How can we prevent people from not getting unsolicited calls from real estate brokers, and builders through design?

Rohit Methwani
9 min readDec 19, 2023

This is something that is very common and we all face this every day in our lives. Some people do care, some don’t. For those who care, let’s try to solve it!

NOTE: This was a whiteboarding session which I did a while ago hence this case study doesn’t visualize how the solutions would look. The motive is to talk about possible solutions.

Thanks for Midjourney for this illustration :)

Myself Rohit Methwani, a Product Designer with 2+ years of industry experience. This problem statement is something that I chose by myself because I was personally going through this problem during the house hunt process. Hence, I started to dig deeper into the problem and decided to give it a shot.

This seems to be a very wide problem and so it is important to define the scope. Before actually defining the scope, it is important to understand the data leakage, who is actually behind that phone call, and why are they calling.

I jumped on Twitter to see what people think about it. Here’s what I found.

Observations 👀

  1. Almost everyone is facing this issue.
  2. The tweets are very generic, not very specific to real estate related calls.
  3. There’s some option through which users can activate DND.

To ask people specifically about calls from real estate sector and to get some more behavioral insights, I got a chance to have a quick chat with people who are/were, not actively looking for properties. Here are some responses that I got.

and many more…

Overall Observations 💡

  1. People usually get calls for different purposes viz loans, betting, stock market, real estate, and some shady stuff as well.
  2. People getting calls from real estate, usually get requests from locations far away or irrelevant requirements.
  3. Most of these calls are in the daytime when everyone is working. (Obviously, as the callers are also working during those hours)
  4. Most of them didn’t knew where they had registered or from where their details got leaked
  5. There’s a DND system provided by the Government of India under TRAI. But it isn’t that helpful.
  6. SIM card operators don’t have any mechanism for blocking unwanted calls.
  7. Truecaller helps to identify the calls. In some cases, Truecaller also becomes a pain (as they too sell the data).

How to activate DND ⛔?

After reading some articles on internet, users can file a complaint to TRAI or SIM operator for activating DND. But after observing people’s comments, it only works with automated numbers and it is not very effective.

It’s simple, we give them our details.

Yes, you heard it right. There are multiple touchpoints and channels where we fill in our details.

What are these touchpoints?

  1. The form that we fill out while we visit the site.
    This is applicable for newly built/under construction properties
  2. Logging into the marketplaces like 99acres, Housing.com, No Broker, etc

Who is calling 📞?

At any given point in time, there are more than 4 personas who are calling people.

Who are they?

  1. Builder’s team
    This is done by the builder’s calling team (that’s what they call it).
  2. Marketing agencies
    As the name suggests, this is done by agencies hired by the builder, on his behalf.
  3. Channel Partners
    These are independent brokers who are associated with the builder to promote the project.
  4. Independent brokers
    These are independent agencies that aren’t associated with anyone.
  5. Investors team
    There are some strategic investors in every project. This is also done by them to their loyal customers or their contacts.
  6. Marketplace’s team
    These are the teams of leading marketplaces like Housing.com, 99acres, etc.

But...there were only 2 places where we had signed up for the details. Then how do all these players get our details 🤔?

Simple, data selling!

After understanding the whole process (and much more “Dhanda” model of the builder), this is where I’ve reached:

Hahaha! It’s tough to be a builder. Trust me! Coming back to the problem, let’s see what can we solve.

We literally can’t solve for other touchpoints! (not literally, but with digital products, we can’t control them). The sole reason is the medium of data transfer. It’s manual.

So, circling back to the problem, let’s redefine the scope of the problem. Breaking the problem into 2.

How can we prevent people from not getting unsolicited “property-related” calls from leading “Marketplaces” through design?

How can we prevent details from leaking from the leading “Marketplaces” through design?

But….there’s one important thing to notice

Data selling has been an important part of contributing to any digital company’s earnings. Any solution should also take care of this. Because common no one’s here to cater to their users at the cost of their earnings!

