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Meet Manu Bhagatjee of HouseStay

Today we’d like to introduce you to Manu Bhagatjee.

Manu, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Whenever I traveled on consulting assignments (for 1-3 months), I ended up staying in hotels. The only other option was extended stays.

Airbnb expanded the choice of options but didn’t cater to monthly stays, since they expect the tenant to pay rent for the entire stay upfront and charge an occupancy tax and a service fee, which made renting a home expensive.

After searching for other option, I quickly realized that the only other option was Craigslist, a platform marred by scams and low quality furnished housing listings. The problem of finding quality fully furnished turnkey housing led to the birth of HouseStay.

Once the platform was up and running, we at HouseStay, started receiving inquiries about housing from all sorts of folks: Contractual employees, Travel Nurses, Interns, relocation employees, baby boomers visiting family, government professionals and other such folks, who are now HouseStay tenants and love the service.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
The journey has been anything but smooth as the business model is a cross section of technology, hospitality and real estate. Engaging stakeholders from each vertical and helping them understand the value proposition was truly a humbling experience.

In addition, helping folks understand that we operate within the realm of the real estate industry and are focused on extended stay travelers was extremely challenging as we were labeled as an Airbnb clone in the beginning.

Once landlords and tenants understood that we truly cater to a longer-term tenant and pride ourselves in rigorously screening tenants and landlords, sign a monthly lease with both stakeholders and are always standing by to support both sides of the market, we knew we had started to overcome the biggest obstacle: differentiating ourselves from Airbnb and other operator such as Airbnb.

Please tell us about HouseStay.
What website would you use to book a fully furnished home for say a 2-3 month stay? The default answer seems to be craigslist. At HouseStay, we have automated the booking process for furnished rentals by eliminating any and all friction and risks associated with booking online.

We inspect each home listed on HouseStay, thereby providing the HouseStay guarantee for tenants, we run an exhaustive tenant screening (Credit, Background, Criminal and Eviction history) for each tenant we place so our landlords don’t have to.

We sign a monthly lease to protect landlords and property managers we work with. Lastly, we provide full price transparency to tenants along with the ability to complete all of the above online, with a few clicks.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
HouseStay continues to accept feedback from the industry and all stakeholders engaged in the rental process. Once we receive feedback, we review it as a team and incorporate relevant feedback into the website, so we can keep innovating, a process we have followed from the start so we wouldn’t necessarily change anything, except the methods used to collect the feedback and the speed with which we incorporate the feedback in the website.

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