Building a marketplace for prefab houses using “no code” tools

In the past, when you wanted to build a web app or tool, coding skills were a necessity.

Today, however, there are plenty of options available for those of us with more limited coding knowledge to find success. I’ve been using these so-called “no-code” tools for years and particularly love Zapier and Airtable.

A whole backend product (automated event planning) of Surf Office is built on Coda. It’s mind-blowing how you can create such complex things these days without programming skills.

Webflow has been on my radar for a while now and I finally had time to take a deep dive and test it out with a few projects.

At first glance, Webflow looks like just another drag&drop website builder, but it has almost unlimited options for customization (without requiring development skills) and its CMS is extremely powerful.

Building a marketplace with no-code

In one of my previous blog posts, I shared a story of how I built a coworking cabin.

My coworking cabin

After having the first prototype ready, my initial plan was to partner with a manufacturer to build these cabins on scale and rent them as vacation rentals.

While the plan of finding a manufacturer didn’t work out, the good news was, I discovered some intriguing patterns by interviewing about 20 people who were interested in buying a cabin.

Most of the people I talked to had already done some research and just wanted to buy any nice, reasonably-priced prefab house for themselves.

However, their main challenges with buying a prefab house were:

  1. Finding and comparing all of the available models
  2. Figuring out all of the administration work (i.e. permits, utility hookups, etc.)

As I already had quite a solid spreadsheet of manufacturers (150+) from around the world, I started to research if something like a marketplace for these homes existed.

I spent a couple of days doing keyword/competitor/content research in Ahrefs, and a friend of mine Mojmir helped with researching paid search keywords.

I also looked at keywords in Google Trends, subreddits, FB groups, and Twitter. The result were extremely promising: There’s a lot of demand but no solid marketplace/competition.

Staring with a super-niche

I started to explore Webflow to see how I could import my database to their CMS and how it could all bind together. I designed all the possible filters and categories for prefab houses and realized that it might take many months to deliver any sort of final product.

Confirmation bias from Twitter

So I started to think about what a minimum viable version might look like, with just one use case and no filters/categories yet.

And here it is: a collection of prefab backyard offices.

prefab backyard offices

I published the website last week and I haven't run any promotions yet aside from replying to a few tweets.

My plan now is to test the feedback and start playing with 1-2 of the easiest business models (I wrote down 12 in total). Then I’ll add more houses based on their use case (modern cabins, vacation rentals, etc.) and filters (shipping to [state], bathroom included, etc.).

Interested how is this project going to evolve? 

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If you are trying to build the next Marriott, this newsletter is probably NOT for you.

But you will love it if you are acquiring land for glamping, bootstrapping a coliving space, buying a small hotel, building a cabin, hustling with Airbnb apartments, launching a niche marketplace, renting on Hipcamp... or you just like exploring new hospitality trends and building stuff.

Don't expect any online courses or similar bs. This newsletter is my personal hack to attract people who are into these topics, brainstorm ideas and then maybe do something together.

I share my stories of building a portfolio of hospitality business and running tons of experiments.

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