Back in December, James Zar, a 20-year-old Boston University student, was on the hunt for his next apartment. To his annoyance, the hours spent sorting through posts on Boston’s Craigslist and cold-calling real estate agents seemed like a waste of time. However, rather than ranting about the issue on Facebook or Reddit, an idea was born.
Zar took his idea to Jamie Lebowitz, a professional in Boston’s real estate market who agreed to partner with the project. With a team of BU students and a basement in Brighton, Zar and his friends over their winter break hacked together a new way to think about apartment hunting using social media. The result was SocialRent.
Launched earlier this month, SocialRent is the digital era alternative to the apartment hunting nightmare. The company essentially helps manage the entire hunting process from within Facebook.
After inviting the soon-to-be roommates, users can then simply drag and drop placers on a map to designate areas users are interested in living near.
Slightly reminiscent of The Sims, the users then design a blueprint of what will be needed in the new apartment, such as the number of bedrooms or a parking garage.
Finally, the user sets their price range per person, leaves their phone number and SocialRent takes care of the rest.
That’s all there is to it. The apartment hunters simply get a call or an email with times to view potential apartments.
The best part is that the application works like a Google Doc so multiple people can work simultaneously without the fear of deleting each other’s actions – all while being able to live-chat online.
Zar is confident his team’s app will change the way people search for apartments because of the way the hunting process works currently.
He explains that there is essentially a pipeline that begins when an individual decides they want a new apartment and ends when they finally move out.
“There’s different services from different companies that handle many of the parts of the pipeline – all with their own interests,” he says. “They’re all very fragmented and mediocre and it’s a bad experience for customers and that’s what SocialRent does – it focuses on the customer’s experience.”
So what’s in the future for Zar and his team?
“The response to SocialRent was huge and completely unbelievable,” he says. The result is that SocialRent is moving fast – even faster than his team had initially realized.
In order to scale quickly, Zar is looking for ways to finance the rapid growth at his company. In addition to hiring more employees, he’s also looking for new investors. “Got a million bucks?” he jokes.
It’s all not a bad day’s work for a CEO who doubles as a college senior. He’s hopeful about what comes after he graduates in May, but he has big dreams for SocialRent.
“There’s still so much ground we can cover,” he says. He envisions SocialRent taking on more of the headaches involved in renting and living in the city. In the meantime, he’s still showing up for class when he’s not scheming ways to take over the real estate market.
What’s the most annoying part about looking for a new apartment? Any horror stories? Leave your answers in the comments below!