Renters may find that looking for the right apartment or house to rent and roommates may be easier this year. Started in 2011 in San Francisco, Rentlingo Inc. makes searching for places to rent safer with the help of social networking. By using Facebook and Google Map, the company provides an app that helps future tenants to connect with prospective roommates, sublets, and apartments. Like Facebook, it also shows reviews of what their friends, existing residents, and past residents think about the rental and the neighborhood. Unlike Craigslist and most other rental websites, which can be misleading and anonymous, Rentlingo provides high-quality photos and videos of the apartments or sublets and allows users to share and interact with friends who had lived in the area.
The interface of Rentlingo resembles a hybrid of Google Map, Facebook, and Yelp, which may make site navigation easier and faster for those who are familiar with the three platforms. Prospective tenants simply type in the city or zip code in the homepage, and the website takes them to a map with orange tags that indicate listed apartments or sublets. Rentlingo aggregates major listings of apartments from all over the U.S. from various websites and compiles them into databases. It uses Facebook’s Open Graph, which presents an interactive map that gives users a general sense of the neighborhood and logistics. Users can narrow their options by a sliding price bar to match their budget with the rental cost, selecting the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and checking if the apartment or sublet is pet-friendly or not.
The masterminds behind this friendly blend of apartment searching and social media are two Stanford graduates, CEO Dan Laufer, MBA, and Byron Singh, who has a master’s degree in engineering. Tech Crunch reported that Laufer and Singh started the idea behind Rentlingo when they had to do a class project at Stanford, in which they were chosen as the best of the “Alpha Pitches” by student entrepreneurs. Laufer and Singh had interviewed hundreds of property managers and tenants, and they found that the traditional model of apartment hunting online was not very reliable. There is no simple way to find information and background on potential tenants or roommates. Thus, Rentlingo resorted to social networking to make rent searching and tenant checking safer and less hassle — a win-win for both landlords and tenants.
In August 2013, 365 Connect, an award-winning online technology platform provider for the multifamily industry based in New Orleans, lauded Rentlingo’s cleverness and innovation in merging apartment searching with social media. According to the press release in The Business Journals, 365 Connect integrated Rentlingo into their Marketing Syndication Platform, indicating that the company favors this “shift in the multifamily market away from obsolete marketing strategies towards more economical and effective online marketing technology.” With about 90 percent rent searches done online, platforms that cater to this business must be “search oriented and gravitate to the most efficient user-friendly sites.” The ability for both tenants and owners to connect and interact with each other will more likely keep each party accountable on their end of the lease.
Within two years, Rentlingo had won various entrepreneurial competitions, including the SXSW MBA Startup Competition, VentureBeat DEMOgod Awards, and the North Bridge Venture Partners Stanford Seed Competition. With a rapid yet steady expansion, Rentlingo is now connecting with Las Vegas.
“We hire [former] property managers to tour and examine apartments in Las Vegas so that tenants don’t have to go to every apartment themselves,” Laufer said in a phone interview with Guardian Liberty Voice. It is better to have the tenants to visit the few that are a better fit for them than to visit all potential places.” Currently, all large apartment complexes throughout Las Vegas are being reviewed. This project should be completed in a few months.
The drive and inspiration behind Rentlingo came from Laufer’s “broad frustration with the rental experience.” “I personally moved 5 times between undergrad and graduate school, moved almost every year.” He remarked on that there is a lack of objectivity in apartment reviews where no one really knows for certain if the reviews given were true or not. This is why having a third-party verification adds value to the review. Laufer wants consumers to use Rentlingo as a trusted source of rental reviews, making rent searching safer and more credible with the help of social networking.
By Nick Ng