Another great mention for yours2share on Channel Four’s Superscripmers last Friday.
(I’m going to use boats as my example in this article because using the word “asset” over and over again gets truly tedious, but the principles apply to holiday homes, motorhomes and other assets.)
These tricky financial times are not receding as quickly as everyone hoped and many boat owners are wondering if they can justify keeping their boat or if they need to sell to extract some equity (or reduce their debt). They will also be aware that selling their boat might take a long time.
Most owners don’t even consider selling one, two or maybe three shares. I’m not saying that finding the right partner is going to happen overnight either. But with a little patience, it can be an excellent alternative: the owner keeps their boat and gets some equity.
Most “original” owners fully understand that they need to ensure that their new partners feel equal in the syndicate, but there are some who never really accept that the boat isn’t still entirely theirs and buyers should be alert to this. As with any sharing arrangement, there needs to be extensive discussions to work out all the aspects of the sharing arrangement and this should in turn be recorded in the contract. During this process, the new partners also need to assure themselves that the owner is really willing to share!
I’ve spoken to several people who’ve sold several shares in the asset they previously owned outright and the best method I’ve seen is for each partner to be bought in one by one. For example, say the ideal is to sell three shares so the boat ends up with four owners each with a quarter. The owner finds the first partner who buys half the boat and agrees with the plan to bring in two further partners. The two partners then look for the third partner, and when this sale nets a further third of the value of the boat, this is split between the first two partners. The three partners then look for the fourth partner, and the proceeds of the sale of the quarter are split between them. The contract is amended as necessary at the sale of each share.
The advantage of this process is that at each stage all the existing partners have an equal say in all matters. If each partner simply buys a quarter share, then the original owner inevitably has more control and may be able to push through the sale of a share to a partner that isn’t acceptable to the others. The other alternative is to wait until all three new partners are available. However this might take some time and there is the risk is that the first potential partner gets fed up waiting.
Many owners think that the potential partner will be unwilling to make this greater investment and indeed some will be unable to do this. But if I was that potential partner, I’d prefer to buy the half at the outset so that I knew I had equal input on decisions down the line.
As with all sharing arrangements, there are many ways of doing things, and all require an investment in time, discussion and negotiation to discover the best solution for a particular group of partners. The pay-back is that when set up correctly the vast majority of syndicates work really well, providing much joy, very cost effectively, for many years.
The recent purchase of the world’s largest car sharing club, Zipcar, by the world’s third largest car rental company, AVIS, for about $500 million hit the headlines in January. It will be interesting to see how this develops over the next year or two: it would be fair to say that opinion is divided, some cautiously optimistic, others decidedly pessimistic.
I always find car sharing hard to explain because the term “car sharing” has four different meanings:
There are many collaborative consumption start-ups working on car sharing: cars are expensive and often used for only a few minutes a day, so any car sharing business model that actually works is destined to be lucrative. The tricky bit is finding the right model.
One of the most successful operators has been quietly getting on with it only a few miles from me in Norfolk. Liftshare is owned and run by Ali Clabburn, who founded the company 12 years ago in Attleborough and has just moved his offices to Norwich. Over the years we’ve spoken to several times on the phone, but we met for the first time only recently.
Initially Liftshare looks just like other liftsharing websites such as Blablacar, Carpooling and many others. But there is a lot more to Liftshare than meets the eye. Most of their business is supplying large organisations with lift sharing schemes for their employees. This enables the organisations to reduce their employees’ journey costs, reduce local congestion, reduce the number of car parking spaces they need to provide, polish their corporate social responsibilities credentials, and wide range of other benefits.
It also enables Liftshare to maximise the environmental benefit of their activities because they focus upon commuting, which generates more car journeys than anything else. Liftshare currently manages the car sharing for over 1200 organisations: it has a direct effect on an incredible number of cars, drivers and passengers.
Ali is now working on another big project to develop a new peer to peer car sharing service for the UK. Called CarLoco, it will be launched in a few weeks and I’ll tell you more then, but Ali has told me a little about the plans and I think Liftshare’s CarLoco really has wheels.
I’ve been quiet for the last nine months, but now I’m going to be making up for lost time.
yours2share underwent a major update in August 2011, but from the start there were some major issues, particularly with the way the website performed on Google. No-one was at fault; even with hindsight I don’t know what I would have done differently.
Since February, I’ve been contemplating whether to continue running yours2share or not. As will be pretty evident to anyone who has been following yours2share for a few years, I strongly believe in enabling private syndicates and rental sharing.
