Finding the right home to rent

Peter FrenchWith first-hand experience of the challenges of being international students and finding somewhere to live while studying in London, a trio of MSc Real Estate alumni, Peter French (2017), Dagfinn Hansen Seglem (2019) and Tuo Jin (2019), spotted a gap in the market to address the issues. We caught up with Peter to find out more about their startup, Estate2, how degrees in real estate and architecture have helped to launch such a business and what studying at Bayes was like. Find out more…

Congratulations on the launch of your startup Estate2! Please tell us about it.

Thank you! Estate2 was founded by three Bayes alumni and focuses on helping international students find homes to rent in London as they start or continue their university education.

Overall, Estate2 was designed to simplify and standardise the moving-to-London process and give students a sense of confidence and trust on their home search. We start by helping students figure out which neighbourhoods meet their criteria and budget. We then connect with our network of agents to find on and off-market homes for the students in those neighbourhoods. We then visit the student’s favourite homes and provide them with detailed home reports that tell them everything they could want to know about the home and surrounding area. We help the students get connected to the agents, help them review and understand their tenancy agreements, as well as help them setup their home utilities. Throughout the process, we are by their side to answer any questions they may have.

What inspired you to create Estate2?

It started when my two partners and I first moved to London. As we all came from abroad, we each had our own “moving to London” experience. We realised shortly after completing our degrees that not only was finding a home to rent during our studies quite challenging, but finding a home to rent in London at any time is an extremely difficult, exhausting, opaque and expensive experience.

After speaking with other students in our year and continually speaking with other students since then, we realised that very few students are enjoying the experience of finding a home to rent and are often left frustrated and unhappy with their home. It was definitely one of those “there has got to be a better way” kind of moments.

Can you tell us about the process of developing your business from an idea to its launch? What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?

We spent a lot of time thinking and rethinking the business plan to get it where it is today, and without a doubt, we will continue to modify the business as we learn more from our clients and the market as a whole. For us, it really started by trying to clearly identify what problem we were trying to solve, and coming up with solutions that we felt would actually solve it. Once we felt we had a reasonable product idea, we started to put together the tools that could put the idea into action. The tools included our website, various apps and 360-degree cameras to improve our home visit services, custom reporting tools, messaging platforms, and so on.

We pushed to get the fundamental pieces of the business in operation by summer 2022 so we could put our idea into action for that academic year. This was the first challenge we faced; not knowing what we didn’t know. We spent a lot of time focusing on creating a great product, but at no point did we ever focus on marketing the product. Despite helping close to 20 students in our first few months with just word of mouth advertising, we have since spent a considerable amount of time developing our marketing strategy which encompasses everything from the target market, social media strategy, SEO in the UK, as well as international markets, and forming the right partnerships both locally and abroad.

The next challenge we faced related to starting a company with basically no capital. We’re now really good at getting the most out of every pound we invest and spend a lot of time focusing the capital we do have in the right places.

Having studied Real Estate, you’ve clearly always had an interest in the industry. How have the skills you developed during your studies supported you with your new venture and through the rest of your career?

I completed the Bayes’ MSc in Real Estate in 2017, and prior to that, I completed my BSc in Architecture. I felt I had developed a reasonable knowledge base of the built environment from both a design and financial perspective by the time I graduated from Bayes. The technical skills I developed during my MSc in Real Estate enabled me to get my first job where I worked in private equity real estate development in Vancouver, Canada. I was able to refine these skills as I spent the next five years in the private equity sector before moving back to London in mid-2022 to focus on Estate2. The ability to analyse large amounts of data and make informed business decisions from it was a skill I started to develop at Bayes and have definitely used throughout my career in real estate development, as well as in Estate2.

Looking back, why did you choose to study at Bayes?

I knew I loved buildings and I was keen to work in real estate development after university. Having finished my bachelors in architecture, I was looking forward to staying in Europe to further study buildings and real estate from a financial perspective. Bayes had a strong brand and an MSc programme that touched on all aspects of real estate that I wanted to learn. Plus, being in Central London meant that so much of what we were studying was happening right around us. It was a great environment to learn in.

What happened after you graduated? Were you able to make use of the Careers Team?

After I graduated from Bayes, I moved back to Vancouver to look for work in the real estate development sector. Prior to moving back, the Careers Team at Bayes helped me think more clearly about the kind of work I wanted to do, and helped me refine my resume to suit the roles I was most interested in.

What advice would you give to others looking to follow in your footsteps?

Creating a new company is exciting, but by nature they are less structured than an established business, so being disciplined to work your own hours, and being organised to prioritise the work that needs to be completed can be challenging but is a must.

Be prepared for a mix of highs and lows as both struggle and success will be commonplace.

I would recommend to others that they first start to work on their own idea in their free time, while simultaneously gaining valuable experience in an established business. Once you feel your idea gains traction, re-evaluate the balance of working fulltime for the startup then.

Lastly, one of my mentors gave me this piece of advice that I wanted to share: “Never take a ‘no’ from somebody who can’t give you a ‘yes’.”

Thanks to Peter for sharing his inspiring journey with us! Find out more and support Estate2 on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn