The Luxembourg coliving operator Vauban&Fort is joining Co-Liv in building out the Co-Liv Summit 2021. In this article, Jerome Ensch, cofounder and CFO, is going to share Vauban&Fort’s story, how it is changing the shared living scene and where it’s heading in collaboration with Co-Liv.
I have been living in London and New York for over a decade and Vauban&Fort has developed out of the experiences of coliving in such cosmopolitan, urban centres. At the very heart of a successful flatshare is the concept of home and the people who live there are key contributors to the overall happiness of everyone involved. That is why our community is at the centre of what we do and we continuously nurture and develop the experience that our tenants have.
A curious story about our name:
We are called Vauban&Fort because Le Prestre de Vauban, who was the chief architect under the French king Louis XIV, was the mastermind that transformed Luxembourg into the foremost fortification in central Europe. Our name is a homage to his tangible genius and is based on the idea of ‘my home, my castle’.
Luxembourg has high real estate prices and a limited offer of housing units. Coliving by design offers the solutions to Luxembourg’s housing crisis. While the Grand Duchy remains an economic powerhouse and over 70% of its residents in the capital are expats, real estate prices have increased by about 8–10% per year for over a decade. This provides an interesting but also challenging environment to operate, as the base rent that property owners ask is high, too.
In a way we sit at this perfect junction between local owners and international expats and are a platform of trust to both alike.
We believe that coliving will continue to expand substantially in Luxembourg city and fully emerges out of its niche over the course of 2020–2022. The next 2 to 3 years will be key to take a much larger part of the market. As one of the pioneers of coliving in this region we see ourselves as being at the right place at the right time and are excited about the future.
To us, it is a priority to make the CO in COmmunity one of the driving forces behind our business. There are many competitors who claim to have discovered coliving for themselves but whose business concept does not focus on the community aspect. New members join our community through individual interviews, where we match tenants to a given property taking into account their background and interests. We continuously seek new ways in which tenants, our Fortmates, can interact and engage with each other (community votes on our shared Spotify playlists across all the flats for instance). Then again we also strongly focus on bonding activities (hikes, socials, board games etc). By placing the community centre stage we are aligned with our goal of creating exciting experiences by design, not by accident. In turn that also increases the rental yield as potential tenants are ready to pay more to have such an experience.
The way we acquire new clients has repeatedly changed over the last 5 years and the power of social media is not to be underestimated. We invest heavily in IT and the continuous development of our platform. Our clientele are very much in touch with the latest social media trends and we have strongly expanded our presence on social media and in particular also on Instagram. In turn we reduced our spending on Search Engine Optimization but on the other hand increased our advertising budget on all social media platforms.
Our most important goal is to become a large player for coliving in the greater region around Luxembourg.
Currently, the #1 thing that is holding back the coliving movement is the reluctance and uncertainty from real estate owners to enter the industry. This is why we also wanted to partner up with Co-Liv to create and promote the necessary content that will accelerate the shift in perspective of the real estate industry in the Grand Duchy.