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Apartment List’s new feature is like Google Street View for apartment interiors

Above: An incredibly large, spacious, huge NYC apartment.

Image Credit: Stacie, Flickr
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Apartment hunting is still a huge pain, especially in cities where stock is low and renter numbers are high. This is why Apartment List, a company whose mission is to help alleviate that pain, is releasing a new feature and a new service today.

The company, whose flagship product is a rental property listing and browsing service on desktop and mobile, is releasing Look, a way for apartment-hunters to preview apartments right from listing profiles; and Tours, a booking service for rental property tours.

Apartment List’s Look feature lets apartment-hunters get a view of the property through Photo Spheres, 360-degree photo views, of the apartment included in the listing’s profile on Apartment List. The new feature is now available for more than 30,000 units across San Francisco, New York City, Washington D.C., Denver, and Chicago.

“What we wanted to bring to renters is the most accurate portrayal of that listing; a Google Street view for the inside of your apartment unit,” Apartment List chief executive John Kobs told VentureBeat.

“Our early results already show that they spend 3x more time on those listing pages. I want people to be highly informed when making those decisions,” he said.

The first set of units to be professionally photographed for the new Look feature are what the company calls “professionally-managed communities” of 50 units and up. This is mainly because it’s currently most cost-efficient to get properties with a large number of vacant units photographed at once (Kobs says it can takes only 45 to 60 mins to do one building), and that these are the units with the most turnover, making the photos useful as they get listed more frequently than single-family homes, for example.

The company is also releasing its tour-booking service, a sort of “OpenTable for rentals.”

Apartment-hunters can book a tour of a property right from the app, as they would book a table at a restaurant, and once Aparment List has prequalified them and set up the listing to make sure they are seriously interested, it passes them off to the property manager, who then handles the actual tour. The property manager only pays Apartment List for potential renters who make it through the door.

Tours will be the company’s biggest source of revenue, Kobs said.

Apartment List is not the only company seeking to make the apartment hunt easier. Swapt, a service that bills itself the “Yelp for apartment reviews,” launched to make information about properties and their landlords available to apartment-seekers. Back in March, Kleiner Perkins led the first round in Zumper, a company that lets apartment-hunters search and filter through apartments, which are presented in a map layout along with neighborhood information and pictures.

Look and the tour-booking service are part of the company’s bigger plan to bring the apartment hunt to the Internet and the mobile phone, and to differentiate itself. “We are big believers in digitizing the entire rental experience. So I foresee that we’ll digitize [applications], leases, and so on,” said Kobs.

Apartment List also has a separate app and service, called Roommates, which helps people finds others to live with. The company has recently discontinued the social events it organized to help roommate-seekers meet others face-to-face.

Apartment List was founded in 2011 by Chris Herndon and Kobs and is based in San Francisco. The company has raised $21 million in total funding from investors such as Matrix Partners, Rothenberg Ventures, Shervin Pishevar, and Glynn Capital Management among others.

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