Apartment List buys RentAdvisor in all-stock deal

Acquisition will allow Apartment List to fill a hole on its site by adding ratings and reviews

Financial trends and news by Steven Loeb
October 16, 2013
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When renting an apartment, as with everything else, people want to know beforehand what other people thought of it. They want unsolicited, and hopefully honest, opinions. Who is more likely to tell you the truth: the person who owns the building, and wants you to rent at all costs, or the person who lived there and has no stake in your decision? The answer is obvious.

Former Vator Splash winner Apartment List is taking a step in that direction by making its first purchase, scooping up rating and reviews platform RentAdvisor, it was announced in a blog post on Wednesday.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Apartment List CEO and co-founder John Kobs did tell me in an interview that it was an "all stock deal."

For the time being, RentAdvisor will remain separate from Apartment List, but will be joining the Apartment List brand over the next 12 months. The company will keep its office open in Atlanta, and while some of RentAdvisor's employees may wind up coming to work at the Apartment List headquarters in San Francisco, Kobs said that that will not be a requirement.

RentAdvisor is a renter review and recommendation website whose stated goal is "to help people find the right place to live."

The service offers apartment ratings and reviews, neighborhood reviews, pros & cons, and wiki content, social media tools, and peer advice, all designed to help consumers make the right decision when choosing their apartment.

Until now Apartment List lacked the ability for users to review and rate the properties listed on the site, so the company is filling that hole by acquiring RentAdvisor, Kob said.

"We are trying to reinvent the rental space based trust and transparency, with an emphasis on transparency," he said. "There is a fundamental lack in transparency out and the consumers suffers because of it. We want to give renters all they need to know, and that definitely includes ratings and reviews."

RentAdvisor is currently used by several hundred thousand users per month, and eventually they will be able to see the information on the site condensed into Apartment List's website and mobile app.

This is also a boon for RentAdvisor, as they did not have a mobile presence before being acquired.

Apartment List brings millions of listings from around the web into one interface, in order to reduce the time it takes renters to find an apartment. It has 14.5 images per listing, higher than anyone else in industry. It also recently grown to 40 employees, and last year saw 10 million in revenue. This year, the company is on pace to see $18 to $20 million in revenue.

The company just had its best month ever, Kobs told me,  with 1.5 million renters visiting the site. 

Apartment List recently launched a new app, called Roommates, whuich uses Facebook connect to help people find each other. By adding this social component, it is able to matches potential roommates based on similar interests, friends, age, likes, as well as neighborhood and budget preferences.

Since launched in 2008, Apartment List has raised $1 million in funding but has otherwise been bootstrapped. 

While this may be the first acquisition for the company, it is probably not the last, as Kobs would "not rule out any further acquisitions."

"We are opportunistic," he said. "We always keep an eye out for companies that are adding value to the rental space."

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