Does proptech enable positive coliving experiences?
I’m a digital marketeer; I work with startups, lifestyle businesses and entrepreneurs to increase brand awareness and sustainable business growth. But what I most enjoy is collaboration, bringing people together and sharing this experience with a valued audience. Last week, I was fortunate to do this when I hosted a virtual panel discussion — Proptech in coliving: Pros and cons — at RE: Connect, hosted by Unissu.
Emerging as an affordable housing solution, coliving is a community living model enabling a group of biologically unrelated individuals to form a household. Although this sounds similar to the HMO model, coliving differentiates itself by offering well-designed spaces and well-managed communities (*Co-living vs HMO — what is the difference?, *Matt Baker, 2020). Most, if not all, coliving brands implement technology into their operations. This topic was up for discussion last week with a panel of technology experts and coliving veterans, including Jamie McInally — Autoenhance.ai founder and CEO (and my little brother), Cate Maiolini — PBSA at SALTO Systems and Head of Ambassadors at Co-Liv, and Suzanne Noble — the founder of nestful. This blog post considers three core points that were discussed.
Proptech fills a gap in the coliving market
nestful is an online platform connecting 50+ homeowners with spare rooms to prospective 50+ coliving residents. Suzanne suggests that the sophistication of technology has the potential to create compatibility. At this point, you might be thinking about Netflix’s new series *The One — *a fictional show about a startup that matches people using DNA and tech. We’re not talking about relationships here, some people want to meet a suitable house mate. And they want to do this using a secure online platform. As Suzanne suggests — “In the future, people in coliving spaces will want to gather in tribes with people who are most like them, whether they’re digital nomads, creative people, or all accountants…that’s [currently] really lacking”.
Jamie and Cate talked about the impact of property images on ROI. Although the return on investment on rentals is slower than properties up for sale, in both cases, what makes a big impact is the presentation of a property through images. From her experience, Cate says that when high quality photos are used to market coliving spaces, it reflects on an upmarket brand with a particular type of resident in mind. But not everyone uses high quality photos. Cate believes that people who work in proptech have a responsibility to educate others who have not yet joined the “proptech revolution”. Check out a couple of blogs written by Autoenhance.ai Chairman Adrian Gill on the impact of external images on selling properties and internal photos on the rental market.
Last November, myself, Cate and Penny Clark from Conscious Coliving organised a roundtable discussion on sexual harassment and assault in coliving. The speakers considered how technology can make coliving residents feel secure. Cate briefly spoke about this last week, with regards to the solutions available for coliving operators to enhance their residents’ physical safety. Salto Systems offers world-class access control systems. Residents only need their phone to access their home and they control who they let into their spaces. Cate says that this gives “peace of mind, freedom and makes [people] feel safe”. Suzanne agrees that “issues around trust are huge for everyone who works in coliving”; nestful are ensuring that all users are credible, and they’ve built security into their platform with features including anonymised messaging.
Jamie spoke about his own coliving experiences whilst staying at Singaporean coliving brand Rouf in 2018. They manage coliving units across the city, so the question then becomes — how are communities formed when people physically live apart? Rouf, and many other coliving brands, use technology to connect their residents and create positive experiences.
Proptech is detrimental to the coliving market
We also looked at the flip side of proptech in coliving. Cate believes that coliving brands who operate using multiple platforms tend to create stressful experiences for end users. To solve this, integrating technologies is key.
Suzanne highlighted the fact that technology is not accessible to all, and there are some people who would like a coliving experience that do not have access to or want to use the technology available. “The real challenge”, Suzanne says, “is making [technology] useful for everybody”.
It’s fair to say that overall, the panel felt optimistic about proptech in coliving. Technology is a tool used to connect people, and there is scope for this to be enhanced in future. It can also be used to improve peoples’ safety. Additionally, for businesses and investors, technology can speed up workflows and increase ROI. Whilst the questions around accessibility and complexity of proptech were raised, the panel highlighted that technology will continue to shape our lives. It’s far easier to be on board with this than deny it.
Watch the full video from RE:Connect — Proptech in Coliving: Pros and cons.
Check out the Co-Liv Tech Community.
I’d love to hear from you if you’re looking to chat about your digital marketing strategy.