Housing associations and real estate agents are facing overwhelming amounts of administrative work when looking for new tenants, especially in strained real estate markets like Munich. ESA BIC Bavaria Alumnus and PropTech company wohnungshelden have developed an innovative platform that enables the digitalisation of every step of renting processes, making changing tenants easy, efficient and fair. In this way, its solution not only improves work processes for housing companies but also helps relieve pressure on the real estate market overall.
wohnungshelden was initiated by the two co-founders Martin Staudacher and Daniel Vallés Valls in 2016 and has since grown to 15 employees. The team has been incubated at ESA BIC Bavaria in 2020.
Pia Feurstein (PF), ESA BIC Bavaria Project Manager at AZO, interviews Martin Staudacher (MS), co-founder of wohnungshelden.
PF: Tell us a bit about your product and the team behind it.
MS: wohnungshelden helps private and social housing companies digitalise their entire rental process. From marketing properties and managing prospects and appointments, through to digital forms including credit checks and the final signing of the contract, all steps can be completed digitally with wohnungshelden. By creating one central platform for all this information, companies can manage their rentals efficiently and fairly.
After the “Bestellerprinzip” law (a real estate industry regulation that requires real estate agents to be paid by the person who orders the agent’s service) was passed in Germany in 2015, Daniel Vallés Valls and Martin Staudacher realised the process of letting an apartment needed to change. They believed it could be easier, faster, and more transparent through digitalisation. Currently, over 45,000 rentals per year have been managed by wohnungshelden.
PF: Where’s the space technology in wohnungshelden?
MS: By combining timely geographic data extracted from satellite imagery, our internal dataset, and public datasets, we are able to predict rental prices. ESA BIC Bavaria was a great environment in which to develop this feature as we benefitted from direct contact with ESA BIC resources.
PF: What were your biggest challenges so far and how did you overcome them?
MS: Our team has been working remotely since March 2020. The transition to working from home went surprisingly well since, as a software company, almost all of our processes were already digitalised. After months of not seeing each other in person, the challenge lay in maintaining team spirit. We have since created a virtual office space where colleagues can video-chat or play online games together. We have set up a digital coffee date that randomly connects colleagues for a quick chat and organise virtual team events on a quarterly basis. These digital activities help us stay in touch and feel like a team.
PF: How do you think the real estate market in Germany is changing?
MS: In contrast to commercial real estate, the demand (and prices) in the residential market have been less affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Consequently, we are still seeing significant pressure on the housing supply in cities.
Due to the rise of remote work, the home is taking on more importance as we spend more of our lives working and relaxing in private spaces. We expect people working from home to extend the radius of their property search from cities into more outlying areas. This migration out of cities in search of more space and cheaper rent could eventually ease some demand on the city housing supply.
PF: How did ESA BIC Bavaria and its network help you to kick-start your business case?
MS: ESA BIC Bavaria has put us in touch with key real estate companies in the German market, as well as connecting us with experts in satellite imagery analysis.
PF: What advice can you pass on to other future founders?
MS: Our advice to founders is to reach out to and learn from similar alumni. Often, the challenges you face are not wholly unique, and other founders can share how they overcame problems.
An agile approach to working and our close relationships with customers have also been the key to our successful product roadmap and development. Our customers highlight problems that need solving and show how market needs are evolving. With their insights, we prototype, develop and deliver features that help fix real problems in the digital rental. We are thereby able to improve the lives of landlords and tenants.
PF: Let’s reach for the stars – what is going to happen in wohnungshelden’s future?
MS: Our goal is for housing to be rented fairly and transparently. We enable landlords to have time to understand applicants’ needs and circumstances by lightening the administrative load. By being the central touchpoint for landlords and tenants, we can ultimately increase market efficiency and help relieve pressure on the real estate market.