Several new generation administrators have engaged in a fierce commercial battle with the traditional players. But they are still struggling to be profitable.
Biting ads, legal battle… The rise of start-ups that seek to disrupt co-owner management puts established real estate professionals on the defensive. They are called Bellman, Homeland, Syndic One, Hello Syndic… Young companies, which present themselves as “neo-síndicos”, in the model of “neo-banks”, offer computerized solutions to facilitate the management of fiduciaries.
The joint-ownership trustee manages the common parts and charges of a building. It can be cooperative, that is, piloted voluntarily by the co-owners, or professional, when it is entrusted to a company for payment.
One of these new companies crystallizes the oppositions: Matera. Offering assistance to volunteer managers, without being a professional liquidator herself, the start-up shared, in 2019 and 2020, an aggressive advertising campaign that derided the traditional heavyweights of the industry. The community’s reaction was quick: two court summons addressed to the company, accused in particular of illegally exercising the profession.
“Existing Actors Advocating a Rent”
In the first instance, the Commercial Court of Paris ruled in favor of Matera on this point, but ruled that he had committed unfair competition and deceptive commercial practices. Matera appealed and another subpoena, for similar complaints, is being examined in the Paris Court.
“Matera has cultivated an ambiguity between being a trustee or not being a trustee,” thunders Jean-Marc Torrollion, president of the National Federation of Real Estate (Fnaim).
“For me, it’s an absolutely ridiculous case,” snapped Matera boss Raphael Di Meglio. “They know very well that, each time, we present ourselves as an aid to the cooperative trustee”, he guarantees. Recently, an online curator comparator has once again drawn outrage from professional organizations, who accuse Matera of creating “clickbait” or indulging in “syndic-bashing”.
“There are existing players that defend an income and that, in my opinion, are not very capable of creating innovation in their sector; and their means of defending their market share is, in particular, to initiate legal proceedings”, says Raphaël Di Meglio.
a commercial battle
Because behind, there is a very real economic battle. The new players “slash market share from the liquidators, the latter being stripped of the co-ownership in favor of management by the co-owners themselves internally. Therefore, there is still a commercial issue behind this”, explains to AFP Me Elisa Bocianowski, lawyer specializing in real estate (and not involved in these cases) at Simmons & Simmons.
These young companies intend to automate, through applications, certain time-consuming tasks: accounting, filing administrative documents, etc.
“Today, if you go to a traditional trustee, it works a bit like it did thirty years ago,” says Antonio Pinto, founder of neotrustee Bellman. “It’s the accountant who prints, the assistant who will put the letters in the folds and the posters, we receive the invoices on paper, we put stamps…” Before adding: “And when you manage 40 buildings, or 50 , or 70, every second counts”.
“Online trusts are interesting for small condominiums that cannot be managed in a traditional way”, thinks David Rodrigues, from the CLCV consumer association.
New players not yet profitable
Bellman, who manages about 500 condominiums, had co-owners interviewed for a study: 45% of them rate their satisfaction with the manager between 0 and 6 out of 10. Which led her to also launch a bold advertising campaign, where co-owners who give up on leaving a dysfunctional manager are represented as leather-clad masochists.
Industry heavyweights are trying to adapt. Foncia is therefore putting the finishing touches on a trustee management smartphone app.
“I think there is room for everyone, but the added value is still linked to a real professional”, defends Danielle Dubrac, president of the Union of Real Estate Professionals (United), while warning: “If the economic model (of the new players) is not profitable, if there is no return on investment, we move on. And there can be a very rapid obsolescence of these neo-actors”. Neither Bellman nor Matera are currently beneficiaries.