Hello Alfred, an app-based personal assistant service for apartment dwellers, announced today that it’s partnering with Greystar, the nation’s largest apartment operator, to provide its services to tenants. Hello Alfred is betting that its high-end service will appeal to Greystar’s high-income, time-starved renters.
Hello Alfred employs professionally trained home managers to take care of daily tasks, including home cleaning, laundry, and pet care. The service will become available to all of Greystar’s nearly half a million units in the U.S., starting with the 20-plus cities where Hello Alfred is already operating, and rapidly expanding to new markets such as Portland, Phoenix, and San Diego in the coming weeks.
This isn’t the first alliance for Hello Alfred; for the least two years, the company has been partnered with Related Companies, which operates high-end residential buildings in top markets nationwide, including in New York, where it just opened apartments in the Hudson Yards mega-development.
According to Hello Alfred co-founder and CEO Marcela Sapone, the company can grow at scale by working with management companies and offering its service to entire buildings, thereby creating a marketplace for goods and services.
A leader in the amenities arms race
Hello Alfred’s expansion—the five-year-old company has over 300 employees, has raised $52.5 million, and in the last year has seen a 250 percent revenue increase—has occurred against the backdrop of a steep rise in high-end rental properties and renters across the nation.
According to a recent rental housing report from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, 2.9 million new renters making $100,000 or more entered the apartment market between 2006 and 2017, and many chose to live in expensive downtown apartments. Over the last decade, 65 percent of new renter households in New York City, and 93 percent in San Francisco, brought home over $100,000 a year.
To capture those high-end renters, property managers have turned to new amenities to help their buildings stand out. Increasingly, that means more high-tech and experiential offerings, such as digital assistants and event programming, as opposed to physical spaces such as gyms, rooftop decks, and dog parks. Hello Alfred’s hotel-like concierge services help set buildings apart, according to Sapone, and can be a great retention tool.
“The top two ways to separate yourself in a market that’s seen so much activity is adding an infusion of technology, and giving your residence some kind of identity,” Shauntá Bruner, a senior associate with Delta Associates, a commercial real estate research firm, told Curbed. “Everybody has a rooftop grilling area or a dog park. Successful developers need to create things that tell a story and tie together the community.”
For Sapone, it’s simple a matter of giving back time to tenants via a great in-building experience and customizable amenity. For building owners, Hello Alfred provides a turnkey technology solution that makes their renters happy, without forcing real estate owners to wade through a quickly changing and evolving market of smart home services.
Owners can also see how much tenants are spending via Hello Alfred, and even gauge renter sentiment, according to Sapone, who says the company can help identify renters who may not renew. For the company’s direct-to-consumer service in New York City, users spent an average of $350 a month.
“The focus has to be on services, that’s what residents value the most,” Sapone says. “We’re a platform that can plug into a lot of innovation in the service space.”
Going forward, renters living in a Hello Alfred building will be able to take their profile with them if they move into another apartment that offers the service.
Building out a marketplace
Sapone says Hello Alfred’s key differentiator is being a trusted operator that consumers are happy to have in their home. That’s why the company, in contrast to tech’s prevailing gig economy labor model, employs all their staff, known as Alfreds, and pays a starting wage of $16 an hour.
As the rise in personal assistants such as Alexa and Google Home bring more technology, and commerce, into homes and apartments, Sapone believes Hello Alfred is uniquely positioned to gain consumer trust. The company offers services from well-paid workers, and has built a relationship through repeated services from the same staff members. In addition, the data the company collects, which it gains intuitively via providing services, not via tracking or surveillance, can help Alfreds work more efficiently, and eventually help anticipate service needs.
“Nobody’s talking about the elephant in the room,” says Sapone. “Everyone is racing to capture that last-mile delivery. The home is the last precious space where you’re not being tracked. We can provide a zero-click experience and anticipate people’s needs.”
Hello Alfred not only performs an array of domestic tasks, including the increasingly important job of taking packages from lobby to living room, often with its own branded packaging and in-house line of home essentials, but also increasingly facilitates a number of transactions with other businesses. Partnerships with local grocers or dry cleaners give the business a neighborhood footprint, and the company is also looking to expand into more pet care, pet grooming and even babysitting. Sapone calls it “growing the local economy inside the building.”
The company also works with big consumer brands, such as Diageo and Procter & Gamble, to help them test products with the desirable demographic it serves, those living in high-end rental properties.