Apartment List launched mobile app Roommates across the country today to prevent roommate horror stories.
Apartment List is a popular apartment search engine. The company’s 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.
“With 43% of all renters being under the age of 30, this news is of particular interest to young urbanites who struggle to make enough rent to live on their own in an expensive studio or one-bedroom apartment,” Kobs told VentureBeat. “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.”
Kobs said the average rent for a one bedroom apartment in the top five most expensive cities amounts to $2,580 a month. This rate is prohibitively expensive for many renters (present company included), and searching for roommates has become part of the overall apartment search for those without cushy salaries. This is a pretty major hurdle. If living together can break up relationships for people who were once in love, what chance do strangers have? There are so many subtle preferences that have to align while co-habitating — cleanliness habits, social habits, housework ethic etc. It also helps if you like and trust your roommate too.
Most people have a roommate war story locked away somewhere. I have quite the collection myself. There was the girl who chain smoked out her window, but got upset when anyone cooked meat in the kitchen (because meat is unhealthy). There was also a hoarder, a girl who gave herself bikini waxes on the living room floor, and a couple who constantly fought and then made up. Loudly.
The Roommates app strives to cut down on the likelihood of these sorts of experiences. It integrates with Facebook Connect so renters can find roommates from within their social network. They can find matches based on similar interests, friends, age, likes, neighborhood, and budget. Messaging features also mean potential roommates can chat about more specific, perhaps delicate topics. Furthermore, mutual friends can help with the vetting process.
Kobs said that Roommates is kind of like dating app Tinder, but for roommates. It focuses on social data to make initial matches but then encourages people to meet in real life to see if there is chemistry. Right now many people rely on Craigslist or word-of-mouth and social media to source roommates. Apartment List is trying to make it simpler. The app was first released in San Francisco earlier this year, and Kobs described it as a “resounding success.” Now it is launching in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, and Chicago, which all have big rental markets.
Apartment List was founded in 2011 and now attracts 1.2 million monthly visitors. It is a relative newcomer to a scene that has some pretty major players, including Craigslist, Zillow, and Trulia. Real estate is a tough sector because you have to build out a strong two-sided marketplace in a highly fragmented market. Apartment List isn’t the only startup taking on this challenge. Zumper is another apartment rental search engine and RoomHunt launched earlier this year with a comparable Web product to Roommates. The bigger players have larger inventories of listings, but startups are coming in to create more innovative, user-friendly experiences.
Apartment List is based in San Francisco and has raised $1 million in seed financing.