Consumers can now use their smart phones to find a new apartment or home—by texting.
With mobile devices becoming more and more the "computers" of choice for apartment searches, companies like Zillow and Apartments.com have moved quickly to make their services available on them. But one company has gone a step further in the mobile apartment hunt, by enabling shoppers to text their search requests—all to one phone number.
Riley launched the service, called TextRiley, at the end of June in hopes of reaching renters, especially millennials, in the way they most prefer communicating. Hunters simply text their name to a phone number to initiate a conversation about what they’d like to see in an apartment. The robot on the other end asks for specifics, such as ZIP codes, square footage, and number of bedrooms or bathrooms, to determine what the consumer is seeking.
In 24 hours, says company founder Daniel Ahmadizadeh, Riley will get back to the person with links to some listings that fit the renter's description. If the user likes a listing, Riley can even schedule a viewing, asking the texter to reply ‘A’ or ‘B’ for a choice of date and time.
“It unexpectedly took off,” says Ahmadizadeh of the product. “Users really responded to the ease of service.”
At first, TextRiley wasn’t meant to be a stand-alone product. Ahmadizadeh had intended for the service to bring traffic to his listing website Rentity. However, with the success he’s experienced so far, Ahmadizadeh has taken TextRiley full force, linking with brokers and starting pilot programs with a few property managers. He’s hoping next to partner with national listing services to drive traffic directly to their listings.
TextRiley doesn’t charge properties to list or for each lead. Property managers and brokers can also add an applicant filter, such as credit score or income. Simply put, if a user is interested, before setting up a viewing TextRiley will tell the hunter the property management requires additional information for verification. The firm currently makes its profit off of additional services such as movers and storage companies.
The product isn’t relegated to any one location. Because TextRiley works with national listing sites, people from all over the country have used it.
“We even found a place for someone in Australia,” says Ahmadizadeh.
Ahmadizadeh hopes to keep the momentum going from the launch with more pilot programs, to work directly with property managers.
“Using [text messaging] as a service is something consumers are heading
toward,” says Ahmadizadeh. “We’re planning to get a head start on that trend.”