Michael Howard

Place Skills | No place like home

I bought my Manchester city centre apartment at the height of the first property boom in October 2003, writes Michael Howard, founder and managing director of Urbanbubble. I was living in 70-unit apartment block where the managing agent wasn’t very good and there was no customer care, or even a basic enquiry handling service.

At the time I was a Centrica/British Gas programme manager identifying multi-million pound service problems and designing solutions. I took voluntary redundancy in 2007 to set up Urbanbubble and a week later my wife announced she was pregnant. Around that time the property market crashed. It was apparently not a great time to launch a start-up in the property sector.

I hit upon the upon the idea for Urbanbubble because I was sick to death of walking into the home I’d bought and not feeling proud. I was seeing communal areas that were unclean, someone had peed in the lift, there was vomit in the corridors that had not been cleaned up. I didn’t want to show my family that.

The block’s agent spent little time at the property or engaging with leaseholders and residents. Over the next three years another leaseholder and I ran the resident management company in our spare time. We discovered and resolved numerous issues within our block, but the seed was planted and I launched Urbanbubble from my spare bedroom.

I designed a management service and delivered a service that consistently met the customer’s needs and aspirations, taking best practices from project management, financial planning and control and customer service disciplines.  I set about designing a service solution that really listened and delivered the voice of the customer.

Now, Urbanbubble has 150 employees and 9,000 residential apartments under management. We have a strong projected growth curve and a sector-leading focus on customer care and service.

We undertake holistic care of property, facilities, management, lettings and residents’ management for a growing number of blue chip and established developers including Legal & General, DTZi, Salboy, Property Alliance Group, Elliot Group and Capital & Centric, plus we will be taking our operation national in 2018/19, during which we will double our workforce.

Whilst Urbanbubble was borne from my frustration and need to make a difference, its enduring success is down to the whole organisation having shared values and an absolutely clear company vision, which was created by everyone on the team “to be the greatest residential property manager, making our cities a better place to live”.

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I like reading these pieces, they are all inspiring. Keep them coming.

By Adam Ash

Great origin story. Up there with Batman Begins

I always wonder about the level of embellishment in these.

By Bruce

No embellishment Bruce, lots more to it but in 500 words, this is it! I hope the story written about urbanbubble in 10 years is even more inspiring as we have an exciting decade ahead!

By Michael Howard