Unfortunately the most obvious way to make a profit doing this is to be part of the sale of the asst and take commission. However I have three issues with this. Firstly it is is a logistical nightmare: the owners can be in several countries and the asset in yet another. Secondly, it’s not something I’m interested in doing!
But the third issue is the most important, I believe that a critical part of the decision to go ahead with a private syndicate is the partners’ personal evaluation of the other members of the syndicate. Negotiating the contract is the perfect way to do this. If you can do this, then you can probably overcome any issues that might arise throughout the life of the syndicate. If I do this for other people, I’m concerned that people will not spend sufficient time getting to know their partners, but just rely on me. I don’t think this is a good idea.
As well as running your2share, I am also an online marketing consultant and I build websites based on WordPress for other people. Until recently, the one thing WordPress couldn’t do well was run classified ads, but this has now changed. I realised a few months ago that I could use WordPress as the basis for yours2share and this is what you will now see.
So the new yours2share is stripped down, just the ads and the guidance. And it works better than any other classified system that I’ve ever tested.
I’ve had a steady stream of people contacting me over the year asking me about yours2share, telling me that they’ve sold shares and generally giving me their support. I really appreciate this.
I also really appreciate the fact that so many people using yours2share have arrived via word of mouth; this has been particularly striking as I’ve been up to my elbows in user data over the last few days. Please keep telling people about us. I’m particularly keen to see more properties from Spain, Greece and Portugal on here. I know they are hard to sell at the moment, and people might like to consider the option of selling a half share, or a couple of one third shares.
Let me know what you think of the new website and if you find something that doesn’t work, please tell me. I hope you enjoy it.
Over the last six years I’ve seen many commercial attempts to make sharing or fractional ownership work, particularly for boats and property. Very few are still in business. The time seems right for this, but the commercial schemes, generally for two to six partners, have two fundamental flaws. They try to:
Consider this scenario, a holiday homes’ company is selling quarter shares and has allocated each share every fourth week in rotation. The first potential customers have school-age children and want three weeks together in peak season. The next couple avoid travelling in school holidays but want 2-3 weeks in both May-June and September-October. The next person is interested in a whole month at both the beginning and end of the year. Hard on their heels are a couple who would like occasional dates throughout the year; they want to use the property at short notice if available.
None of these prospective buyers fits the fixed model. But if they sat down together, I think there is sufficient compatibility to enable a deal to be done. I’m exaggerating, but you get the picture.
The second flaw is even bigger. I wouldn’t even contemplate buying a share without meeting the other buyers. I’d want to be convinced that my fellow owners had similar values, that I could trust them and happily work matters out in future should something go wrong.
Is there an alternative? I think there is, but I haven’t seen anyone doing it yet. I think I could offer a process where people register their interest and indicate their key requirements, followed by matching and facilitation to introduce the potential partners, create a syndicate and manage it if required.
If you are selling holiday accommodation, boats, motorhomes or other big ticket items which could be owned and managed by a private syndicate, I’d be interested to speak to you. Maybe together we could make it work.
Last night’s edition of Channel 4’s Location, location, location with Kirsty Allsopp and Phil Spencer was interesting as it showed three friends buying a property in London together.
What I particularly liked was this was a sensible look at the shared option, with the neither the pros or cons sensationalised, just simply laid out. It struck me that the three friends had thought about it carefully and it was likely to work well for them. It would be very interesting to go back to see how they get on after a year.
I’m always a bit concerned by young first time buyers buying together: often money is extremely tight and they try to cut corners with insufficient legal advice, their careers are moving swiftly so they may need to move on within a year or two, and they simply lack the wisdom to think everything through. In this case, the three friends were older, had evidentally thought things through and understood the compromises that they were prepared to make.
The point that the friends need their solicitors to draw up a Trust Deed was clearly made, defining exactly how the sharing arrangement will work, and particularly the exit strategy.
Looking back at 2011, one the biggest areas of change has been sharing cars (sharing the ownership of cars rather than the equally important lift sharing). Cars represent a huge opportunity for sharing because of the number of very expensive assets which spend the vast proportion of their time unused. Shared ownership of cars used to be relatively difficult to manage. Until recently most shared cars were in private syndicates, predominantly set up to own sports, classic or super cars.
