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July 25, 2011 | by  | in Features |
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Find a Flat Fast


New Zealand is home to many ingenious ideas. The pavlova, jetboat and electric fence are all the products of Kiwi ingenuity.

New Zealanders pioneered the use of a whistle while refereeing and the sport of Zorbing (where individuals appear to re-enact nightmares of being trapped in the transparent plaything of a giant toddler). A relatively recent Kiwi invention is ‘speed-renting’, developed by Queenstown resident Liz McLean.

McLean became a flat hunter unexpectedly in 2006 when her house burnt down. Speed-renting was created in response to the flaws McLean perceived in the existing flat hunting system. McLean established a website, and speed-renting events subsequently gained popularity in both Auckland and Wellington. Since the idea’s inception, speed-renting initiatives have taken off in Australia, Canada and Britain. The Telegraph reported at the beginning of last month that over 17,000 people expected to attend speed-renting events in 2011 run by Spare Room UK.

As its name implies, speed-renting is similar to the concept of speed dating. The initiative provides an opportunity to find flatmates over a beverage in a relaxed environment, rather than the norm of awkwardly showing a stranger around the flat as you assess their suitability. In contrast to speed dating, there is no time limit on how long participants can talk to each other. There is also no obligation for every person with a flat to talk with every flat seeker. As London event organiser Ben Craft told The Telegraph “if you don’t like their jacket, you don’t have to live with them”.

Speed-renting possesses two key attributes of a successful invention—it was a good idea and it came at the right time. The global financial crisis created a high demand for rental properties with fewer young people in a position to invest in their first home. Speed-renting responded to this demand by providing a meeting point for the hordes of flat-hunters to make contact with property owners and other lessees.

The initiative also came at a time of increasing awareness about the environmental impact of housing choices. Earthsharing Australia, an ‘economic justice’ project, has used the idea of speed-renting in Melbourne to address a situation where land is underutilised despite a high demand for housing. Speed-renting helps people to share land and property which in turn lessens their environmental footprint.

While all forms of flatting have this positive environmental impact, speed renting caters for a wider range of people than traditional flat-hunting methods. Speed-renters can meet and assess potential candidates before giving out personal information. Because speed-renting provides a higher degree of control over the renting process, it opens flatting up to groups who would otherwise be excluded because of security concerns, specific requirements, or hesitancy at entering the rental market after a long break (for example, individuals left with a spare room once their children move out).

Although the number of speed-renting events in Wellington has dwindled, both Southern Cross and Mighty Mighty have facilitated speed-renting events in the past.

Speed-renting is based on a simple idea—that selecting who you live with is of a similar level of importance to choosing who you date. The international success of McLean’s initiative just goes to show that this conviction seems to resonate with communities across the globe.

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