You’d be forgiven for thinking that the online estate agency market was a done deal in the U.K., evidenced by a plethora of proptech startups and more established companies that help you sell your home or help you list and manage it for rent. But apparently not, if one London startup and its new backers are to be believed.
Home Made, which is focused exclusively on London lettings for properties in the £500,000-plus range, has raised £850,000 in seed funding. The round is led by private equity firm Tethys Equity and is said to give the young company a £4.3 million post-money valuation.
Home Made claims to be the only estate agency in the U.K. that offers a premium service akin to a high-end traditional estate agent — including accompanied property viewings and working until 10 pm at night, on weekends and bank holidays — for a low online fee starting at £948 +VAT.
That said, competitor Rentify also occupies a more upmarket space, but charges a monthly fee and is fully-managed and provides a ‘rent guarantee’. At the lower end are startups like Open Rent and uPad that operate more of a pile ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap à la carte model with various services to help you rent out your property.
Founded in 2016 by Asaf Navot, a former Bain strategy consultant and INSEAD graduate, and Nick Binnington, a former British Army Captain and LBS graduate, Home Made’s proposition is based on the premise that the letting agent model is broken: “High-street agents offer average service and extortionate fees, while online agents offered low fees, but even worse service,” says the startup.
To remedy this, Home Made claims to be a new estate agency operating model, one that is driven by data analytics and technology, with better efficiencies and lower costs. A very familar pitch, you might conclude.
In terms of tech, I’m told the company has developed a proprietary online platform that allows landlords to manage their properties from marketing to move-in. This includes full control during the marketing phase – landlords can add or remove marketing photos on the portals, write or enhance existing descriptions and change the price – and visibility of progress during tenancy progression.
“Together with the support of a dedicated account manager, this provides a level of asset management not currently available in the residential letting sector,” a Home Made spokesperson tells me.
Additional tech is being built to ensure the operations side of Home Made runs smoothly. “Serving landlords throughout London from a single hub is operationally complex, increasing exponentially as property numbers increase,” says the startup. “We overcome this by giving our sales and operations teams access to a bespoke CRM as well as proprietary planning and route optimisation tools, allowing us to provide an outstanding customer experience in a highly efficient way”.
Meanwhile, Home Made says it is on track to make £1 million in revenues in 2018, with over 1,000 properties rented. Another online agency in the space that offers a full letting-introduction service is PurpleBricks, which Home Made expects to pass next month for number of new properties listed in London.