sharing economy

21,000 empty homes during a housing crisis... a unique London problem with a modern solution?

You may have read the recent article in the Evening Standard regarding the unbelievable number of empty homes in London; figures show that more than 21,000 homes, including those privately owned have been empty for over 6 months. This represents almost £12.4 billion worth of housing and according to Dan Ganesha, property expert at crowdfunding platform Property Partner, is a “shocking waste of opportunity and nothing short of a scandal”.

The sheer volume of under-utilised housing in the capital indicates the problem is not just limited to all those Kensington penthouses that have been bought up by oil tycoons. Numerous other factors seem to be at work here and as Sadiq Khan outlines his goals during his term stating “The key thing for me is to tackle the housing crisis”, we think a very modern trend can be harnessed to provide more homes for professional Londoners -

At The Air Agents we believe there is an opportunity to use the principles of the sharing economy to pioneer a completely new approach to help ease the crisis. We all know that many Londoners are opening up their homes to tourists for short term holiday lets via platforms like Airbnb. Well imagine if that brilliant idea was applied to hundreds of empty London homes via a government backed website that allowed people with empty properties to source professional UK based tenants for 3-12 month periods? A ‘domestic Airbnb for UK based workers’ if you will.

Property owners would not have to lock themselves into a long term tenancy agreement and would have complete flexibility in determining exactly what dates are available for letting. They could access a government approved tenancy agreement via the platform, (amending it as per necessary) and of course stipulate what type of tenants would be considered. To use the service, potential tenants would require a verified ID (just like Airbnb guests today) and would gain access to an easy-to-use database of potentially thousands of properties, not currently available in the lettings market. Furthermore they would be able to quickly and efficiently see what was available and at what price in their chosen area.

As a company with plenty of experience in short term lets, we at The Air Agents know how flexible the model can be. Whilst we predominantly deal with holiday-makers, previous guests have been as diverse as contract workers requiring accommodation for a few weeks, to a family in zone 4 needing a place to live for a few months whilst their home was being renovated. The point being that new technology opens up new possibilities, bringing with it the chance to make under utilised space available for renters at a time when young Londoners need it the most!

Sadiq Khan listed this issue as the main priority in his manifesto. We say it’s time to explore this new avenue to help deliver on this promise.

Is virtual reality going to rock the property world?

So there’s been a lot of talk around virtual reality recently with the likes of Zuckerburg and many large tech players investing heavily into it. So is it a fad like the mini disk or is it here to stay like the iPhone? And how could it affect the sharing economy and property investment? Here’s our take...

VR is likely to play a part in many people’s homes in 2017 and there’s been lots of speculation as to how. The technology obviously has many applications in the gaming industry, but there’s also been talk of ‘virtually’ going to concerts, travelling to exotic places and being in the films you watch - however we’re most excited about the ways it could impact the sharing economy and property investment.

When booking holiday accommodation potential guests could walk around the property they’re considering. If they’re sharing a flat with the host, imagine being able to have a chat with the host at the property itself. If you are a host, imagine being able to vet your guest in person, instead of via email. These things will help alleviate guests concerns about using holiday letting sites like Airbnb as well as ease concerns from hosts contemplating putting their home on these platforms.

For property investment, imagine being able to attend 20 initial viewings in an hour without even having to get into the car. Eventually you’ll still want to physically go to the property, but you could sort out the wheat from the chaff very quickly and from the comfort of your living room. As the world continually gets smaller with people increasingly living and investing their money further away from their town of birth, this could revolutionise the market opening up all sorts of exciting possibilities. I’ve got a property up North which is rented out and if I could have spent a few less rainy Saturdays in Salford, I would have! If estate agents added this functionality to their offering they could be far more efficient in many aspects of their business

So, ultimately we’re excited about the virtual reality revolution and we want to use it in our business as soon as possible -  we just need the likes of Airbnb and Homeaway to embrace it and we’ll make sure our properties are ready