Co-ownership trustees are being jostled by brazen start-ups

published on Friday, May 27, 2022 at 08:42

Vitriol ads, litigation… The emergence of start-ups looking to upset the management of co-owner trustees is forcing established real estate professionals on the defensive.

They are called Bellman, Homeland, Syndic One, Hello Syndic… Young companies that present themselves as “neo-syndics” modeled on “neo-banks” offer computerized solutions to facilitate the administration of trustees.

The co-ownership community manages the common parts and loads of a building. It can be cooperative, that is, managed voluntarily by co-owners, or professional, if it is entrusted to a company for a fee.

One of these new companies crystallizes the opposites: Matera.

The start-up, which provided support to volunteer managers without being a professional fiduciary itself, had shared an aggressive advertising campaign in 2019 and 2020 that ridiculed the industry’s traditional heavyweights.

– “ambiguity” –

The community’s reaction was quick: two court summonses were directed against the company, which was accused in particular of illegally exercising a profession.

The Paris Commercial Court ruled in favor of Matera on this point, but found that it had committed unfair competition and deceptive commercial practices.

Matera appealed and another subpoena for similar complaints is being considered in the Paris court.

“Matera has cultivated an ambiguity between fiduciary and non-fiduciary,” thunders Jean-Marc Torrollion, president of the National Federation of Real Estate (Fnaim).

“For me, this is an absolutely ridiculous matter,” said Matera coach Raphael Di Meglio. “You know very well that we present ourselves every time as a support for the cooperative council,” he assures.

A recent online settlement of fiduciaries drew renewed outrage from professional associations, who accuse Matera of having set up “clickbait” or engaged in “syndic bashing”.

“There are existing players who are defending a lease and, in my opinion, are not very capable of innovating in their sector; and their means of defending their market share is, in particular, to take legal action,” says Raphaël Di Meglio.

– “Trade Edition” –

Because there is a very real economic struggle behind it.

The new players are “grabbing market share away from trustees who are internally deprived of co-owners in favor of management by the co-owners themselves, real estate attorney (and not involved in these cases) at Simmons & Simmons.

These young companies intend to use applications to automate certain time-consuming tasks: accounting, filing of administrative documents, etc.

“If you go to a traditional fiduciary today, it works a bit like it did thirty years ago,” says Antonio Pinto, founder of neo-fiduciary Bellman. “The accountant prints, the assistant folds the letters and mails them, we get paper invoices, we stamp…”

“And when you’re managing 40 buildings, or 50 or 70, every second counts,” he says.

“Online trustees are interesting for small condominiums that cannot be managed in a traditional way,” says David Rodrigues of consumer association CLCV.

Bellman, who manages around 500 condominiums, had co-owners surveyed for a study: 45% of them rated their satisfaction with their trustee between 0 and 6 out of 10.

Which prompted them to also launch a daring ad campaign that portrays the co-owners who give up dumping a dysfunctional trustee as leather-clad masochists.

The industry heavyweights are trying to adapt. Foncia thus puts the finishing touches on a smartphone application for fiduciary management.

“I think there is room for everyone, but the added value is still associated with a professional in person,” defends Danielle Dubrac, President of the Union of Real Estate Professionals (United), warning: “If the economic model (of the new players) is not profitable “If there’s no return on investment, then we move on. And there can be very rapid obsolescence of these neo-actors.”

Neither Bellman nor Matera are current beneficiaries.

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