Ten Questions with Roland Whyte, Founder & CEO of Nøkkel

November 4, 2022
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With portals around the world constantly telling consumers about the lack of inventory on the market, it's not a surprise that off-market real estate marketplaces are starting to spring up around the world.

These businesses are intriguing because they are selling something, or at least piquing interest, in something that is not yet for sale.

When we read about one such business in the UK with a Norwegian name that recently raised a Series A from and partnered with New Zealand-based financial institution FNZ our curiosity was piqued. We reached out to founder Roland Whyte to tell us about Nøkkel and why an off-market property platform is working with a financial institution...

 

Roland Whyte Nokkel

Roland Whyte, founder & CEO of Nøkkel

What is the problem that Nøkkel solves?

Buying a new home should be an exciting experience, though you rarely hear people talking positively about it. We’ve started our journey by helping buyers find off-market residential properties, rather than be forced to look only at the tiny pool of properties that happen to be on the market at a given time.

By directly connecting potential buyers and owners, Nøkkel broadens the pool of property to choose from and empowers both parties to take control of their data, plan for the future and focus on what they can achieve with their property.

 

What is Nøkkel’s USP?

The app provides valuable data on almost every property in the UK which helps both buyers and owners make better-informed decisions. The app also connects buyers with owners that are open to a discussion - for free. 

We’re also establishing a standardised property information infrastructure by connecting the traditionally siloed property and wider financial services worlds.

 

What is Nøkkel’s biggest challenge?

The opportunity to drive change in the property industry is huge, and we have identified a long list of problems that can be solved through data and automation. However, our single biggest challenge is being sufficiently focused on solving problems where Nøkkel can make a real difference. 

 

Nøkkel recently partnered with and raised a Series A from financial services company FNZ. What was the idea behind the partnership?

By integrating Nøkkel data into their platforms, financial institutions like FNZ can offer customers a more holistic view of their entire asset portfolio.

This provides a wider range of people with a deeper understanding of their entire net worth. This in turn equips consumers to make the best financial decisions and allows financial institutions to marry this up with the right product and solutions. 

 

Is there a foundation story behind Nøkkel?

Over a decade ago, I walked past my dream house which triggered a thought. How do I find a way to live here? It’s not on the market and there’s no way of knowing if it ever became available.

I realised we needed a better way to access properties that are not on the market, and then Nøkkel was born.

The idea triggered deeper thought on all the challenges faced by the current industry and how these might be addressed. How do you find your true dream home? How do you avoid the rigmarole of competing for a small pool of properties currently on the market? is there anything I should know about the house or location before I buy and how do I afford the property of my dreams?

Nøkkel is Norwegian for key or to unlock, and that is what we do - we help consumers unlock property dreams and potential.

 

What is one thing our readers might not know about but would probably find interesting about the off-market property business in the UK?

Properties on the market make up around 5% of all houses in the UK. In other words, if you’re house hunting, you’ve only got a 5% chance of finding your dream home. And probably less, as you’ll be competing against a number of other people looking at the same property. 

There have been a few off-market specialists that have popped up and had success in other markets around the world recently. Are there any in particular that inspired you or that you follow closely?

Everyone out there seems to have a different stance on off-market property and how best to approach it. I don’t think there’s a single right answer though the common thread that underpins all of them is buyers' desire to buy the properties they love. Not just the ones that happen to be available. 

We admire the specialists that are able to find properties that are about to come to market, and track quite a few of these - it would be unfair to just name one or two.

 

What is Nøkkel currently working on?

Data is really a key aspect of Nøkkel’s solutions, so we have been working on new features and relevant information to include on the app so our users, whether buyers, owners or sellers can make the most use of it.

We’re working hard with FNZ to bring the financial services and property markets closer together. So there’s much more to come here. 

 

What is the most common request from clients?

We have two types of clients, users of the Nøkkel app and financial institutions. 

App users enjoy the freedom of being able to reach out to owners to see if they might be prepared to sell - it’s easy and there’s no cost.

Naturally not every owner is a seller, and you need to kiss a few frogs first. So we often get questions on this topic i.e. how do I maximise my chance of buying an off-market property?

 

How do you see the market evolving and what will you be doing to be ahead of the curve?

Financial institutions are increasingly focused on property given its prominence in understanding their client’s financial situation - typically someone’s largest asset.

Everyone loves talking about property but few feel the same about pensions. However, understanding both is key when making important decisions when you approach retirement. 

We want to keep consolidating data to help our users make better decisions. Whether that's equipping buyers to find off-market property or helping owners track the value of their property. 

The other key for us is the partnership with FNZ which is linking us to 650 financial institutions, 8,000 wealth management firms and 20 million people that exist across these businesses.

November 4, 2022
Edmund got to know the world of portals and marketplaces working at Mitula Group (which became Lifull Connect after the buyout in 2018). He worked directly with hundreds of portals across the world in his role in the content department for three and a half years before transferring to the SEO department to understand the inner workings of listings sites. He joined Online Marketplaces as Head of Content in March 2020.

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