Apartment List Acquires RentAdvisor, Bolstering Their Listings With Reviews

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Last we heard from Apartment List, they had just launched their app and were aiming to take on Craigslist as apartment hunters’ tool of choice. Now the service has made its next move: acquiring the reviews site RentAdvisor, which will immediately add 20,000 reviews to the site’s listings.

The all-stock deal brings on board 12 new employees, who will remain based in Atlanta at RentAdvisor’s headquarters. RentAdvisor co-founder Jamie Gallo will be joining the management team of Apartment List.

Up until now, reviews have been a missing piece of Apartment List’s product puzzle, and one of users’ most common requests. This means that in addition to high resolution photos and floor plans, users will be able to see ratings and reviews on any given listing.

The RentAdvisor site will remain separate from Apartment List for the time being, but the two will be rolled into one next year. The team is currently working on integrating RentAdvisor’s reviews, CEO John Kobs said, with the aim to have them live on the site by late October.

“The reason we didn’t want to roll out [reviews until now] was critical mass,” Kobs explained. “We just passed 1.5 million monthly visitors, and now we’re in a place to roll it out. If you have too small of a site, and you don’t have that traffic, it could turn into more of a gripe site.”

By adding reviews to its site, Apartment List is aiming to be a point of transparency in a relatively opaque market, which could be a big selling point for apartment hunters. Previously, Kobs had pointed to the number of photos posted per listing — an average of 14.5 as of July — as their metric for transparency, as compared to competitors like Craigslist, Padmapper, or Lovely (the latter two of which have both come under fire from Craigslist for aggregating its data). Reviews are a big step up from that.

Current residents can post their thoughts on landlord issues or neighborhood safety; when they do, the landlord is notified and can respond in turn. Not everyone meets their landlord before signing the lease, and the fact that they are visible in the review process could add to Apartment List’s appeal.

Apartment List did $10 million in revenue last year and expects to double that this coming year. The goal over the next twelve months is to have a complete supply advantage over other listings sites, Kobs said.

“We have a team of people curating profiles for properties that don’t have a file online. We’re taking brick and mortar buildings that up until this point hadn’t had an online destination or home page and creating those on Apartment List,” Kobs said.

More specifically, the goal is to build a profile for every apartment in the United States. Addresses first go through a location and identity verification process, after which the team contacts the landlord via phone and email to gather data like photos, floor plans, rental rates, square footage, availability, and amenities. Once the property is online, the team periodically reaches out to the landlord to keep the information up-to-date.

Gallo said that RentAdvisor had been approached by another player in the housing listings industry previous to saying yes to Apartment List.

[Image: Flickr/Ernest Duffoo]