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Apartment List is fixing the painful, time-sucking process of rental search

Above: For rent

Image Credit: Aaron Kohr/Shutterstock

Shelter is a basic human need, but it can be infuriatingly difficult to find a place to live in many American cities.

Apartment List claims to be the fastest-growing apartment search engine in the U.S. and has raised $15 million in funding to help people find homes.

Founder John Kobs described the effort of looking for an apartment as a “time-sucking, headache-filled process,” and his mission is to reinvent the rental market.

“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 told 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.”

Approximately 100 million people in America are renters. The housing crisis and economic recession caused an uptick in the number of renters, and a survey conducted by the MacArthur Foundation found that more than half of Americans say buying a home has become less appealing.

Apartment List’s goal is to become the most trusted and easy-to-use search engine for rental listings.

The engine 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 20,000 reviews and 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.

You can directly contact landlords about listings you are interested in, save and sync listings across multiple devices, and use the app to make notes after seeing each prospect.

Real estate search is a highly competitive market, with major players such as Craigslist, Zillow, and Trulia that have been around for years, along with a host of newcomers like Zumper, RoomHunt, and Urban Compass.

roommatesApartment List stands out from the crowd with its unique mobile app that helps people find roommates.

“43% of all renters are under the age of 30 and struggle to make enough rent to live on their own in an expensive studio or one-bedroom apartment,” Kobs said. “Relying on roommates to help minimize living costs is increasingly becoming the trend, especially in areas where rental prices have risen significantly over the past several years.”

The Roommates app is integrated with Facebook Connect so renters can find potential roommates from within their social network and look at matches based on similar interests, age, likes, neighborhood, and budget.

Like popular dating app Tinder, it uses social data to make initial suggestions but encourages people to meet in real life to see if there is roommate chemistry.

Apartment List was founded in 2011 and now attracts 1.5 million people a month. It launched an iOS app in June, and 47 percent of its monthly visitors come from mobile.

Matrix Partners led this first round of funding, which will support Apartment List’s continued geographical expansion and product development. The start ultimately aims to digitize the entire rental process from start to finish, adding features for signing rental agreements, paying rent, and more.

Apartment List is based in San Francisco.