In quest to make ‘home’ a better experience for renters and owners, Belong makes its home in Miami
Relocating its HQ from the Bay Area to Brickell, the venture-backed startup offers a one-stop-shop property management platform.
By Nancy Dahlberg
It’s probably safe to say that most homeowners renting out their abodes don’t love being property managers and most renters don’t enjoy dealing with their landlords when something goes wrong.
Belong is a venture-backed startup that wants to take the hassles out of both sides of that experience. It’s a one-stop-shop property management platform with technology and field staff that aim to make that experience for both the homeowner renting out the home and the renter more delightful, helping both achieve their goals. Belong is now also giving renters a way to save for home ownership.
Today, Belong announced that Miami will be its new headquarters, during a Cafecito Talk with Miami Mayor Francis Suarez. “Miami represents a glimpse at a possible future of the USA, one that’s multicultural, more pragmatic, and less ideological,’ said Belong CEO Ale Resnik, who co-founded the startup with Owen Savir and Tyler Infelise in the Bay Area. “This is an ecosystem where consumer tech can blossom.”
Belong also is announcing more expansion in Florida — its third state for operations following California and Washington. In addition to operating in the Miami market, the startup is launching this month in Orlando and Tampa. Most of Belong’s executive team will be in the new Brickell office, including Resnik and Belong’s new general manager of Florida, Salomon Horowitz, who was hired in Miami.
“The rental experience is one where very often there’s a broken relationship between landlord and tenant and we thought that in many ways it felt like we had been training to solve this forever,” said Savir, the president of Belong who moved to Miami in June. He noted that Belong grew out of his and Resnik’s own bad experiences with landlords or tenants.
“We love the connection between the offline and online worlds. We love building a brand of trust through service, through operations, through technology. We thought that we could make it much better for both sides, both our homeowners who are very stressed about this aspect of their lives being landlords, and our residents, who typically are used to feeling like second-class citizens or check-writing machines,” Savir said.
For homeowners, Belong becomes an operator for their rental home business, taking care of everything and providing peace of mind. The startup provides the homeowner with an in-house maintenance team and financial tools to manage their business. For the tenants, or residents, of those homes, Belong is their concierge to take care of their property needs, Savir said. “We’re going to make sure that you will move into a beautiful home, we’re going to make sure that everything is perfect while you live there, and we’re going to continue accompanying you as you go through your journey from renter to homeowner to maybe even rental homeowner.”
That last part of the journey is very new, launched in Q1. Belong sets aside a small portion of residents’ on-time rent in a wallet for use in a down payment on a home purchase that Belong assists with. “We think about it as a very long-term relationship, with Belong as this trusted partner that helps you with everything you need during that journey,” Savir added. Belong plans to continue adding services to be that one-stop-shop.
Belong launched first in the Bay Area in 2019, and today the startup is servicing thousands of homes and has grown 2½X or 3X every year, said Savir. Belong has about 300 employees in total, including field staff.
Miami is an interesting market to tackle with a solution like Belong. The city of Miami’s owner-occupied home ownership rate is just 30% — about half the national average. In all of Miami-Dade County, the rate is just over 50% and has steadily fallen from 61% 10 years ago. Rents in the city and county have been escalating, with some people reporting annual rental increases of 50% or more this year. Savir acknowledged the relocating executives helped escalate this issue and said he hopes Belong will make the experience “a little bit easier” for homeowners who rent their homes, as well as their renters.
Belong has raised about $135 million in equity and debt financing, including an $80 million Series C equity and debt round in May led by Fifth Wall, and including Andreessen Horowitz (a16z), Battery Ventures and GGV Capital. “The rental market is one of the last remaining large white spaces for technology players in U.S. real estate,” said a16z Partner Jeff Jordan. “Belong aspires to fill that white space while injecting humanity and personality into the home rental market.” A16z recently announced a new Miami Beach office.
About 80% of Belong’s executive team as well as other team members have moved or are planning to relocate to the Brickell area office. Together, Savir estimates that about 20 people are relocating now, and with more relocations and local hiring, he expects the office to grow to about 60 by early next year.
“We visited a couple of times earlier this year, and we love the energy. The vibe and the atmosphere here is one of innovation and building, with a gathering of folks from around the world. It’s so vibrant, diverse and I would say forward-thinking that it was a no brainer for us to make the move,” Savir said.
“Feeling the energy, the tech scene that is starting, our fellow entrepreneurs here around us, the mayor who’s been so welcoming — I love adventures, and this is going to be a wonderful one.”
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