IDEA #34 – Apartments For Rent (Auto-Updated Weekly)

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Ever look for an apartment? What a bitch of a process. There’s no single source for the apartments that are for rent — Rent.com has the big complexes typically, whereas my local newspaper and local weekly artsy newspaper have classifieds with the upper/lower apartments in houses. I hate that when you look at apartments on Rent.com, you don’t even know if they are available — you have to call the complex. That’s bogus.

The Problem: If I’m looking to move in May 2007, I want to know what’s going to be available in May 2007 — I’d love to know “how many” available apartments are one-bedrooms, and two-bedrooms; but that’s really not necessary. I just want to know, “Will a one-bedroom be available? Show me the floorplan, photos, maybe a virtual tour.”

The Idea: I’m proposing a service that uses VXML technology and calls the apartment complexes every week — it takes the owner/manager all of 2 minutes each call to specify what they have available for the floorplans setup in the system for them, and when they are available (“2-bedroom available in March and another in May when someone isn’t renewing their lease”). Maybe the apartment manager/owner can also leave a personal greeting that talks about each apartment that is for rent.

Our website would then list all these apartments, floor plans, and real-time availability. You do a search for ‘June 2007’, ‘one bedroom’, in ‘Austin, TX’ — and we’re going to show you what’s available then… from the complexes and from the upper/lower homes.

One thing I learned about the apartment business when I was pursing a start-up in that field, was that apartment owners / landlords, want to always show scarcity. Just like car salesman (although it’s tough to hide 50 new Chevy’s). The way my mind is wired, I wanted to get every apartment on my website, with their real-time availability. But apartments don’t want to list that they have four (4) one-bedrooms available — they want you to think they only have one.

Other Opportunity: The same could be done with office space — although I think they are even tighter with withholding information … because in the end, these apartment complexes all want to get you on the phone, and then they want to get you in to visit their apartment for rent.

Revenues: There’d be plenty of monetization models in future — you could start collecting a fee (from apartment) if you refer someone to their property. You could also allow apartments to feature themselves in the listings on the website. Advertising on the website — particularly furniture sellers, grocery stores, local fast food chains that want to hook you in, local restaurants, etc.