If you’ve ever tried to find an apartment with your friends, you’ve probably had a moment where you thought that there has to be something better than sites like Craigslist. A new startup called SocialRent aims to be that something better.
The SocialRent team’s first product, a Facebook app, is only addressing one small part of the apartment search, but it seems like a solid start toward tackling a larger set of problems.
For now, it’s all about helping a team of friends (probably college students) coordinate their needs, and then communicate those needs to real estate agents. The app is essentially a collaborative document — after users sign up, they can build a “crew” of Facebook friends, then each of those friends can enter and edit information about what neighborhoods they want to live in, what kinds of apartment they need (number of bedrooms, bathrooms, etc.), and how much they’re willing to pay. Once there’s a configuration that everyone’s happy with, SocialRent can send that information on to agents (which is how the company makes money).
The app was built by a team of Boston University students over their winter break, but CEO James Zar said it’s not just a casual side project. Zar plans to graduate in May, and in the meantime, he makes it sound like SocialRent is more important to him than any classwork. The company has already incorporated, and it has recruited a real estate professional, Jamie Lebowitz, as its president and first investor.
The real estate agents working with SocialRent are currently limited to the Boston area. However, Zar said that he’s working to bring other agents into the program quickly, and he noted that renters in other cities can still use the app to coordinate their needs — the information just won’t get forwarded to an agent. And further down the line, he wants to add features that allow renters to actually find roommates, and that do more to help those roommate crews select the best apartment.
Oh, and if you sign up using the code “TECHCRUNCH”, you’ll get $25 off your first month’s rent, and Zar said SocialRent will donate another $25 toward fighting homelessness.