Often the owners had found each other through car owners’ clubs. Because the cars are used infrequently, it is relatively easy to work out when the owners can use the car. The owners are also usually relatively wealthy and relieved simply to reduce the costs and responsibilities of ownership, so apportioning costs is fairly straightforward.
Car clubs like Zipcar and City Car Club have been gathering momentum for some time in the UK, USA and across Europe: the recession has definitely helped them. Car clubs bring people together around a car and manage all aspects of the shared ownership. But they generally operate in cities and suburbs. There are small car clubs in towns and rural areas, but few survive long.
A different model was required if car sharing was to hit the mainstream and I believe this has recently emerged with peer-to-peer rental. This allows people to advertise their car for hire by the hour, day or month. Like ebay, Couchsurfing and many collaborative consumption services, these systems depend upon reviews to develop the necessary trust systems. The owner reviews how well the renter looks after the car: cleanliness, tidiness, petrol as agreed, timeliness of return. Similarly the renter reviews the owner: was the car as advertised, clean, tidy, available etc.
RelayRides in the USA and WhipCar in the UK have forged the peer-to-peer car sharing way forward. In the USA, RelayRides led a change in the law in California to enable peer-to-peer rental: previous laws classified it as normal car hire and effectively made it impossible. HiGear is also pioneering peer-to-peer rental of luxury cars in the USA.
Finally the major car manufacturers are now getting involved. They probably hoped they wouldn’t have to, but they realise that car sharing may become mainstream and if they aren’t part of it, they will suffer. They also know that a shared car is often a person’s first car and they will be looking to hook them to their brand for life. Daimler has a new electric car club called car2go; Ford supplies many cars to Zipcar; BMW and Sixt car rental have created DriveNow car club (German); and Renault supplies Hertz On Demand (a hybrid of car hire and car club).
For more about sharing cars.
Over the last five years there has been an increase in tenants letting accommodation on a Monday to Friday basis. Usually these are people who work away from home and had become fed up with living in hotels or bed and breakfasts all week.
There are some major advantages for Monday to Friday landlords compared with full-time tenants:
Some people working away from home have made a long term commitment to this way of life and buy a small apartment in which to live during the week.
Have any of these people considered letting their accommodation at the weekends when they aren’t there? One recent ad on yours2share is looking for somewhere more “permanent” to stay at weekends only. The advertiser lives in Manchester, but his girlfriend lives in Sheffield and he wants a base in Sheffield for the weekends.
Many people regularly visit a place at weekends, staying in hotels, B&Bs, even friends’ sofas. There are two main reasons:
But visiting sweethearts is equally valid. So is simply having a second home – for fun! When I moved to Norfolk, a rural county in England about two hours north east of London, I soon found that one place in which many Norfolk people wanted to own a second home was London (interestingly many of them have second homes on their own coast). I personally would be very interested in having a base in London that I could use at weekends, but I was surprised to find that I was not on my own.
If these situations are so common, why aren’t more people sharing? I think it is simply because there are no services other to yours2share that can accommodate this and it isn’t a well known service, so it doesn’t occur to people to ask.
Sharing, or “Collaborative Consumption” as it is often now called, really started to gain traction in 2011. I started yours2share in 2006 and frankly most people thought I was insane. Now I hear about new sharing related websites daily and it seems like all my friends and relations are busy Couchsurfing, AirBnB-ing, freecycling, car clubbing, co-working etc. If you want to know more about Collaborative Consumption, I highly recommend Rachel Botsman and Roo Roger’s book “What’s Mine Is Yours: How Collaborative Consumption is Changing the Way We Live”
I am now heavily involved in several other areas of collaborative consumption as well as yours2share. I run a co-working group Norwich Jelly which enables homeworkers, freelancers, self employed and anyone working on their own to co-work together once a month in Norwich, Norfolk. This is part of an international network of Jellys. Most people, like me, work on their own from home, but we’ve seen an increase in professional people with full time jobs based entirely home. Everyone appreciates a day when they can interact with people, laugh a little and share ideas, hints and tips.
I’ve also helped to set up a LETS (Local Exchange Trading System) in the Chet Valley, my local area of Norfolk, which enables local people to trade goods and services for a local “virtual” currency. Our system is still very new, but I’m encouraged at the enthusiasm with which it has been greeted so far.
Finally, we’ve had a few more couchsurfing visitors and they’ve all been a pleasure to have staying with us. We are planning trips to Berlin and to Italy next year and I’m hoping to surf a few couches whilst we are there!
And on that note, I’ll wish a healthy, happy and collaborative New Year.
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