LoftSmart raises $1.7 million for its local rental marketplace for college towns

My first home-way-from-home was a room in a house with an unrepeatable nickname on West College St. in Oberlin, OH.

I lived with 8 other people in a two-story, rambling warren filled with rooms and roomlets that had been created over the years to shelter increasing numbers of people in the same finite amount of space.

While increasing numbers of college students are choosing the manicured life of professionally managed, newly constructed housing units, some people may still want the “college experience” of a crappy room in a run-down house with what real estate agents call “character”.

Well, now there’s a service for that.

New York-based LoftSmart has raised $1.7 million to create a Yelp-like review system and marketplace for students to find and lease local rentals in college towns across America.

The investment was led by Corigin Ventures (a real estate-focused venture fund) and included additional money from Expansion Venture Capital, Full Tilt Capital, Metaprop NYC, and a number of individual investors (chiefly Jaffray Woodriff, who made a significant contribution to the round).

A graduate of the AngelPad accelerator program, LoftSmart was founded by Sam Bernstein and Sundeep Kumar. The company grew out of Bernstein’s experiences at the University of Virginia and his co-founder’s experience living and working in Austin.

The two created what they call a “Yelp for real estate” in their local markets. Now, with the new capital and a refined strategy, Kumar and Bernstein are reaching out to local property managers to create a leasing system that can be layered on top of their service.

Initially, they’re reaching out to student housing developers with a way for them to more easily process and approve rental applications. But Bernstein says he has bigger goals. He’d like to unify the fragmented market for college rentals in the U.S., a market that Bernstein estimates to be several billion dollars.

“We’re doing what TripAdvisor did to the hotel market 10 years ago,” Bernstein said in a statement.

Currently the company’s services are available for housing markets across Texas and in Ann Arbor,  Mich.; Amherst, Mass.; Berkeley, Ca.; Columbia, S.C.; Charlottesville, Va.; and Los Angeles.