the time businesses, particularly estate agents, didnt seem to see the need for any online presence.”
After struggling to find any meaningful property listings online, he imagined how much of this frustration was shared with many other people from Zimbabwe, or indeed other African countries, in the diaspora.
“In that moment of frustration, the idea for a trans-African online property portal was born, he recalls.
Although he had the idea some 12 years ago while living in America, it remained in incubation for 4 years until 2009 when he had moved to settle in the UK. It was then that the idea became a business.
Peaceful is motivated to wake up daily by knowing that each time he wakes up in the morning, he is a step closer to achieving his goals: perhaps his single largest motivation.
“Added to that, it is the satisfaction that comes from knowing the hard work of yesterday is another day closer to bearing fruit”.
He proudly explains that he also has around him a great team of motivated and hardworking individuals who continually challenge him to be better.
Property.com faces the primary challenge, and this is increasing, that similar portals sprouting everywhere as the world is getting more and more digital.
Peaceful said it has become so easy for anyone to wake-up and buy a ready-made fancy looking website template that appears to offer the same functionalities as Propertyend.com.
“We are however up to the challenges as we believe the relationships we have cultivated with estate agents and developers on the African continent over the years give us the edge. We have also developed a robust customer care culture which removes some of the fears associated with buying or selling a property in Africa.”
He described the important role played by his portal to its target market, saying,
Propertyend.com is a one stop property market.
“It is as good as putting all African estate agents and developers on the same street, but only virtual. What we do for our customers on both ends of the market is the screening process designed to remove those fears traditionally associated with buying and selling of property on the African continent. There have been stories of buyers entering into a transaction for a property advertised by a seemingly genuine estate agent who only turns out to be bogus. We do the hard work of carrying out all necessary due diligence so that any property listed on our portal is vetted and qualified as being from a genuine estate agent or developer in the respective country across Africa.”
Peaceful left Zimbabwe in 1998 to study architecture at the Franklin Institute of Boston, Massachusetts, USA. He also obtained a qualification in Management Information Systems before relocating to the UK in 2006 with his family.
In his answer to the question, If you were to go back to Zimbabwe, what plans would you have for the country? he said: “My stay in America and the UK has opened my eyes to the role played by a world class infrastructure in attracting investment. I have observed that what normally makes an impression to a first time visitor to this country and America is the state of infrastructure; the road networks and transportation systems. I believe my educational qualifications and exposure will have a small role to play in the development of that countrys infrastructure. I would also like to see faith being restored in the countrys property market. There are far too many sad stories of people losing their hard earned cash to unscrupulous operators.”
He is working hard to make Propertyend.com “the undisputed authority in African online property marketing in the next 5-10 years. This will not surprise as he narrated that over the years they have built a business currently boasting a good portfolio of property listings all from regulated estate agents.
“Having some of best known estate agents in various African countries listing with us is a major highlight. I have also turned down a number of offers to buy the business from us. I believe there is still a lot of value to be created in it before we reach that stage.”