PROPTECH-X ‘Proptech & Property News’: Real estate royalty joins COHO for all the right reasons

Gary Barker, the biggest name in proptech, former CEO of Reapit, and CTO of Connells Group, has joined COHO, an HMO-focussed property management platform, turning his attention to shared living.

In a major coup for both sides, Gary Barker joins COHO, adding strategic value alongside Founder Vann Vogstad as their ‘All-in-one HMO & property management’ platform continues rapid scaling, and turns its attention to Agents. 

COHO removes the barrier of entry investors and agents have to the potentially lucrative market of HMOs. The platform started by systemising the management of shared living spaces for landlords and smaller operators and has quickly expanded to offer management solutions for single lets and agents.

What made Gary, one of the biggest hitters in real estate and proptech verticals, decide to get involved with COHO is that in his own words… 

“I’m a techie and solutions person at heart, and when Vann demonstrated COHO to me I was immediately working through how it offered agents a way to take advantage of a new part of the lettings sector and to increase their revenues and services.”

COHO Gary Barker
Gary Barker, COHO

Gary Barker saw the vast financial potential of coliving

“I believe that the HMO sector will see a significant explosion and without any stigma attached to it.  I believe that it won’t just be young individuals that look to take advantage of shared living, but also those mid-age homeowners with a room that they want to offer out, for financial and social benefits.”

Given that Gary understood the space and their solution, Vann Vogstad wanted Gary onboard as his technical insight and his commercial and industry knowledge was key. 

As they saw it, he had spent years in senior finance and IT roles at Countrywide working with some of the most talented agents solving their problems. People including Grenville Turner, Bob Scarff, Ben Taylor, and Lee Wainwright. 

He then spent 15 years at Reapit as CEO, building it to be the biggest PMS before joining Connells/Countrywide as CTO of the biggest estate agency group in the UK.  He is now a director at epropservices. 

For Gary Barker, COHO was a natural choice

“The agents currently operate in a real estate bubble that is controlled and managed by external and economic factors.  Most real estate agents operate a sales and lettings business so that they can obtain regular income from their rental portfolio AND then variable income from the sales market.  

“However, what is also well known is that the private rented sector and HMO accounts for over 50% of the total rental market, for which agents don’t currently operate in, but a space where I feel that they can and will operate with the right technology.”

The good news was that Founder Vann Vogstad, who has already successfully exited from two tech businesses, decided to digitally build the solution for agents. As well as front end users looking for somewhere to live.

COHO Vann Vogstad
Vann Vogstad, CEO

Vann Vogstad, CEO, on why COHO brought Gary on board

“I was initially introduced to Gary by a good friend, Andrew Stanton.  At that time Gary was looking to add innovative solutions to the Reapit platform and so he was interested to learn more about COHO. I was immediately struck by the wealth and breadth of his knowledge of the property industry, and as we talked it became clear that we shared a vision of the growth in HMOs and how that market was not well-served by technology.

“At COHO we made the decision to deliberately target smaller agents and operators first, allowing us the freedom to create the game-changer for managing HMOs, as opposed to attempting to secure lucrative contracts at the outset with larger agents by solving immediate problems. By focusing on the complex part first and taking the time to get it right, our subsequent transition into single-lets, student accommodation and block management would be much easier to achieve.

“The business has now reached a maturity level where we are naturally turning towards agents, and I had kept Gary’s number close to hand, as with his decades of innovating both for, and within the agent space, there is literally no better person to help us continue the break-neck pace of development and growth we’ve achieved so far.”

Gary Barker signals change for HMOs

“In order for the real estate agents to be able to offer a social living solution, they need to have the right technology to easily onboard a landlord/owner – promote the space, self-onboard the tenant and importantly collect the rent/fees/costs in an automated way, which is not something that most of the standard letting systems can currently do.  

“As a consequence I think COHO will be able to open up HMOs to the wider agency community, especially as agents often sell properties to HMO investors, but don’t always have the post-sale services to support the investor, but now with COHO I expect that to change.”

About COHO

COHO is a new and revolutionary end-to-end platform to manage HMOs and mixed property portfolios. Their simplified process and modern interface enables the user to access all property, room and tenancy tasks as well as handling maintenance and onboarding for as little as £1 per unit.

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