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Online Dating Applied to Finding Boston Roommates

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The website Apartment List is launching a direct challenge to Craigslist in Boston through its new Roommates app. The app has already unfurled in San Francisco, and additional ones are planned not only here but in New York, L.A. and Chicago. By the way, according to Apartment List: "The average rent for a 1-bedroom among the top 5 most expensive cities, amounts to $2,580 per month. Boston has the highest monthly rent for 1 bedroom apartments at $2,965."

Here's what Apartment List CEO John Kobs had to tell Curbed Boston about the new Roommates app:

Taking on Craigslist, eh?
Anyone that has had a difficult experience searching for an apartment on Craigslist knows that it is a broken model with low-quality listings, scams, and little to no vetting of the quality of properties and the individuals associated with them. There's a lot of bait-and-switch that happens in today's online and mobile rental market, with scammers, unsavory characters, and false advertising. What we are doing is a culmination of a lot of hard work, building out fantastic supply and inventory.

Apartment List provides an intuitive, map-based user interface; an average of 14.5 pictures per listing; and the ability to narrow options down by location, price, or pet-friendliness—similar to what Kayak does for travel, Apartment List delivers a comprehensive set of apartment listings in one elegant interface. By consolidating nearly a million properties from hundreds of well-known listing services, it uniquely delivers a universe of available apartments in one site, saving renters time and money in their search.

Explain how the Roommates app works.
The Roommates app by ApartmentList.com is the first to use social profiles and chat features for finding compatible people to live with. The service connects with Facebook to generate profiles and then matches potential roommates based on similar interests, friends, age, as well as neighborhood and budget preferences. Users can anonymously decide who they want to meet. When a match is found, the Roommates app connects individuals directly, so they can get to know each other and arrange a meeting in person to continue the conversation.

Boston has the highest monthly rent for 1 bedroom apartments at $2,965. Additionally, vacancy rates for the most expensive U.S. cities average only 5.4 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, decreasing slowly year to year and making roommates even more necessary. Relying on roommates to help minimize living costs is increasingly becoming the trend, especially in areas where rental prices have risen significantly over the past several years. Young renters, combined with low vacancies and higher rents, creates an ecosystem of more people needing roommates than ever to save money.

Your company's release says it's "simple" to use. Simpler than scanning an ad?
Scanning an ad is simple in theory. The reality is that the online and mobile rental market is broken. The Apartment List app searches across multiple rental sites at once, aggregating millions of listings. Users are able to use intuitive, map-based searches, contact landlords within the app, and take notes in real-time as they visit locations, submit applications, etc. Apartment List is also cloud-based, so users are able to save favorites and notes across multiple devices.

The new Roommates app takes the common pain points out of searching for roommates, such as having to post to multiple social platforms, ask friends, or get stuck with whichever random roommates happen to have put an ad up on Craigslist. Using Facebook Connect as a platform to connect people in the dating space has been a huge trend in the past year or two. We are playing to this trend by enabling users of the Roommates app to gain the same social benefits as, say, a Tinder user.

Roommates users are able to trust that they are talking to real people whose profiles accurately represent them. Users can also see if a potential match has common interests, price range, neighborhood preferences, etc. By showing mutual friends between potential matches, users are able to easily reach out to their own network to further vet a potential roommate (i.e. "Will Tom clean the dishes and help with household chores?").

How has it done in San Francisco in terms of use?
We were thrilled to see a large adoption of the Roommates app in the San Francisco market, and this success is largely what prompted us to release Roommates to four additional top markets.

In just three weeks since launch (7/17-8/6):
· 3.3K total downloads
· 118K total roommates rates
· 42.6 profiles rated per daily active user.