An idiot’s guide to the sharing economy.

We are living in a generation where collaboration in business has reached heights never seen before and I passionately believe this is something to embrace.

The sharing economy, by definition, is an economic system in which assets or services are shared between private individuals, either free or for a fee, typically by means of the Internet. It includes "sharing, bartering, lending, trading, renting, gifting, and swapping redefined through technology and peer communities.” It is based on the idea that having access to a good or service can be preferable to having ownership of such good or service and that there are benefits to collaboration in ownership.

In property, the sharing economy has seen a huge rise in the number of start-up businesses that are trying to embrace change in both the commercial and residential property sector and as a result have been feeding off the current share economy. If you look at the workspace market in London for example, the rise of co-working has been phenomenal. Reports say that stock levels of co-working space in central London is 2.7x what it was in 2007 with over 10 million square foot of office space in London. The concept of co-working provides individual’s with access to a multitude of shared office space – allowing fluidity of business movement as well as allowing space for collaboration and creativity in the workplace. Some of the best examples within the industry are WeWork, The Office Group and Huckletree; all now successful brands despite having only been conceived in the last 10 years or so. With more and more products on the market, there needs to be a successful way for the consumer to access this. Traditionally, this was done by office brokers however there are now new businesses that are challenging the norm and utilising technology to streamline the transactional process. Hubble, WorkThere and Kontor are prime examples of businesses that are thriving off a share economy; their digital brokering services are changing the way not only people, but the industry think about how traditional office space is transacted. It also allows smaller businesses access to a product that would normally be off limits, reducing barriers to entry.

The ideology has been similarly replicated in the retail market with companies such as AppearHere and Storefront allowing retailers’ access to retail space on a short-term basis, benefiting a landlord with income on space which would have otherwise been void.

A prime example of success in the residential market for the share economy is of course Airbnb; they have completely changed the game and are the leaders in their respective field, offering an on-demand service for short term property rentals throughout the world.

With all innovation comes complication though and critique of a sharing economy is safety. When offering an on-demand service that connects a service provider to a consumer such as a platform like Airbnb or Uber, there are sometimes little or no regulations from said service provider. In many cases the service provided is a secondary service to their normal day to day work, i.e. an Airbnb host who is offering a spare room, or a secondary property is not always trained in hospitality, nor have they always gone through a rigorous safety check. Often you can find yourself reliant on human nature alone; this problem can be combated by more regulations or stringent checks by the broker to ensure there is minimal chance of something going wrong.

What has been the best example of the sharing economy that you have used?


Written by Luke Joy, Head of Commercial at GKR London Property Recruitment.

Tel: 0207 048 3304