In late November, Bill Smith launched Landing, a flexible living company with a leasing model for fully furnished apartments in various cities across the U.S.
At the time, Smith believed he was on the cusp of an emerging trend in American living toward the ability to easily move from city to city with minimal commitment — but he had no idea how much that trend would be accelerated with the rise of the coronavirus pandemic.
Landing’s new member enrollment soared 210 percent month over month in May while hard-hit cities like New York City, where reservations plunged 90 percent between March and May 2020, fell in favor. On the West Coast, 30 percent of all reservations made nationwide happened in Texas, with a majority of those coming from Californians.
“When I started working on this business, I thought that over the next decade people would transition to living this way,” Smith told Inman. “I thought that would happen over about a decade where it would increasingly grow. And what we’ve seen is, I think that’s been accelerated by COVID. People are living, particularly in cities that have been harder hit and have stricter lock downs. They want to leave and they want flexibility to go to other places.”
As a result of the heightened demand for flexible living, the company has expanded to 11 new U.S. cities since February, including Chicago, Seattle and Washington, D.C., on top of its initial six, while also hiring three executives to its leadership team with experience in similar travel and hospitality-based companies: Marcus Higgins, formerly of hospitality chain OYO, Casey Woo, formerly of shared workspace company WeWork, and Andrew Speyer, formerly of vacation rental marketplace Airbnb.
“As we aggressively scale Landing, we have built out our management team with an eye on the future as we continue to grow our national presence,” Smith said in a press statement about the expansion.
With the transition to a largely remote workforce in the wake of the pandemic, Smith told Inman that renters have been eager to take advantage by moving to what they may see as a more attractive city during a tenuous time.
“With people being able to work from home, they think, ‘Well I can live anywhere, so why would I want to live in this high-cost city if I can move to another city?'” Smith said. “So, we’ve seen the desire for flexibility and at the same time, home is more important than ever. People are home a lot, and they want a nice place. And all of our apartments are professionally designed and furnished with our exclusive line of furniture that’s manufactured exclusively for us and they’re really nice. So, people want a nicer place, they want the flexibility and we’re able to offer that to them.”
A membership with Landing costs $199 per year, and monthly rent rates vary from city to city and apartment to apartment. Members can expect continuity in furnishings across all cities, and access to on-call concierge and housekeeping services.
Smith said he created Landing out of a desire to make the renting process easier and less painful for renters.
“I experienced first-hand a lot of the pain points of moving a few years ago when I relocated to San Francisco, and just realized at that time how much friction and complexity there is with renting,” Smith said. “It’s generally an offline process that happens talking to leasing agents and leasing offices, and then there’s the steps of setting up utilities and insurance and buying and moving furniture. All these things that really, is just a lot of friction and, I thought, unnecessary pain.”
Landing is one of a few flexible living companies that emerged in recent years as travel and working from home grew in popularity. WeLive is a company that operates in New York and Washington, D.C. that offers stays for as little as a few days. Zeus Living is another similar flexible leasing platform with a focus on professionals who may need to travel for work, and operates in select cities on both coasts. Co-living companies like Common and Outsite have taken the concept to a different level by creating more social-friendly common areas for group interactions while also providing furnished private spaces with flexible leases.
During a time when people have been cautious about traveling in and out of different short-term stays in which other travelers of unknown COVID-19 status may have occupied the space just days before, Smith said he hasn’t heard concerns from Landing members about the company’s cleaning procedures.
“That has not come up,” Smith said. “We have like a 65-point cleaning and inspection process that we put all of our homes through when they turn over from member to member and we share that information with our members. So … I haven’t heard of anybody bringing that up, actually.”