Trying to find a place to stay is filled with pitfalls. Are you getting a good deal? Is your landlord charging you more than your neighbors? What's the best time to pack up and move to a new building? These are particularly difficult questions in busy cities like New York and San Francisco, where people come and go regularly.
Urban dwellers often share this sort of information with friends and colleagues, but sometimes it's hard to be sure you're getting all the best representative information. RentHackr, a new website, aims to solve that through leveraging social networks and volunteered rent data.
"Instead of being listings, the site is for what people are actually paying," noted founder Zeb Dropkin to Core77, "and to see and look at other places where you're thinking about living."
RentHackr is social at the outset. To utilize the site's services, you must log in with your Facebook account and volunteer information about your space. This ensures that all users share within the ecosystem.
When signing up for an account, you link it with your Facebook so that RentHackr can sync you up with your friends. You also fill in your basic rent information and whether your intend to move in the near future.
Your information gets plotted on a colorful Google Map, alongside that of others, with clear visualizations based on amound paid and type of space (ST for "studio", for instance). It's easy to see where the data is coming from and get a sense of price fluctuations around different neighborhoods. It's a refreshing form of data visualization that fosters transparency in the rent market: you no longer need to speculate on what others are paying near you and how much they like the place.
"We're not just asking what you're paying right now, but what are you doing when your rent is up," explained Dropkin. "We can filter based on your friends. When you find a place that you like, you can get in touch with a tenant and say we both know a friend in common."
This social feature is key. While many new rent sites simply visualize existing data in a compelling way, RentHackr adds something new to the ecosystem by relying on volunteered rent data and a predictive model based on tenants' intent to move. This can be as useful for potential tenants and agents as it is for landlords, who can plan ahead for potential vacancies.
Although RentHackr was founded in New York, the site works anywhere, and you simply need to log in and share your info. The service is relevant for any city, but its effectiveness does depend on the level of usage in your area. Scale is definitely important, and as the site grows, other features will likely become important, such as ensuring accurate data representation and perhaps even connecting folks with potential roommates.