Searching for apartments sucks. It’s nerve-racking, frantic, and searchers often find themselves settling for less. In July, we covered the seed raise of Nestio, a young TechStars grad that allows users to save apartment listings from across a variety of sites all in one place, and collaborate with their roommates in realtime during apartment searches by sharing listings, photos and notes. Launching at TechCrunch Disrupt today in beta is another young startup looking to transform the way we find and rent apartments, making the process just a little bit less of a pain in the ass — and maybe even enjoyable.
ApartmentList is an apartment matching engine that uses social networks and its proprietary matching technology (a.k.a. some deep math) to make the apartment search a more personalized experience. Renters connect their social networks to the startup’s platform and answer a series of targeted questions, which then enables the engine to pare down thousands of apartment listings to those that fit the needs of the individual searcher, a la Netflix and Amazon.
By providing an apartment recommendation and discovery engine, ApartmentList is essentially attempting to become the Pandora of apartment searches — or in its social and matching functionality, the Match.com of apartment searches. Take your pick. The startup has already added some interesting advisors and board members, including the founders of Rent.com, Bills.com, as well as the Chairman of StumbleUpon — among others — to help guide it in a space that is ripe for innovation.
To boil it down, ApartmentList offers Facebook integration to automatically personalize apartment recommendations based on users’ activities and those of their friends, enabling users to customize their lifestyle of choice. The service also asks entertaining questions like, “what’s your favorite birthday cake?” and “do you have any money in the stock market?” — that though they may seem a bit tongue-in-cheek, actually go a long way towards refining the apartment recommendations it serves, said Founder and CEO John Kobs.
So far, the startup pulls from over 1 million apartment listings (and counting), which it provides on a map interface that allows users to see what points of interest surround the apartment, like restaurants, shopping, and public transportation options, meant to help apartment searchers make more informed decisions. The engine also provides consistent listings, along with editorial content on individual cities and neighborhoods within each listing as well as thousands of photos of apartments and locales so that users can peruse through visual data to find their apartment of choice.
Another key feature: ApartmentList offers collaborative apartment hunting with friends via Facebook so that peers can inform you if the street you’re considering has a severe shortage of accessible parking, for example.
As the U.S. rental market continues to grow, the world is badly in need to apartment search options that provide consistent and trustworthy listings and rental data — as well as a service that adds some entertainment to what is often a teeth-grinding process. The visual elements of ApartmentList’s engine, complete with interactive maps and images and easy search, add a much-needed revamp to the black-and-white listings of craiglist and other listings resources.
As many contemporary web businesses are building recommendation engines for personalized and social discovery to old models, it is only natural that apartment rental should have its own. Just like Netflix, Pandora, and Amazon before them, ApartmentList’s engine gets smarter (and serves better recommendations) the more questions you answer and the more it learns about your interests and preferences. As it stands as of beta launch, ApartmentList is already providing a great tool, but it will need to continue adding to its reservoir of apartment listings if it hopes to compete long term with the bigs already in the space. But so far, the startup is off to a great start.
For more on ApartmentList, check out the video below: