Ten Questions with... Rob Imonikhe, Your Place

June 22, 2022
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The times they are a changin’, especially in the housing market. The next generation of mature adults, millenials and Gen Xers, are fast becoming the dominant force on the housing ladder—and most of them can’t afford to buy.

What option do they have except to rent? It’s not gone unnoticed, and the portal industry has been quick to respond. A slew of renting only portals have emerged in the past few years, and Your Place has taken it one step further—a build-to-rent only portal.

We asked Your Place co-founder Rob Imonikhe ten questions. Here’s what he said:

 

What problem does Your Place solve?

Renters in the UK have put up with unreliable service and substandard accommodation for decades. 

Your Place operates at the forefront of change in the rental market - by connecting renters with only high quality, professionally managed rental homes. 

For Build to Rent operators, we reduce application vetting time, increase lease-up speed and maximise brand experience. 

 

What is the biggest opportunity in your industry right now?

Build to Rent is still so nascent in the UK, it’s really one big opportunity. Build to Rent developers are stepping up to provide high quality, secure, long term rental housing across the country. 

There are a couple of other areas of exciting growth. Firstly, suburban build to rent is very interesting right now - specifically well managed family homes for rent in suburban areas across the country. There is a huge lack of high quality housing of this type. Investors should recognise that looking beyond the obvious city centres can yield great returns long term. 

Secondly, remote working has transformed many young professionals’ perspective on where they need to live. A relatively small but growing cohort of digital nomads represents an opportunity for global property operators.

 

What is Your Places’ USP?

Build to Rent operators and institutional landlords are increasingly seeking to improve renter and applicant experience. However, as they often have great properties to rent, a huge amount of the letting teams’ time is taken up managing and responding to unsuitable enquiries.

Your Place uses technology and friendly customer support to drastically improve conversion rates and reduce time spent pre-qualifying candidates, while giving applicants a great experience at every touchpoint with a brand. 

 

What are you currently working on?

We just launched our new brand and are rolling out with some amazing new Build to Rent clients across the UK. Having intentionally held back growth while we perfected our product, now is the time to scale, we are on track to grow about 300% this year. 

We have some major new product developments in the pipeline - including tools to automate manual processes for our build to rent clients - saving them time.

 

What is the biggest challenge Your Place faces right now?

We are currently massively oversubscribed with applicants for the most sought after homes. Our main challenge is onboarding BTR operators and new property developments fast enough in order to keep up with tenant demand. 

 

What aren’t people in the real estate industry talking about that they should be talking about?

I think people in the lettings sector are talking about the right things, but it takes policy a while to catch up. The big issue is that we need more high quality rental homes. It’s great we are seeing rental reform, however due to all the regulatory and tax changes introduced, we have seen a reduction in available rental properties.

We now have 300,000 fewer rental properties in the UK compared to 2017 which has pushed up average rents and contributed to the cost of living crisis. More small landlords will probably leave the market between now and 2028, when the new EPC rating rules come into force.

It’s also worth mentioning that almost all Build-to-Rent operators work to even higher standards than those proposed in the government’s rental reform white paper. We all recognise and support the idea of helping more people buy a home, but we cannot neglect the fact that we also need to encourage more investment in high quality, safe and reliable private rental housing, in order to have a healthy, functioning housing market in the UK. 

 

How do you see the market changing in the next 12 months?

We know we have more and more Build to Rent developments coming online, with more than 100,000 units in planning or construction across the UK. We hope to see this pipeline grow, and as successful launches stack up, a positive impact on the overall rental market with increased competition and quality. Competitive markets breed quality and will ultimately lead to better outcomes for consumers. 

 

What is the most common request from clients?

One thing many clients are interested in is data to better understand how their brand is perceived and how their pre-let customer journey can be optimised.

 

What stories and businesses have you been following recently?

I’ve been following John Lewis’ move into rental housing with great interest. This is the first household name from a different sector to move into Build to Rent in the UK. Lloyds Bank are also planning a similar move - so we will be watching them too. 

 

Tell us something our readers might not know about, but may find interesting.

Discount Market Rent homes are not just for people on low incomes or receiving government support. Many developers and operators offer reduced rent homes to people on moderate incomes who work in certain key worker roles, or are geographically located already in the borough of a new development. This is part of a drive to support local communities. It’s worth checking if you are eligible if you or a friend are looking for a Build to Rent home when you next move!  

June 22, 2022
Harvey is an experienced property journalist and copywriter. He has written about the property industry since 2015, starting at The Property Franchise Group in the UK, before moving to Spain to work for Spotahome. He has blogged for the private rented sector, ghostwritten for UK property experts and written case studies for franchise owners around the UK. Harvey joined Online Marketplaces as a News Editor in 2022.

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