This business caters mainly for young, single professionals moving to your local area in need of somewhere to live. Your clients will fill out a detailed form on your website and you will find them somewhere to live on the basis of their specifications. If you are in a big city or town there will certainly be demand for this type of service.
Your income will come from referral fees from the rental office once the client signs a lease. There is a potential to make extra income by allowing classified advertising on your site as well. This could even take the form of a searchable database that would allow site visitors to sort through the advertisements.
Skills needed: If you have a background in real estate this business would be ideal for you as a lot of liaising will need to take place with estate agents and property letters in your local area. Good communication skills are essential and you would benefit from some basic knowledge of Web publishing so that you can easily keep the website updated.
Business environment and set-up cost: If your business is successful there is potential for you to widen beyond the range of your local area. The only real international potential comes from people moving to your local area from abroad, so this is not likely to be lucrative. Aside from web design, there are very few costs associated with starting this type of business. The cost will rise based on the complexity of the website – for example, implementing a database will cost more but you could generate extra revenue. The overall cost will range from £500 to £3,000 (600- 4,000 EUR, 1,000-6,000 AUD / USD).
Participate in the pay-per-click schemes of the popular search engines
Place online links to your business at websites and directories relating to your geographic area
Become actively involved in participating on message boards and mailing lists appropriate to your local area. Design an eye-catching signature linking to your website that can be attached to the end of your contribution
Pay for banner advertisements on websites that someone moving to the area might be looking at – such as a site dedicated to the local nightlife
Use OnlineOffice to set up web-site, blog and online shop to promote your business online
Complimentary business ideas: You may wish to form partnerships with or allow advertising from local businesses that can provide services for someone who has just moved into a new apartment, ranging from handymen to furniture stores. Local restaurants and bars may also be interested in attracting the custom of people who are new to the area.
Notes: Your website must be kept updated constantly and once an apartment is let it should be removed immediately. It is important that rental offices do not just use your website as free advertising. Do not allow the exact address of an apartment or any contact details appear on your site unless some fee has been paid. If some of your business will be conducted through referrals with estate agents then you must have contracts in place to make sure you are reimbursed for your work.
Online examples & resources:
Leasing Luxury – An example of this type of business
Apartment Guide – A very large US apartment database
For previous SME start-up ideas, look through the archive here