The opportunity to share a flat can be a lifesaver for young professionals who need accommodation and cannot afford the cost of rent on their own. Every other day, there’s a social media post about someone having a room in their apartment they would like to rent out, someone needing a flatmate to share the cost of a nice new place they just found, or someone willing to pay for a room in a flat. However, if you’ve ever tried any of these, you know how challenging it can be to find the right flatmates.
Millennials are moving now more than ever. With rising rent prices, depressed income and increasing preference for flexible nomadic lifestyles, it is clear that shared living is the future not just in Africa, but globally.
Muster was co-founded by Ibraheem Babalola (Co-Founder/CEO), Ugo Okoro (Co-Founder/Product Lead) and Akinola Adeola (Co-Founder/COO) essentially for this reason. Nigeria’s first flat sharing service, Muster is a platform for Millennials between 20 – 34 years on the continent (starting with Nigeria) to find flexible shared living options. The addressable market size is Nigeria alone is about 48,356,524 and Muster’s pan-African view makes the market size even larger. Already available across Nigeria, Muster will soon be active in some other African countries through Muster Africa.
Muster is a peer-to-peer share housing model that is not open to agents. An individual who has an extra room (or more) in the flat they’re already renting can list it so that suitable potential flatmates can apply. With Muster, users not only get to save on rent and utility bills, they can make extra income and expand their professional networks and social circles as well.
How does Muster.ng work for flat owners and for tenants and why would someone choose Muster instead of just seeking flatmates by word of mouth or social media? There’s security, for starters.
“Pre-Muster, there was no secured platform to find verified flatmates or list your space to verified flatmates,” Ibraheem Babalola explains. “Unlike Air BnB that treats your property like a hotel, Muster is more tailored to rent durations that are longer. Muster lets users get to know each other and agree on house rules, bills etc. through a secured chat page before scheduling a property viewing online. All Muster users go through a verification process before they have full access to the app, so users are guaranteed that the person they are about to share a property with is exactly who they say they are.”
On the feedback so far, he comments, “We have recorded a week on week surge across measurable metrics since we went live with Beta 1.0. Since affordable accommodation is a big problem and a preference for flexible living options is a lifestyle amongst our target market, acquiring new users (looking for shared spaces) has never been a challenge. The challenge at the start was acquiring users that were offering spaces (largely due to a trust deficit). However as more users used the product successfully and people understood the Mustering process, there has been a significant surge in the percentage of new users offering spaces.”
Whether you’re seeking flatmates or looking for a place to live, Mr. Babalola explains Muster’s pretty seamless process. “For people offering properties, all you need to do is create an account, get verified, June (Muster’s bot) will assist you to upload your property and ideally you should get a flatmate within a week.
“For users looking for properties, they just get on Muster and talk to June (Muster’s bot). June will ask them some questions and give them property options based on the responses to her questions. However, for the safety of all users and the Muster community, users are required to create an account and get verified before they can message the host offering the property.”
Long-term, the founders are looking to partner with real estate firms that would develop fit-for-purpose accommodation built with sharing in mind. There’s also a European expansion planned for 2019. “We want Muster to be the go-to place for affordable, flexible shared living options across the continent. Our goal is to build Muster into a brand that will be synonymous with ‘Affordable Living’.”
Joy Ehonwa is an editor and a writer who is passionate about relationships and personal development. She runs Pinpoint Creatives, a proofreading, editing, transcription and ghostwriting service. Email: pinpointcreatives [at] yahoo.com