Anyone who has tried to use the immensely popular ‘housing’ section of Craigslist to do some apartment hunting is well aware of its limitations: aside from breaking listings into basic neighborhoods, for the most part they lack any structure, which can make them a pain to browse through, especially when you’re trying to compare more than one apartment.
Y Combinator startup RentHop is looking to offer an alternative, featuring thousands of structured housing listings that are much easier to search though and compare. Of course, there are plenty of other sites that offer comprehensive housing listings, so RentHop is also looking to differentiate itself by eliminating housing broker fees.
For the time being RentHop is only available in New York City, largely because of the way apartment hunting is set up there. For those who aren’t familiar with the situation, most of the time when you’re looking to find an apartment in New York City, you’re forced to work through a broker who will charge a fee of 15% of your first year of rent (which works out to around $3,000 based on NYC’s average rent).
So why not just skip the brokers and go straight through Craigslist, which offers a broker-free ‘no fee’ section? RentHop co-founder Lee Lin says that oftentimes brokers will spam this section with fake listings, hoping to seduce viewers into calling them at which point they can say “Oh, that one is taken, but we’ve still got this one available…” and so on. Because NYC apartment listings rarely include an actual address, these are very easy to fake.
RentHop solves this problem by going to major landlords, some of which own many buildings in New York City, and getting the listings straight from them. Each listing on RentHop has a valid address, which means that they’re harder to fake, and the site can also plot them on a map to give you an idea of where the apartment actually is. Lin says that landlords have an incentive to offer apartments through the site, because their inventory will move more quickly when potential tenants don’t have to pay a large broker fee.
While the site originally launched back in Febraury, Lin says that most of the features have been added since then, and the site has changed its business model. RentHop now looks to generate revenue by offering a set of ‘Pro’ features to large major landlords, who can have hundreds (or more) of apartments to manage at once.