Many of you will remember back in October 2019, when one of UK’s most popular and beloved online letting agent, Upad.co.uk, unexpectedly took a turn for the worse and met its maker, leaving behind a trail of stranded and confused customers.
One day they were open, the next… *poof*
While many of us mourned, paid our respects, and thanked Upad for their fabulous service and contribution to the industry, others rubbed their mitts together and spotted an opportunity to profit from a resurrection.
Yup, someone actually jumped on top of the corpse and revived the ol’ girl with the kiss of life!
Upad is back, baby!
Of course, that means many of us landlords are wondering what on earth happened, and more importantly, are they the same Upad we once knew and adored, and should we use their tenant-find service today?
In fact, Upad were revived back in January (2020), but it’s all been kept rather hush-hush while the workshop Elves have been busy gluing the decaying corpse back together.
The concern is, no one is ever the same – physically or mentally – after being pulled back from the afterlife, so what exactly have they cooked up back there? Is it a masterpiece, or a limp-dicked, one-eyed, creation of Frankenstein, that rattles with loose bolts? Now that’s the question to be asking!
Presumably they have made some good progress, because the Upad marketing team has recently started to make some noise – not enough to wake the neighbours – but enough to get my attention, for sure.
Why am I telling you now [if they’ve been back in action since January]?
- Coronavirus came along, which pretty much made me re-prioritise my life, including the crap I blog about.
- Upad only recently reactivated their marketing newsletters (that’s the noise I referred to earlier), and that caused confusion and fear among the recipients (i.e. former customers) that didn’t realise Upad were back. One landlord I spoke to thought it was spam email, another thought that a dopey caretaker had fallen asleep on an “activate” button, which accidentally triggered the newsletters.
I get the impression the party coordinators for the “welcome back party” made a hash of what was meant to be a magical moment- they needed be clearer about the overall situation.
It’s time to bury the confusion, perhaps down the same hole Upad were recently occupying. Poetic.
- I didn’t want to break the news before observing Upad’s movements from afar. I thought I may spot some interesting changes to the business which would make for a great story.
I wanted to give Upad the opportunity to re-find their feet.
They’ve had enough time.
So what happened? Why/how are Upad back?
So, as it turns out, it’s really not an interesting story. Or at least, my version of it isn’t.
To be honest, I don’t know much, I wish I knew more. I’ll share the little I do know.
But first things first, let me just say that I CALLED IT!
From the day Upad got disarmed and taken down for the count, I suspected there would be negotiations and kerfuffles going on behind the scenes, either to rescue the sinking ship, or to quickly sell off the remains of what’s left to the highest bidder.
In one way or another, I always believed Upad would be reborn, I just wasn’t sure when or in what form.
Upad may have been running an unprofitable business for too long, but they’ve always had at least one valuable asset firmly in their grips, right until the bitter end: a database of active customers, which yes, was diminishing by the day, but still filled with landlords willing to pay top-dollar for a service widely available for a lot less.
I knew that was enough to kick-start a bidding war between a few of the other existing online agents. I don’t know if that’s what happened, but the nefarious side of me hopes it did, and that things turned ugly. Real ugly.
But then again, I wouldn’t be surprised if no one flinched because they saw little value – and too much danger – in a vessel being powered by a squeaky engine that was inevitably about to run out of fuel and clap out.
In any case, here’s what we do know: the online agent Howsy (formerly known as NoAgent) saw an opportunity and ended up buying Upad out of administration.
Howsy owns Upad.
Howsy now control Upad’s services and website, but they will operate as two independent services.
Howsy primarily focuses on offering low-cost fully-managed solutions for landlords, while Upad focuses on premium tenant-find packages, so the acquisition seems like a wise strategic play.
Upad lives again. The power has been switched back on.
I mean, quite literally, it looks like someone simply strolled into the office and flicked on the power switch, because the Upad website and packages *look* and function exactly the same as they did before we buried them last year. Moreover, if you have used Upad in the past and have an account with them, all your details remain in tact, so you can quickly relist your properties for marketing if you want.
So how much did Howsy cough up for Upad?
I genuinely don’t have the foggiest, but I wish I did.
A little birdie told me that Howsy picked up a “bargain”, but obviously that means sweet F-all to anyone. How much is a company on life support even worth these days? Unfortunately I haven’t even caught the tail end of a single rumour that indicates a monetary value.
