One of a building manager's best tools for retaining old tenants and attracting new ones is the resident referral bonus. But connecting current residents with potential tenants can be a challenge, even in the age of social media.
Chicago startup Rentgrata wants to solve this problem. Its resident referral platform connects apartment hunters with their would-be neighbors.
“If you think about the two main avenues millennials use to find apartments, they’re either asking their friends for recommendations or turning to sites like Zillow or Craigslist,” said co-founder Ben Margolit. “What we’re basically developing is a combination of the two.”
The user links their Facebook account to the Rentgrata app and fills out a brief profile, selecting a handful of interests like sports, pets and concerts. When an apartment seeker clicks on a building, they see a list of any tenants they’re Facebook friends with. If none of the user’s friends live in the building, the app displays a list of tenants with mutual interests.
Apartment hunters can message current tenants to ask questions about the building and neighborhood. This feature is especially useful for those new to a city who don’t know anything beyond what they’ve read online. If the prospective tenant gets the answers they want and decides to move in, both parties can collect a referral reward, if offered.
The idea for Rentgrata was formed last summer. Co-founder Zach Sloan met a friend on his pool deck who had just moved into the building. Neither person knew the other lived there, which caused Sloan to miss out on a $1,000 referral opportunity.
These missed opportunities are a problem for property managers as well.
“They have these resident referral programs in place for a reason,” Margolit said. “They want residents to bring in their friends because those who do so and earn a reward are more likely to re-lease at a property.”
Buildings don't have to pay to be on the platform, but Rentgrata does charge a flat fee (based on building size) per lease signed. Margolit said property managers have been helpful in promoting the app, sending email blasts to residents and letting the company put flyers up in elevators and attend building events.
The Rentgrata team has three founders (Margolit, Sloan and Sam McArtor) and recently made its first hire, an iOS developer. It has 31 Chicago properties signed up on its platform with an average size of around 100 units per building (total, not vacant). The goal is to get to 500 in the next four to six months.
Image via Rentgrata.