Searching for an apartment lies somewhere between falling down the stairs at a party and getting a root canal on the “suckiness” spectrum, but at least in those cases, alcohol and anesthesia can salve the pain.
RentalRoost is yet another startup that aims to make the process a little easier. Today it announced its launch in the Bay Area, and its national rollout will continue soon.
“Think of us as an eHarmony for rentals,” cofounder and CEO Nitin Shingate told VentureBeat. “Imagine how much more efficient your searches will be when you look beyond the usual criteria of bedrooms, bathrooms, and price. With RentalRoost, you can search based on school attendance boundaries, proximity to public transit, bars and restaurants, the arts scene, and how pet-friendly or kid-friendly a location is. When you’re trying to find a place to live, isn’t that what actually matters?”
Shingate said RentalRoost is the only company to offer lifestyle-based search criteria. The engine combines your expressed preferences with social media data and “geo-location scoring algorithms” to figure out which lifestyle factors are most important and then recommend homes and neighborhoods that suit those needs.
Most people who live in tech hubs like San Francisco and New York City face the myriad frustrations associated with house-hunting, and perhaps that is why there are so many startups taking on real estate. The market has come to resemble a house on MTV’s the Real World — crowded, competitive, and everyone wants to stand out for being unique in some very niche way.
In addition to RentalRoost, there are the big guys like Rent.com Zillow, Trulia, and Craigslist, as well as a slew of younger companies like ApartmentList, Urban Compass, RoomHunt, Padmapper, Zumper, and Cozy.
Each one of these smaller startups has some sort of special feature that distinguishes it slightly from the rest. ApartmentList and RoomHunt have options for roommate hunting, and Cozy and Zumper help realtors and landlords streamline their listing process by enabling online applications and appointments. Urban Compass, which just raised $20 million, assigns a rep to meet you at apartment viewings and offer helpful advice about neighborhoods. Your rep will also deal with landlords on your behalf.
RentalRoost aims to stand out with its additional filters.
Not all of the filters were working while I was playing around the site, but the scores generated for factors like “walkability” and “fine dining” were helpful. Parents who are unfamiliar with a city can find where the best schools are located and where there is good parking, while a young single person can search for a spot near bars and nightlife.
One of the biggest challenges with this sector is achieving that critical mass of renters and listers, and with so many options already out there, RentalRoost will need to do more than offer 20 niche filters to really get going.
Right now, it has over 100,000 listings in the Bay Area and claims to have helped over 25,000 users find a place to live during the beta period.
RentalRoost’s “sister site” Houserie provides a tenant screening service for landlords. The company was founded in 2012 and has raised $650,000 in angel investment. It is based in Pleasanton, Calif.