Fast Furniture Could Help Residential Space Become a Service

People don’t buy products and people don’t buy services. People buy solutions. Sure we shop for cars but what we decide on is the solution to our wants and needs like having reliable, comfortable, or stylish transportation. The same can be said for space. Sure we can change the way it is packaged, as a long term binding agreement or a monthly service fee, but ultimately the customer will be making their decision based on what the space can do for them: will it be a good place to work or live in?

One of the critical components for space to solve these holistic needs is that it often needs to come furnished. For offices, it is a lot more feasible for the landlord or manager to offer furniture since the function is (for the most part) the most important factor. Plus there are companies like CORT that have been supplying furniture in the office setting for some time.

For residential rentals, this is not the case. People have wildly different tastes and often need a sense of attachment to their domestic space. So furnished rentals remain a fringe part of the housing stock and many people still move their furniture with them when they relocate. But, another piece of the solution might be on its way for a home-as-a-service.

A company called Fernish just announced an investment round of $30 million led by Real Estate Technology Ventures, with participation from Intuit founder Scott Cook and Amazon’s head of global consumer, Jeff Wilke. They not only offer stylish, name-brand furniture for rent, they provide delivery, extraction and refurbish the piece so it can be used again. Now we are getting closer to answering the questions that most people have when they buy furniture. Will I like living with it? Will it be a hassle to set up? What will I do with it when I move? Amazon is even stepping in to make the decision making easier when buying furniture online. They have a new virtual showroom that helps furniture shoppers visualize their purchases.

Due to cultural shifts like minimalism and online shopping, the timing seems to be right for furniture to be one of the next items that are now no longer seen as a necessary purchase. Furniture companies see so much potential in the idea of new ways to deliver furnishings that some furniture companies are even branching out into the complicated world of logistics and delivery. If the trend of renting furniture continues on its current trajectory it won’t be long until more and more multifamily real estate starts to incorporate the furniture into their solution.

I remember Jason Fudin of WhyHotel telling me that he was happy to outsource the furniture for his company’s temporary hotels because it is capital intensive and a logistical headache. Now with even more options for real estate companies to outsource furniture, we might see a rise in furnished rentals. Once that happens I expect there to be some big partnerships between progressive property firms and “fast furniture” providers. Their future is inextricably tied together so an alignment makes sense.

Editor and Co-Founder

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