New Houzen GM Natasha Clendinnen shares London property market insights
Institutional/build to rent revenue enhancement platform Houzen is quickly becoming the private rented sector’s premium customer acquisition platform. A means of increasing customer lifetime value, Houzen is filling a gap in the market, aggregating over 2,500 estate agent and non-agent channels across the UK, China and Korea. The company aims to aggregate tens of thousands of channels around the globe in near real-time as part of its ambitious growth strategy, meaning that the process of buying or renting a home will become increasingly fast, smooth and efficient.
By finding buyers and tenants fast, and aiming for people with high lifetime value, Houzen generates higher revenues for accommodation providers. The company’s use of tech enables this successful tenant curation, but the human element of the process is still absolutely essential. That’s why Houzen takes such care over who it appoints to help make this happen. Most recently, the company has welcomed Natasha Clendinnen as its North West London General Manager.
Natasha! Could you give us a little detail on your background before joining the company?
I graduated in International Relations and my first role at Deutsche Bank was in sales. Next, I moved to a hedge fund, H2O Asset Management LLP, in which I had various roles, from operations to treasury to portfolio management.
What property experience have you had prior to joining?
I have no professional property experience, but I have lived in London for 15 years, so I am thoroughly familiar with the renting experience! My sisters worked in property; they managed portfolios in South West London, and it has been fascinating to see the transformations the sector has gone through.
What does your role as Houzen’s General Manager for North West London entail?
It is a varied role, keeping up to date with upcoming projects on the supply side, on-boarding new estate agents in my region and opening channels abroad for those who are interested in North West London properties. It also involves a deep understanding of the various neighbourhoods and their feeder regions. I particularly enjoy finding new solutions for landlords and helping them create the communities they wish to enhance through innovative strategies that allow them to scour the globe for high-paying tenants.
What is the North West London market looking like at present?
It is booming! We are working on an array of developments in Harrow, Swiss Cottage, Hayes and other locations. We’re also providing a platform for splits and short-lets in the region. I’m most excited about the development we’re working with in Greenford – it will be a total of 379 units, launching in August. You will be able to cycle from your doorstep in Greenford direct to Little Venice along the canal – bliss!
What challenges do you feel that landlords and letting agents face in North West London?
Landlords will always struggle with the balance between voids and willingness to pay. Houzen predicts that landlords who are early adopters of proptech, with its array of analytics and predictions, will be able to multiply their revenue quickly thanks to data insights.
Letting agents’ challenges are a lack of access to supply and the new regulations introduced in June 2019. This will particularly impact smaller firms and Houzen predicts a contraction of letting agencies in North West London. Agents will also have to adjust to technological changes, as automation and artificial intelligence will play a huge role in boosting their businesses very soon.
How can Houzen help overcome these challenges?
Houzen’s relationship with professional landlords can give independent agents access to instructions that they would otherwise have no access to. Landlords benefit by having a single point of contact and the ability, with little effort, to access a huge network to promote their developments in a succinct and professional manner.
Houzen is also developing a dashboard with live data from each viewing, as well as offering to provide vital insights into each neighbourhood. This will definitely help to support data-based decisions in the field.
How do you feel that your experience in banking and finance can help landlords looking to lease up fast?
I come from a high frequency trading background – automation with minimum human interaction was the name of the game. It is extraordinary what machine learning can achieve and I truly believe it can result in a faster turnaround, with greater access and transparency, for lettings, short-lets and sales.
What, in your opinion, is the biggest mistake that landlords make when looking to lease their properties?
Choosing the wrong agent. It’s important that the right channels are activated for the properties. Some developments will need a branding message to be portrayed, others will need voids filled at all cost, so a suitability matching effort needs to be done. At Houzen, we have the choice and the artificial intelligence to undertake the matching, which is why we are the fastest leaser.
Can you tell us a little more about your new project in Greenford?
It is beautiful – the flats are huge and all have balconies that bring in exceptional amounts of light. It is on the historic Grand Union Canal, which will bring a water community feel to the area. It is also the first placemaking development in the UK, regenerating the area between Greenford and Sudbury Hill tube stations, with convenient retail spaces at ground level. There will be a mixture of property sizes, from studios to three-bedroom apartments, at an average rent of £2,230 pcm, all just 30 minutes from Oxford Circus. Amenities will include a gym, state of the art cinema, BBQ areas, children’s play area and rooftop terrace. The homes are also pet-friendly.
As a North London resident, can you share a little about what you love about the area?
North London is home to all sorts, from the weird to the wonderful! We have beautiful parks, leg-pumping challenging hills to cycle up, sporting venues, delightful pubs and restaurants and even famous residents in Highgate Cemetery! Being married to a Cypriot, I also love the different communities that make up North London.