Industry Insight: Tom Gatzen interview with Property Road
In the first of our new feature series, we interview one of the co-founders of flatsharing matching website, ideal flatmate.
Q1: As we are drawing to the end of 2018, what would you say the positives of the year have been for landlords and flatsharers?
It has been a good year for flatsharers from an economic point of view, particularly in London where the predicted sharp rises in rent have not materialised. In fact, the average monthly rent in London has fallen by 1.4% over the course of the last 12 months.
Regulation in the sector has also had a positive effect for renters, with greater protections and an improved attitude towards quality of properties.
For landlords, it remains a tough time with the government’s tax changes beginning to bite. However, the added regulation and professionalisation of the industry stands to benefit good landlords as rogue operators are being phased out.
Q2: And what about the negatives?
There is still a general sense of doom and gloom for landlords and this is not helped by the rhetoric coming from the government. Although the industry needs professionalising, the demonising of landlords has gone too far and actually has a knock-on effect on renters as the tax changes mean a lot of landlords have passed on price rises to their tenants.
An example of the discrepancy between language and action comes from the government’s new ‘Rogue Landlord Database.’ Billed as a key method in which tenants could be protected and informed about bad landlords, after six months not a single name has been added to it!
Rather than gimmicks and PR stunts, the government should be focused on enforcing existing legislation that exist to prosecute illegal activities in the sector.
It can also be argued that policy interventions, such as the push towards Build to Rent, are increasingly focused on helping higher and middle-income renters priced out of ownership, with less support for tenants on lower incomes.
Q3: What do you think 2019 has in store for landlords and flatsharers?
The next 12 months will see the Build to Rent sector continuing to grow as more investment is poured into the development and launch of multiple locations across the UK. 50% of current developments are in London with other large developments set to launch in Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Leicester and Sheffield.
This is an exciting change for flatsharers and provides challenges for landlords who will be competing against more professional, well-funded institutional landlords.
Q4: If you could change one thing about the industry, what would you change and why?
One of the biggest challenges for flatsharers when they move into a new property is finding enough money up front for the deposit.
Particularly in an age of slow wage growth and the amount of young people looking for flats in urban areas, stumping up £1,000 up front to move into a good quality property can often be out of reach of flatsharers.
There is some really interesting innovation happening in this space with a number of start-ups, such as Canopy, looking at ways to provide deposit free renting for young professionals and shares and this is a space that ideal flatmate will be getting behind and looking to support our users in.
Q5: As someone who helps people find flatmates, what would you say are the best and worst things of living with someone don’t know?
Living with strangers can enrich your life and improve your outlook. In such a fast paced, social media driven age, meeting people from a different background, a different age group or from a completely separate career is becoming less common. By living with a stranger, you can widen your social pool and get to know someone new who can hopefully become a lifelong friend.
Of course, there can be negatives and living with someone you haven’t met before can go completely wrong. We all have a horror story of that flatmate who we just didn’t have anything in common with. That was the reason we set up ideal flatmate though, to help flatsharers find more compatible people to live with!
Q6: If you could choose any famous person (past or present) to flatshare with, who would you choose and why?
Probably Gordon Ramsey – not because of his personality but it would mean I’d never have to do the cooking!
Q7: You founded ideal flatmate in 2016, tell us a little about what drove you to create a flatsharing platform…
The idea came after Rob, my co-founder, and I lived together and had experienced using existing flatsharing sites. We both felt frustrated by the lack of a personalised experience and focus on personality when looking for a place to live.
Who you live with has by far the biggest impact on your happiness when living in a flatshare and we wanted to build something that focuses on people first, and then properties rather than the other way around.
Q8: Why should someone use ideal flatmate over your competitors?
We’ve spent two years developing and perfecting our people matching formula so that our users can take 20 questions about their lifestyle and living habits.
The answers to those questions will then help us match you into your ideal property with the most compatible flatmates for you. We provide a level of care and focus on who you live with that is not available through other flatsharing platforms.
Q9: What’s coming next? Are there any exciting developments coming for ideal flatmate users?
2019 is going to be an exciting time at ideal flatmate! Our App is due to launch early in the year, we are expanding across the UK and continuing to hire a top class team to drive our growth!