Can you tell us a bit about Homie and what inspired you to set it up?
Homie is London’s platform for renters providing a service that rewrites the way people currently rent. I came up with the idea back in June 2015, when I was helping a friend move from Paris to London. I managed to find him a home in just one day by arranging everything from the location to viewings to cab tours. The experience showed me that the market was lacking a personal service for all.
So how would it work for someone looking to move to west London?
After you have signed up to Homie and answered a few simple questions about your home criteria, such as location, moving dates and number of bedrooms, you will be assigned a personal home finder, known as a ‘Homie’, who uses our in-house technology to search the market and match renters with their ideal home.
Our Homies use your criteria to send you a shortlist of hand-selected properties, removing the need to deal with multiple estate agents and expired listings. You can then choose your favourites, for which the Homie will schedule viewings—making your life that little bit easier.
The viewings will be booked into a two-hour slot to suit your availability, and the Homie will also join you on a black cab tour of the properties, advising you every step of the way. You can request as many tours as you need to find the right home, all for a one-off fee of £49.
What are the benefits of using Homie over an online rental search engine like Rightmove?
The property market in the UK is a really difficult and complicated place, especially in London. At the moment, rental search sites can’t offer tailored help for renters trying to find the right property. Homie simplifies the whole process, helping the renter pick a property and joining them at every stage of the journey.
Our research has shown that renters are spending on average 20 hours a month simply searching for properties, before even making a booking. Our Homies streamline this by squeezing it down to three days, making sure moving doesn’t take over your life (which is often how it can feel!).
Another key benefit of Homie is that it is a multi-agent service, meaning that you view properties from different agencies in one single tour, as opposed to viewing only homes from one agency in each tour. This increases the variety of the stock and means you are more likely to find quality flats.
Our renters have told us that with Homie they feel like there’s actually someone on their side, a single, unbiased, independent point of contact guiding them through the whole process, the opposite to what they’ve experienced with renting in the past.
You’ve recently received $4 million investment—how do you plan to use the money?
The new investment has given us an incredible opportunity to further develop our tech platform and team without compromising on any of the personal aspects of Homie that make it so unique. Currently we cover London zones one and two. We want to complete zone two expansion and get out to zone four, targeting the most densely populated areas in zones three and four, where customers struggle the most.
We want to change the way people rent by providing a seamless experience, under a consumer brand that champions renters and allows them to manage all aspects of their rental in one place.
Are you looking to expand out of London any time soon?
The priority right now is to solve the renting experience wherever it is needed, so as we grow we will look to offer the Homie service in other cities which need our help. At the moment, we want to fulfil our goal of making renting in London a transparent, affordable and positive experience, but once we’ve done this our aim will be to expand the platform to other cities, such as Singapore, Paris, Hong Kong or New York.
You originally worked in investment banking—what prompted you to move into real estate?
I had always been fascinated by the property industry and had started to shift my interest over to the sector long before leaving banking. Before creating Homie, I co-founded a property search consultancy that helps international and local investors acquire development opportunities in London.
Any areas in west London you would recommend?
Westbourne Grove is a great area with so many benefits. It has some brilliant restaurants and shops, giving it a lively atmosphere, but is also affordable and well connected to the likes of Notting Hill and Kensington, meaning you can spend hours exploring.
What advice would you give to people moving to London for the first time?
When you’re choosing your ideal location, don’t just think about where’s popular at the moment. The key is finding a commutable location that also matches your leisure needs. As well as the time it takes to get into work or lectures, consider what you like to do at weekends, and see if the area accommodates it.
Researching online is a great place to start, but there really is no substitute for visiting the area in person to see if it feels like an area you can call home.