Renting a home can be an intensely frustrating experience in Malaysia – and not just for tenants. Realising this, two renter entrepreneurs, Eric Tan and Patrick Grove, created Instahome last September – a fully digital end-to-end home rental platform. Through Instahome, tenants can search for rentable homes and pay their monthly rent, agents can list properties for their clients, and landlords can manage their properties and collect their rent payments – all with a click of a mouse, and all from the safety and convenience of their homes.
Instahome is currently focused on the Klang Valley home rental market. But if all pans out, it could revolutionise the way we rent homes in Malaysia, as just Grab revolutionised transportation and food delivery here. Of course, it might sound too good to be true, so we decided to interview Eric Tan, Instahome’s CEO, to learn more about the startup.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Lowyat.NET: What inspired the creation of Instahome?
Tan: Personal frustration. Patrick (my co-founder) and I started looking into this space in late 2019. We both experienced a lot of frustration and pain points as landlord and tenant. So we decided to put together a team of extremely smart and passionate talent, who have all been through very frustrating rental experience personally to fix this problem.
Months of research and surveys done by the team has proven that renting a home could turn out to be a very frustrating process for renters across the country. Most renting experiences are plagued by fake and/or inaccurate listings, misleading photos and a cumbersome and overly-manual process.
We set out to create a better and new way to rent a home. On Instahome, we personally visit and check all of our homes before listing them on our platform – no more filtering through hundreds of fake, inaccurate and poor-quality listings.
LYN: What makes Instahome stand out from other digital home rental platforms?
Tan: Instahome is the first to provide a fully digital end-to-end rental experience; from search to visit to transaction to maintenance.
All our listings are personally checked and verified by our staff, which means what you see on our platform is what you get. There are also no duplications of listings, meaning all units you see on our platforms are unique, unlike other property websites where multiple agents would list the same unit.
Using virtual tours of units instead of physical viewing of properties, we have found tenants shift their behaviour to this fully digital end-to-end rental experience. Tenants could also pay rent online every month via our platform, making the whole rental experience very convenient.
This is a major divergence from traditional renting platforms.
LYN: Instahome tenants get rewarded for paying on time? How does that work?
Tan: Users who pay rent on time will collect points on our platform that they could use to exchange for rewards, much like a credit card or GrabRewards. On top of that, on-time payment will potentially benefit from a reduction of security deposit in the future. We also share their payment record on Instahome to credit rating agencies and this will help them with their loan application in the future.
[Note: One of Instahome’s key selling points is its ability to provide peace of mind to landlords. As the video below demonstrates, landlords who pay RM10 per month receive a guarantee for on-time rent payments and limited protection against renter defaults.]
LYN: How do you see the home rental market changing and evolving post-Covid? Is there a demand for home rentals at this point?
Tan: There will always be demand for rental homes and we see the same during this period as having a shelter is a basic need. However, the way people rent has changed dramatically in that tenants are more careful and do more research on the property online to reduce the number of physical viewings required.
We are witnessing tenants reserve and transact on our platform without physically viewing the property through the use of virtual tours. One consequence of this is that it’s the safest way to rent, but also the fastest – we have broken a record of the fastest rental transaction of just under 9 hours from search to transaction!
LYN: Do you see any hesitation among industry players towards embracing a fully digital rental experience? Why do you think that is? And if the industry is indeed shifting, do you see that more of a function of the ongoing pandemic, or a genuine appreciation of the power of digitalisation?
Tan: All of our partners understand the value of a fully digital rental experience very intuitively. We have been welcomed with a very positive attitude towards digital adoption as it truly provides a significantly better, safer and faster experience for all parties involved.
We have received overwhelming support from the industry as our product really helps solve a lot of pain points for the industry players. Since we launched, 30% of transactions on Instahome were completed without physical viewing, which was once thought to be impossible. And this is a result that our partners are all very happy to see.
We have seen the trend shifting towards embracing the power of digitalisation even before the pandemic. However, the pace of change and adoption was definitely accelerated due to the pandemic as it has made clear to everyone the value of embracing technology.
LYN: Bearing in mind that Instahome is still very young, what are your growth targets in the near future? Could you give us some numbers?
Tan: Within the next 3 years, we would like to have 20% market share. Meaning 1 out of 5 tenants in the rental market rent through Instahome.
LYN: What are your future plans? For example, when is Instahome expanding to the rest of Malaysia?
Tan: Instahome now has more than 1,600 verified listings in Klang Valley, with many selections in prime areas such as KL City, Petaling Jaya, Bangsar South, Subang Jaya and Damansara, provided by 350 partner agents on our platform.
We have accomplished this within 3 months since we launched publicly and I am very proud of this incredible feat by the team. We plan to expand to other parts of Malaysia such as Penang and Johor by the end of this year as we have received many requests from partner agents requesting us to expand.
If you’d like to know more about Instahome, you can visit their official website here.