Talking tech since 2003

I wish I had Rentenna when I was looking for rentals in New York (I may have been able to avoid the complete disregard of my landlord for fixing things).  Rentenna is a Website that rates apartment buildings and neighborhoods by compiling data through open data sources and other sites.  The result is a Pinterest-looking site that gives apartment buildings a score and provides photos and comments about available listings throughout major cities including New York, Boston and Chicago.

Rentenna is set up like a like a typical search engine for property listings, where you can search by neighborhood, amenities, monthly rent, or bedrooms.  When you get to a building page, you can see available apartments, rental prices, and a map of the neighborhood.  But the real unique part of the listing is the property score details, which are compiled through open source data and partnerships with other websites such as BlockScore.  Users can also add their own personal reviews (which are part of the overall score) and see other property reviews.


Rentenna recently broke out its property scores and began showing users the subscores, which include a “Complaint Score” for New Yorkers.  Rentenna was able to create a complaint score by gathering data from the New York City Housing Department, which collects violations for buildings over the last 90 days and organizes them by different levels or classes.  For example, Class C complaints include lack of heat, hot water, electricity, or gas, or inadequate fire exits.

The site actually compiled to worst buildings to live in New York City for the month (yikes! wouldn’t want to live here!):

Worst Building

Co-Founder Alicia Schwartz said one of the reasons she helped create the site was to protect renters from some of the pitfalls that can come from renting apartments in New York, which was why she added the apartment reviews section.

“In my first apartment in New York I didn’t have a kitchen for two weeks,” Schwartz said.  “No kitchen, no sink, nothing.”

Because the site collectively takes into account so many data points, a few negative reviews won’t completely trash a building’s rating.

“We incorporate so many data points like neighborhood and amenities that even if there’s a few complaints about the building, and people write a few bad reviews, it will bring them down to the 70’s which is not a D-level scored building,” Schwartz said.

Rentenna, which is only 18 months old, had 80,000 visitors last week alone.  Schwartz said that the next step for Rentenna is to allow users a more tailored search by letting them weigh different factors based on their personal preference.

“We’re going to add this personalization aspect where you can check off what’s most important to you, so if a complaint is most important to you, it’s going to affect the score much more tremendously,” Schwartz said.

Rentenna has started building relationships with other apps like GrubHub and BlockScore, but they still rely on featured listings from landlords and banner ads for much of the monetization of the site.

“Eventually we’d like to have [the monetization] more based on our partner relationships like GrubHub and other paid app partnerships, so it’s much more about branding with the partnerships than having to focus on the landlord dollars,” Schwartz said.

While an app version of Rentenna isn’t out yet, the company did release a celebrity map for New York City, and launched a mobile app so that you can find out where local stars live nearby.  While they don’t provide the addresses, you can see if you live in the same neighborhood as Jay-Z, for example.

Rentenna gained a lot of attention last year when they launched the “hottest doorman” contest in New York.  By the close of the competition, more than 10,000 votes had been recorded for 15 doormen over the period of two weeks.  Since Rentenna has expanded to 18 cities, Scwartz is hoping for a country-wide search for the “hottest doorman.”

“That is the goal,” Schwartz said about plans for a national hot doorman search.  “I think Spring of next year.”

Looking forward to it! ;)

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