The Islington residents who rent their living rooms out to strangers as offices
PUBLISHED: 12:00 31 March 2016 | UPDATED: 14:40 04 April 2016
Islington homeowners are pocketing extra cash by renting out bits of their houses to office workers during the day using the website Vrumi. The Gazette speaks to three about their experiences
With the increasing popularity of businesses such as Airbnb and Uber, Britain’s sharing economy is booming like never before.
Founded 15 months ago by ex-hedge fund manager Roddy Campbell and his friend, entrepreneur William Sieghart, Vrumi is the latest business capitalising on the growing trend.
Dubbed by users as a kind of “Airbnb for offices”, the website offers homeowners the chance to rent out rooms in their homes to earn extra cash, with Islington proving one of the most popular locations.
“I’ve had the idea for 20 years ever since the man next door used to go out to work every morning and a singing teacher would come into the flat and use the piano to give singing lessons,” Mr Campbell, 56, told the Gazette.
“It struck me that it was a win-win situation: the owner of the flat got some rent and his piano tuned while the singing teacher got a beautiful room in Notting Hill to give lessons.”
But it wasn’t until two years ago – when Airbnb was really starting to kick off – that the idea came to fruition.
“I broke my femur and a physiotherapist came round to my house,” he said.
“I asked him how he worked and he said when he worked in a clinic he got about £35 an hour but could make much more if he had his own place.”
The resulting Vrumi now has about 600 hosts ranging from young professionals looking to make some extra cash to empty nesters looking to make the most of the extra space. Users in London range from large businesses to thriller writers and life coaches.
“William grew up and lived in Islington for many years, so we both know the area extremely well,” said Mr Campbell. “It’s creative, entrepreneurial and open-minded, which is perfectly suited to a platform like Vrumi, whose users value these qualities.
“We have found Islington to be a popular destination for professionals looking for workspace: the spaces are unique, it’s close to the city and the Silicon Roundabout; hosts in that area regularly get bookings and high reviews.”
The warehouse flat from £325 a day
Yoga teacher Janice Kate Fisher, 44, has rented out her home in De Beauvoir Road since Vrumi started 15 months ago to supplement her income.
“It’s a big open plan warehouse with huge windows and high ceilings - so it lends itself perfectly to photography and film work,” said Ms Fisher, who also teaches yoga classes there for her business Light Yoga Space.
Other users include yoga teachers doing promotional photography and holding workshops there, and life coaches.
“I’ve taught yoga in offices before but always left feeling claustraphobic,” she said.
“But here it’s very spacious and there is an amazing energy - it’s very peaceful and welcoming.”
The location also makes it very convenient. “It’s very central, easy to access and there are tons of local amenities like cafés and superb trasnport links.”
Before trying Vrumi, she used to rent it out privately but had negative experiences.
“They would leave it looking absolutely disgusting and upside down. Whereas with Vrumi you are promoting the space as a home, so people don’t treat it like a public space.”
A houseboat on the Regent’s Canal: £80 a day
Environmental consultant Simon Hodgkinson, 60, rents out his houseboat on the Regent’s Canal for about £80 a day.
“I think people just love the environment – it’s unusual to get to spend the day on a boat in the city,” he told the Gazette.
Mr Hodgkinson, who also uses Airbnb, says Vrumi allows him to work elsewhere.
“I work and live on the boat every day so I thought it would be a great way to get out now and then,” he said.
He can now pay to use a nearby co-working space in King’s Cross during the day.
Since he joined Vrumi a few months ago he’s had several bookings from businesses with uses ranging from board meetings to fashion shoots.
“We rented it out for a fashion shoot along the canal once where they used the front room to as a changing room.
“They said we could use the boat while they were filming and while we were inside we heard people clambering on the roof and wondered what the hell was going on. When we came out we saw four beautiful ladies posing on the roof!”
The townhouse that can be your office for £135 a day
Rich Storer, the director of a creative communications agency for fashion and celebrity, rents out his Victorian townhouse in Allingham Street from £135 per day.
“I suppose I decided to rent it out because the space is free so it made sense as a way to get some extra income,” Mr Storer, 33, told the Gazette.
“It’s also quite a creative space with a lot of art and creative books and magazines.”
After joining Vrumi just a few weeks ago, he’s already had several companies paying to use his home.
“The other day we had the BBC filming a throwback Top of the Pops programme. They filmed segments all day with singers from the ’80s in the lounge,” he said.
Others have included an architect’s firm that used the house for staff appraisals, a business for a company away day and filmmakers who used the house for a short film.
Does he have any reservations? In fact, no. “I was originally thinking of moving out of my house completely and renting it out and moving to a smaller flat,” he said, “so I had already resigned myself to the fact of other people being in my house.”
To find out more visit the Vrumi website.
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