Rising home prices and the lack of residential space are driving the shared housing trend in mainland China, especially among young people.
Baletu seizes the opportunity by linking tenants and landlords directly via its online property rental platform.
The site was founded by Norman Lui Nam, a 47-year-old electrical engineering graduate, in Shanghai in 2014. It allows users to directly link with landlords, cutting out intermediary agencies and related costs.
Baletu aims to make the entire renting process electronic and online, from making appointments and deposits to contract signing, communications, paying monthly rents, and even settling maintenance fees, Lui told the Hong Kong Economic Journal.
The platform sources its property listings from small business property owners, including private landlords and institutions. It handles the search for multiple tenants for the property and takes a cut from the rent received by property owners.
To verify the status of its listings, Baletu assigns staff to track the property by taking photos with its own mobile application, which connects with the company’s system and records the property’s exact location and other details, such as its distance from the nearest metro station, Lui said.
The platform also runs a rating system for landlords and property owners, which is based on the comments and assessments of tenants.
For landlords with higher ratings, their listed properties will receive priority referral on the platform, while those with low ratings can get kicked out.
Baletu now covers 14 cities including Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, Hangzhou, and Guangzhou. In 2017 alone, it said it closed rental contracts amounting to nearly 3 billion yuan (US$469.13 million).
A serial entrepreneur, Norman spent his early years establishing a human resource service provider, 51Job (JOB.US). He later set up the online nutrition brand Lumi in the mainland.
Earlier this year, Baletu announced the completion of a 500 million yuan fund-raising exercise, with Hong Kong property developer Nan Fung Group as one of the leading participants.
Lei said he expects Baletu to go public sometime in the future, but there are no concrete plans yet.
“I cannot picture what the company will look like in 10 years, or even in just three years. Same as back in 2014, I could not imagine how Bailetu would become today,” he said.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 6
Translation by Ben Ng with additional reporting
[Chinese version 中文版]
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