We recently sat down with Pippa Mitchell, Founder of RentChelsea and property entrepreneur. It was great to hear how she had developed her business and why she feels design is so important. Enjoy!
When you were building RentChelsea, what was your inspiration? The inspiration for building RentChelsea actually came from demand. We were approached by a high-net-worth-individual who wanted a better service of property management than he felt he could get from an agency. He knew us, and he wanted to work with us. We’d had the idea for the business before, but he came to us with the properties, and made it possible, because we then started from day one with assets under managements. And then we just went from there!
What principles have been central to the business’ success? Two things: the first is that we know our market, and have been able to provide quick and easy access to high-quality accommodation for our tenants; the second is that we provide a hands-free service to our property owners, and that is key. They want managers who are professional, efficient responsive, and who they can trust. Building up trust with the property owners we represent has been fundamental to the journey of our setup, and of our success.
How does design play into Rent Chelsea? Is it important? It’s so important! Whether renting a property for three months, or three years, the first thing a prospective tenant will see is a photograph. That is the first point of contact, and an important barrier. That’s why design and finish are so important, because people can say yes or no based on that first impression, and I think that is only going to become even more of a reality as agents begin to use not only photos, but also virtual-reality tours. You simply have to have great photographs of a well-finished, stylish product that is designed to fit your market, and then you can jump that first hurdle, and get people viewing.
If we are paying a lot of money for something, then we want it to be of good value. The average GDP value of a London property is probably around one-and-a-half-million upwards. So that’s the sector we work in, and people want good value. They want to see that they’re getting an experience… that they’re paying for something that is truly worth that money. Design is such a huge part of that.
You recently worked with us on furnishing an apartment. Did you enjoy that experience? What was it like? Yes, I did. I work with interior designers a lot. What was great – and quite different – about Homewings was how quickly they turned around the design. The designer was so happy to have a conversation with me on a Saturday, which meant that the project picked up momentum quickly. We could just get going faster. They listened well to my brief, and were easy to access and communicate with, so we got round to choosing the right products very quickly. There weren’t many meetings or iterations: there were a few comments, and then we signed it off. So it really was a pain-free process going from the initial brief to the finished design.
I’m glad you enjoyed the experience! Yeah, I really did. Usually, when I work with interior designers, the first concept doesn’t hit the mark quite as well. We got to the detailed design so quickly, taking into account all the existing features of the apartment, and even some pieces that we were keeping. Not only do Homewings provide the design service remotely, but they also send someone to dimension the apartment in person, so you’ve got a great, really cost-effective balance between the design you need, and a cost that suits the job at hand: you don’t pay high fees where you don’t need to. They have a great sense of what is needed.
What do you think has led the design sector to foster such a great level of innovation over the last decade? Why is it a tech space? I think there are two reasons. Firstly, demand: people are living more flexibly, and I think that that’s only going one way so they want to decide where they live and for how long, without restrictions, and so the response we see in the market is purely a response to demand. Secondly, everyone has access to a much higher standard of design. There is so much available online! We have Pinterest, and Instagram, and there are loads of design blogs out there. It’s really pushed up expectations, and again the way the industry is responding with products, like Homewings, is the result of that demand.
It’s also such a positive thing for consumers to know that quality has been pushed up. Yes, definitely! And it’s such a great opportunity, because if a property developer – or manager – can tick that box, then it’s an easy win. It’s all about knowing your market, and differentiating yourself through your market knowledge. It’s about knowing what your customer values. If your customer values look, feel and quality, then you have to be divine in those areas. For example, many restaurants now design themselves to be Instagrammable! They design themselves in a way that people will enjoy them, and talk about them, and share them.
And do you see that trend continuing over the next few years? Absolutely – I really think so!