How to Evaluate a Furnished Apartment Marketplace
If you’re a buyer of temporary housing for relocation or extended business travel, you may be evaluating your supplier options. There are a handful of furnished apartment marketplaces to choose from today. In addition to Urbandoor, there is Airbnb, HomeAway, and Booking.com for example. We think you’ll find our marketplace to be the best and we encourage customers to compare their options. You may discover that your “marketplace” calls itself a marketplace, but it isn’t – like “sourcing platforms”, for instance. Or you might find that there are exclusivity requirements, or that you may be exposing your company, employees or travelers to unnecessary risks.
Glossary of Terms
Before we dive in, let’s do a quick glossary of terms so we’re all on the same page.
Providers – Providers (often called corporate housing providers) are the business entity that sets up the apartment. They ensure there is furniture, wifi, cable, and services like housekeeping, if purchased. To compare them to the vacation rental world, they are your “host”. In traditional corporate housing, they take out leases on empty apartments, furnish them and sub-lease them. They are not technology companies and are largely dependent upon broker networks to find an apartment when a request comes in. They have a financial interest in the apartment you choose. Examples include: Oakwood, Furnished Quarters and Synergy.
Marketplace – If you think of other marketplaces that exist and are commonly used by consumers – Airbnb for vacation rentals, Expedia and Travelocity for hotels, Amazon or eBay for shopping online, etc. In each case, an abundance of supply has been aggregated into a simple and transparent interface to make it easier for the user to find what they are looking for and purchase online. Most commonly, the business entity that owns and runs the marketplace does not own or manufacture the products on the marketplace. That could be a conflict of interest.
Multifamily Operator – “Multifamily” is a real estate term for multi-unit apartment buildings. An “Operator” is the corporation that owns and operates that apartment building as an asset in its portfolio.
With those terms now defined, here are our recommended top 10 questions to ask when evaluating your furnished apartment marketplace options.
Top 10 Questions for When Evaluating Furnished Apartment Suppliers
- How many apartments do you have on your platform and where?
Understanding the apartment supply volume can help build confidence that the inventory selection and breadth will match your company’s needs. Are these apartment owned directly by multifamily operators? Leased by corporate housing providers? Leased by the “marketplace” or to-be-determined?
- What is the supply type? Do you include privately owned homes or apartments? What is the ratio?
This question will help you understand if the accommodations match your transferee or traveler needs. Some travelers/transferees are not comfortable staying in someone else’s personal space. Others, may have needs that extend beyond the abilities of an individual host.
- What is your average nightly rate for a 1 bedroom in X (name your top) market(s)?
You’ll want to get a sense for how costs compare vs your current costs and across platforms. Know what you’re paying by market now and gather data from multiple options. Do your best to get apples-to-apples on season too. Does seasonality factor in? Ask how the numbers were calculated. Try to determine if the numbers are statistically significant (e.g., an average rate for 10 apartments in NYC is not significant).
- How long will it take for me to get a response from suppliers?
Is this an improvement over today? And a meaningful improvement? Your goal is minutes or hours, not days.
- Do you hold any leases yourself?
This is an important one. If the “marketplace” is a leaseholder, they are possibly not a neutral marketplace. It’s more likely that they have an online booking tool for their apartments and others. If they provide the apartments themselves, they likely have a financial interest in you booking those apartments over other options.
- Will we be required to review and sign leases every time?
Contract review can be costly for an organization. If you need to sign leases every time, how will this impact your or your team’s productivity? If the answer is “No,” make sure to see a demo to fully understand company responsibility.
- Is this a fully digital experience?
Can you search, review, and purchase all online? Does this digital experience improve your workflow? Does this match your transferee or travelers expectations?
- What is your customer support like? Will I know the actual apartment hospitality provider in every instance?
Is customer support digital? Is it 24/7? This should help you understand how supported you and your transferees/travelers will be. Who is getting the call at 3am if the heat goes off? There are no more important issues than fast, reliable and accurate customer service.
- Do your contracts require exclusivity?
Marketplaces thrive on competition. If your provider or “Marketplace” demands exclusivity, how are they creating competition to drive value?
- What kind of data and reporting will I have access to?
Reports should convey the pricing of every provider participating in the marketplace. If you can’t see the rates across multiple providers in a market, the data is not much help. You’re only seeing what you’re paying to that single supplier. Does the Marketplace feed your Duty-of-Care, Travel or Relocation Management Company, or other applications for only a single Provider?
There you have it! Our top ten questions for furnished apartment marketplaces when you are evaluating your options. We hope that helps you with your decision and should you like to evaluate us, please visit sign up below! We’d be more than happy to answer these questions, give you a demo, and more! Thanks for reading.
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