Following his own struggles with finding a house to rent whilst at university, the co-founder of Manchester-based start-up Housr plans to make the house-hunting process as easy as going on Uber or Tinder for students.
The house-hunting search can be overwhelming for most renters, but it can be even more daunting for a young student at university.
The team behind Housr have ambitious plans to shake-up the process, with the app designed to make it easier for students with a Tinder-style swipe function for house matches.
“We want to make housing as frictionless as possible. You can order an Uber in three clicks, right? We hope to digitise the whole process for a student and gamify and simplify it for them,” Harry Panter, co-founder and CEO at Housr, told Prolific North.
He met his fellow Housr co-founder Ben Clayton whilst studying at the University of Manchester after joining the cricket club, soon discovering their shared issues with finding a house.
“In first year you’re wrapped in cotton wool. Everything is done for you, you’re provided with accommodation. Then you get pushed into the lion’s den in second year.”
“It is really overwhelming, there is so much information everywhere,” he said. “I thought ‘right’ I need to do something about this.”
He admired Mark Zuckerburg’s rise to fame with Facebook and dreamed about establishing a similar “on-campus vibe” for his own venture.
“I always had this idea that I really want to create something that’s cool like Mark Zuckerburg’s Facebook,” he said. “It was really attractive to me.”
Harry Panter, Housr.
Over a few pints in the university’s students’ union, the duo decided to turn their idea of making the house search easier for students into a reality.
“We started off with a big team with loads of our mates, then it dwindled down to people who were serious with it.
“It just went from there. We were building it at university and we got some initial investment. When you’re at university, you’re so busy with university and social life – it was almost a project at that point.”
As he was nearing the end of university, investment started piling in as the team continued to build the platform. Now based in Enterprise City at Department Bonded Warehouse, the app officially launched in April and is now seeking a seed round of investment of £750,000.
Swipe right “like Tinder” – how the platform works
Initially starting out as a platform for students, Housr has since evolved into a two-sided platform used by landlords and letting agents too.
For students, the team behind Housr are working on a flatmate-finder feature to guide students through their entire house hunting journey.
“There’s a group in society that haven’t got many friends in first year because they were wrapped in a bubble during Covid and are struggling to find flatmates. One in four posts on the majority of forums in the UK of students are looking for flatmates,” he said.
With the feature driven by AI, users will be prompted to fill out a smart questionnaire to smart match them with flatmates in their area.
Once students have found their perfect flatmates, or if they already have existing friends to sign up with, they can sign in through the app together to look for a place to rent.
“Our main aim is to hold the students’ hand through the process,” he explained. “Be their guardian angel along the way.”
When looking for a house, users can swipe left or right in a similar way to Tinder but it wasn’t a deliberate choice – it was to make the process more fun for students.
“Why can’t house-searching be like a dating app? If you actually look at the notion, the system of that slight feature, it’s actually very, very clever.
“Like Tinder – you swipe left or right on a house instead. You gamify the process, you make it more user-friendly,” he said. “We get rid of that endless scrolling because we’ve smart-matched their preferences.
“Your housemates already know you’ve swiped right because you’ve signed up together. It’s gamified, it’s quite fun. You’re not just scrolling the website, you’re swiping right and left, it’s that buzz.”
Users can then book viewings through the app, complete tenant applications and liaise with the landlords or letting agents.
It is just one of a number of features the start-up plans to utilise to help students through the renting process. To address the issues that can often arise when it comes to flatmates and bills, Housr has also partnered with Manchester-based payments fintech Houseflow. The platform channels students through to Houseflow if they want an easier way to manage their bills at the property.
“It makes it more of a joint effort and it distributes the responsibility – less stress, more streamline.”
How the platform works with landlords and plans to “dominate” Manchester
For landlords and letting agents, Housr has created a property management portal so they can manage property portfolios and tenants in an accessible way.
With student horror stories from mould or mice-infested properties to repairs that might be ignored, Housr plans to tackle this by vetting landlords and implementing a student approval rating.
“One of the biggest things is landlord and student relationships have been really poor,” he explained. He hopes strengthening the communication between students and landlords, whether that be for repairs or general issues, will improve this.
“One of the things we’ve been trying to improve is transparency and communication between the landlord and the student. One of the ways we do that is trying to make sure that maintenance issues are sorted out as soon as possible.”
Left to right: Board Advisor Sam Royle, Co-founder Ben Clayton, Head of Partnerships Sion Edwards, Co-founder and CEO Harry Panter, Barry Brown, Chairman.
The platform does this through its partnership with staff platform Hi.ERD. After students flag a maintenance issue through the app, it goes straight through to the agent or landlord via the portal who can either sort the issue themselves or they can opt to tap into the Hi.ERD network.
The crucial aspect is maintenance issues are visible on the platform. “That means they sort it out quickly and in public,” he explained.
Initially only available to students, landlords and agents in Manchester, Panter plans to expand across the UK as well as adding additional features following feedback from users.
“The immediate goal would be to dominate Manchester first, then to expand and become the go-to student housing app in the UK.”
In 18 months he hopes for the app to be used in the US, which he recognises is a “very optimistic target”.
“I’d rather set optimistic targets. When you apply to university, we want to be the go-to student housing. I have to find a house, I’ll go on Housr. I have to order a taxi, I’ll get an Uber. I want to order a takeaway, I’ll go on Deliveroo.”