The words “I’m thinking of moving to a new place” are apparently imbued with dark magic. Utter them, and you’re well on your way to countless headaches, tedious searches, and unanswered phone calls. Yes, apartment hunting stinks.
But there’s a new tool that may help make your next hunt just a bit easier, and it won’t just help you find an apartment — it’ll try to help you actually get approved for it. Meet Lovely.
The startup — whose backers include SV Angel, 500 Startups, Founder Collective, and Ben Ling — is setting out to become the ultimate weapon in apartment hunting. Getting started is simple: head to livelovely.com, and you’ll be prompted to create a username and password (or you can use Facebook Connect).
Once you’re in, you’ll see a map of the San Francisco that’s dotted by listings for available apartments (Lovely is starting off in the Bay Area, but will expand to more cities in the new future). This data is drawn from scraping Craigslist and Trulia, but more sources will be added in the future, including landlords posting directly to Lovely.
Click on a dot, and you’ll see a nice-looking popover that includes photos, key details, and whatever other relevant information Lovely can find. If there are numerous apartments located in a dense area, then the site will cluster them together in a circle with a number on it — click the circle, and you’ll see the rest of the listings. It’s a lot like using Padmapper, but the interface is cleaner and easier to use. There are also some handy tools for keeping track of which apartments you like, which ones you’ve contacted, and so on.
Another very helpful feature: alongside the right side of the screen, you’ll see each listing ordered by how new it is — and the list will refresh in real-time if a new listing is added. As someone who recently went through the apartment search myself, this is an extremely helpful feature — many sites will let you remove listings that are more than a few days old, but this bar makes it easier to snag the best listings as they pop up (in cities like San Francisco and New York, they might be gone in an hour or two).
Aside from making it easier to find an apartment, Lovely is also looking to help make sure you’re the one who actually gets it. After all, landlords will often require potential tenants to submit their past rental history, letters of recommendation, and other supplementary material to ensure that they can pay their rent on time. And taking the time to gather that information can make the difference between landing that amazing apartment, or getting one that’s just so-so.
To help with this, Lovely will generate a ‘Renter’s Resume’ for you, which includes this key information. It’ll also certify that you’re employed, which can further assuage any concerns. Then, when you contact a broker or landlord through Lovely, it’ll append this resume to your message.
But this is all still early days for the startup. In short, they want to fundamentally change the way the rental market works, by providing tools for landlords and renters alike. As the service gains traction, it’ll introduce more in the way of user profiles and reputation systems. The goal, they say, is to bring as much transparency to the process as possible.
But they aren’t alone in this mission. Competitors include Padmapper, Naked Apartments, Nestio, and others. But the rental market is huge, and it’s badly in need of some serious disruption.