Maintaining a good relationship with tenants can minimise risk for a property owner, but that’s not always easy to do when a traditional real estate agent is acting as the middleman. In 2013, Michael Gilbert co-founded Cubbi with his brother, Jason. He explains how the online platform can help owners build a better relationship with their tenants and ultimately earn a greater return on investment.
YIP: What led to you founding Cubbi, and what was your aim?
MG: I was working as a property manager and I was dealing with so many owners and tenants who were frustrated with the renting process, and they all seemed to have the same concerns. One of them was around inefficient manual processes – property managers weren’t able to get things done quickly enough, so owners and tenants were left wondering what was going on.
Another big issue was around technology and delivery. People expect things to happen instantly, yet most leases and property reports are still done on paper, so you have to wait days for a document to be signed by a number of different parties. I noticed these issues and thought there was something I could do to make renting in Australia a better experience for everyone.
“We save owners between $1,000 and $2,000 a year … because we charge 2% and a traditional agent charges an average of 7% plus additional fees”
YIP: How does Cubbi solve these problems?
MG: Cubbi is a transparent online platform that allows an owner and tenant to rent a property without using an agent or having to do everything themselves. We streamline and automate the renting process, from advertising a property to collecting rent and everything in between.
Cubbi makes it easy for owners and tenants to speak directly and manage effortlessly, and encourages win-wins so everyone gets what they want. – something we call ‘Common Ground’. Cubbi makes advertising and finding a tenant really easy and instead of waiting days for a lease to be signed, it can be done within half an hour.
Tenants can also log maintenance issues online and they go straight to the owner, who can then book a service through our partner tradespeople. We also have a free Home Emergency Service that provides owners and tenants with four free call-outs per year (up to $300 each) for emergency home maintenance.
YIP: How does Cubbi help owners receive a greater return on their investment?
MG: Firstly, Cubbi saves owners between $1,000 and $2,000 a year on agents’ fees because we charge 2%, and a traditional agent charges an average of 7% plus additional fees. We’re also really focused on creating a better experience for owners and tenants, so that leads to a reduced turnover of tenants and greater retention of reliable tenants.
YIP: What would you say to owners who have reservations about trying an alternative to an agent?
MG: The main reasons owners use an agent are fear and time – they’re scared that something’s going to go wrong and they don’t have the time to manage their property. With Cubbi, owners save time because most of the tasks are automated and things can be arranged quickly online, rather than having to communicate through a property manager. We use transparency to reduce fear – rent gets paid through Cubbi and owners know exactly where tenants have paid up to. Missed payments are chased up via email, text and phone. We also provide mutual guidance to owners and tenants for more significant arrears and issues if needed.
YIP: What kind of landlord does Cubbi best suit?
MG: Our landlords are the ones who care about their properties and tenants but also understand the value of their own time. They don’t necessarily want to know all of the ins and outs of how everything works, but they want to get things done quickly and efficiently.
Michael Gilbert, a licensed real estate agent with over 10 years’ experience, started Cubbi to give owners and tenants “another option, but one that didn’t involve them having to do everything by themselves”