HEY HOWSY, HOW MUCH DID YOU PAY FOR IT, AND MAYBE THEN I’LL DECIDE WHETHER IT’S A BARGAIN OR NOT, ALRIGHT? Was there even an exchange of money, or did you go old-school and trade a trunk full of spices, silk and livestock? Come on, spill it!
If anyone knows the undisclosed sum, jot it down on a napkin and slip it down my bra. I won’t tell a single living soul.
Do I recommend Upad to Landlords today?
Ahh. Now that’s one hell of a question.
As many of you know, I used to proudly promote Upad’s services and I currently promote Howsy’s managed services.
I like Howsy and I have a good relationship with… the poor marketing chap that got lumbered with the task of dealing with me and my gob (Hi, Mark, what’s up? Call me!)
Now that I’ve buttered Howsy up like a Christmas turkey, do you think it would be cool to switch it up on them? ’cause the painful truth is, in this moment of time, I cannot personally recommend Upad’s tenant-find services (even though it is operated by Howsy). But that’s not because they have done anything wrong since being patched back together, but rather:
- I haven’t used Upad since the resurrection.
I haven’t received enough feedback from the people.
What I mean is, I haven’t spoken to enough landlords that have used their service since the relaunch to draw any meaningful conclusions. Particularly, if the service is still the same.
Upad have always had a solid reputation – but I don’t know if they live up to that same reputation today.
It’s still very early days, so I’m sure they are still ironing out problems and playing around with the mechanics under the hood.
From what I’m aware they haven’t done any big marketing pushes – besides from a few scraggly newsletters targeting their existing client base – so that tells me the product and/or integration isn’t where they want it to be.
One of my biggest concerns with Upad was their pricing and the shitty “uChoose” product range they introduced (which was when they started losing their way, in my opinion).
The bog-standard tenant-find package, which was literally starved of features, was a whopping £149, while OpenRent (a significantly more popular online agent), is shifting the same product for £29 (and that’s after a free, no obligation, 5 day trial).
Regrettably, Upad’s pricing and packages seems to have come out of this unscathed, and that’s the one limb I was hoping the maggots would attack and digest first. The starting price is still a mind-boggling £149.
Dear God, I hope they’re not going to continue milking their precious database with those ludicrous fees for much longer, because that’s where I believe Upad cocked it up before. Upad’s loyal subjects deserve better than that surely.
I imagine many landlords were left scarred by the abrupt fall of Upad, so I hope those relationships get rebuilt the right way. Actually, I think they’ll need to if they don’t want to destroy the Upad brand for eternity.
It’s still early days though, so we’ll see.
Yes, I previously had no qualms with promoting Upad despite their comparatively hefty price-tags for the reasons I shared in my ‘farewell Upad’ blog post:
- They generously provided my subscribers with exclusive 56% discount codes, which massively alleviated the pain.
- They provided unparalleled customer service, which was worth every penny (in combination with the discount code).
I suspected that Upad’s overspending was part of their tragic demise; they had a customer service department the size of a football team and that must have cost a small fortune to maintain. But it was great customer service.
For Upad to be viable going forward, I don’t believe it’s feasible to throw as many bodies on the front-line as once upon a time. Lessons needed to be learned, so I’m *guessing* Upad 2.0 is a streamlined version of its former self.
So while I’m unarmed with luscious discount codes and currently unconvinced you’ll receive any more of a service from Upad 2.0 than what you can expect from the significantly cheaper alternatives, it’s a real tough sell.
Will my opinion change in the future? Maybe. Probably.
Like I said, Upad/Howsy haven’t stolen the jam out of my doughnut nor am I disappointed by their service. I like Howsy. The issue is, I just can’t think of an objective reason to choose Upad over any other online agent.
That said, would I discourage anyone else from using their service? Not really. But I’d politely remind landlords that this is a relatively new and unknown Upad, and there’s no telling what kind of freak they have reincarnated in the laboratory, and meanwhile, there are much cheaper alternatives with proven track records.
Point of the story? Upad lives on.
Welcome back, old friend.
If you’ve used Upad 2.0 (post Jan 2020), I’d love to hear from you, so go ahead, leave a comment…
Update 29th April 2020: if you previously had credit leftover in your Upad account, they should still be available for you to use. If your credit is not in your account [when you log in], you should contact firstname.lastname@example.org. They can check the records and add them manually if they’re missing.
Disclaimer: I'm just a simple landlord blogger; I'm not qualified to give legal or financial advice. Any information I share is my opinion based on my personal experiences as an active landlord, and should never be construed as legal or professional advice. For more information, please read my full disclaimer.