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

Ever look for an apartment? What a bitch of a process. There’s no single source for the apartments that are for rent — 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, 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.

  • Chris

    One of the issues here might be that landlords don’t really know so far ahead of time if someone is going to be staying in thier unit or moving elsewhere. Typically they only know that a particular unit will be available a month (or less) ahead of time.

  • Michael Wales

    I’m loving the blog so far – but the VXML pushing is really starting to bug me. It seems as if every single post is pushing VXML technology somehow. I have yet to see you write “I propose a service that uses PHP technology to…”

    I can’t determine whether you are an investor in the technology or you just don’t know of others that accomplish these goals.

    Nonetheless, great blog – I’m enjoying it immensely and even pushing one of your ideas to completion.

  • James D Kirk

    Having workded in property management for a long time, as well as having owned rentals, I’d definitely confirm Chris’ assessment that for the most part an owner/manager isn’t going to know their availability much more than 30 days out. Most states only require tenants (not on a lease) to give 30 days written notice of their intentions to vacate a property. On the off chance that a landlord was to know more than 30 days, this service could be a great way for that landlord to try and get the new tenant secured prior to the old one being out. It’s all very tricky, timing-wise, however. Additionally, as a landlord, you have to get into the place after the current tenant leaves, assess damages and make needed repairs.

    It is a much harder proposition than may be apparent to the average rental unit seeker.

    As for Michael’s comment, I agree that Steve implements the term VXML more so than calling out other technologies in a number of his posts. However, being critical of such is a bit harsh, in my opinion. As far as I can tell PHP doesn’t provide for voice recognition capabilities that VXML does, though I claim NOT to be an expert in that area (or most others for that matter 😉 ).

    My take away is that the specific application of a technology as it pertains to how said technology is used to present ideas here, is that it’s done when only a specific technology would be a part of the solution. If only PHP would solve something, I’m guessing Steve would indicate that in the post (as opposed to say, ASP being the only solution required.)

    Just my take on it; no animosity intended!

    Go Boldly!

  • Steve Poland

    Fellas, ladies.. PHP is the obvious solution to everything else I post :) I think VXML isn’t being used to its fullest — there’s a lot of applications yet to be produced on this platform. Michael — it’s fairly simple to develop with. We built Aboutcodes off it — I couldn’t believe the simplicity of the scripts.

  • rulepark

    This idea would best be integrate for the Students and Youngsters. Probably a side income start up for the young age.

  • Michae

    I understand you are naming a technology that can accomplish the goals outlined in your post, but it seems as if you are pushing it to much and to often.

    I enjoy this blog and I would love to see it remain objective in it’s approach – with so many mentions of VXML it seems as if there is an ulterior motive – whether that is true or not.

    Just a heads-up more than anything – I am sure I can’t be the only one to feel this way.

  • http://Independent Pablo M

    I was just looking around for apartments and indeed it was a pain in the ass. But those programs do exist in some points of the world. And they are not as complex as in to have to call the person or real estate company to verify the status of the apartment. Usually real estate works like these: 1) You show or go see the apartment you are interested in. As probably 10 people will see it that same day. 2) First guy to show the money and doesn´t look a little bit suspicious, will get the apt. Money talks. And both the landlord and the guy renting keep getting bugged withh those 5 every day e-mails showing you the options that match your preferences. Till you log in, and hit Disactivate. End of the story. They stopp bugging you that exact same day. the largest one in europe is not free. are the major ones, there is another one that will appear, or something. Tehy republish automatically too if you don´t disactivate teh account. Your idea sounds really good too, yet too complex for something tthat simple. A PHP, MySQL como should make you look like a pimp right away.

  • Eric Nagel

    The beauty of VXML is how it can interface w/ any web service to deliver information back to a user on the phone. While you could use a mobile-device-friendly format, not everyone (myself included) has any data access or text-messaging abilities on their cell phone. I only want to use my phone to talk. There are some who don’t even have cell phones, but can pull up to a pay phone, dial some toll-free number and have access to the data via voice interactions.

  • Michael P

    Been reading the blog since it started. I am actually working on this idea right now! Site is called RentMatch. ( – i’d love comments on the michaelpowell [at] Hopefully we will be launching May/June. There are alot of revenue models to where you could make good money with the site. which is a vanilla apartment site was bought by Ebay for 421 million I believe.

  • Madelene Tejados

    Good revenue suggestion. I am currently doing that! :)

    Great post.

    Madelene T.

  • Cape Coral Rental Management

    Very interesting. Outstanding post over again. Thank you!