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Interview of Taha Dar
Written by the Letting Agent Today team
Taha Dar, founder and CEO of SearchSmartly.

Who are you and what does it say on your business card?

Taha Dar, founder and CEO of SearchSmartly.

What is SearchSmartly and what does it do?

Property search is a time-consuming and stressful experience for tenants, resulting in low quality leads for lettings agents. SearchSmartly is a property matchmaking platform making renting faster and easier for tenants by using our expertise in technology and data science to truly understand each tenant’s unique, personal needs. Our technology matches tenants to the properties and neighborhoods that best fit their needs. This is different from traditional search platforms that take a one-size-fits-all approach, leaving the tenant to perform hours of research to understand the neighborhood around each property, often wasting agents’ time in the process.

What services do you offer and in what ways do you work with estate and letting agents?

Through our matchmaking process, we generate high-quality, qualified tenancy leads for lettings agents. We help our agency partners understand much more about the prospect tenant and their needs at the point at which the lead is passed on to the agency, saving agents the time and effort that would otherwise be spent qualifying each lead. In addition to improving agency efficiency, we think this will drive loyalty amongst tenants through a better rental experience. Our model is also risk-free and performance-driven, so agents pay us absolutely nothing unless a lead converts. Finally, integration is seamless and we require no technical input from our agency partners in order to start working together.

What types of tenants use SearchSmartly? 

Because of the nature of our platform and the value our matchmaking process offers tenants, we are seeing focused adoption amongst professional relocators and students – generally people that understand their lifestyle and amenity needs very well, but need help to figure out which neighborhoods and properties would best address those needs.

What made you start this business

As a tenant, I faced many frustrating experiences in finding the right place to call home. The problem I found was that there was no way to convert my lifestyle needs into a list of recommended properties, and conducting that research by myself was extremely time-consuming. Market research showed that tenants are placing an increasingly large premium on how the neighborhood around a property addresses the tenant’s personal lifestyle needs, such as having a manageable commute, being close to good schools, and having access to amenities such as parks, gyms, supermarkets, and so on. Every person’s needs are unique, but existing solutions take a very impersonal, one-size-fits all approach to property search. Having been working as an engineer at a Formula 1 team with experience in data science, I realized there was a gap in the market to build a consumer-oriented platform that could solve this information problem and match tenants to their ideal homes and neighborhoods.

What is your greatest achievement in your current role and what made it so special?

Building the business up to where it is today has been the sum of thousands of small steps, and no single achievement has made this possible. That said, it’s incredibly special and humbling to have the trust of the people we work with. Our team, agents, tenants, and investors have all put their faith in SearchSmartly, and that really propels me forward.

What is the most satisfying part of your job?

The feedback we get from tenants and from agents. On the one hand, it’s really rewarding to hear that our platform is genuinely helping people find their ideal property more efficiently and helping tenants navigate what is otherwise a very stressful experience for them. On the other hand, the same feedback we receive allows us to build an even better platform. That constant learning and improvement process is very powerful, and something I learnt a lot about during my time working in Formula 1.

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing estate and letting agents at the moment?

A growing challenge for agents is how technology is changing consumer expectations. In this day and age, tenants expect a lot from the companies they interact with online, and we’ve already seen short-let transactions become wholly digital today. In the case of the lettings industry, we are seeing consumers increasingly expecting to be able to conduct transactions online with minimal interaction with agents, but the incumbent process is not very accommodating to this shift in consumer expectations. Ultimately, I see this as opportunity for agents to leverage. By embracing digital solutions, agents can not only acquire better quality leads and drive tenant loyalty, but they can also drive efficiency in what is a very manual process today, and I think that is very powerful given the broader challenges faced by the industry today.

Country house or city apartment?

City apartment

Trendy roof terrace or traditional English garden?

Roof terrace

Would you rather be a free-moving tenant or settled owner occupier?

Free moving

What is your favourite room in your home?

The kitchen

Homes under the Hammer or Location, Location, Location?

Location, Location, Location

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