Heike Ruwe helps visiting professors, bank trainees and managers on training courses. From the FR series 'At Your Service'.
Some claim the service industry is sadly lacking - not in Frankfurt! With her company WohnRaumAgentur, Heike Ruwe specialises in finding temporary, furnished accommodation for her clients.
RHEIN MAIN: "If you want a job done properly, you have to do it yourself". This is the motto that Heike Ruwe has been following over the last few years. She began earning an extra income finding furnished rooms for trade fair visitors, and, although her colleagues were sceptical at first, it soon became apparent that demand was growing. Not only were single rooms desired but increasingly fully furnished accommodation, from small apartments to luxury maisonettes, and for longer periods of time. A new business was born.
Many people visiting the metropolis of Frankfurt are looking for accommodation for just a few months: for example, managers on training courses, professors who are lecturing for a semester at the university and are accompanied by family, or bank trainees who are in training at the bank's HQ.
Demand is growing for comfortable accommodation for short term tenancies. Heike Ruwe, originally from Munster, left her permanent job in the summer of 1998. Market research, a study in the loft, a telephone, a computer and a fax, a few good contacts and the agency WohnRaumAgentur was on its feet. "I really had discovered a niche market!", sums up the now 32-year-old managing director.
She sees her company's strengths in its "outstanding customer service" and "attention to detail". If a landlord decides to take advantage of what WohnRaumAgentur has to offer, first the apartment is surveyed. Then Heike Ruwe draws up a profile of the apartment, together with the specific preferences of the owner.
The most important information is later stored in a database and is regularly updated. Details about the apartment and the landlord's preferences are entered: Non-smokers only? Which direction do the balcony and patio face? What is the flat like? Are bed linen and towels provided?
Around 550 furnished apartments are currently logged in Mrs Ruwe's database. In addition to private individuals seeking accommodation, it is predominantly the larger concerns, such as Siemens, Bosch Telecom and IBM, which regularly take advantage of Mrs Ruwe's agency.
"It often happens that I have to reject apartments after having viewed them. I do not include any apartments in my range which are only just borderline. However, we can then advise the landlord on potential improvements in order to be accepted onto our books." This would seem to be a worthwhile investment since the profit from the letting of furnished apartments can be substantial. A glance at WohnRaumAgentur's price list provides us with an inkling: Single room apartments cost between 800 and 1,400 German Marks; two to three room apartments around 2,500 Marks; and four to five room apartments between 2,500 and 4,500 Marks, (excluding security deposit and procurement charge). The procurement charge is based on the length of the tenancy period and the net rent. The maximum charge is one and a half times the monthly rent.
WohnRaumAgentur also has a website. A tele-sales training course is coming up next and on 01.09.99 the agency will be moving into a new office in Frankfurt. "Then customers can come to our office where they can receive qualified advice", because the success of the business goes hand in hand with the level of customer service. So it is no surprise that the agency not only gives advice to new customers, but also a map of the area, information regarding public transport and a name sign on the door of every new home. The fact that Heike Ruwe is considering marketing her idea as a franchise company also comes as no surprise.