Searching for an apartment sucks, but Apartment List could make the process less painful.
Today the startup debuted its iOS app that provides people with easy access to apartment listings from their mobile device.
Apartment List is an apartment search engine that aggregates millions of listings from around the country and puts them together in a map-based interface, with filters for price, neighborhood, number of bedrooms, amenities, and even pet-friendliness. The site has an average of 14.5 photos per listing, so renters can get a better idea of an apartment before going to look at it in person, and they can directly contact landlords through the site. You can save and sync listings across multiple devices, and it has you can also use it to make notes after seeing each prospect. This feature is particularly useful on mobile, because renters can document their opinions on-the-spot.
Founder John Kobs said more than one-third of Americans are renters and looking for a new pad is a “time-sucking, headache-filled process.” One of the biggest problems in the rental industry is “information asymmetry.”
“Anyone that has had a difficult experience searching for an apartment on Craigslist knows that it is a broken model with low-quality listings, scams, and little-to-no vetting of the quality of properties and the individuals associated with them,” Kobs said to VentureBeat. “There’s a lot of bait-and-switch that happens in today’s online and mobile rental market, with scammers, unsavory characters, and false advertising. We’re the team that is laser focused on reinventing the rental market based on a foundation of trust and transparency for renters and landlords.”
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Apartment List is taking on some pretty major competitors. In addition to Craigslist, it’s targeting Zillow, which claims to list “practically every home in the U.S.” and is now taking on the rental market. Zillow earned $34.4 million in revenue in the fourth quarter of 2012, and over half its traffic came from mobile readers. Trulia is another heavyweight competitor, which recently raised $150 million to boost its cash reserves for acquisitions. Then there is PadMapper, which Craigslist sued for scraping its data and blocked from accessing its listings. A judge ordered that Craigslist couldn’t sue PadMapper and similar site 3Taps earlier this year.
This makes rental listings a competitive space, but the big players are active acquirers, which could present an opportunity for Apartment List.
The startup was founded in 2011 by Kobs and cofounder Chris Herndon. They both worked in finance and owned rental properties, and they quit their jobs in 2011 to fix the broken rental process. Apartment List is a relative newcomer to the scene and has raised just $1 million in seed funding, but the company is doing well. It now has 46 employees and recently won a Webby Award for Best Real Estate site. It is based in San Francisco.