The Economics of Free Services: A Look at Online Real-Estate Ads

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For a business, the best of all worlds is to be able to provide a service for free and yet still be profitable. By reaching profitability, Cytadia, an online community helping home sellers and buyers connect, proves that free quality services work.

Cytadia, a free real-estate service bridging the gap between home sellers and buyers, reached break-even point after less than 6 months of operations as its combined American and Canadian divisions recently attained profitability.

Cytadia generates the majority of its revenues through advertising and voluntary user donations. "If our users are satisfied with the service we provide, it's up to them to give whatever they want after using it, or give nothing at all!" said Nicolas Plouznikoff, in charge of the Marketing department at Cytadia. "Numerous new For Sale By Owner web sites appear every month, hoping to tap into the 2/3 of all home buyers starting their search for a new home online. We do not however see them as competition because the core of our business model is uniquely built around offering a free service, and it’s hard to compete with free" he added.

Thanks to Cytadia, home sellers can place free ads with virtually unlimited text and pictures while home buyers can search for a new home efficiently using various high-tech tools, from maps to advanced search filters. "Our free service is, in fact, more professional than the one provided by many commercial websites charging for real-estate listings, as we spend less time managing and going after customers and more time actually improving our service and helping our users" said Alexandre Plouznikoff, director of operations and co-founder of Cytadia.

Cytadia’s goal is to provide a free and useful community service on a permanent basis without any fees, commissions or contracts. "Judging from the numerous thank you notes we receive each day, our service is especially well received by middle class families who, by using Cytadia to market a house they want to sell privately, can pocket the 5% average commission they would pay to a real estate agent. On a 200 000$ house that’s about 10 000$ they can keep for things they really need" said Alexandre Plouznikoff.

"Our users get access to a quality service that is useful to them and, in return, they fuel our growth by spreading the word about Cytadia and its unique approach. Our users become an asset as they actually promote our service by themselves. It really is a win-win situation and, at this point, there are absolutely no reasons for us to switch to a paying service in the future" he added.

The bottom line is that free services work, especially on the Internet.

For additional information on Cytadia, visit or send your inquiries by email.

About Cytadia:

Founded by two computer engineering Ph.D. students, Cytadia is a leading free real estate community allowing 1) home sellers to place until sold real estate ads with virtually unlimited text and pictures; and 2) buyers to find a new home rapidly. With more than 2000 active listings in the United States and Canada combined and thousands of visitors daily, Cytadia helps numerous homeowners sell their properties for free each month.


Nicolas Plouznikoff

Public relations department


+1 (514) 229-3485


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