Not just another hotel room: German PropTech CEO talks


Is Homelike the Airbnb of business travel?

Homelike's most expensive rental is this apartment in Vienna

Will soulless hotel rooms soon be a thing of the past for corporate travellers?

Homelike is one of the leading PropTech companies in Germany, and their goal is to completely digitize the booking process of finding middle-to-long-term corporate housing.

With 14,000 furnished apartments available in 50 cities across Germany, Austria and Switzerland, Homelike, which is witnessing 20 percent growth per month, has plans to dominate most of the large cities in Europe.

While the company prides itself on affordability (a Homelike booking will typically cost 40 percent less than a hotel), there are also high-end properties on their books for HNW business travellers looking to stay somewhere in style.

The most exclusive property available is an apartment in Vienna (pictured). For USD31,157.60 a month, tenants can enjoy spacious living space and a roof-top patio with a panoramic view of St. Charles’ Cathedral and the Viennese roof-tops.

With property tech still a burgeoning sphere, we spoke with Homelike co-founder Dustin Figge about Homelike, the PropTech scene in Europe and Asia and his plans for the future:

How does Homelike work?

“We have developed an end-to-end booking process in which business travellers and companies can search for a furnished apartment, book, pay and sign leases entirely online. We are specialized in the B2B market and comply with corporate policies as well as travel guidelines. Specifically, we have been focused on developing a dedicated company account for corporate customers, which gives organizers the possibility to manage and control all of their employees’ furnished apartments. Companies are also able to add all their billing addresses, favorite apartments, travel policies (e.g. budget restrictions) and much more to their account. This simplifies the entire booking process and corporate customers save a lot of time.”

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How has consumer behavior changed in recent years in regard to finding a temporary home?

“On one hand today’s dynamic job market requires a high degree of flexibility and mobility from every employee in their everyday working life. The number of employees who regularly travel for business has increased enormously in the past few years, as such ‘temporary housing‘ has been the keyword for expats, project managers and everyone else who has to be relocated to new cities for a certain period of time.

“On the other hand, we are facing a wave of digitization across all industries. ‘Temporary housing’ is still a very much an offline market with a lot of intransparency. The market is dominated mostly by local players such as brokerage firms. Consumers have become used to book short term rentals for a couple of days online and we are seeing that a similar behavior is now appearing more and more into the corporate space with a focus on long-term rentals. With Homelike we are responding to this development by turning an offline market into an online market for customers in the real estate sector.”

Have you seen much interest from Asia?

“There is a high amount interest from Asian business travellers in the European housing market. In particular we see many engineers and software developers from India and Singapore but also students and people relocating from Japan and the Philippines use our platform to book furnished apartments. In general, they are more used to online booking services than the Europeans or Germans in particular.”

How do you think online rental portals will affect those traditionally working in the rental market?

“The rental market (but also the entire real estate industry) is still a traditional market with only a handful big innovations so far, mainly in the US, but with a high potential for digitization.

“Property technology startups are now developing solutions that the real estate industry has been late to: turning an offline market into an online market by developing leaner processes, more efficiency and transparency across borders and between individual players. If you think about the impact the shared economy (e.g. Airbnb) had on the vacation rental market, I believe that this dynamic may also occur in the real estate market. The new developments in the rental market will benefit the renters and suppliers and will have a big impact on how “traditional players” will position themselves also towards their client base.

“Online platforms will be an additional and, over time significant channel of distribution for suppliers and renters. However, there is still a long way to go until digitization in the real estate industry really kicks in but my belief is that now is the right time to invest in new technologies.”

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How does the PropTech scene in Europe differ to Asia, and other parts of the world?

“In comparison to Asia, PropTech in Europe is currently still in its infancy. When 1.5 billion were invested in the development of PropTech companies last year, about 40% were invested in the asian market but only 5% were invested in Europe. While European PropTech companies are still in a kind of orientation phase, companies in Asia starting to expand their PropTech business. Europe definitely has to be faster and catch up. But, when you take into account that there are only 112 PropTech startups present in Germany, the potential in Germany and Europe is huge.”

What do you envision for the future of the digital real estate space?

“No matter if long term rental, office spaces, property renting platforms or real estate crowdfunding platforms, digital real estate space will be on the rise in the coming years. Right now many platforms are popping up and standalone solutions are being developed. I think over time different approaches as virtual reality technologies, 3D property tours, location based information etc. will create new solutions. Also innovations from other industries will be applied to the PropTech market and that’s something I am really looking forward to.”

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