An Honest Concierge for Your Housing Comfort
Where did your story begin? What did you want to become when you were young?
I was born in Russia, in St. Petersburg but I was raised in Toronto, Canada. I studied in Montreal but still I consider myself a Russian as my family moved back, so going home means going to St. Petersburg. I always wanted to have my own business, as I’m an entrepreneur at heart. I have also been involved in the banking world dealing with HNIs, as well as in selling contemporary art, again to similar people. Ever since I remember, I have had a passion for creating/launching things. But before starting Frank Porter, I had been involved in the banking world dealing with HNIs, as well as in selling contemporary art, again to similar people.
How did the connection happen between the vastly different worlds of banking and short-term property management?
Banking is all about investments, and property is one of the investments. AirBnB is an alternative to hotels for the current generation and I had been running a few AirBnBs with friends and family around the globe for a while when I had come to Dubai for a vacation with my family. That time I realized that the market in Dubai for this is minuscule, almost non-existent. So I thought if I had been managing rental properties personally, why can’t I do it professionally and the idea of Frank Porter came up.
How do you get the ball rolling and what kind of challenges did you face in this market where the knowledge gap is huge and short-term property rental is fairly new, if not unheard of?
Dubai is a new market for short-term property rental but Dubai being an international destination with so many people and expats from different nationalities being here helps a lot. Around 75% of the people know what AirBnB is as they travel abroad and are very excited that it is finally here in Dubai. There is also the regulation passed by Dubai Tourism Authority in 2016 which legalized the business and hence pushed the business upwards and made it much easier for companies like us to set up. We have faced normal challenges that any business would face, but frankly, Dubai’s environment has helped us rather than otherwise.
How many properties in Dubai are people renting out and are they really happy to let their properties being rented out on a daily or weekly basis?
As you know, a lot of properties have gone down in value. So short-term rentals are attractive to people at this time as it allows them to make so much more money than in long-term renting, which is very exciting for all our clients. When we started, we had less than 8,000 properties across Dubai and right now we have more than 20,000 properties listed. We are focused on Dubai and are also launching in Abu Dhabi within a month with plans to launch in Russia as well.
So when you say you are a concierge, what do you mean and who are your main competitors?
We are a short term property rental and management company and we also help with the check-ins and check-outs, interior designing, photographing the property, handling the bed-sheets and linens, keeping the toiletries stocked, and guest support. So all in all, everything to do with managing the property and the guest experience.
As a business, hotels are definitely are a competition but not in a direct way. People who go for hotels would not go for an AirBnB and vice versa. But for the price you pay for a hotel room, you can rent out a 1BHK apartment which offers you more than what a hotel room would offer. So not a direct competition but on price points, yes.
What is the process if a property manager wants Frank Porter to manage their property and what if the owner wishes to use the property themselves?
The first step is that we look at the property and provide an estimate. We have an in-house furnishing team that can help you furnish the property and make it ready to be out in the market in two weeks. Every property in Dubai has to be registered with the Department of Tourism, so we get all the documentation done as per the licensing fee. As soon as the property is ready, furnished, registered and photographed, we list it out on the various platforms on Frank Porter. From there on, it is in the eyes of the owner. They can see all the bookings from the Frank Porter app and receive the money every month as per the statement available. Of course, our commission and charges are also mentioned in the same statement. The entire process is completely transparent. In case the owner wishes to use the property, they can again use the app as a guest and register the booking. This helps us know about it and we can prepare the property accordingly.
How is short-term rental profitable on a regular basis, as opposed to the general thought?
Clients make monthly returns when their properties get rented. Tourism is very high in Dubai and short-term rentals make anywhere between 20%-40% more than the regular long-term rentals. The upcoming expo will bring in 20 million tourists and another 25 million the next year. We have about 80%-85% occupancy in our properties. Plus we do not have any lock-in with our clients and it is just a monthly deal. If our clients are not happy with the return, they can simply opt for something else.
Share 3 myths about short-term property concierge that people tell you and what your response is to them.
One is that returns are not as good as long-term rentals. Just because it goes up and down per month in short-term versus a fixed monthly check in long-term, people tend to think of the latter as a more steady income but the highs of short-term end up making much more money. Second is their concern as to how their apartment will look and are worried about the damages. But since we maintain and clean the apartment after every guest, the issues are way less than they would be if it were a long-term rental. The third is the transparency as clients have a fear of what is happening in the property and who is living. Here the dashboard of our app helps and that fear of the unknown is dealt with.
Are you looking for collaborations with other brands who are offering short-term property rentals in an untapped market for you, or are you focusing on establishing your brand?
Right now we are just focusing on growth and expanding Frank Porter into other markets. Dubai is just one market here and there are a lot of other interesting markets in the Middle East and the GCC. We are happy to collaborate but it depends upon the prospective brand. We are not a start-up anymore as we have grown beyond that stage but yet we are in a stage where we can afford change for growth and development.
What is next for 2020 and what more can we expect from Frank Porter in terms of new destinations and new expansions?
Abu Dhabi is the next expansion after we make sure we have a solid base. We also have plans for other GCC and Emirates countries. We are focusing on quality and we want to make sure we are prepared and equipped to handle the explosion of tourists in the coming year. So we want to make sure all our properties are in shape to receive guests and our team is in place to make their stay as comfortable and smooth as possible.