Flatbook makes renting more convenient than ever

MONTREAL GAZETTE/Marie-France Coallier

MONTREAL GAZETTE/Marie-France Coallier

Flatbook, a subletting business which aims to turn those unwanted months on your lease into cash, began its summer 2015 subletting program in 25 cities across the world.

Flatbook founders Lucas Pellan and Francis Davidson help give students and those who are travelling in the summer a guaranteed payment of 100 per cent of rent in exchange for having someone stay in their room.

Originally, the idea for Flatbook came out of Davidson’s personal experiences subletting his apartment in Montreal in 2012 so he could go home for the summer.

“I started this business because I lived this problem,” said Davidson, CEO of Flatbook. “I wanted to go back to my home town for the summer and I didn’t want to pay rent while I was away.”

“I tried to find someone to sublet for four months but I couldn’t find anyone and then the idea struck — I’m going to find people who are coming for a shorter amount of time.”

“He was posting on Craigslist and Kijiji and no one wanted to take it,” said Pellan.

Davidson eventually stumbled across Airbnb and HomeAway, sites similar to Flatbook though several years older, and that actually profited while renting to people who were travelling and staying in Montreal for limited periods of time.

These interactions with similar subletting companies eventually led to Davidson coming up with the idea for Flatbook, promptly followed by a pilot project in which he sublet out six apartments in the summer of 2013. It was during this process that Davidson came into contact with another Montreal entrepreneur, Pellan, at a friend’s dinner party in 2013.

Montreal, long regarded as the sleepless city, is notorious for its massive student population, which quickly led Flatbook to see success at the local level, experiencing massive growth on a global scale a mere two years later.

According to Pellan, “There are so many students that go back home during the summertime but have a 12-month lease. We pay their rent for them and take care of subletting process, and we rent it out to travellers,” said Pellan in an interview.

“It was a leap of faith. Can we trust each other to make this happen?”said Pellan of their initial worries when starting Flatbook.

2014 saw massive gains for the young business when they jumped from having six apartments in one city, to 82 in 11 cities across the world.

According to Davidson, “The premise is not to get out of their leases but to cover their costs while they’re not living there. This service appeals to those who are a 12-month lease or to property owners who are leaving for an extended period of time — two, three, four months and rather than having the place left completely empty, it’s better to monetize it and Flatbook is the easiest way to do that”.
Sometimes however, apartments can’t be listed as they do not meet the requirements.

“As much as we would like to help absolutely everyone, sometimes it just doesn’t make sense because the property is overpriced or it is way out of bounds for where people are interested in renting,” said Davidson. “The idea is to have the biggest audience possible so we put all the units we have on a variety of websites, probably a dozen websites”.

Pellan and Davidson, both 22-years-old, are anticipating huge success in 2015 with 500 apartments in 25 cities, including Philadelphia, New Orleans, Paris, Reykjavik, London and most major Canadian cities. To add to the buzz, Flatbook offered a $300 one-time bonus to people who signed up their apartments by Mar 1.

As a company Flatbook has grown as well, now employing 62 people in a relatively short period of time. According to Pellan, once they are done the hiring process in each city they are operating, this number could exceed 100.

In addition to the massive growth, Flatbook helped saved renters $500,000 and profited nearly a million dollars in 2014, a testament to a business model that benefits everyone involved.

After you have signed up with Flatbook, they send a professional photographer and a home stager to take pictures and post them on a number of websites.

Once the property is left by the tenant, it is rented for various short-term leases until they return. During this time, Flatbook guarantees that the leaser or apartment (yes Flatbook is available for landlords too) will receive a cheque for rent every month.

Renters who are using Flatbook can also buy an insurance policy in case of damage, liability and theft for an additional cost. This service also provides storage for the duration of your absence in case you want to store your personal possessions somewhere a little more safe.

“We take care of everything and give freedom to people,” said Pellan in regards to the many services offered by Flatbook.

Typically, Flatbook usually expects to make around double the rent, helping to pay for both its services as well as the rent for the room and any other additional charges that may occur such as cleaning the property.

In an interview, Regional manager Matt Guarasci, a third-year Business Communication student at Brock commented with zeal and excitement on how fast his company was growing.

“We just started the program in Niagara region and with LA, we just went international. We are a world-wide business”.

When asked about how this experience has benefited him, Guarasci remarked, “Flatbook has really helped me expand my horizons when dealing with different forms of communication in the retail field”.

Touching on how Brock students can get involved, “If they would like to contact me, we are currently looking for brand ambassadors. Additionally you can check out the website subletting program”.

For more information, be sure to check out Flatbook.co.

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