As you may have noticed, our website underwent a redesign to make it more mobile friendly. To mark the occasion, we thought we’d highlight some of the best apartment-hunting apps for your mobile device. While we touched on the subject earlier this year, the mobile world moves fast, so we felt it was worth highlighting the most noteworthy of now.
When it comes to listings, Lovely (iOS
only and Android) should still be your first stop. The company’s app is an aggregator, so it has a huge inventory. Plus, both the desktop and app versions are intuitive – and a joy to use. Moreover, the company’s customer service (and marketing) is impressive. (Full disclosure: we’ve been following Lovely since its beginning.) [Editor’s Note: As of December 10, 2013, Lovely’s app is also available for Android]
Lovely also allows the user to create a “Renter’s Resume” online. With this resume, you can easily email landlords your credentials. The company also recently announced a new functionality: “Apply with Lovely”. They’ve teamed up with the credit-report company Experian so that, basically, you can send a landlord your application and your credit report with a single click. Since both are pre-filled out, the process is instantaneous. (Note that using “Apply with Lovely” incurs a $20 fee, but this is generally less than the only fashioned pen-and-paper application process.) The only downside here is that Lovely is still not yet available for Androids – which, for many, is a serious problem.
For another great app, look no further than hotpads (iOS and Android). The app does almost everything Lovely does – it has great listings and it’s highly rated for usability. It allows you to search by neighborhood, to filter by price, size and property type, as well as to filter for pet-friendly locations. Compared to Lovely, the interface is not as slick and it doesn’t have any of the add-ons. That said, it’s still highly recommended.
For those searching in the truly cut-throat New York City market, consider using the app provided by Compass (iOS only). The company, which launched in May (check out this article in The Verge for more), envisions itself as an alternative to New York’s semi-corrupt broker system. What makes Compass unique is its fleet of salaried brokers. (Normally in New York brokers are paid on straight commission.) With Compass, you use its website and app to find places you’re interested in. Then, a broker will show you around, but you’ll avoid the pressure, sleaze-ball tactics and bait-and-switch you’re often subjected to if you use a traditional NYC broker.
Should you find your dream place, your broker will help you fill out an application and get the apartment – and the fee you pay is limited to 7.5% of the first year’s rent for a one-broker apartment, and 12.5% for apartments where the deal involves a second broker. While this fee may seem steep – and it is – keep in mind that the normal broker fee in NYC is 15%. So, actually, you’re getting a deal though it may not seem like it. Furthermore, the company’s app gets rave reviews, and the company itself is getting positive buzz. It’s definitely worth checking out – and if you end up using Urban Compass, let us know what you think in the comments section.
On the other end of the spectrum, if you live in a smaller city or a more rural area, you may consider renting out a home – particularly if you have several friends with whom you want to live. And, actually, yes, there’s an app for that – Realtor.com has listings of homes for rent. The interface is fairly good – you just need to make sure to filter for “single family homes” within their rentals app. In larger cities, like Chicago, around half the “single family homes” listings will be condos for rent – but there will be homes listed, too. Also note that Realtor.com has regular rental listings that are fairly good – though be warned that it’s not an aggregator site, meaning that all the listings must be registered specifically with Realtor.com. Which means: some good listings, but not everything.
And here’s where the case of Realtor.com gets at a larger point – it provides a niche service worth looking into, even if, overall, it doesn’t measure up to Lovely or hotpads. So, remember that your preferred search method is not the only game in town – and that no listing service has every listing. Continue looking through craigslist, local newspaper listings, the listings on Apartment Guide, Zillow, and so forth – in other words, have your go-to app, but also spend twenty minutes a day combing other sites to make sure you’re not missing anything. Happy hunting!