The short-term rental market is experiencing a significant rise, due to the increasing number of location-independent workers, and to the shifting perceptions of home ownership. GuestReady, a short-let management company, who has just acquired former competitor Easy Rental Services and received HK$24 million in a second round of funding, is proof that flexible living and working is increasingly becoming the norm. The company provides professional property management services to property owners in Hong Kong as well as London, Paris, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, and covers everything from property listing to guest communication, housekeeping and price optimization.
A pioneer in proptech, the company, which launched August 2016, caters to “rentalpreneurs” by focusing on the underserved niche of short-term and vacation rentals. “The traditional minimum rental period of one year simply doesn’t apply very often anymore”, explains Lou Chan, GuestReady’s Co-Founder and Managing Director for Hong Kong. “The sharing economy is becoming more commonplace and short-term rental platforms like Airbnb are seen as appropriate solutions. The future of the residential property sector is being redefined, and short-term rentals and the sharing economy are at the heart of this change.”
Millennials in particular are pushing this trend forward by driving growth of the short-let rental market online. As one of the first proptech sub-sectors to prosper, online letting has enabled the shift from short-term holiday letting to the residential market, and on to the business travel sector.
In Hong Kong, this trend provides the ideal solution to those who travel frequently for either business or leisure, leaving behind an empty living space. Airbnb superhost Jeremy, for example, travels to his company’s offices in London and New York, leaving his apartment in Sai Ying Pun empty for weeks at a time. His decision to involve GuestReady means he can effortlessly host Airbnb travelers during the periods that he’s away, generating an additional source of income. “Whenever I’m away for business, I can rely on GuestReady to make sure my guests are checked in and the place is clean for every guest that arrives. Ever since GuestReady took over, my Airbnb rating has gone up!”, he says.
Hong Kong, which along with mainland China has received about 41% of global proptech investment since 2013, has a comparatively high number of short-letters, with close to 7,000 apartments in Hong Kong on Airbnb. Firmly established in the APAC region, the necessary conditions for proptech to flourish – such as a ‘mobile-first’ mindset and young population – mean an ideal environment for the new sector to continue its boom.
Business travel, too, has been subject to this seismic shift. An online study conducted by the GBTA Foundation, with over 3,000 business travelers from the U.K. and seven other countries, concluded that home sharing services in business travel jumped 20% since June 2016. 85% of business travelers said their home sharing use would either increase or remain the same. “There is always space for more efficiency in business travel”, says Lou Chan. “Between the rise of mobile technologies and increasingly connected travelers, managers and travel bookers, both the business travelers and the companies they work for are looking to optimize these travel experiences.”
He adds, “This could lead to the biggest shift in lifestyle we have seen in many years. It’s the way we live, the way we choose to put a roof over our head. Future trends are closing in on us, and we’re offering a way for people to embrace this change.”
The startup raised HK$6million in an Angel Round in November 2016 with backing from the Swiss Founders Fund, Senn & Partners and Georg Bauser of Airbnb fame. Since then, it has raised another HK$24 million in a second round of funding, which will support the company’s geographical expansion to 5 further cities by summer 2018. GuestReady is now also looking to move further into the B2B space by building a back-end product to automate and streamline property management tasks.