Renting is just three steps. Interview to Gazeta Finansowa.
Zdena Noack, managing Director of Zeitraum Student Housing: “We started our business five years ago in Prague, where we built our first student residence. At that time, we were the only company on the private student residence market. Today we offer 460 beds in four houses and of course we want to develop further. Now, however, we focus our main attention on Poland.”
“We had no competition in the Czech Republic five years ago. The market of private student dormitories did not exist, neither there, nor in Poland. We were pioneers, whose experience is used today by investors from Western Europe” - says Zdena Noack, Managing Director of ZEITRAUM Student Housing in an interview with Agnieszka Bulus-Trando at Biznes INFO.TV
You are the largest operator of student dormitories in the Czech Republic and target the top three in Poland. What is the source of your success?
We started our business five years ago in Prague, where we built our first student residence. At that time, we were the only company on the private student residence market. Today we offer 460 beds in four houses and of course we want to develop further. Now, however, we focus our main attention on Poland.
How many properties do you currently have in the Czech Republic and Poland and what investments are you planning?
In the Czech Republic, we currently run four student houses. This year, we plan to open two more buildings for short and long-term living with an additional 300 beds. We develop them not only for students, but also for young employees and corporate clients. In turn, Poland is a large country, so the scale of our activities will be much greater here. To begin with, we plan to open two or three halls of residence in Warsaw next year. We are also interested in Kraków and the Tri-City, where we are negotiating more real estate.
What are your standard lease agreements like? What distinguishes you and are there any differences between the contracts concluded in the Czech Republic and in Poland?
There are no big differences between the Czech Republic and Poland. We have built our own online booking platform called Zeitgeist.re. We try to conclude all contracts via the Internet. We want everything to be comfortable and easy. In the Czech Republic, most of our clients are students from the United States, Australia and Western Europe.
Who are your main customers and what is your goal in Poland? What kind of customers do you want to attract?
There are not so many American students in Poland, but many come from Ukraine, Northern Europe and Asia. In addition, a large group are domestic students. So we are adjusting to take advantage of the potential dormant in this market.
We have heard about a new project planned for 214 beds. Construction works are to begin soon in Warsaw's Solec district. What will this project look like?
"Solec 22" will be our flagship investment in Poland. We plan it for 220 beds. The building will be modernized in a modern way and its location is fantastic. The greatest advantages are the proximity of the Vistula waterfront, the vicinity of universities and good communication with the city center. The standard of the dormitory will be very similar to what you can see in our student halls of residence in Prague. We hope to start construction work next month. We are already looking forward to the opening.
Your main sales tool is your own specialized ZEITRAUM.re platform. How does the process of renting a room through this platform look like, step by step?
ZEITRAUM.re is our main sales channel. We created this system from the very beginning. The rental process consists of three steps. The student has to choose the location and type of room on our website: single, double or larger, confirm the willingness to rent with a click, pay the deposit and that's it. After that, all you have to do is show up on the spot with the code received. The rental itself is only three steps, which does not require the help of an employee of the company. We are very proud of such a working platform.
Has the pandemic we are in now has changed your plans a lot?
Our plans are still the same, both in Poland and in the Czech Republic. Of course, the presence of the pandemic had an impact on us: previously, rooms in Czech dormitories were rented in 99%, and now this number has dropped to 70%, but this is still a good result. We know that the declines are mainly due to the fact that students are not allowed to travel to the Czech Republic. The demand for our services in Prague is still high, we receive inquiries from other universities.
In Poland, private student dormitories are just developing, but foreign students have specific requirements, and Polish students are also striving to make the requirements higher and higher. What can you expect in your dormitories? What standard do you offer and how do you want to attract students?
The most important thing for us is a good location, we always choose places in the city center or close to the city center. The location not far from universities is also important. The buildings themselves must be modern. We have a concept of finishing and furnishing the rooms to make them nice, friendly and clean. We offer three main types of rooms: single, double and apartments with their own kitchen. The buildings have study rooms, shared kitchens and dining rooms. In almost every dormitory there is a large reception, where the service is available 24/7. The houses also have good internet connections made available via WiFi. All utilities are included in the rental price, so you only have to pay one fee each month. Our priorities are modernity and comfort. We do not introduce as many amenities as our competition, e.g. gyms, and we do not plan to change this. We strive to ensure that our buildings have what is necessary for students: kitchens, dining rooms and study rooms.
When do you think Poland will catch up with Western markets in terms of the number and, above all, the quality of places in private dormitories?
I think it will take several years. At the moment, only 10 percent. the demand for student housing is covered, and of these 10 percent. only a fraction are private student houses. The rest of the places are provided by apartments rented from private persons. So it takes a long time to change it. The quality of private dormitories is high, but there are very few of them. I think it will take Poland five years or more to catch up with Western markets.
What do you think has had and will have the greatest impact on the development of the private student dormitory sector in Poland?
Poland is a large country with many student cities. It attracts huge numbers of students from all over the world, their number is still growing. I am convinced that in the future there will be people not only from Ukraine, Belarus, Turkey or Scandinavia, but also, in 5-10 years, also students from the United States and Australia. I think Poland's potential is very large and we will have a lot to do here.
The last question: what do you and the industry wish for the private student dormitory market to grow and develop in Poland?
Today we see the difficulty in the fact that the processes of obtaining permits and contacts with local governments take too much time. This applies not only to the private student residence market. The situation is similar in the Czech Republic, but the situation is already improving there. In Poland, we sometimes get stuck, so it would be good if this changed in the future.Back to the list