Generation Rent are used to on-demand services from the likes of Deliveroo, AirBnB and Uber - now they can get a similar offer when it comes to property lettings with growing app Residently. Dorothy Musariri finds out from director Trevor Stunden about how proptech is shaping the industry's future
Like many 20 to 30-somethings moving to London for the first time, Trevor Stunden had trouble finding somewhere to live.
It wasn’t just the lengthy viewing process at expensive, tiny homes with poor hygiene that proved difficult, but all the administration that comes once he was inside a property too.
As chief commercial officer at proptech firm Residently, a company set up by two people who had been in a similar boat, he is trying to raise the standards of renting – not just for tenants, but landlords too.
By delivering “home as a service” through its app, the company wants to become the online lettings industry’s answer to Deliveroo, AirBnB or Uber.
Directly linking landlords and tenants, the app manages everything from viewings and contracts to deposits and rent.
Trevor says: “Many of us in the business have travelled internationally and when we moved to London, we tried to get on the market and it was very much filled with friction.
“Even though we paid the bills, we weren’t getting the service from the landlord.
“We want to change the way residents think about renting.
“We want to provide them with the high level of service they have come to expect from other sectors and their subsequent disruptive brands such as Deliveroo, Airbnb and Spotify.
“In order to do that we’re digitising the process of finding, setting up and running a home so it is as simple as ordering a taxi or a takeaway.
“There are thousands of online and mobile brands fighting for our attention in every sector, yet somehow property has been left behind.”
Residently takes away hidden fees and hassle
Residently was set up in January last year by Noemi Staehelin and Sam Phillips and employs a group of tech and property professionals in its London and Manchester offices.
The proptech – property technology – brand stresses it is not a letting agent itself.
Aimed at 25 to 40-year-olds, it works on a no agents, no-fee basis.
“Usually with letting agents they want to turn over properties quite quickly and they charge fees and that’s going to come to an end hopefully, but we don’t charge any fees to any of our tenants.
“We are trying to build a network where, when residents come in, they really enjoy the experience and they enjoy the extended services.”
Residently has a data-driven pricing algorithm, which makes sure all the properties are priced correctly.
It has taken away hidden lettings fees for tenants and offers digitised referencing, contract signing, utility set-up and furnishing.
For landlords, they will be provided with a constant income, while assured of reputable and reliable tenants.
Also, the process of finding and managing tenants will all be down to the Residently team.
Trevor says: “We understand what the modern-day landlord wants from their investment – regular income paid on time, reliable tenants and minimal fuss.
“We pride ourselves on protecting landlords’ investments with a long-term commitment, which in turn provides them with guaranteed rental income.
“We don’t charge admin fees and all our tenants undergo a detailed vetting process, meaning we only place reliable residents in Residently properties.
We have fundamentally aligned our interests to that of our landlords.”
The service currently operates within London and provides only both new and newly remodelled properties in London’s zones one and two, while encouraging flexibility for both the tenant and residents.
Tenants only have to register their details once so, when wanting to move again, they can do so without the hassle of sending documents and paying again.
Trevor says: “Once you’re inside our networks you and decide to move from property A to B you don’t have to pay a new deposit or get a new reference because we know who you are and we know that you pay your bills on time – we want to make sure it’s as painless as possible.
“What we would consider to be internationally mobile professionals are very active in what they do – be it work, art, community or sport – so they don’t want to spend time fussing around with a lot of these little things that actually take up time and add little value to their lives.
“For landlords, what we do is we take their property for three to five years so if you’re a property investor you don’t have the hassle associated with dealing with tenant management.
“We have that long-term commitment structured in a way to support residents and returns.”
Residently also prides itself on other services it offers, such as cleaning, laundry, floristry, storage and artwork rental.
Trevor adds: “Our market-leading solutions and additional services demonstrate Residently is much more than just an online lettings company, we strive to be the brand residents trust when they think about renting in London.”
The company is popular among internationals, with an estimated 70% of non-UK tenants in its databases, and has plans to go international.
“We see ourselves as building a global rental brand we want to be able to do this in cities such as Paris, New York, Sydney and Hong Kong,” says Trevor.
“Obviously with cities like London we have such a large population of people moving to the city and wanting to have a rental that suits their lifestyle.
“But if we go global, we want to stick to our motto of keeping the process hassle-free.
“If you’re moving abroad, it should be as simple as moving from Shoreditch to Notting Hill.”
At the moment, online agencies have an estimated 5% market share of the estate agent market, which could increase to between 15% and 20% by 2020.
Like Uber and AirBnB are now, Residently could one day be regarded as the benchmark for its own corner of the tech market if everything goes to plan, Trevor believes.
He adds: “UK property is a multi-billion-pound industry but there are still clear inefficiencies within the lettings system.
“With the majority of transactions, the only party that truly benefits is the estate agent, and this needs to change.
“Prices are unclear, processes are unsuitable and practices unreasonable.
“For residents, finding the right property means spending a lot of time, energy and effort online and on foot and many have now reached a point where they’ve said enough is enough.
“We believe and hope that we are transforming the industry for the better and our aim of tripling the number of properties on our books by the end of the year is more than achievable.”