We all enjoy the convenience of two-click takeout, trading stocks on our phones, and swiping right to find the love of our lives (or perhaps just a date for the night). So why is apartment hunting still trapped in the ’90s?
In many cities, Craigslist is the default for finding rental housing. Some might say it’s also the default for weird apartment hunting experiences (guilty).
And what’s with that retro blue-and-gray color scheme? Not only is apartment hunting technologically behind—it’s inelegant.
Thankfully, there are several startups whose mission is making apartment hunting easier. (And no, they’re not small-batch distilleries.) These three tech companies use location services, advanced search filtering, and matching algorithms to land apartment hunters in a place to call home.
Picture eHarmony for roommates and apartments.
“When I moved to New York, I went through several roommates. It was always a challenge to find the right people,” says Rany Burstein, who used to work in finance in Manhattan.
Once he was settled, Burstein realized he liked introducing like-minded people and creating synergistic relationships within his network.
“I started to get a lot of people saying to me, ‘I have a friend who needs a roommate’ or ‘I’m looking for a room,’” he recalls. “I saw a problem that didn’t really have a solution yet.”
Burstein launched Diggz in 2014. Today, 100 new users join every day. Both pools of members—those searching for a room and those renting a room—can select multiple filters for their search results. They are anonymously matched with a curated list of people who lead similar lifestyles and have similar budgets.
The biggest testament to Diggz is that when Burstein, its founder, needed to find three new roommates for his four bedroom apartment, he used his own product. The result?
“I had a good experience!” he says. “The people I matched with were all relevant: same budget, same lifestyle. It was a good test.”
Picture the love child of Trulia and OkCupid.
Roomi’s mission, according to founder Ajay Yadav, is to help roommates “feel at home, where you’re comfortable and happy.”
In 2007, this WeWork 42nd Street member moved from New Delhi, India to New York. Since then, he’s had his fair share of roommates.
Sure, there were some lemons from Craigslist. But he also made new friends. He believed more shared apartments in New York would make people feel content and at ease.
This became a calling, and Yadav launched Roomi in 2014. At Roomi, prospective roommates create a profile, then browse visually beautiful profiles for available rooms in apartments. Prospective roommates can scope out one another’s profiles and message each other to set up appointments. But no personal information is revealed until they’re ready.
Yadav says that disruptive tech companies in the apartment rental space make looking for new roommates safer. Like the comfort that Uber provides—of knowing that Uber has both yours and the driver’s information—Roomi requires users to provide biographical information and social media verification.
“Technology can take care of a lot of the security and safety issues,” reminds Yadav. “We can let people into our lives.”
Picture Craigslist, focused on Brooklyn housing, with a sleek UX and surprises in store.
Nooklyn does rentals in Brooklyn (No kidding.) Members create detailed profiles and are matched with similar members. If the pair clicks, they work with a Nooklyn real estate agent to find an apartment. Nooklyn is probably the closest relative of the current rental search process. With an unexpected twist.
“In August, we launched direct messaging between members,” says Moiz Malik, Nooklyn’s CTO. “We have almost 2,500 members, but our site sends 10 times that many messages.”
The reason for this, Malik explains, is that “people are messaging for more than just a roommate.”
Which blows him away.
“They want to make friends with people doing the same thing. I never thought people would use the tool like that, but it’s great,” Malik says of the platform’s social and networking capabilities. “I’ve always been interested in building a sense of community, a sense of neighborhood. We built this general tool, and people started using it to hook up, find freelancers, and find housing.”
Indeed: apartment hunting just got a whole lot better.
Photo credit: Lauren Kallen