As I mentioned in my previous article, I have decided to focus on the house hunting app idea, as I feel it is the one that would solve the most frustrations.
I have therefore decided to look at a few competitors to get some inspiration for features. Most of them allow the users to create a profile, with a photo and a short description, which is something I really like, I think it makes the whole process more human.
None of those apps or websites is available in Ireland.
The first competitor I researched was rentalstep. It is not actually available as an app, but it is pretty responsive on mobile. What interested me the most about it is the Tenant Passport:
There you can add a photo, a short description of yourself, and it shows your rental history, with details important to a landlord (but not particularly to a potential flatmate) such as employment history, whether rent is usually paid on time, previous landlord references, etc. It’s very handy and allows you to trust others more easily.
It also allows you to review or rate the landlord or tenant, log maintenance issues on the website, which alerts the landlord and has a messaging centre. It also offers a free tenancy agreement. The downside here is that even though it is free for tenants, landlords have to pay £20.
SpareRoom has a great footer, offering a lot of advice to tenants and landlords. On your profile, you have the option to add videos, as well as photos. They also organise “speedflatmating” events, where you go to a pub, grab a beer and mingle with other apartment/flatmate seekers. From the reviews I read, you get a lot of requests, and judging by their social media presence, I would conclude they are pretty popular (probably the most popular ones actually).
They also have interesting filters such as age range, LGBT household, vegetarian household, live out landlord.
The downside of SpareRoom is that, if you have a free account, you cannot contact or respond to anyone for 7 days, which is a pretty long time since house hunting kind of works on a “first come first served” basis.
On Diggz, you can browse through the website for a potential house or roommate, but one particularity of this app is that an algorithm delivers you relevant matches. If 2 persons “like” one another and therefore match, they can start talking together, like this you don’t receive tons of emails from applicants you’re not interested in.
You can also easily see if someone would be a good match for you thanks to this:
There is also an “About Me” section, where you describe yourself and fill in details such as maximum monthly budget, move in date, lease duration, age, occupation, pets, hometown, education and relationship status
Diggz is completely free, has a messaging centre and all profiles are checked.
One feature it doesn’t include, unlike all others, is the ability to search directly from the map.
Roomiematch is my favourite competitor, and works differently than the others. There, you cannot browse profiles (their view is that having your profile online isn’t safe for you), it just matches you up with similar people and sends you emails about it (no messaging centre).
There is a rather long questionnaire (about 40 questions), VERY thorough, written in a very humorous way, which makes the process quite fun and it doesn’t feel so long after all.
It doesn’t feel judgemental and in my opinion, it makes people more likely to say the truth. All profiles are checked by humans, and they are very concerned about scammers.
Their downside, apart from the fact that you cannot browse, is that you cannot contact anyone unless you pay, and apparently (according to reviews) there aren’t so many matches, which makes me wonder if it is a popular website. They have no social media at all.
Roomi offers two options: “Browse Listings” or “Browse People”.
All profiles are verified through multiple channels (ID, background check (which isn’t free), Facebook, LinkedIn), you have a “Describe Yourself” part where you can just pick options such as “night owl”, “bookworm”, “fitness junkie”, etc, and it shows a list of your interests (which I feel is taken from the groups you’d join on Facebook). Your work info is also displayed, and an interesting option the other apps don’t have is that you can pay your rent through the app.
When browsing listings on the desktop version, the design looks very much like Airbnb’s, with photos and a short description of the places on the left, and a map with all listings on the right.
In conclusion, what features can I “steal” from them?
- A questionnaire that narrows down who’s likely to be a good match
- A Map View way of searching
- Profiles with photos and descriptions
- Landlord references
- Message Centre
- A way of reviewing landlord/tenant
Keeping it light and funny is also pretty important in my opinion, to make the process less tedious.
Next up is user interviews!