Lovely, the site that aggregates home rental listings, is today moving up from studio to duplex status. The startup is announcing its first acquisition, Rentmatic, so that those finding apartments on its site will soon be able to set up their monthly rent payments on Lovely after they move in. And it is gearing up for more growth: it has also closed a Series A round of funding.
Blake Pierson, CEO and founder at Lovely, tells me the company is not disclosing the value of the Rentmatic deal, nor the amount of funding that Lovely is getting. In addition to giving the company funds to continue its U.S. expansion, the Series A brings on some important investors. They include Mark Stevens, formerly of Sequoia and now running S Cubed Capital; Walter Kortschak of Summit Partners; John Foster of Broadreach Capital Partners and Kevin Taweel, the co-founder of Asurion.
Lovely first grew its audience as one of the many services that people could use as a better way of searching apartment listings on Craigslist, which has been slow to evolve its basic services even as it has become a go-to platform for many looking for new places to rent. As Craigslist has become a lot more proactively litigious, against so-called data scrapers, many of those third-party sites have shut down. But not Lovely. Seeing the traction it was getting for its services, Lovely moved off CL listings and began to incorporate and aggregate other data sources. Pierson — who comes from a real estate family — tells me that today those other data sources number at over 100. Lovely has also built out a platform for people to post on its site directly.
It has paid off. Lovely now processes over 1.5 million rental listings every month; 500,000 people find new homes on its site each month; its iOS mobile app has had nearly 250,000 downloads (with Android soon to come). Some 5,000 property owners, meanwhile, have signed on to Lovely Pro, a free selection of professional tools for owners, managers and leasing agents to organise their property listings.
As part of that, Lovely has also moved beyond simple listings to include credit vetting for those renting out apartments, via a partnership with Experian (its first with a rentals site) and the ability for people seeking places to apply directly through Lovely.
This is where the Rentmatic acquisition will fit, as another service to fill out the full lifecycle for landlords and renters. Rentmatic, which was founded in 2006 and bootstrapped, has customers in every market in the U.S. and will continue to serve them, as it also migrates its platform to Lovely to work with its listings directly. Justin Shreve, the founder who is joining Lovely, says that it is currently processing some $25 million annually in rent.
Filling out a basic listings site with more features is quickly becoming table stakes for those in this field. Very well capitalised Urban Compass, based out of New York, all provides an all-in-one service, and has even moved into services for residents after they’ve moved in (for example in areas like furniture sales). End-to-end is also what other players like Apartment List (which just raised a $15 million Series A) are also aiming to achieve.
Lovely thinks that there is room for a number of strong players in the rentals space. “I don’t view Urban Compass as a competitor because they are focused on broker dominated markets,” Pierson told me in an interview. “That works very well in some markets like New York City or Boston, but brokers don’t play a huge role outside of those markets. Those don’t scale nationwide.” Others whose business models are closer to Lovely’s, he says, are the likes of Cozy and Trulia, “but if I’m being honest we don’t look around too much. We tend to look forward to how this space should look and what it will take for us to get this industry there.”