Let’s add the scope of the problem.

How can we prevent people from not getting unsolicited “property-related” calls from leading “Marketplaces” through design?

How can we prevent details from leaking from the leading “Marketplaces” through design and also make sure that “Marketplaces” don’t lose on their revenue share?

I have taken a look at all the leading marketplaces like

It was fun going through these apps. Post a lot of tinkering, I concluded. There are 2 common, major flows where a person would fill in the details:

  1. While Login/Sign up
  2. While exploring a property
General Flow

Let’s evaluate both flows individually

1. While exploring a property

This is the most important flow to cater to because most of the users fill in their details here (obviously).

Here, once you’re interested in the property, you’ll have to give in YOUR details to get the details of the ADVERTISER. This is done because of the people posting properties here are also real estate brokers other than direct owners.

The screenshot below shows how the flow looks like once expressed interest into any property.

2. While Login/Sign up

While most of the apps don’t have a restriction of login before exploring, still this is an important touch point for filling up of details.

This isn’t concerning as a user can still explore the app without actually giving personal details. Moreover, the details required are exactly the same as seen in the above screenshot.

Important thing to notice ℹ️

Most of the people don’t bother to read these checkboxes and that’s where the game happens. Even if you uncheck, you’ll still be able to proceed. (It doesn’t matter because by default that is checked!)

Whilst these marketplaces aren’t wrong doing this, but users need to be aware of these things.

Important things to keep in mind and take care is:

  1. Data selling is an important part of the company’s revenue. The solution shouldn’t affect it.
  2. At the same time, the goal also is to prevent users from getting these calls.
  3. These calls are INEVITABLE, so users should at least get some option to get useful info.
  4. The presented solutions aren’t specific to any platform. These can be integrated into any platform with ease. Hence, only a rough sketch is presented.

Solution 1: Introduce an interactive middle layer 💬

This is very similar to how Uber, Ola, and Zomato do. They simply introduce a middle layer where the user can communicate once with the advertiser. For the next steps, the user needs to fill in the details.

Flow
Wireframes

Things to notice ℹ️

  1. The user still needs to log in before using the functionality.
  2. It kind of puts the user again under the bus. It can be solved to a certain extent by ensuring that their details will be only shared for the interested property.

Pros

  1. The user still has the option to be anonymous and get the details about the property for the initial discovery.
  2. It will help users to explore more without worrying about the bothering calls.
  3. It can help users to ensure authenticity before sharing any personal details.

Cons

  1. Both parties can decide to communicate on their terms by actually bypassing the marketplace.
  2. Users still get calls from the marketplace’s call center team to follow up.

Solution 2: Pay for property 💰

This can be done as Wynk Music does for the hello tunes. There can be 2 options given to the user:

  1. To share an interest with “This property” and with “All other advertisers”. This can be a free option. In simpler terms, users data would be sold to other parties
  2. To share an interest with only “This advertiser” and only for “This property”. This can be a paid option. In simpler terms, users data won’t be sold.
Flow
Wireframes

Things to notice ℹ️

  1. Here, it ensures users know what they are getting into. It will also help marketplaces to get their share if user opts paid option.
  2. The marketplace should make sure that the details are not shared with other parties if users opt for paid options.

Pros

  1. After communicating with real estate brokers, the conversion of such leads is most because of high intent. Hence, a paid option is a win-win for both the parties- user and advertisers.
  2. Users is now aware that free option might invite unwanted calls. Hence, they can take a firm decision.

Cons

  1. Users with only high intent are tend to opt for paid options
  2. The top funnel of leads might decrease because of the flow. Users might hesitate to go for free option because of calls.

These solutions are somewhat implemented recently in some marketplaces in some or other way. Specially the middle layer one, it is commonly used and recently implement in Housing.com as well. But still users are getting calls. Hence, these are not full proof. But instead provide a way to stop these upto an extent. Because the industry is very unorganized.

Unlisted

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