-How did House and Flats start? What’s the story behind?
In 2015 I went on an exchange to France. I did not want to rent something without first seeing it, then I finally leased 10 days for airbnb and was very expensive. Once I was there I had a lot of trouble finding a place to stay, because I didn’t like all the places I went to see or the price wasn’t in my budget. Finally what I did was to rent in a French page and in that page the price was almost twice a month the budget that I had. I paid it but because it was an apartment that basically fulfilled all the requirements. The good thing was that everything the page had published was real, that’s the first thing and then the other thing was that everything was included and that I did not have to pay anything else. We payed for everything in advance. The problem we had was with the guarantee. I finished the exchange on December 14th, I left France and the first week of January I was going to Southeast Asia and I got an email when I was in Spain, at the airport, and the email said that they were not going to give me the guarantee because of the hot stove. We broke the microwave, we went to check how much it was a new one and it costed about 90 euros, we took a picture and we told them to deduct that from the guarantee, I mean we were more than transparent, and also a part of a stairs that the apartament had, because it was a duplex, it had a string between the first and second floors and that string broke. We left a total guarantee of 1000 euros that corresponded to a month of rent, a little less and they charged everything. Then when I returned to Europe I had a thousand euros less, because there were 500 euros each, which corresponded to a month of travel and that changed the whole plan.
During the exchange I had an iPad and I wrote different ideas that came to my mind. One of those was to develop a page in Chile similar to the one I was staying in at that minute, without the guarantee thing happening to me, and basically the idea remained there. I arrived in Chile in April 2016 and in 2017 at the beginning of April we met a group of Spanish, 13 Spanish and we became very close friends, we went to San Pedro de Atacama together, we saw each other every week, then we started to know how It was the real experience of a Spanish in Chile and that added to that in June of 2017 I finished university and I only had the thesis the second semester and I had already taken the degree exam, so I was ready. Adding that to the idea, I had already all the information that the Spanish girls had given me, I began to investigate and to see if there was something that really solved this problem. There were and still are platforms today, but there is nothing that encompasses this problem in something simple, something easy. The idea was to focus the markets based on the niches, the niches are the executives and foreign students and on the other hand eliminate the issue of rooms or residences or departments, then have a platform where you could look for shared rooms, apartments , residences that could give you a number of benefits that at the end of six months are more than what I’m paying for, that’s the main idea.
After investigating we realized that the issue of online payments was very messy, that the places where people stayed against what was published were untrustworthy, the properties needed to be verified, then we realized that that there were people who wanted to go to see before they stayed and there are people who do not, who care more about transport from the airport to the property, there are people who care more about travel news. There are people who are worried about the bed, there are people who are worried about the shower, there are people who are worried about parking, each one has its own requirements, so the idea was to make a platform where the things that today are given for granted, such as wifi or online payment are ready, but add a real value, such as a transport to the airport, or discounts for tourism and deep down all Entos that revolve around the bracelet.
-Did you start alone?
Yes, I started all by myself. The idea at the beginning was to sell my car and when I told this idea to my family, they said no. My father specifically, told me that he could finance this at first, and each one of us made conditions, and one of the conditions I puted was that he had to work side by side with us, not as a simple investor.
I called a friend from the university, I told him the idea and I how I was going to do it and how I wanted to start. We both started working in the living room of my house. We were there about a month and a half doing as much market research as possible, basically watching the competition, seeing the prices, the segment we were aiming at, what countries they are from, how old they are, the budget they have to come, the universities, what is what matters the most to them.
After that we moved to a cowork, where there were already three of us and there we called another friend from the university and he joined us and when he joined we were already four in the cowork and we started working with a web development company and then we started doing the page. During all that time, we have been talking since August 30, 2017, when the company was created until the last days of December, which was pure market research and investigation.
-The work in particular, started at 2018?
The work in particular of web development started in November until the end of February when the initial page was ready, the landing that was only for hosts. It was a super simple page where it said that House and Flats would come next but that allowed people to start uploading their properties at that moment. We started through facebook groups, family, friends, everything around us to try to contact people who wanted to upload their apartments, everything they had, but in that minute we did not filtered that much, because We desperately needed people to go up.
On February 14th the first rent came out, which was made through the page with payment through PayPal, but almost everything was closed by phone. It was a group of Mexicans who came to Viña del Mar, that’s why we also opened Viña del Mar without planning it. Officially we started to operate from March 1st of 2018.
-How does the whole process works, from the person who wants to rent their property to the person who needs to rent it?
This process works like this, first of all, we have different ways of contacting the hosts. Once the host is contacted, we explain to him how all this works and this works in this way: the host enters the page, creates a profile, this profile has its basic data and then the property data begins, what goes from what type of property is, if it is a house, an apartment, a residence, if it is a shared room or if it is a private room, after that comes the subject of the address, which is geolocated with a map that is linked to google maps, then come the square meters, the name of the property, if it is close to a subway, a park, shopping centers, clinics, a civic center, a whereabouts, in the background all the information and hard data of the accommodation. Number of rooms, number of beds, number of bathrooms, if shared or private, living room, terraces and once all these data are completed comes the theme of the rules, use of the kitchen and use of common spaces. After that, all the terms and conditions are added to it, we explain how we work, how the payments are online and we also explain how it is paid. There are two options nowadays we have deferred payments which is an initial payment and a total payment that is the total amount of the stay.
What we are going to change now is that the reservations will be based on confirmations, as these are very long periods and the people in airbnb for example come with an average of 3.7 and 4.3 days, they don’t care if you don’t like the person that comes, this applies to the theme of private or shared rooms, but when you come four months and a half, six months or a year, and if you care who you are renting your place to the reservations that we are proposing are going to be based on confirmations of 24 hours and it will explain who is coming. For example: Pedro, he is 27 years old, studies ecotourism and comes from Ecuador, then the person sees that and accepts it or not.
-How much is the minimum time that someone can rent the place?
At the beginning when it started, the minimum was seven days thinking exclusively of executives, conference stays and that kind of thing, but today we are going to modify it to a month, because the clients that we have today have given us a average of 4.8 months.
-How does House and Flats projects?
During the year that we have been operating, we have validated commercially that this really solves daily problems and that it is a niche that is growing specifically in Chile. How do we project? The idea is to achieve a position in the chilean market, mainly in Santiago, Concepción and Viña del Mar, to be the number one company leader in reception of executives and foreigners. Nowadays we are opening certain cities in the world such as Barcelona and Buenos Aires, we are still on legal issues, but being a web platform, we must deliver first trust and then it is just a matter of time.
-What sets House and Flats apart from the rest? Why should people choose House and Flats and not another platform?
First of all, because House and Flats is made based on real experiences, when we did the market research of industry competences, we realized that the other pages are very flat and solves what the client needs at the minute, but being long-term rents, we have to think about the user’s experience, one is about general terms when it comes to rent a room, but not everything goes around the room, we have to realize that that person doesn’t live just in that room, but lives in the commune, which is not only in that commune, but also out of it, that he or she also goes out to travel. The main contact with them is because of the renting, but the experience we offer goes further. The real difference and in concrete terms is that House and Flats is not an online platform to rent properties, House and Flats is a community. We are defining it today as a hosting platform and social network for foreign students and executives.