Raymond Naseem and Sebastian Melchert have known each other since preschool. Since their school days, they have been undertaking projects together – programming apps, working as business consultants and founding an advertising agency. In 2017, the two stirred up the real estate market in Germany by founding Housy. Their “rental application,” offered in cooperation with Berliner Sparkasse, is a true success project. We talked about the goals of the two entrepreneurs, officialese and the obstacles foreigners face when looking for housing in Germany.
Sebastian: We founded Housy in 2017. It’s a marketplace that brings landlords and tenants together in an innovative way. We wanted to take advantage of the Internet and transfer the idea of matching algorithms from dating portals, for example, to the world of real estate searches. With Housy, each party creates a profile. And these profiles then find matches on our platform. The result is time saved for both parties.
One of your highlights is the so-called rental application. What exactly is it?
Raymond: In Germany, and especially in Berlin, it is not easy to find an apartment. What’s more, landlords and real estate companies place very high formal requirements on those looking for housing to ensure that they are financially stable and solvent. Anyone who has ever searched for an apartment in Germany knows how cumbersome this is. A lot of documents and information are required, some of which have to be obtained from different parties. Surety bond, self-disclosure, salary certificate, proof of rent payment and much more – all of this must first be obtained in order to qualify as a tenant.
Sebastian Melchert (left) and Raymond Naseem (right) bring the matching blueprint from dating apps to the real estate market with Housy.
Age: 36 years, Birthplace: Berlin Neukölln, Hobbies: Family, cooking, travel, design, Portugal - What he loves about his work: Being able to leverage his own playful energy ... And what annoys him about it: Having to explain the advantages of digitization over and over again, because it often also means environmental sustainability.
Age: 35 years, Birthplace: Berlin Neukölln, Hobbies: Snowboarding, surfing, Portugal - What he loves about his work: Creating things from nothing ... And what annoys him about it: Worrywarts and the conservative attitude in the German market in general.
How does Housy's rental application help when searching for housing?
Sebastian: Thanks to Housy, in just two minutes you get all the documents from a single source, presented as a rental application that has been checked for authenticity, and all you have to do is hand it over to the landlord. What is also special is that with our software you are able to create a verified rental application, which gives you an advantage when looking for an apartment. Using the applicant’s bank account transactions, Housy can confirm that rent has been paid and that salaries have been received. And the identity of the applicant can be verified, which landlords highly appreciate. And there's even credit scoring, which eliminates the need for a SCHUFA report (which landlords in Germany often request from potential tenants). All of this is available with just a few clicks, as a PDF file sent to the e-mail inbox. While I'm still viewing the apartment, I can already have my documents sent to me digitally.
Raymond: Without much searching, without scanning, without piles of paper. This is the great advantage for those looking for housing. For the landlords, the rental application also has another big advantage: it is 100% verified and forgery-proof. Ultimately, this too has a positive effect on the applicant’s chances.
Sounds complicated. How do you make all this technically possible?
Sebastian: We cooperate with the leading banks, mainly from Germany. We generate the documents from the actual bank account information of the person making the query. This is real-time data. All that is needed is a bank account set up for online banking with the appropriate security procedures. We can then perform a query and even create our own credit scoring from it. All in compliance with data protection laws, of course.
Raymond: This all happens without a human looking at your account. This is very important to us! We have solved this concern using artificial intelligence. Everything is done automatically and anonymously and so we can then also create the rating. We have a partner licensed by the Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin). Everything is encrypted and nothing is cached. We are not talking about two little guys snooping on some accounts. This is very important to us.
What if the algorithm gives the apartment seeker a poor credit score?
Sebastian: The answer is simple: The algorithm is incorruptible. Our system is designed to benefit all parties, including landlords. This is important for it to work in the long term and for it to be accepted by everyone involved. The apartment seeker has the advantage that he or she does not have to commission and pay other service providers to create such a rating, for example SCHUFA. Moreover, that would be impossible for expats, as they have no personal history in Germany from which any data at all can be derived.
Raymond: However, the customer can of course choose which documents to add to their rental application. We don't have page numbers on the documents (laughs). The choice is up to each person.
Does this help apartment seekers get apartments faster because landlords trust them more?
Raymond: Of course, we cannot guarantee that. Landlords are skeptical people, and they all want to find a trustworthy person to rent their apartments to. We get a lot of feedback from landlords when they actively request our verification. For us, this means that the system is well adopted.
Sebastian: Customers and tenants also like our service. We have not yet received any negative feedback. Many would even recommend us to others. Expats face special challenges in Berlin because they are not as familiar with the local practices.
What are your experiences with newcomers?
Raymond: The rental application system is wonderful for expats. We are connected to most major banks and savings banks. Our service saves a lot of time and effort, at a very attractive price. A Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung, for example – who from abroad knows what that is? Or where to get it? With us, you get all the important documents in one folder.
Raymond: Some nice German officialese, isn't it? This super-long word doesn't even exist in many languages. And it would be hard to translate it, too. These regulations only exist in Germany. It has already become a running joke with us. A Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung must be issued in Germany by the former landlord at the former place of residence when moving and registering at the new place of residence. But in our eyes, this is not very meaningful, since one does not know why the document was ultimately issued. The documents in the rental application, on the other hand, certify the concrete payment of rent via the bank account.
How did the cooperation with Berliner Sparkasse come about?
Raymond: That was two and a half years ago. At a real estate event, we met the head of commercial real estate financing at Berliner Sparkasse, who put us in touch with the innovation team. They were working on similar approaches to ours and we were able to complement each other perfectly. After a pilot project, a first version of the rental application was launched a year and a half ago. This was immediately well received on both sides, by landlords as well as those looking for housing. And now we've reached the point where we want to make the product really big together with the Sparkasse, and we want to do it on a nationwide level. Of course, we always want to improve it and develop it further. Berliner Sparkasse is a very good fit for us in this regard. It's really, really fun to work with the innovation team. They work the way we do, very like a start-up. We were enthusiastic right away.
What are your next big challenges?
Sebastian: The concept of the rental application is very successful. Recently, we have also started operating in Austria. However, we want to establish the rental application much more broadly in general, in particular together with the savings banks. So that the rental application becomes the document that helps everyone searching for housing.
Your digital rental application: Documents that convince every landlord
Get your dream apartment quicker: Thanks to Housy and Berliner Sparkasse, you can create your complete, verified digital rental application with just a few clicks. The digital rental application offers benefits for you and your future landlord alike. It’s created in just a few minutes and offers all the relevant documents in one place. This is how you easily convince your next landlord.
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