It is an exciting time to be in property right now. The shared living market is going through change and this provides a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs. All markets go through a natural evolution and the property market is no different.
What I believe we are seeing in both the UK and the US is a wave of innovation that is bringing new methodologies and approaches to the property sector. These modern property entrepreneurs are experts in product development, brand and marketing.
The United States is currently going through a shared living revolution. Unlike the UK HMO market this is a new innovation in urban real-estate development. Inspired by the “hacker houses” in Silicon Valley this new shared living market provides opportunities for micro living in overpriced cities across the US.
The real-estate market is one of the few big markets untapped by the technology giants of Google and Facebook etc. This has led to a wave of entrepreneurs setting up companies such as “We Live” and “Common” leading with innovation and disruption.
These new companies have many similarities to technology startups with a strong focus on customer centric product development and building a brand. We are now starting to see these companies enter the UK and European markets.
In the UK there are a number of entrepreneurs who share a vision for change and use these new approaches to disrupt their markets. Martin Skinner from Inspired Homes is doing amazing things with urban micro living. His developments bring together the latest technology and space efficient design innovation.
Reza Merchant the founder of The Collective has pioneered the largest Co-Living development in the world in central London. Over 500 units of shared living with outstanding facilities and communal areas.
As a co-founder of marketing and design companies myself I have also transferred these same product design and innovation methodologies. This has allowed my company Co-Living Spaces to disrupt the HMO market, create a unique product and stay ahead of the curve.
Disruption and Innovation
Product development is all about understanding customer need. Identifying gaps in the market and creating products that deliver amazing customer experience. If you create a low quality product with bad customer experience you will sell less and your brand reputation will be affected.
Brands such as Apple build a strong brand loyalty based on the product and the experience. The net result is that people will pay more for a better experience and the brand will become oversubscribed as a result of delivering an amazing product.
This focus on brand, product and customer experience has been sadly lacking in the shared-living market. This new wave of entrepreneurs are redefining shared living and bringing these product design principles to the market.
What is Co-Living?
Co-Living is simply an americanised term for shared living. It is a customer centric term that describes the service. In the UK this terminology represents change, a new way of approaching urban shared living.
Co-Living developments can range from as little as 4 rooms to 100’s of rooms. Customers will have their own bedroom and share communal facilities. Modern developments in some cases provide enhanced facilities such as; cinema rooms, games rooms, gyms, co-working space etc.
These communal spaces are designed to enhance social community and tap into the changing needs of the millennial market.
What does this mean for landlords?
Landlords who embrace change can start to leverage some of these new approaches on future projects. To start with, this may mean implementing small ideas seen on larger developments and testing these with customers.
Customer research will become a central part of the landlords strategy. Simple email surveys and face to face sessions can capture data to find out what customers want.
This powerful data can then be fed into your next development cycle as the product evolves. Design will be key to creating an amazing product on market. As some areas become saturated the need to differentiate and provide a desirable product will become essential. These small continuous steps of innovation will mean that the landlords product will always be moving ahead of the competition.
Landlords operating in the premium end of the market will need to start thinking about a customer facing brand. This brand will be central for conveying the vision and purpose of the company. Just as Apple has built its brand based on unparalleled design and experience, property entrepreneurs will also use this same approach.
Landlords will need to become technology savvy. Digital marketing, PR and social activity will all build on this brand and be utilised to build a dedicated tribe of future customers and investors.
These methodologies and principles can work regardless of the size of your project. At Co-Living Spaces we like to be lean and agile and currently work on developments ranging from 4 – 20 rooms. We apply this same level of thinking to our smallest developments. Every project is part of our brand story and a limited supply of these unique products ensures we are oversubscribed.
Becoming more customer centric is a win/win scenario for both landlord and the customer. Together we can all raise standards and re-imagine urban shared living for the future.