Happy Birthday Ome: a look back at our first year in operation
The word unprecedented is frequently used to describe 2020: the year of the pandemic.
But 2020 is also the year that Hamilton Fraser put its 25 years’ worth of experience in the rental market into launching Ome’s Deposit Replacement Membership.
Let us take you back to April 2020. Think first national lockdown, characterised by baking banana bread and taking part in weekly boozy Zoom quizzes with friends and family.
While many businesses doubled down on their existing product offerings, Hamilton Fraser took this opportunity to launch its newest brand to provide greater choice within the rental market.
Our Deposit Replacement Membership offers an alternative to traditional deposits by removing large upfront costs, providing free expert support through our rental wellbeing helpline, and allowing households to split membership fees with flexible payment options.
Take a look at the timeline of our first year in operation…
Spotting a growing need for greater flexibility and choice in the market, Hamilton Fraser decided to draw on its wealth of deposit protection and private rental sector expertise, by launching its own deposit replacement product – Ome.
Hamilton Fraser announced the launch of Ome in November 2019.
Eddie Hooker, CEO of Hamilton Fraser, said:
“For Hamilton Fraser, launching a deposit alternative product was a very natural expansion, although starting up a new business in the middle of a pandemic was not. However, we have operated within the private rented sector for 25 years now and have a very good understanding of the trials and tribulations of renting, and the wants and needs of our customers.
This became even more apparent when we were approached by many of our landlord and agent members asking if we were able to provide our own deposit replacement option. And so, we did!”
Our Deposit Replacement Membership can help aid cash flow, provide expert support, and simply expand choices available to tenants, landlords and agents.
There have been cases where both landlords and tenants were mis-sold deposit replacement products therefore our focus since day one has been on increasing transparency and flexibility throughout the private rented sector, as well as providing greater choice when it comes to the traditional business of tenancy deposits.
In February 2020, our Co-Founders Nick Hamatsos and Matthew Hooker made one of their first appearances in the sector when they were special guests on the Hamilton Fraser Property Podcast. The episode discusses the evolving deposit market and renewed need for transparency and alternatives like deposit replacements.
During this month, we also published our first blogs on the new website which discussed important rental topics and issues such as ‘The Secret Cost of borrowing a rental deposit’, ‘Deposits drop for the first time in five years’ and ‘How long does it take to save for a rental deposit depending on profession?’
Our Deposit Replacement Membership was launched in April 2020 🎉.
Ome was brought to market with the core aim of raising industry standards and providing increased transparency for all stakeholders in the rental market.
In May, our Rental Wellbeing Helpline went live for all tenants that download and sign up to, the free Ome app. We decided to launch the app earlier than initially planned to support tenants during the pandemic.
We recognised the struggles that many tenants face when renting a home, whether it be financial strain or simply other stresses that come with moving and securing your home. Our helpline was developed to support renters that may have found themselves suffering mentally, physically, or financially.
This has been especially important during the worrying periods of the pandemic, where being made redundant or placed on furlough had led to increased financial strain.
September saw the start of our student campaign, where we published a range of blogs and guides to ease students into their university rental experience; including ‘Ome’s top tips for student renters’ and ‘What to look for when choosing your ideal housemate’.
Our student guidance will continue throughout this year, helping new students to get off to a good start when renting for the first time.
In October, we launched our #RealWorldRenters campaign to collate positive rental stories and reach out to tenants about their experiences. All too often we see negative stories related to landlord and tenant relations and we were keen to change this!
Real-World Renters remains an ongoing campaign, allowing tenants the opportunity to voice their thoughts and experiences in the private rental sector.
“When I think about my positive experiences whilst renting, I automatically think of my landlord in the final year of university.”
“It didn’t take me long to realise that my best option would be to rent somewhere close to work. Fortunately, I found a beautiful spot in no time at all and now I know it was the best decision I ever made.”
“Renting is a lot easier and less stressful, and you have the peace of mind that your landlord is responsible for major repairs etc. I would definitely recommend renting especially in the current climate that we are in”
In December 2020, we launched a sentiment survey for the private rented sector in conjunction with our partners mydeposits. The aim was to gain insight into how tenants, landlords and agents felt about the private rented sector, especially after a challenging year as a result of COVID-19.
The survey’s reach ended up exceeding our expectations in gathering both qualitative and quantitative data with responses from over 14,000 tenants, landlords and agents.
The results portrayed a largely positive viewpoint of the sector, both now and for the future, whilst also identifying some common challenges faced across all three demographics. You can read the full report here.
December 2020 was a busy month for all of us at Ome. As part of the ongoing Real-World Renters campaign, we launched our social media Christmas competition.
Using the hashtag #RealWorldRenters we asked renters to share their positive rental stories to be in with a chance of winning a £50 voucher before Christmas.
These encouraging stories were included in our Real-world renters: Your rental experiences blog to highlight positives within the sector.
“We were renting a property for just over three years and the landlord said that his brother was looking to sell his property and move abroad. He offered it to us before it went to the market and we bought it and had two of our three children there!”
“My lovely landlord was a star he gave us a three-month rental break whilst I was redeployed and my hubby was on furlough, this was such a big boost morally and financially really did help us out.”
A new year brought new opportunities for Ome!
A year on from their original appearance, our co-founders Matthew and Nick appeared on the Landlords, agents and tenants survey the sector (2021) – Hamilton Fraser’s Property Podcast.
When asked how the first year had been for Ome, Matthew Hooker said:
“Other than the elephant in the room, COVID-19, it was quite a successful year! We had a long conversation when COVID-19 hit about whether we launched as planned in April or what if we just ride it out and wait until after COVID-19 to launch. Thankfully, we didn’t choose to delay our launch. And despite navigating an industry impacted greatly by the pandemic, here we are a year later.”
On 1 March 2020, the mydeposits and Ome full report was published on the mydeposits website.
The survey demonstrated widely positive sentiment in the private rental sector and highlighted certain issues which were exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis such as evictions, rent arrears and rising costs.
Also in March we published ‘Deposit replacement options: Everything you need to know’ – a guide to inform and educate about deposit replacement options following the lack of knowledge on the subject highlighted in the Ome and mydeposits sentiment survey results.
Check out all of our guides and the latest updates here. There are many more topics we will be exploring in 2021, such as legislation in the private rented sector and what tenants should be aware of and how renting has changed in the past five years.
For more information on our Deposit Replacement Membership please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or start a live chat today.