Leading industry tech figure Gary Barker has joined co-living HMO platform COHO as a non-executive director, adding to his recently-announced role as a board director at Guild parent company epropservices.
COHO, which is seeking to disrupt the HMO sector with its bespoke property management platform for smaller portfolio landlords and agents, has been courting Barker and his tech skills and track record for some time.
Barker, who lead the growth of Reapit for many years as it CEO after departing in July last year and before that as a leading tech light at Countrywide, says he wants to help COHO ‘listen to agents/customers and learn’
“If you understand their challenges it’s far easier to develop the right technology,” he says.
“I was very lucky to have spent 15 years with Reapit and I still miss the team, the customers and importantly the innovation.
“We built the largest property CRM and my final innovation was Foundations with the dream to enable every tech firm to be able to connect and deploy technology easily, cheaply and without challenges or blockers – a real first for proptech.
“Over the last 20-plus years I have watched as housing affordability and ownership becomes an increasing challenge and one that is not changing anytime soon.
“I was also reading a piece in the Economist about how the number of young adults in the UK was about to take a sharp rise, and not forgetting the challenges we have all encountered over the last 18 months with Covid and the impact of loneliness.
“As a consequence of these dynamics, I believe that the HMO sector will see a significant explosion and without any stigma attached to it.
“I believe that it won’t just be young individuals that look to take advantage of shared living, but also those mid-age homeowners with a room that they want to offer out, for financial and social benefits.”
COHO’s CEO and co-founder Vann Vogstad (pictured) says he was introduced to Barker initially by industry proptech guru Andrew Stanton when Barker was still working at Reapit.
“I was immediately struck by the wealth and breadth of his knowledge of the property industry, and as we talked it became clear that we shared a vision of the growth in HMOs and how that market was not well-served by technology,” says Vogstad.
“At COHO we made the decision to deliberately target smaller agents and operators first, allowing us the freedom to create the “game changer” for managing HMOs, as opposed to attempting to secure lucrative contracts at the outset with larger agents by solving immediate problems. By focusing on the complex part first and taking the time to get it right, our subsequent transition into single-lets, student accommodation and block management would be much easier to achieve.”