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Business | February 7, 2020
Ever wondered what entrepreneurs did before they started their business? Where do they find inspiration for their ideas? Or how they view Brexit? We sat down for a coffee and a chat with City Relay’s man-in-charge, Maxime Leufroy-Murat to find out.
I studied International Business and Finance, and after completing my BA, I started my working life as a trader at Morgan Stanley. I learnt a lot, but my ambition was always to start my own business here in London. My first venture was a personal dating service for busy London professionals that launched before the likes of Tinder came on to the market. It was a steep learning curve and taught me some important lessons about running a business.
I was helping friends in London with their Airbnb guests while they were out of town. It quickly became apparent that having someone there to greet guests and assist them throughout their stay was a valuable service and alleviated many of the concerns and risks my friends had about hosting and short letting their home.
The idea really took hold from there. I got to work figuring out the best, most effective and efficient ways to clean and prepare the home for each guests arrival ensuring it was spotless. I thought about how the check-in process could be improved. How could I best handle guest enquiries before, during and after their stay? What was the best way to deal with maintenance issues?
It was then a case of understanding how to make that scale across multiple properties. How could I replicate that set-up to add value, deliver excellent service and resolve issues for 10, 20, 30+ hosts across London?
Our mission is the same today as it was when I started the business five years ago. We want to provide the best Airbnb management service to Londoners and their guests in a manner that’s also neighbour-friendly. We’ve put in place guest verification processes, housekeeping and maintenance teams who care for the property, waste disposal and recycling policies and software to ensure adherence to the 90-day rule.
The entire team is based in London so we can deliver a personal, local and responsive service. Unique to City Relay is our interior-designed Reception Spaces that enable us to provide a personal face-to-face guest experience. This gives our hosts peace-of-mind knowing that we are present and on-hand to take care of their guests.
We are also leading the way in terms of sustainability within the short let industry having invested in several initiatives to achieve this. We have introduced eco-friendly products and amenities into hosts’ homes and our Reception Spaces as well as making broader changes to our day-to-day operations.
We’re also putting our experience to use by supporting other providers in the residential property management and serviced apartment market. In 2019, we successfully launched a B2B offering. Our B2B service provides a cost-effective bespoke white-label service to clients in London looking to outsource or extend their operations.
We’ve received great feedback from hosts, guests, investors and industry commentators and our business is growing thanks to their continued support and trust in us. Our Trustpilot score has hit 4.8 out of 5, giving us the highest rating of any short let property management company in London.
In 2019, we received five industry awards and accolades including the Best Short Term Letting Agent at the National Landlord Investment Show Awards and the Short Let Property Management Specialists of the Year at the Greater London Enterprise Awards.
We’ve also had a positive response to the launch of our B2B service and are having conversations with lots of potential clients on ways we can support them with their day-to-day operations.
The feedback is testament to the hard work of the great team we’ve built. I couldn’t be more proud of what we’ve achieved and excited about what the future holds for us.
Becoming a fully sustainable business is something that’s important to me. We’ve put several initiatives in place to reduce the company’s carbon footprint with more to implement in the coming months.
As part of our mission to become a fully sustainable business, we have carefully selected ethical and eco-friendly supply chain partners that provide exceptional products and services for our clients, hosts and guests. We’ve moved to a fleet of electric vehicles, are recycling everything we can and have replaced bottled water for guests with cartons of One Water.
We have also donated time and money to local community initiatives and are currently in conversations with charities working to fight homelessness in London about partnership opportunities. Most recently we took part in a street clean-up effort in Earl’s Court helping local residents pick-up litter.
I think all industries – and the UK economy as a whole – have had to weather the Brexit storm over the last couple of years. Continued economic uncertainty has led to fewer properties coming on to the market. This has made renting, at least in the short-to-mid-term, a more attractive proposition for those riding the storm and waiting to see what happens to property prices in London. We have received more enquiries from residents interested in understanding the short-stay rental market in London in recent months.
In terms of guest numbers, while the mix of nationalities has changed since the EU Referendum, there has been no shortage of international visitors to London. We are experiencing healthy overseas booking volumes with travellers to the UK capitalising on the exchange rate.
Like many, I hope things stabilise and normalise as we move into the transition period of Brexit.
Are you interested in a career at City Relay?
Our business is growing and we need more talented people to join our team across a number of functions. Check out our vacant roles on our Careers page.