A new Manchester-based student accommodation start-up is using the latest tech to deliver five times faster booking.
Housemates, founded by tech entrepreneur Lydia Jones, and backed by an experienced team from DEPT, Spareroom and Starling Bank, is aiming to shake up the UK and international student accommodation market with the launch of its innovative online student property platform.
The team behind Housemates claim the student accommodation marketplace will offer five times faster booking than its rivals.
The app is an end-to-end platform for students, landlords and student property operators that promises to bring much-needed transparency, efficiency and reassurance to the sector.
It’s now open for exclusive early access to property owners ahead of the 2021/22 academic year, while students will be able to make bookings from October this year.
Although it will initially cater for property owners and students studying in Manchester, Liverpool, Dublin, Edinburgh, London and Melbourne, the start-up is also rapidly expanding its supply across other cities in the UK and internationally.
“The student housing market is an area ripe for innovation and disruption,” Lydia Jones said. “It’s 2020 and expectation when it comes to any online experience is high; we believe students deserve to be able to book accommodation in the same, hassle-free way they do holidays.”
She added: “We’ve spoken to thousands of domestic and international students and it is clear that audiences generally found existing processes slow, out-dated and lacking in terms of both transparency and security. International students, in particular, felt particularly vulnerable to being exploited by agents.”
Using ‘feedback loops’ with both students and landlords, Housemates says it has identified new ways to deliver a ‘faster, easier and more secure way’ to book accommodation that ‘meets the needs of all users’.
“As we grow our community across the UK, we will continue to innovate based on real-time, evolving feedback and adapt to consumer demand,” Jones continued.
She says the impact of Covid-19 hasn’t slowed the development of the platform, but the needs of students travelling from overseas to study in the UK have been factored in to ensure Housemates caters for changes in post-lockdown booking behaviour.
“Our whole approach and ethos is to build our product in a customer-centric way, and we’re looking to work with more like-minded, forward-thinking purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) operators and individual landlords as we expand,” Jones said.
Jones says students can sign up to Housemates for free and see exactly what a property will cost, with no hidden extras. She adds that the end-to-end marketplace removes the need for letting agents and their associated fees, providing landlords and tenants with the opportunity to ‘transact totally online’.
The platform uses automation to speed up all parts of the booking process, with ‘fast and reliable’ methods to populate and complete tenancy agreements, as well as making secure transactions.
“Our mission is to help students move smoothly through their university life, starting with an effortless way to arrange their accommodation,” Jones added. “By removing ‘the middleman’ we’ve streamlined the whole operation, taking 100% of the transaction online, and reduced overall costs for all parties.”
“And as a start-up we have been able to be completely user-centric and data driven, tailoring both the experience and technology around the needs of today’s students. We’re not trying to play catch up with a legacy CRM system like many of the current players in the market but have built our solution with a bespoke up-to-date technology stack.”
Housemates says it is continuing to grow its team to cope with its expansion and growth, attracting talent from PropTech, FinTech and agency backgrounds who are now delivering the start-up’s product roadmap.
Since May last year, PIT has followed the impressive growth of Housemates – from the early days of it winning the regional finals of entrepreneur competition The F Factor to its recent successful securing of £100,000 pre-seed funding to further assist growth of the app.
In other app news, two property investors based in Crawley, near Gatwick Airport, have launched Property Lobe to assist people on their investment journey.
The new app offers ‘deal calculations at your fingertips’, and enables property investors in the UK to quickly and easily estimate the costs of property deals with a simple and intuitive user experience.
The innovative app, available to download for free from the App Store or Google Play, is described as being ‘in a nutshell, a deal calculator and log’. It allows investors to estimate the total cost of a project, including the potential uplift (buffer) compared to an input done up value for a flip.
If the property is meant as a buy-to-let, it estimates the money left in the deal after re-mortgage and the monthly cashflow.
App owners and creators Juliana Nayee and Helen Napper came up with the idea to improve the speed and ease of the property investment process.
“We created the app as we couldn’t find anything similar focused on the UK market. We know how important it is to put offers in quickly, so after spending quite some time doing manual calculations and using spreadsheets, we refined our process of reaching the offer price,” Nayee said.
“We could see how helpful this was for us and decided to transform it into an app so other investors can benefit from it too.”
Some of the key features of the app include functionality that accounts for the cost of money (users can add the interest rate they forecast to pay on loans), the ability to easily adjust the purchase price to estimate its impact on the total cost and the automated calculation of stamp duty.
What’s more, fields’ values are fully customisable and users can also save deal calculations to revisit or edit the numbers at any time.