James Coupland is 26 years old and together with his team they run a property development company in UK/Manchester, Libra Spaces, specialising in creating luxury accommodation for students and working professionals. In addition, they have a huge passion for utilising the latest PropTech within their businesses to create the best customer service possible and as a result, they have developed a virtual tour business, HouseCloud, to showcase their own and their clients’ projects from anywhere in the world. At the beginning of 2021, they decided they would combine their real estate businesses, Libra Spaces & HouseCloud, and document their journey on running these businesses on TikTok. Six months later, they now have over 200,000 followers on TikTok and 1.7 million likes - something they are hugely proud of as a team and is now a platform they are working on everyday to continue this expansion.
Hi James! Could you talk to us about why you decided to work in the real estate industry?
From as long as I can recall, I grew up in a home with a strong ‘do-it-yourself’ ethos from my parents where my dad was always in the middle of a DIY project being led by my mum who was the designer, particularly of the interior. There would always be the sound of a drill or the knocking of a hammer waking me up on a weekend and I think that just got into my psyche from an early age. Having had this experience from an early age of being around refurbishments, my passion in real estate began to grow further during my time at university when I was living in student accommodation.
At the time, student accommodation houses weren’t particularly pleasant places to live and the management never really cared if there was a maintenance issue. I knew this wasn’t right, however all my student friends just seemed to accept this. But I felt there was an opportunity here to disrupt the market with a high standard of student accommodation living and so with my side job and savings that I had, I decided to purchase my first house whilst studying at university. Fast forward six years and together with my team we have created luxury accommodation for students and working professionals, an established virtual tour business to showcase our houses and a best-in-class customer service to match, as client care is our utmost priority across all departments within our business.
What does a typical day look like for you?
A real mixture of tasks currently because we are at the stage of the year where there is a high turnover of students given that the new university year starts in a couple of months. Most of our students are graduating this year so we are currently sorting through all the new applications for our rooms. In addition, our team at HouseCloud are extremely busy working on our latest social media campaign to promote our newly formed collaboration with Floorfy - an exciting opportunity which we are looking forward to getting started on!
In the meantime, our property development team has one final project to be completed in the next couple of months so I’m currently visiting on-site, still very much hands-on as I enjoy the refurbishment side of things. It's also a perfect opportunity to film content for TikTok as it's interesting to see the development of what happens day-to-day.
What do you enjoy most about TikTok?
Filming the content is definitely one of the most enjoyable parts as we have a lot of fun playing around with ideas. Most of the time we are filming ‘in the moment’ so there is a lot of spontaneity which I believe reflects an element of ‘realness’ in our videos and it's what our followers seem to love. In addition, we love receiving messages from everyone who follows our TikTok and who reach out to us with questions about how they can start in real estate. We do our best to answer all of these messages as quickly as possible to pass on our knowledge and guide them in the right direction.
How has TikTok helped grow your business?
TikTok was the most downloaded app in 2020 and currently in 2021.
As a result, this has enabled us to showcase our business to a significantly wider audience, creating amazing opportunities and increased investor interest, allowing us to surpass our growth targets. Our profile has also been picked by TikTok to join their ‘Creator Marketplace’ and ‘Amplify’ programmes which allows our videos to be used as TikTok adverts and marketing campaigns to boost our profile further which we are super excited about as a team.
Do you have any tips for growing your followers on TikTok?
With any social media it’s important to try and learn how the platform’s algorithm works. When posting on TikTok, you need to keep up with the current trends which could be searching for the most popular songs and videos at the present time and following up to comments made on your post as fast as possible to encourage engagement on your profile. Additionally, having good editing skills is also great as the longer your video is watched, the higher your video will rank - so it's important to engage your viewer for as long as possible.
The tips above are ways you can grow your following but ultimately it comes down to providing your followers with value - which could be in the form of education or entertainment and ensuring a strong consistency of posting new content.
How important is social media in real estate?
Social media is crucial for a lot of businesses to succeed, but real estate I think is a few years behind where it should be. I believe this is because people have in the past thought that real estate is for people to invest in during their elder years; perhaps once they’ve established a stable job in their chosen career path with savings to invest and are looking to support themselves as part of their pension. As a result, documenting their journey in property and marketing themselves on social media hasn't been as popular. However, what I’m seeing now is a younger generation of people involved in real estate, whether that be creating virtual tours or investing in property, beginning to document their journey and day to day lives. This is slowly becoming more popular and that's something I enjoy doing also, to help inspire the next generation of real estate entrepreneurs by sharing my journey and showing the different strategies to invest in property without a huge cash pot at the beginning.
We have also been fortunate to grow our real estate brands organically on social media, by showing our day to day lives, the troubles we face and the high standard of living we are developing. As a result, we have provided an element of trust for people to see what we are accomplishing and this has given confidence to our followers who are watching to invest in our brands and to build a long-term relationship with them.
Could you tell us what you know about Floorfy? What do you like most about the features?
Given the high volume of clients we have at HouseCloud and our expansion plans that we have in place, one of the main features we were looking for in a virtual tour software was the ability to implement high quality and premium virtual tours with a quick and efficient workflow. Floorfy is the answer to this as it enables us to capture our 360° photos in the property, upload them simply to our account and that’s it, you’re all done! In just a short time frame we will have automatically received the completed virtual tour, 2D & 3D floor plan, HD photos and video.
Perhaps my most favourite feature about Floorfy (other than the 3D floor plan which our team and our clients love), is the ability to have a virtual call with clients and walk them around the tour whilst video calling them. This is something I strongly believe will disrupt the real estate market and become the ‘norm’ of property viewings. Being able to personally brand the virtual tours is something which I love too - such a great feature!
Finally, what I can tell you most about Floorfy which is super important for any business we enjoy working with, is the excellent customer service. It’s unrivalled. At HouseCloud, we’ve tried and tested other virtual tour softwares, but in comparison to them, Floorfy are very quick to respond to any queries you have which in some cases of other virtual tour softwares we’ve had to wait days to get a response. We’re super excited to be working with Floorfy and to build upon our relationship long into the future.
What are your plans for the future?
Our goals moving forward are to continue raising the living standards of accommodation for students and working professionals; become the leading accommodation provider in our area; grow HouseCloud exponentially in our region with plans to expand throughout the UK; support our tenants living with us by working alongside a mental charity which is something close to our team; and to continue building our brand on TikTok and other social media platforms such as Instagram & Youtube to hopefully inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs looking to start their real estate journey in property investment and the virtual tour sector.
One more thing to add, if anyone has any questions at all then please do reach out to me - the easiest way being on TikTok or Instagram and I would be more than happy to answer any questions about property investment or virtual tours.
If you'd like to follow James' real estate journey, check out his social media below:
TikTok - @jamesproperty_
Instagram - @jamesproperty_
Youtube - James Property