The Nationwide is investing in a digital lettings service called Bunk - it’s headed by a 24 year old who has expressed a sharp distaste for letting agents.
The investment is the latest deal from Nationwide’s £50 million Venturing Fund set up just over a year ago to create tech-related partnerships.
Bunk is headed by 24 year old Tom Woollard who in June was quoted as saying that traditional lettings agents had to show they “still hold some value in a world where technology and innovation will undoubtedly render them obsolete.”
Woollard said at the time that agents charging fees for a range of services “left a very sour taste in the mouths of many in the rental sector.”
He continued: “Until this point, the majority of letting agents have essentially been taking extra money above and beyond any justified fees for no additional work and so the thought that they might try and recoup this ‘lost’ revenue through rental hikes or any other means is quite laughable. Only time will tell if this does happen and there will no doubt be a knee-jerk reaction of some sort by the industry.”
Nationwide says around half of all landlords choose to run their rental businesses on their own, and it welcomes Bunk’s services including automatically listing a landlord’s property on key portals, verifying tenants and verifying the landlord’s proof of ownership to give security to tenants.
Once the properties are listed, landlords can view them on a dashboard, which also notifies them when a deposit and rent has been paid, saving the need to review their current account statements.
Bunk also allows tenants and landlords to correspond within the site, so enquiries such as expressing an interest in renting a property and maintenance requests will go directly to them, providing transparency giving landlords and tenants peace of mind.
Bunk have also partnered with Experian, so tenants who make regular rent payments on time will see this reflected in their credit file, something which starts to redress the balance between renters and homeowners, who’s regular mortgage payments already make up part of the credit file.
“Nationwide is one of the biggest buy to let lenders in the UK and we have long campaigned to improve standards within the rental sector for both tenants and landlords. Bunk is combining the latest digital technology backed up with human service to not only offer a seamless digital experience but also reduce friction in the rental market between tenants and landlords” claims Tony Prestedge, deputy chief executive at Nationwide.
And according to Woollard: “We want to build something the rental market has never seen before. Landlords are facing reduced margins coupled with increased regulation and there has never been a better time to make their lives easier through the use of technology.”