Head of Operations, Ana Martínez de Lizarrondo Asurmendi dove deep into what it is that makes Urban Campus different in the coliving world.
We believe we are the revolution of the residential sector. How are we achieving this? In this article, I will share how it is that we do in Urban Campus, our models, values, and what we have that sets us apart from other coliving operators.
How did we become the first coliving operator in Spain?
In a perfect world, the build-to-rent market takes care of every individual it serves. You would start with a student residence, then move on to a shared apartment perhaps while working your first few years after studying, later to multifamily once you are ready to settle down and then near the final stages of your life (sad, we know), into a senior home. This path is the ideal scenario in a BTR world, however, it is not always the case for everyone. If you do not want to share an apartment anymore, but you also are not ready to build a family, you previously would have had to buy a three-bedroom home (if you can afford it) and sit in it until you are ready to take that next step but completely alone. The concept of coliving filled that space for those individuals who were on a different path. You can have your own, affordable, quality home and still take advantage of unique shared spaces with others. We saw the gap and began acting on it in 2017.
Why do we only operate full buildings?
At Urban Campus, we believe in the coliving residential model and utilize the densification we can generate from a full building. In one apartment the space can be very limited, while once you have a building you can play with horizontal and vertical densification and give it more life. We ensure that we create much more valuable common spaces and not just an extra living room for our tenants to use.
How are we able to scale so easily?
There are many property management systems in the market but they fell short, none could perform all the functions that we were looking for. Once we realized this, we began to develop our own technology to fit our needs.
Our system supports our tenants, promotes our services, and creates a place for the community. Our platform internally known as ‘Dunbar’ has been optimized and is completely autonomous. From here we automate all aspects of coliving; contracts, monthly rental, subscription fees for extra services, an extension of contracts, terminations, customer support, and more (a position that would typically need to be filled by a full-time employee). We also receive significant learnings from our system which allows us to analyze and optimize the final product, meaning the changes that are made are data-driven.
With Dunbar, we are also able to view how our common spaces are being used. This is done by the system registering how many times a common space has been entered. Meaning, that aside from collaborating with our tenants face-to-face and getting a direct insight into what they would like in their homes, we have precise data to ensure that we are maximizing our coliving’s full potential.
Having Dunbar and all of its functions, allows us to open a new coliving building without having to hire a team as a normal property manager would. We are scaling without duplicating time, employees, and costs as the job is already being taken care of by our technology.
How we are able to function with a small team?
The whole system between sales and marketing is very connected. We use a separate system for automatic sales flows, this then allows our small sales team to manage many units.
We also have visibility on vacancies to be able to anticipate and optimize our time, efforts, and budget. When we know that there are two terminations in our Mellado Madrid Coliving, for example, we boost our ads where it is needed.
How do we handle the community aspect of our colivings?
We build a community in a non-intrusive way. What does this mean? We want them to be the owners of their own community. Our goal is to have our members feel at home and the best way to achieve this is to allow them to create those experiences, with our guidance and help. We have proven that when our tenants get involved, they are happier and in turn extend their stay. This is why we have ensured that the clubs and many events are created by our members. We give them more visibility and engagement via our platform and social media, but that initial spark is something that comes directly from them.
Before entering one of our coliving buildings a new member is able to fill out their profile, input their bio, select their interests, and pre-join any clubs. They are also able to view the same details of those who currently live in their building, and vice versa to begin the process of creating those friendships and build on that excitement.
Signing up for a community event is also extremely comfortable which makes it even more enticing to attend. Some events may come at a cost to our members, but instead of having an employee of Urban Campus handling the logistics of payments, our colivers simply need to go into their profile in Dunbar and RSVP. That fee will then be included in the next month’s rent.
Contracting our additional services is as easy as turning a button on and off within our platform, and is also aligned with the following month’s rent. At Urban Campus, we can confidently say that we are listening to our members, analyzing our data, and perfecting the final product.