In a city like Philly, where renters deal directly with landlords and property managers, not brokers, the apartment hunt usually entails scrolling through page after page of listings, leaving voicemails, sending e-mails and crossing your fingers.
“Online listing models are just a version of newspaper classifieds. We thought technology could be leveraged to create something more efficient,” says Jameel Farruk, co-founder of Inhabi, a new apartment-hunting site.
Inhabi follows an “eHarmony-style platform,” Farruk says, referring to one of the largest online dating sites. Renters create a free Inhabi account, fill out a profile about who they are and what they’re looking for — whether it’s hardwood floors or a quick commute to work — and get “matched” with potential landlords.
Landlords get notified when a renter matches one of their properties, then can message the renter through Inhabi —which makes money by supplying the renter’s contact info.
It’s a “behavioral shift” that seems to be catching on, Farruk says. “Usually landlords list properties and then wait for people to find them. We reversed the roles.”
Farruk’s background is in tech marketing and brand management, and co-founder David Friedman has experience in real estate and artificial intelligence. Both live locally, though they plan to expand the site to other cities in the future.
Inhabi might make finding an apartment easy, but there are still a few things to keep in mind before moving into your new pad:
Read the lease carefully: This one sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s all too easy to skim over the legalese. “If it’s not clear on the lease, make sure it’s clear in writing,” Farruk suggests.
Make sure it fits your daily routine: “We’ve heard of renters who found the perfect place, but the neighborhood was a dead zone for the cell-phone carrier,” he says.
Get insured: “Landlord insurance policies are typically limited to caring for the property, not assets belonging to the renter,” says Farruk. “In an emergency or disaster, [renters insurance] could save the renter a lot of money.”