Furniture Rental Business ‘Fülhaus’ Launches 1st Retail Space in Montreal

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He now works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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Fülhaus, a design and furnishing service for hotels, apart-hotels, and short-term rentals in Canada, the USA, and Europe, has launched a new concept as Montreal’s first direct-to-consumer furniture rental service.

Starting in the greater Montreal area, Fülhaus plans to expand to Canada and the US in 2021 where it also operates.

“More and more consumers are looking for furnished rental apartments, especially in urban centres and high-mobility destinations, especially in these more uncertain times. While landlords get used to the idea of furnishing their units, there are a lot of people that are more willing to rent furniture rather than fork over the expensive price tag of owning it,” said Andria Santos, the company’s CEO.

“On the business side of things we actually service all of North America and Europe, so we wanted to launch in Montreal. It is our hometown. We kind of wanted to cater it to the city, be one of the first real furniture rental companies in the city. But we do offer services across North America and across Canada as well. So we’ll be expanding slowly and you’ll see those launches coming up shortly.”

Santos founded Fülhaus in 2015 as a way for short-term rental business owners to better compete with hotels with photo-ready interior design and affordable furnishings.

Santos said the company realized it was excluding a large portion of the population where landlords are not willing to furnish but many people, especially in the central business district, want to live there for a certain period of time however they don’t want to commit to the entire furnishings for whatever their next move was going to be.

“So we felt like we were excluding a whole demographic and a whole consumer market. One of the big things was to figure out our deliverable system and really to offer the services and figure out how we retain that service level for the consumer as much as we do for the business. That’s been a work in progress that we feel we really figured out,” said Santos.

“Now that we’ve launched it, it felt like the perfect time. People are home. Everybody’s focusing on how to upgrade their homes right now since they’re not travelling.”

The company cited some interesting demographic data as a reason it has entered into this new market. According to Statistics Canada, 32.2 percent of Canadians don’t own permanent homes. It is even larger for millennials, where 49.8 percent don’t own a home. Homeownership, especially among young Canadians, has decreased 5.3 percent over the past four decades.

While millennials appear to be opting out or unable to own a home, the average cost of rent continues to increase. According to Urbanization’s 2020 report, the price of a furnished condo has increased by 52 percent within the past year, said Fülhaus, adding that the pre-furnished condo is a progressively unaffordable option.

“I don’t want to commit to a $2,000 sofa for a home I don’t currently own. Let alone move it as often as I move, or have to sell it. There’s a gap in the market for people who love design but don’t want to own it (yet),” said Santos.

The numbers involving millennials and homeownership raise the question of where are they going to get all this furniture for their rental spaces. It is a pricey endeavour. And it’s for their temporary space.

“Even myself, I don’t want to live in a rental forever. Nor do I want to buy furniture for this rental space and then have to move it eventually in a home I might own. It’s kind of a logical scenario,” said Santos.

“A lot more millennials are mobile and especially now work from home so you don’t want to own all of this stuff that makes you responsible for it if you have to pick up and move.”

Fülhaus adapted its B2B model by removing some of the extras like installation, staging and photography more associated with marketing properties. Customers can take an online quiz that determines their project scope and design preferences and then matches them with one of Fülhaus’s many and evolving seasonal design packages.

Each package comes with specially curated furniture selected from over 300 designer brands including Lolio, Nuevo, Safavieh, Moe’s, and TOV. The price for a one-bedroom home design and furnishing package starts at $350 per month, and includes free professional curation with the option to renew after a year at a discount, buy back the furniture or swap out.

Fülhaus will initially offer packages for dorm rooms, home offices, studio apartments, and one to four bedroom homes.

Santos said furniture used as rental can be reclaimed by the company and be put to use again if it is in good condition or donate it to charities such as Habitat for Humanity.

“It really is super important for us to make sure that furniture goes not to a landfill, not to the side of the road but actually gets reused and that we actually follow it through its lifecycle,” she said.

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