Interview with Andrea Viola, Country Manager in Italy
Andrea Viola studied Economics and Tourism at the University of Bologna. He joined Spotahome shortly before the start of the pandemic and now holds the position of Country Manager in Italy. In this interview we talk to him about the new challenges of the company, how it is expanding in the southern country and how important innovation is being in its journey.
- Andrea, since when have you been part of the Spotahome team? How was your landing?
I joined the Spotahome team on the 7th of January 2020, just a couple of months before the pandemic. I understood since the beginning the harmony and the welcome I’d have received from the team when, before starting the new job, I had been invited for a drink on the Christmas dinner of the team to meet each other. When I entered the office I immediately found a place crowded with talented and young workers who were super passionate about the company. Now I can say that this passion is contagious nowadays too.
2. Italy is one of Spotahome’s big bets in terms of property portfolio growth. What is the company's current position in the country and what are its medium- and long-term forecasts?
We have monthly targets of new properties we have to list on the website in order to guarantee to our tenants a wide choice of properties and consequently continue the growth. However, we need to distinguish between our core cities (Milan and Rome) and our new focus cities (Bologna, Florence and Turin). In the core cities we are already working with all the main big players of the industry and thousands of private landlords. Adding new properties everyday can be difficult since Spotahome started the acquisition in these cities back in 2016, but I’d like to underline that we’re growing together with our B2B clients (that are listing more and more properties) and the word of mouth among private landlords is constantly giving us new opportunities.
In the new cities the acquisition is easier in terms of opportunities but it’s a bit more complex, compared to the core cities, because landlords are not yet aware of the services and the model offered by Spotahome. However, since the day of the launch of these new destinations, we noticed an increase of interest among landlords, both corporate and private. In summary, the goal in core cities is to keep the acquisition trend as it’s both in the medium and long term; while in the new ones the goal is to build a strong, good quality base of flats in the medium term and consolidate by adding more and more in the long one.
3. Through Spotahome it is possible to rent an apartment in Rome, Milan, Florence, Bologna, etc. Can you tell us which cities will be next?
So far Spotahome is the market leader in Milan and Rome, cities that have been launched in 2016. The main goal is to replicate the model in the new focus cities which are Bologna, Florence and Turin. These cities have been chosen among the others thanks to the high level of demand (not only students but also workers) and also thanks to the good quality level of flats and rooms provided by our landlords.
Nevertheless, also Padua, Trento and Naples seem to be very interesting cities and, probably, they will be the next ones in the near future.
4. What is your current assessment of the rental market in Italy? What are its particularities that can differentiate it from other European markets?
In Milan and Rome we notice how tenants and landlords are abandoning the old-school way of renting a property. No more pieces of paper with an indecipherable phone number on universities walls or outside a flat on rent’s window. People in 2022 expect improvements thanks to technology, they realise they can save time, money and energies. Different scenarios in the other cities where the 100% online rental process is not yet well known by everyone so far. I believe it’s just a matter of time and soon also the old-style cities will appreciate the innovation.
What is very different from the other European markets instead is the bureaucracy. In Italy we have different kinds of rental contracts between landlords and tenants which makes the legislation very difficult to be understood by our landlords. As far as I know, in Europe it is easier and more user friendly.
5. What has Spotahome brought to the Italian real estate market? How has it been received by local landlords and tenants?
Spotahome has brought not only a new concept of a 100% online rental process for medium-long term stays but also an innovative program called “Spotahome Plus” that allows tenants to rent without paying a security deposit but at the same time our landlords are protected by a guarantee in case of damages, arrears and earlier departure of the tenant. Moreover, Spotahome pays within the 5th of each month the rent to the landlord, so there’s no stress of reaching out the tenant to push him to pay.
The first concept has been possible thanks to our homecheckers, who verify personally every flat in the platform (with pictures, videos and floor plan): in this way, the tenant feels sure about the property and he’s sure of what he’ll find at the check-in. At the same time, our landlords need to open the flat only once to our homechecker and then they can manage all the process by checking their emails: no visits or disturbing calls by a lot of tenants are needed anymore! But what is very surprising is the interest of both tenants and landlords to our new “Spotahome Plus”. Can you imagine being a tenant and not having to pay any security deposit to your new landlord? And can you imagine being a landlord and feeling so protected while hosting a tenant who you don’t really know? Our customers definitely love Spotahome and its service!
6. The proptech sector, of which Spotahome is one of the world's leading exponents, is growing rapidly throughout Europe. What role will it play or is it already playing in the housing rental market?
In Europe nowadays there’s a strong base of proptech companies: some leading and some consolidated but not growing much. What I believe it’s crucial for a proptech company to be a leading exponent is innovation. Spotahome, indeed, never stops innovating: not only internal processes to reach scalability but especially the tech side and its own product. Especially thanks to its product’s innovation, Spotahome is constantly providing new services/tools to both landlords and tenants which makes the company to be considered by our customers the real leader proptech in the housing rental market. And be sure, it’s not over…more to come!
7. Spotahome is a 100% remote friendly company. What is it like to work remotely in Italy?
As said at the beginning, in the office in Milan we’re all young people and, as I always say, we’re not only colleagues but friends too. Of course, the company offers us to be 100% remote and I share and respect this decision. Nevertheless, my colleagues and myself are very happy to work together in our co-working place. Of course there’s a total flexibility and we alternate working days in the office and others are 100% remote. Thanks to the communication channels offered by Spotahome, we are always in touch and it’s very easy to work together from different spots.
8. Tell us an anecdote or something you are particularly proud of at Spotahome Italy.
What makes me very proud has been my team’s behaviour during the pandemic. As you can imagine, the pandemic brought us a very difficult time but we managed to get the best from it. Especially last year, the market was recovering but the size of the team wasn’t that huge in order to control all the operations for the italian cities (not only the core ones but also the new ones). Despite this, my team gave 300% of themselves to guarantee a strong recovery and the best experience possible to our customers. The passion in the company, the will to hit our targets, being multitasking and helping each other made Italy the country that grew the most in 2021. True warriors!